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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 23, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 51
Ask Michael: The importance of being fucked up
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Ask Michael: The importance of being fucked up

by Michael Raitt - SGN Contributing Writer

The other day, I found myself living a cliché: nearing the end of the year and looking back while philosophizing about what the year to come has in store for me.

The first thing that came to mind was how horrified I was to walk past a mirror a few weeks ago and take note of how my ass seemed to be as flat as a glass door. 'Rude!' I thought. I'd been avoiding accepting how time was having a gradual effect on my body and remembering what it was like to be 22 - fit, lean, and looking good, if I do say so myself!

I've lost my hair. My do-dah is droopy more than I'd like it to be, and it gets progressively harder to keep the chest firmed up. I'm chronically behind on paperwork, billing, articles, house-cleaning, and keeping up with friends and people I care about.

I have episodes of road rage - embarrassing when you are cussing and throwing universal sign language at other drivers only to find out a few days later it was a client in front of you (true story).

My personal confidence shifts faster than sand in a windstorm. My feelings get hurt, I get reactive, jealous, and lonely sometimes, and occasionally I lash out in my 'loyal daughter of the Empire' way by being cold and pulling away.

I don't know about you, but when I'm in this place, tons of music lyrics play through my head reflecting loneliness and rejection and feelings of not belonging - it's like gas on a fire.

I can't help but think I'm fucked up when I look at all of this. I think, to a bystander, I would appear fucked up as well!

Although the details may be different, I know a good number of you have had similar thoughts about yourselves because you see how you are changing, rejection always hurts, and you feel overly emotional sometimes. It is safe to say when you look around that the vast majority of those you see have had similar experiences of feeling completely fucked up. (There is an irony here that I'll share shortly.)

Honestly, though, here's what I know to be really true: What I've just described isn't about being fucked up. It is about being human. It is a part of being alive and loving others. What is also true is that this is only a reflection of a circumstance - a reaction to a situation. It is not a description of a part of your character.

I've learned to accept that I don't look perfect, nor do I handle every situation flawlessly. I've also accepted that I'm a pretty good guy overall. I may not look good in a Speedo any more, but I do have a huge, caring heart. (I know that when some of you read the word 'huge,' your mind quickly wandered. Busted!) And as I understand personal/professional ethics and integrity at any given moment, I walk through the world with those as best I can. I work hard at forgiving others and harder at forgiving myself.

When I'm down on myself and feeling like a fuckup, I ride that wave and get to a spot where I realize I'm not a fuckup. This is a place where I can make amends and work to repair any hurt or problems I've caused in my reactions. I've also learned that there is a gift in providing space for those I care about to do so similarly in their process.

Acceptance is never about approval or condoning bad behavior. I don't have the right to hurt someone and justify it because of how I'm feeling, and neither do you.

However, I never strive for perfection, either! I'll fail myself and surely fail others in that pursuit. I do make personal goals. I am trying hard to be less angry when I'm driving the car and sure as hell try to get a sense of whether I'm driving behind someone I know or not before I use gestures. I can't afford to cuss out more clients.

I work very hard at not getting down on myself. I don't look at my ass in the mirror any more, but I do work out, and today I say, 'Not too bad.' I try to catch myself before I misread a situation and get my feelings hurt and pull away in the middle of a temper tantrum.

Monitoring how long and how impactful my reactivity is is important. There is a difference between an event and a way of life. I don't want to be angry, lonely, sad, jealous, or self-hating most of the time. I give myself permission to experience any variation of those periodically, while making sure that I don't intentionally cause undue hurt to others.

Here's the irony: Feeling fucked up, as I've described, isn't really being fucked up. Those who deny these experiences, however, should reflect upon how fucked up it might be to not ever acknowledge something that is very much a part of being human and in a relationship. I get way more concerned about people who deny having strong feelings than those who admit the feelings.

The purpose of this article is to provide some of you permission to accept yourselves in some of your less glamorous moments without labeling yourselves as fucked up. It serves to remind us to give our loved ones room when they are having their moments. When things happen periodically, it is good to know that it is a normal way of being and that we all have the ability to make changes and live our values. For many of our loved ones, the apology and acknowledgment is a more meaningful act than the reaction itself was.

My wish is that his provides peace of mind to some of you so that you can put some of these things behind you for this year and look forward to a new perspective.

I'd like to wish George Bakan, the staff at SGN, and all of you the very best for the holiday season and a happy, loving, prosperous New Year for 2012.

Michael Raitt, MA, LMHC, is a therapist and a contributing writer to the SGN. If you would like to comment on this column, ask a question, or suggest another topic of interest, please contact him at askingmichael@comcast.net.

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