Between a rock and a hard place

In so many aspects of life, I feel like I’m caught in a limbo.

Maybe we all feel like that?

I can’t claim to know anything for certain, only that I exist (and will die) and thus, unequivocally, have value, meaning and a place in life. What kind of value, meaning and place is another matter entirely. And everything in-between is just – up for discussion (sorry, I’m not feeling very poetic at the moment).

However, in general, I feel I have drawn the long straw in life. So many things have come almost disturbingly easily to me (though I’m not one to complain!) – maybe out of sheer luck or just coincidence (back to the straw). When I see where and how other kids grow up in the world – bruh! – no, I have shitloads of luck compared to so many others living in poor and awful conditions, with no safety, no rights, no freedom and no possibilities. And that’s the extreme comparison! Even well-developed neighbour countries don’t have the possibilities, secutiry and advantages my country gives me. It’s not an excuse to downplay everything in my own life (I’ve certainly been through that already) – but a way to put my life in perspective, be humble and grateful. Maybe a bit too humble but that’s my vice I guess and it could be worse. Then again, I say that about everything in my life. Not an excuse either.

But feeling like being stuck in a limbo is as paradoxical and annoying as it can be. Like being stuck forever in purgatory, not Heaven nor Hell, or the Wood between the Worlds in the Narnia Chronicles, where nothing ever happens and one is drowsily, indecisively and disorientedly stuck between worlds. Multiple choices and the possible intervention of fate. The eternal, absurd, existential crisis between determinism and indeterminism; the maelstrom of causality, free will, karma, fate, luck and chance. It never seems to be just one thing, does it, and how could it be? The world is anything but simple. Sure, the theorists and philosophers who first suggested each of these terms had to go a different way than the other guys just to argue their own theories but even they couldn’t avoid taking the other possibilities into account some way or another. Even ‘free-willed’ decision-making on my part has become wrapped up in a sense of equally causal- and chance-like events; the expected satisfaction of such actions overrode with questions of how much I made things happen myself or whether things happened to me? I’m never left with a solid answer.

Being an in-betweener, so to speak, is as liberating as it is imprisoning because you never settle down on either side but are free to choose – or not to choose at all – yet are imprisoned forever in-between. Of course, you have to choose and settle down for a bit at times, but never for long because your nature (or fate?) rebels against this and seems to have other plans. I don’t mind being in doubt, but doubt can certainly be as rewarding as it can be unproductive.

*scratches head* Is this getting a bit too abstract?

Scaling down a bit, to entirely superficial matters, my self-image is as certain and secure as it is changing and fluctuating. When I view myself on the outside – when I wonder how I strike people – I can be as harsh as I can be fair. I’m neither pretty nor ugly (in the conventional ways), I am both entirely average and entirely unique. Most girls I see and compare myself to are pretty yet so boring to look at; they all look the same, dress the same, wear their long hair the same. I feel I look different but in a good way and the megalomaniac in me often wonders why no one seems to ‘fancy’ me. Then the self-deprecator in me answers by saying everyone is unique; what I feel or exude is nothing unusual or extraordinary thus why should I seem more noticable because of that? Yeah, it’s both a sad and a bad excuse, but maybe profoundly human as well?

It is especially in matters of romance that I feel caught permanently in-between, never getting a taste of either side, so to speak. That I’ve drawn the shortest straw. Or simply haven’t drawn anything because the straw was given to someone else. Should I feel particularly lucky about that? I don’t know since I can only feel unlucky about not having been given the chance to draw in the first place. I’ve come so desperately close once (I think) only to see it ripped away from me before anything truly came to be. In these matters I feel myself wondering about fate and karma and superstition and all that shit, because I’ve never been given a sign or thrown a bone – and if I have, I’ve been purposely blinded to it or have gotten it taken away from me before I even managed to grasp it. I’ve not lived long but long enough to wonder if it will ever happen. Truly. I may overthink and over-analyze things, become too self-centered too easily, because I know other people around me, the same age, mind or personality, are as inexperienced as I am in these matters; I’m no extraordinary case. I tell myself over and over again that it will happen when it happens, that love and soul mates don’t have to come from romance but can be found amongst family and friends and myself even – which I already have. But love like that – well, it isn’t necessarily stagnant and unquestionably secure – it just isn’t … enough. And I don’t know whether it is society that erroneously has taught me so; to expect romance and love to come swooping down in immediate, various forms as I got older, or really my inner being having a hole where something – something significant – is missing. Some part of me feel that I have something to fill and give that I cannot receive and give through the ‘altruistic’ love of family and friends. Something from which I will change, mature and develop from in different ways than the love of family and friends and myself. Rather than a question whether I will feel whole or not through such love, it is about not sitting in a life-long pool of stagnation and being content with that.

Am I too greedy and selfish? Perhaps, but at some point I also feel a right to be – as a human being. A part of me has always been humble, grateful, giving, listening and obedient (never quite in any Mother Theresa-kind of way) but in the ‘smallest’, most ‘insignificant’ of ways towards the people around me. Don’t mistake my tone for bitter, but there just comes a time in your life when enough is enough and you need more than what you give. Just the smallest of things. I’ve always placed myself at others’ disposal, always lending a helping hand or a willing ear, never for my own benefit, purely, but because it has always been second-nature to my curiosity and willingness to help and offer advice the best I can. And though I’ve not been perfect in matters of picking up the phone for the daily or weekly or even monthly updates with friends and family, I’m always here. And maybe that’s why I’m easy to take advantage of and take for granted: Because I’m always just there; a statue in my temple where change never reaches me. No matter how far or long we are apart, it doesn’t change anything for me. I’m always here to offer objective, sound advice (well, according to myself) – like another Gandalf appearing out of the blue to offer his help when most (or unconciously) needed and then retreat in mysterious ways when help is no longer needed. The benefit for me is that I get to learn about other people and if that means I have to stay the lonely wanderer all my life, so be it. It is really no wonder that I’ve always been fascinated with the Byronic anti-hero-cowboy archetype who appears out of nowhere with a questionable identity and background and finds himself more or less willingly help out those in need before he disappears into nowhere, alone again. Selfish, yet not un-selfish. Caught in the eternal limbo with no certain roots, too, it seems.

And being a woman and growing up as a girl, this has, of course, always been highly confusing to identify with – all these male, fictional archetypes that seemed so purposely stripped of feminine values – since I desperately wanted to fuse these traits with the femininity I also thought I felt and which I thought held both. Actually, I always felt confused by the fact that most people was so concerned about keeping them separated; masculinity and feminity. And I didn’t even feel – although I might not have been aware of this at the time – that one’s being could be divided into categories and only two. But sadly, I felt myself involuntarily being drawn into these forced, limited patterns – that were as visible as they were invisible – everywhere in society. I couldn’t even call them out and I couldn’t understand or figure out why before later on, only that it all felt linked somehow. It seemed I was caught in one limbo after another when growing up – true Inception-style – and though some were explained, they just kept on coming quicker than they were solved. Today, I spot heteronormativity’s frighteningly infused power practically everywhere and though we still have such a long way to go, I feel blessed to have been born into an era where it is finally and properly being rebelled against.

I remember this episode during a painting class in high school where I made this portrait of two humans facing each other with a heart between them. Cheesy, I know, but I just felt something about expressing this particular image, I don’t know why. I made the profiles of the humans look entirely sexless, that is, with no visual, gender-prescribed signs that told which gender they were. I didn’t feel it was important to the painting. The important thing was that they were humans and they loved each other. However, my teacher was for some reason baffled by this choice and suggested I should make it visible who was the woman and who was the man. And like the meek, little teen that I was, I just said ‘oh, okay’ and did as she said. It wasn’t necessarily a bad painting and my mother had it hanging in our kitchen for years; there was just something about it that didn’t sit right with me, though I couldn’t quite say why. Soon I started feeling strained by its in-your-face image and in the end, I ended up hating it and decided to take it down (without permission. Just said I was sick of it). I think this episode paints a pretty good picture (haha, pun intended) of this whole theme I’m talking about.

I’ve always been the mousy, nerdy-looking wallflower and got a rather androgynous look and as a kid it was in full bloom since I never really bothered with acting and looking like the heteronormative version of a girl. I wasn’t a tomboy either (I’m not overly fond of that word since it implies a deviation from the default form girls ‘should’ be) as I wasn’t at all with the incrowd of most of the boys (however, I did befriend a couple of boys here and there). Hence, the most ignorant of kids being somewhat confused around me, I guess, thinking I was the one being confused. Some bullied me, some ignored me, some I got fairly well along with but never in any deeper context and still I got a rather ambivalent, apprehensive vibe. Maybe I developed my chameleon-like skill of adapting to most social interactions later on – or I always had it, more or less. But I realize I was caught in the limbo early on already. Not only did (and do) I look androgynous but I also couldn’t conform or identify to the binary gender descriptions and expectations. I still can’t.

And I only just realized today that the word androgyny can be ascribed to gender as well – not just looks and attitude – and that it is the closest I can come to classify this gender-based limbo I’ve always been in. The term encompasses my gender in all its intermediate complexity yet differs from my sexuality which is straight (though straight is a terrible way to describe (hetero)sexuality, really. If anything, sexuality should be just as fluid and dynamic as one’s identity. And I find that I, more likely, verge on demisexuality; in keeping with existing in a grey area). Androgyny suggests that one is not entirely feminine or masculine, nor that one necessarily feel both or either of them. The above link elaborates a lot on the intricacies, legitimacy and problematics surrounding this term since it’s not very commonly acknowledged as a gender description even by LGBTQ+ people – which might explain why I’ve been stuck in this limbo for so long. However, it’s gaining prominence.

So. Apparently, I’m androgyne inside and out. I guess, once again, I can breathe a sigh of relief of actually having a term for what’s happening inside.

One limbo down … um, more to go.

tbc

*revised 24/5/17*

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2 thoughts on “Between a rock and a hard place

  1. Pingback: Being androgyne; inside and out. | Confessions of a female INTP

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