to doubt is human

I spend a lot of my time doubting myself.

I leave an interaction and a moment later think, “Jesus, was I so rude? I feel like that was incredibly rude.” I ruminate for the rest of the afternoon on it.

I sit at my desk, nauseous and dizzy and warm, telling myself all the while, “you’re just being a baby. You’re not sick. This isn’t what sick feels like. Other people work through much worse.”

I leave a date, a bad date, a date where he pushed me up against a wall under an awning in the rain, put his hands all over me, and I think, “Ugh, I have such bad instincts. I need to stop doing this. I need to stop being so stupid.” The bruises I spot the next day quietly effuse “you’re a goddamn fucking idiot,” and I press them hard in the shower to remind myself but also to try to make them go away.

I go to see a therapist, hoping she can help me, hoping I can establish a place of trust and commitment within a life that doesn’t currently see much of either. After two sessions she says, “it doesn’t seem like you’re trusting yourself much.” No, it doesn’t. She ends the session with, “you can come back if you ever feel like you need to.”

‘Oh,’ I doubt to myself, ‘oh, she means she doesn’t want me to come back all the time. Not next week, or the week after.’

I don’t remind her that I’ve already scheduled my next appointment and quietly cancel it on my way out. She does not want to see me again. Other people need her more. This feels like the time a boy kissed me goodbye after our second date and affably said, “take care.” I can tell immediately that he didn’t mean to say it out loud, he was only thinking it, he was only already thinking: ‘I’m done with this one.’ He returns texts for a few days and then he doesn’t anymore.

I doubt my identity. What am I? What am I most? Woman. Survivor. Feminist. White. Straight. Cis. Fat. Fat.

I am a woman when I ride the train. I try to take up as little space as possible so I fold my arms across my chest, but that presses my breasts together and I can tell without looking that a nearby man is leering. When I think about zipping my coat further up, I decide against it, because I don’t want to call attention to the fact that I think people are sexualizing me, even though I’m sure he is. The ones who aren’t, I tell myself, will think I’m undeservingly full of myself. I’m too ugly to objectify by most standards. So I let him look at bits of my body he has no claim to, and I shift on and stare at my feet. All this before seven a.m. I am definitely, absolutely a woman when I feel most powerless.

I am unobjectively fat. Sometimes unapologetically fat. Some days, I forget what I look like, and I walk around with a confidence that surprises people. I swing my hips, I look strangers in the eye. I imagine flirting with a cashier and then I accidentally sort of do it. I wear a short dress or a crop top or cutoffs. On some rare days, I am not fat. Most days, though, I apologize for my fat. I aim to be unobtrusive and I fail. My ass knocks a stack of papers from a nearby desk when I stop to talk to a co-worker, and the conversation stops while I pick them up, flustered. I need to ask someone at a restaurant to pull in their chair in order to let me pass. I am disruption personified.

So many people don’t know who they are. They reach for professions or romance or adventures to define them and they doubt their abilities or their ambition or their lovability. I know that I am not unique when I doubt. Sometimes, doubt itself can be a driver. “I must resolve this. I must define this.” All that doubt does for me is bring me here. To write.

Ineffably,

H

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