I went roller skating last week for the first time in 20-25 years. Saying that makes me feel old. Someone commented about how the carpet never changes at skating rinks. So true. Skate City’s carpet was no exception.
I helped the girls get their skates on, then I did my own. And I was off. Shaky at first, shin splints, wobbling and unsure.
Before long a Katy Perry song came on and I slithered into the middle of the rink, which smelled like sweaty teenage boys and feet. The air was damp and musty, making me feel trapped and gross. I skated behind groups of teenage girls, next to boys goofing off, and sometimes with my daughters, holding their small hands.
I felt my right ankle cross over my left to turn, my weight shifting slowly. I didn’t remember that I knew how to do it until I just..did it. Isn’t it funny, the way things drift back to you sometimes without intention or thought? Something from decades ago that sat dusty, like a forgotten photo in a plastic frame. Something you forgot or unlearned just pops up again out of nowhere, like the random zits I get now, even though puberty has long since passed.
I didn’t remember other things, either — until the skates were on, carrying me around and around the rink. Things from long ago, things I had buried alive.
Like another time I’d been skating (potentially the last time I’d done so before this writing) with a girlfriend and we met some boys. They liked us. We exchanged phone numbers and they called. My mom said we could invite them over and have pizza, so we did. It was awkward. I felt self conscious. The boy who had seemed to like me in dimly lit Skate Country now appeared to like my friend instead. Which made sense, because that’s the way it always worked. This boy didn’t go to my school, so he didn’t know.
This boy didn’t know that at school? I spent a lot of time hiding. People called me Witch Nose. Some of the guys used to goad me, saying, “Why don’t you just crawl back into your little Erin shell?” and my face would get hot and lo and behold, I did. I crawled away.
I’ve been talking to my new therapist about the way these childhood events can…shape you. And while this particular incident didn’t come up, others did. My shrink asked me why I thought they picked on me, why they said and did these things. Some of my responses were:
“Because I was ugly.”
“They did it because I didn’t stand up for myself.”
“They did it because I let them.”
When I’d finished the laundry list of reasons, he pointed out to me that every single last one of them began with “I.” With me. Which translates to…I blamed myself. All these years, all this time, flatlining out before me, wasted, gallons of water down the drain while brushing teeth.
My therapist said kids are egocentric. They don’t see much outside of themselves… and so…it makes sense in a way that it all came back to me.
I blamed myself.
And so began a trend in my life. Finding fault with myself for things that truly had nothing to do with me.
I still do it. It’s a trap. I’m stuck in the net.
But now, I’m seeing it more clearly. I’m seeing me, Erin, from outside myself. I’m caught, but I’m fighting my way out. It’s like I have a tiny pair of scissors and I’m cutting the twine in spots here and there and things are loosening.
I may not free myself overnight.
But I’m working on it. And it starts with the negative self talk, the blame game, and things that I have no control over. Sometimes I don’t know how I’ve carried this shame, this weight for so fucking long.
So yeah, you might see me with a weird to-do list now. With things on it like:
“Let yourself feel relief. This is not your fault.”
“Recognize the many layers of blame you put on yourself, day in, day out. All of that weighs a person down.”
So yeah, I’m starting. And I’m trying to tell that little me inside…that she isn’t responsible for all the STUFF.
Thank you, Heather.
***Last but not least– I’ve been busy with Listen To Your Mother: Kansas City. Submissions are OPEN through February 15! We were on Fox 4 this morning, and it was wonderful to have the opportunity to get the word out about it. You can watch that clip here: http://bit.ly/LPCaod Please help us spread the word about the show! Thank you.***