Slowly imploding

Ever seen a time lapse video of something (a tin can, a vehicle or building) weathering, crumpling, decaying? Remember how the thing starts by looking new and whole and shiny?

At first, it’s straight and un-damaged and looks like something you’d like to own or have in your home. Then weather and age and use and abuse start to happen. You can see in the video how it starts slowly, almost imperceptibly, with a scratch or ding or fading. But then it accelerates.

Soon it’s shape is significantly altered, sagging or buckling or caving-in, here or there. Maybe it shows signs of vandalism or mistreatment. Maybe it’s natural erosion by age and exposure. Either way, pretty soon it’s looking sad and forlorn and dingy and ratty and not at all like something you’d want to have or touch.

It’s not long before the thing is unrecognizable as its original self. Bleached or dusty or rusted, it’s labels and distinguishing characteristics are gone. It’s a generic lump of twisted, rotted, useless material whose structural integrity is compromised and its utility is depleted.

I find such videos fascinating. They speak so eloquently of the insidious damage caused over time by forces both avoidable and inevitable. They are a metaphor, of sorts, for the creeping decay to soul and spirit from the harsh disdain and callous indifference we face in the world at times.

Right now, for instance, I’m feeling a great deal of empathy for, and affinity with, that weathering tin can. That gradual, yet accelerating, erosion of strength and dignity is exactly what it feels like when under constant strain and scrutiny. Every suspicion, every undeserved criticism and every added burden of obligation feels like a blow. Each leaves a mark or bruise or scar, like the dents and chips and dings that distort the shape of the tin can.

It’s really a slow-motion implosion. Everything turning inward and compressing, getting smaller. But since there is also erosion, the material doesn’t get deeper and more dense. Rather, everything of value is leached out, leaving an empty husk.

Now, some of these videos go on to show new life reclaiming that material and space. This is supposed to be an uplifting message of continual renewal, the circle of life and what not. But from a certain perspective, this positive spin glosses over the sadness and devastation wrought in the process. While it is true that good and great things can arise from the ruins, it is equally true that those benefits come at the expense of the life, the existence, the entire value of the original source.

Shouldn’t some time, attention, emotion be spent in mourning what is lost, before all focus and energy turns to celebrating the renewal or rebirth? Shouldn’t there be some homage to honor the value that was there before it was trodden down to base elements?

Are we in such a huge hurry to change everything and everyone from what it is to what we want it to be that we leave no room for those things, those people to simply be enough, good enough, just as they are?

I’m a huge believer in continuous improvement, of bettering oneself, of trying always to be a better person than I was the day before. But there has to be a balance between becoming the best ‘me’ I can be, and eliminating everything that is ‘me’ in favor of everything that everyone else thinks I should be.

What is the secret? Where is that elusive division between constructive criticism and oppressive reconstruction? How, when you’ve given so much, worked so hard at positivity and self-improvement, do you tell the difference? How, after such a struggle, do you not internalize these things as “not good enough”, “not worthy”, “wrong”, “broken”, “inadequate”, “less than”?

That’s exactly what it feels like. And its abysmal.

And the glib platitudes that accompany these needles of derision – “well, look on the bright side, this is just one area for you to work on”; “stay open minded and look at it as a gift, the knowledge of what you can fix”; “it’s character building”; and my favorite “just think how much better you’ll be after you change ___” – do nothing to soothe the sting of message that “you’re not good enough “.

It all just leaves me wondering how long, how many times, a person can pull herself up before the bootstraps break.

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