I never allowed myself the luxury of shopping. Just like I never used to drop my laundry off and rewore underwear inside out for days before I could haul my laundry myself to the Laundromat and go through the routine, one shirt at a time. The time for clothes washing had to be perfect. I know how strange this sounds because, ironically, it was in a Parisian Laundromat that I experienced my first true panic attack (that lasted all summer). I had a lot to learn about the nature of generosity.
It all started in college when I didn’t make my room my own by putting pictures up or shelving, I didn’t allow myself more food than I absolutely needed. I didn’t want to make a mark. And that frailty didn’t come from a desire to disappear, but a desire for self-reliance, a desire for toughness that took me out of my body, out of my gender, out of this society that clung to me, a myth that I didn’t believe in; that a human, by nature was born imperfect. Maybe it’s a Cinderella complex. Maybe it is sheer OCD, or anxiety.
I think this is a very female problem. Not all women react in this way, but in a deep way, women want to own their strength, and they must learn to do that in solitude, by not becoming victimized, by not using weakness as a crutch to glaze the surface of their goals through aspiring only to male approval, or coming into the vicinity of power without breaching their own, like a salamander warming under someone else’s sun. Despite images of women and girls portrayed either perfectly or viley on social media and advertising. There is a debated psychoanalytical term conceived of by Jaques Lacan that details this objectification of physical body that is derived from a deep form of comparison starting at around 6 months, when a child is able to recognize themselves in the mirror. The phenomenon grows where you recognize your self only in relation to another person (or image), and, in fact, have a difficult time discerning your identity from theirs.
Generosity is giving to your authentic self.
In my life I have walked the line of scarcity often. To consider that giving to myself might also give to others was beyond fathoming, but in the end, somehow true. For instance, when standing in the store staring at a head of fennel because I may not have bought it myself before for the licoricy uniqueness of the $5.00 head. I believe that money, though it can’t buy happiness, can buy a certain self worth (especially if you have convinced yourself that money buys only what you absolutely need to cover your head and feed your body). There is this big to-do about selfishness (especially in women), and little to do with gratitude, which is the key, really. And working with young women, we must learn to treat ourselves, so they will learn the same.
It’s easy to say that I have done this with food, with sleep. Anything in my life that can be controlled has been controlled. There was a certain pleasure derived in seeing another person reducing themselves to a carnal production of their nature whether that was eating cake or buying shoes. But the delicacy of achieving goals is so specific to the individual that it’s hard to pertain to everyone. I wind my life around work like a vine. Like it will save me because I will become this object, again an object of production. But the dearness of a calling is without doubt, and I could be more empowered, and I am not so much now?! Shocking. As I witnessed my desire for the things that I did not allow myself, I was engaged in a dissociative and unnatural action.
And when all is said and done. When the chains are off, can we softly lay them down without frantically putting them back on again. Can we give ourselves the life we need through the discovery of our true, unmirrored identity so bright that we might feed the world?