Part Two: The Origin of the Worthless

The sense that I was somehow second-class and thus not exactly worth a shit is something rooted pretty deep in my character. There are literally dozens of things that contributed heavily to that state of mind (one of a deflated sense of self-worth) and I will likely touch on all of them (that I can consciously recall) in the process of this little venture. There is one specific example on my mind right now, so that is what you’ll get.
My childhood was less than pleasant in a number of ways which will be discussed at greater length whenever the fuck I feel that it’s something I’d like to go into…don’t worry, we will get there. I never agreed to do this in anything like a proper chronological order, and I would do a piss poor job of it if I even tried. For now it is enough to know that I had a childhood that was punctuated by a greater than average degree of fear and violence, both at home and in school. It’s the violent environment at home that plays a part in what I am sharing with you now. The specifics can wait, as I said, until another day and another entry, when I feel better about delving into them; but my father was an angry man, prone to violent outbursts directed at both my mother and myself, especially when he was drunk or high (which constituted a good deal of the time).
My little brother was born when I was halfway through my sixth year of life and he was right around three when my parents were divorced, so he was afforded a quite different sort of childhood than the one I grew up believing to be normal. It is the divorce that I’m focusing on right now.
I walked home from school one afternoon, like I did most days, only to find a number of familiar things missing from the living room, stereo equipment and various other items. There I was, alone, in a house that appeared to have been robbed; a child with an imagination that tended to lean heavily towards some fairly negative things. I don’t recall how long I was there alone, not knowing what to do, but I suspect that it felt like far longer than it actually was. The plan, I think, was for me to be scooped up by my mother after school in order to break the news to me in a way that was more conducive to my mental health. This did not go according to plan.
That bit of trauma aside; it was the motivation underpinning the divorce that hit me the hardest. Self-preservation surely played a major role in my mother determining that an end to the marriage was in order (because it seemed like only a matter of time before she ended up dead if nothing changed), as was her desire to insure no further damage was done to me than I had survived already…but it was something she said years later that hit me the hardest, that she divorced my father to save my brother from going through the same sort of abusive, violent upbringing I had lived through to that point. To me, as a barely adolescent child when I heard that explanation, that was distorted to indicate that I wasn’t worth saving while my little brother was; that, until he came along, there wasn’t any particularly compelling reason to leave. I know now, as I have for a long time, that this was a truly awful example of reductionist thinking…but the capacity to know something does not necessarily impart the ability to internalize that knowledge. The scars of that initial misinterpretation of where I stood in the eyes of my own mother have never healed regardless of how well I know that interpretation to have been false.
I went through my remaining years of childhood perceiving myself to be the second class citizen I still sometimes think myself to be, an afterthought, or maybe just someone who had been written off as being beyond saving. I was already too damaged and too far-gone to worry about repairing me. This is who I knew myself to be, and there are substantial residual effects of that thinking which will likely stay with me until the day I die.
It wasn’t until my early 20s when I opted to address this issue with my mother, which was ill advised at best. It did not facilitate healthy communication that I was highly intoxicated at the time (which it may be worth adding, happened to be the middle of the night). Looking back, I could have tackled this a little bit better, and I feel terrible for waking my mother with a drunken phone call (in reference to such a sensitive topic), with what was little more intention than to jokingly accuse her of never loving me and thinking I was worthless. It wasn’t a particularly funny joke, and I realized that when she called me an asshole (and not the way she normally does when she’s in on the joke) and hung up on me.
The lesson there, kiddies, is that some subjects merit at least a modicum of delicacy and tact…things that I have never quite grasped. Also, some things are better left alone.
We meet people in life who clearly think little of themselves, and sometimes it is difficult to discern how they could conceivably half such a low self-opinion. Some of these people, quite unlike me, may appear to have all of their shit together and may have everything going for them…but that success could very well mask some deep and hidden pain that never quite healed, and quite possibly never will. Sure, they may be wrong about themselves, just like I might be (which is still up for debate in my mind), but sometimes you simply need to let them be and do your best to show them the value they hold for you. There isn’t much else you can do to change their minds, but at least you can feel confident that you are doing what you can.


2 thoughts on “Part Two: The Origin of the Worthless

    • It is amazing how profoundly certain things can impact us with just the right (or wrong) timing…especially during our formative years. What is most fascinating is that we can recognize something quite clearly and rationally, but no amount of knowing something really changes the influence it has on us…it isn’t nearly as easy to undo damage as it is to inflict it.


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