When you've hit rock bottom how do you start anew?
My rock bottom had brought everything into question and had caused me to throw out every assumption that had governed my life. The person that had allowed me to attend school, to graduate from college, to have boyfriends, to become a flight attendant, to move to San Francisco had been grounded in a theory of being that I could no longer trust or accept. My theory of being had been derived from a small life with little instruction other than "look like you are somebody." And the quiet voice that guided my actions said to me "Do what you can to enjoy yourself, that's all there really is." And so I did, living my part with no concept as to what life was and why it mattered.
At the big level, I was struck by the dynamics playing out in society during the 60s to the point of being more than just concerned and angry. The news of the day caused me to emotionally identify with the underclass that lived like animals in the wealthiest country on the planet, with the young men drafted into a war for reasons most of us didn't understand, with those suffering from the racism and violence that plagued the inner cities and southern towns, and with the voices of women raising issues about sexual inequality and lack of political, financial and social respect.
At the personal level, I was unable to connect to the people I worked and lived with. Some of this was aggravated by alcohol. Alcohol was available to teens easily back then with many parents being alcoholic and no open awareness of the connection of alcohol to car accidents or mental health. Alcohol, not drugs, was the mask of choice. And so my relationships, established through local social gatherings, helped to strengthen the barrier I felt with others, a barrier disguised with attitudes of a happy coolness that identified me and my friends as members of an imaginary "In" crowd. Threats from my father kept me from drinking but the pickled persona of others limited my friendships to the superficial and removed.
Even without alcohol, my brain was strained and awkward. Its response to life was primarily visual and intellectual, taking information in, analyzing it, judging it, absorbing what seemed good, rejecting what seemed bad and orchestrating a young life from the debris around me. As part of the debris, I felt like isolated riff-raff.
But now the question was "Who was I?" My reference point was subjective and flawed. Instead of being able to think and act from a place inside that I identified as "I" or "Me," I thought and acted on behalf of "She" or "Her." I talked and told stories not through the guise of a overly sensitive young woman who had been mocked, scolded and genetically modified into deep insecurity and depression but through an impersonation of someone who could fake themselves into happiness. Out of unconscious desperation, I had created a woman who chose to be cool, competent, and oblivious of the consequences of an imitated life. And when the disguise was lost, she was lost.
To be continued ...