I recently had the honor to accompany dear friend SO to two co-op parties. There may be a contradiction in that sentence, but I’ll have to explain.
In my mind, a party is a place where strangers would strike up polite conversations with one another, perhaps veer off into a discussion about the fun and diverse world of dipteran insects and their life histories, all over chips, pizza, and fizzy drinks. Implicit in that understanding is that if I were to have something to talk about with someone that interested him or her, then I would have been important at least in that instant.
At least all of that is wrong.
I don’t mean “important” as though I suffer from extremely low self-esteem on a daily basis (at least I doubt it); I mean important as in “hey I’m a functioning member of society because I can have a conversation with another human being which proves that I’m useful.” Which now sounds ridiculous after I say it out.
We tell people who are depressed that they matter; why? Because it matters that people feel appreciated, valued. Worth doesn’t just spring forth from the inner infinity of self-love; love for the self is learned through positive reaffirmation from the community. I’ve never met anyone who learned confidence about the self without the guidance and nurture of another, whether parent, teacher, or admired friend. Self love could be learned without a teacher, but I believe it would require an extremely courageous leap of faith…
But in the moment, I was honored, because I never would have dreamed of being invited to a party. I’m not very good at mingling with strangers on a dance floor, or being in loud and crowded places, and so I pass under the radar for “people who may enjoy coming to my party.” I’ve sometimes wished that I could be that social butterfly that gets invited to places because that would mean that people enjoy me.
I was honored to be invited because I had the subconscious attitude that being wanted in that kind of social setting was an indication of my value to some aspect of society, and that it was intricately tied to my self-esteem. To be accepted–is that not an acknowledgement of my dignity as a human being?
Perhaps it was my ego talking.
I enjoyed the party on a very superficial level: there were nice strobe lights, loud music. People smoking, spraying, inhaling, dancing, laughing; all outward signs of excitement. But were they happy on the inside the same way they seemed on the outside? It was not the place to be asking such a question; I quickly found myself drifting into the abyss of Bad Thoughts. Suddenly, the lights were too much; they seemed to flash synchronously with loud thuds that rattled my ribs; the air was hot and dry; people were trying to shake off their worries with so much force that the air was acrid with friction and sweat.
Usually, I have a healthy self-esteem. Enough to get me by, not so much that I get in trouble. But at the party I didn’t even know what to do with my hands, much less with the thoughts. There were so many new things to try–should I? I was a fish out of water, and I let it get to my heard that my incongruence meant I was somehow…not enough. That may be a leap in logic, but I had declined alcohol, and can see how that made it harder to “be smooth.” Everybody else was intoxicated, high, “whipping it,” and I didn’t know what to do with the reality they had left behind.
Soon it spiralled into a question of my worth. Was I still good enough? Nobody looked at me; did I still deserve respect? What are these people thinking about me? It was a happy place that I couldn’t share in, so I left on the brink of emotional exhaustion, with the things in my mind; I wanted to take these thoughts to a faraway place, with open oceans and cloudless skies, a blue world that shimmered with texture and depth to complement the monotonous blue of my mind.
I wore off the effects of weed by writing. The next day I had completely forgotten what I had written. When I read it, it made no sense. Just like the party. I mean I know the facts of it, but I don’t know how to read the nuances. All I know is that there were many, whether I made them up or not. Parties are just parties; I know I read into things and between the lines a lot.
Now, honor means something very different to me. Whether openly acknowledged by the other party or not, it is always the job of someone else to give me honor; therefore it could never come from within or be a true reflection of what is within. Judgment is so relative, people think so many different things about me, who am I really? To take honor in being valued by someone else may not be wrong in itself, but it is not so healthy or even a true indication of how I am as a person. My friend invited me to the party. I felt honored to be invited. I was the one who attributed honor to the act, but in doing so I let the act tell me about my worth. Consequently met with disappointment, the act was able to take away my honor, which I also conflated with dignity. Thus I had essentially reduced my self, all this happening without my conscious realization in that time.
I think I prefer to consider myself not in terms of what it means to be honored, but rather dignified. Dignity comes from within and is preserved by itself through eternity. I could never lose my dignity because someone else acted in a particular way to express their belief concerning me; I am born with it, and will forever have it as long as I am. Dignity, in my opinion, is more important than honor. Honor has to be defended sometimes, but dignity is free and arises from me.
The recognition of dignity in myself necessitates the recognition of dignity in other people as well. I don’t know why, but this revelation about the permanence and significance of dignity brings me so much bittersweet satisfaction. In a way, she never died.
Coincidentally or not, it rained that night. Rain, the symbol of cleansing, drenched us. JC was with me. We talked, we walked, then I went home. It was wet and cold, but that’s rain for you, one of the most dignified things to grace the earth.