Duty Now for the Future

OK, if that title doesn’t open up a whole can of ear worms for you, then do yourself a favor and type that phrase into Spotify right this minute.

Up until a few years ago my presence on the planet had been poured into inflexible molds dictated much by the will of others, confining and smothering. As we know well from the movies, any substance composed mostly of sentient alien and otherworldly stuff is difficult to contain, and I seethed and bubbled until I started to leak from my confines. I breached a crack in the mold, and when enough of my personality had oozed out to assert itself, I cast the mold aside and blurped away.

How to shape this stuff anew has become the question. The boundaries I create now need to be made of gummy stuff, malleable and flexible, but protective and gentle. I know they solidify as we get older, so I want to make sure I’m not trapped in a hell of my own making, as my father and mother are,

To that end, self-parenting and both shallow and deep mental health work are being done. This week I had a an epiphany, when I stood in my kitchen after making a mistake while learning to poach eggs (I dropped the egg in from too high and essentially made egg drop soup). I was washing out the pan and the inner dialogue was running toward “you know you can’t fucking cook” and “well, back to half-assed omelets”. In fact, it’s not even an inner dialogue with words at this point anymore, it’s just an immediate sense of shame.


Over a cooking mistake.

I stopped washing the pot. I put it down in the sink and listened. Another voice was pushing hard at my mind. I let it in.

It said: “You are not wrong.”

I held my breath.

It said: “The things you do are not wrong.”

And then: “You are trying. You are working on it. You are OK.”

So I cried and went to hold my dog.

My dog gets half an egg every day because I eat eggs/egg whites for breakfast. I couldn’t let her down, so a little later I watched an egg poaching how-to video and tried once more…and hallelujah, it worked (pro tip: add a capful of vinegar to the boiling water). I had lovely poached eggs that were only slightly overdone, and Eden got her half egg and I got my breakfast, finally.

I posted a picture of the eggs on social media, my breakfast and Eden’s side by side. I captioned it “I think I’ve finally mastered the art of poached eggs”. Later, I looked at the post and realized how stupid people probably think that is, but for me it represented a profound shift in my thinking. Eggs are super fucking important when they mean you’ve learned a small way to be nicer to yourself. So click that stupid LinkTree link in my Instagram bio and come see the real shitshow behind the banal social media posts.

These small changes in the way I’m learning to treat myself are vitally important for shaping my new boundaries. They’re also important for shaping my future. The old mold told me what to like and what to wear and what to listen to and how to please other people. I’m learning that I don’t exist for other people, I exist solely for me. I’m learning that what and who I love are the only important things in my world, and that I have to be one of those things.

The voice that told me I wasn’t wrong is still really quiet, so I need to turn up the volume until it drowns out the shame. It’s the first layer in the new mold, and it’s a vital one. I’ve got a long way to go, and bits of the old mold might never go away entirely, but my new boundaries are going to fit me better and shield me from the old voices by putting protective matter around them.

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