Do You Know What Your Problem Is?

“Do you know what your problem is?” Asks the stranger at the party. He has that smug look on his face I’ve come to associate with questions where no answer can ever be right.

‘Yes,’ I reply, more bluntly than I meant. I laugh quickly to dispel the sudden tension. ‘Would you like a list?’

Would it surprise you to know that he didn’t?

I excused myself soon after. The topic was a sour one, and his unmitigated gall in trying to tell a woman he barely knew just what was wrong with her left a bad taste in my mouth that lingers still.

I know what my problem is. All of them. I see them every single day. I hear them. No one knows what’s wrong with me more than I do.

I’m too hard on myself. If I can’t do something perfectly I will punish myself until I can. I forgive mistakes in others with ease, but never in myself. I never feel worthy of anything good.

I’m in no way moderate. My whole life is all or nothing. I burn myself out until I can’t move, I laugh until I cry. I get annoyed when I have to stop, because going and going and going is all I want to do.

I’m self-destructive. I don’t get nearly enough sleep. I don’t eat well; I live on coffee and toast. I tell people I’m fine when I’m clearly not. I hold everything in until I can’t hold it in any longer, and then I snap like a brittle twig.

I’m a living contradiction. When I’m upset, I can’t look anyone in the eye. We all know I’m hiding, but I do it anyway. Suddenly making eye contact becomes the hardest thing in the world, because I don’t want people to see. But I want people to see, too.

I’m socially inept. I talk before I think and I make people uncomfortable. I say things that aren’t acceptable. I can’t lie. My face always betrays me. My mouth does, too.

I’m too loud. I laugh at inappropriate times and things. I laugh at everything, and where my laugh used to be a comfort to me, now it’s just another insecurity. I sing off-key. When I get excited I talk too quickly and my voice pitches too high.

I’m emotionally volatile. I get hurt easily. I worry too much. I worry about things I can’t change and people who barely give me a second thought. I would do anything for anyone, even when they absolutely don’t deserve it.

I dislike myself. I won’t let myself be angry, even when I need to. Even when it’s justified. I always find a way to make everything all my fault, so my anger becomes internalised and aimed straight back at me.

I apologise too much. I run myself down. I can’t stand the sight of myself or the sound of my own voice.

I am a wreck of a human being.

But you know what else? I’m determined to do better. I’m stronger than I look. I get up every single day and face the world, even when it feels like the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I still believe in love. I believe the best of people. I am full of hope.

So yes, I do know what my problem is, but knowing a problem is the first step to solving it.

“A Small Life”

My Grandma lived what would be considered by most people as “a small life”. She didn’t have a grand career, she wasn’t famous, and very few people will remember her. When I visited her before her passing, she told me she only wanted a small funeral because of that.

It was a small funeral, I suppose. It lasted around fifteen minutes in total. A quarter of an hour doesn’t seem like nearly long enough to say goodbye to one of the most important people in my life. But you know what? There were so many people who came to say goodbye to her, and though the service was short, it was full of love for her, for the life she had lived, and the people whose lives she touched.

Grandma taught me to read. She taught me how to tie my shoelaces. She taught me how to bake. She taught me how to knit. She taught me the importance of taking off my make-up at the end of the day, and the benefits of a good moisturiser. She taught me how to defuse a tense situation. She taught me that laughter is a great healer, and that there’s no shame in being silly and having fun.

I won’t ever forget how she made every Christmas magical, how she stuck tinsel and fairy-lights to any surface she could find, and how she literally sparkled right along with it all. How she used to find the noisiest toys in any department store and switch them all on until all you could hear was the almighty din of twenty chickens singing Happy Easter, and our hysterical laughter. How she always knew when something was wrong, how she could make you tell her anything, and no matter that you knew it wouldn’t stay secret for long, that you just always felt better for talking to her.

How she gave the warmest and best hugs, and how she always smelled like pastry and Nivea hand cream.

She was an amazing woman. She was a family woman. That’s no small thing. Not to me. Not to any of her grandchildren, or her daughters, or her husband, or anyone who knew her and loved her.

I hope she knew.