However, I would prefer if you don't say "happy birthday." Not yet. I've come to hate my birthday over the years. Intensely. I didn't feel there was anything to celebrate. My world had made clear that it would be a better place if I wasn't in it, and I had no other world to go to. My birthday wasn't but a reminder. Adding to the irony, I was born on the day when my country, Spain, celebrates its own "April Fools" sort of day. Everything in my life was a big joke, from its very start.
Perhaps I had true reasons to feel hurt and despair. Perhaps not. Perhaps I was somewhere in between my pain being justified, or it not being justified at all. In any case, there was something that remained true: I could not realize there was a world for me as long as I continued dwelling in feeling deeply hurt.
When I joined SL, on April 16th, 2009, I was 32 years old, and I didn't know I was sick. I was indeed naive enough to think that I was starting to recover from all the physical tiredness that had hit me like a truck three years before, after happenings that do not matter here. If anything, my first months in SL were a reflection of how lost I was feeling in my own life. I came to SL because building and creating particle effects were appealing to me, especially after someone in RL showed me the possibilities. It seemed like the perfect kind of distraction that my mind needed. But I was lost. I rezzed prims and I didn't know what to do with them. My mind was a huge black screen.
At this point in my writing, I also feel lost. It's not that I don't know what to say next. I have been writing and rewriting, noticing how something I learned after being in SL for a while, was more ingrained in me than I thought.
I wanted to explain why I had this intense dislike for my birthday over the years. I also wanted to explain why I felt lost in both worlds, and the course of events that made things change. But every road I took was leading me to give away too much of my past, of my life, my pain. Something I have learned is that I own the words I do not say. I have also learned since I'm on the Internet, but even more since I am in SL, that there are many predators out there. Predators are quick in pointing fingers at someone else while deciding their next victim, or draining their current victim's soul. Predators also often cover themselves in a victim costume.
I don't trust easily, if at all. You don't need to know the reasons. Likely, you would not believe my story, so if I told it, that would only serve predators and their dark purposes. I also don't want that you know about my pain. My pain is mine. It belongs to me. I do not consent that predators take on my pain for a cause they can use to manipulate others, or myself. I prefer to tell you a story of hope instead.
In the middle of feeling over the edge, wounded and wary of everybody, perfecting my own master plan that was leading me to my self destruction (body and mind), somebody slipped through all my defenses. I still don't know how he made it, but he did. One student, in SL, that was already on my radar because of his kindness and his sense of humor, asked me out to dance one night. I don't know why I took a picture then, but now I'm glad I did, because I keep a memory of that moment.
We started dating as summer started in 2011. We did as any other couple of lovers does. Talking, dancing, exploring places and exploring ourselves. Then Christmas arrived and I broke over my birthday. Again. But he didn't let me fall into darkness. By that time, he was already an important part of my life. Separated by an ocean, closer than anybody calling themselves "friend" in my "real world" could ever be.
His concern was honest, and part of a "wake up call" that I so much needed. As 2012 went by, I worked more and more in my SL store, which meant a sense of feeling useful to a community and to myself, and so I began stopping the strong desire of self destruction. Writing scripts and books for designers keeps your mind busy with much more pleasant thoughts. Or at least, with other than destructive thoughts.
It may seem irrelevant, but in order to stop with your own self destruction, you have to first really want it to stop. This doesn't mean that once you reach to this realization, everything will magically be fixed. Oh, no. A long path of repairing everything that's broken, if possible, waits for you. You will have to reverse all the habits that were being harmful to your health, physically and mentally, not to mention all the obligations that were neglected for a long time. It looks like so much to do, that you will never be able to achieve it.
What to do?
Start anywhere. It doesn't matter where, when there's so much to fix. It matters that you will be making a step in a direction that will help you. Clean a room. Go see a doctor. Dig out one square meter of weeds. Today you sleep eight hours instead of four. Just pick one so you start to do something.
Yes, everything seems too big and unattainable right now. Today you go to the bank to pay some back taxes, and you are told that you also have to pay for some more things. Today you clean a room and in the way find out that something is broken. You start taking iron because of the anemia, and the next day you will not notice a difference. You're still weak. The car needs repairs. A machine breaks and you discover a mess because of the water. A spider bites your foot while cleaning weeds, and it makes it so swollen that you can't even walk. It seems that your goal will never be within your grasp, and that you've just opened a can of worms that grows worse each day.
However, if you don't give up, you will notice something interesting: your strength is slowly coming back, life is always tough but you have less things to take care of. You even begin having some time for entertainment.
I started taking care of myself by mid September, 2012. My first goal was my sleep. Nowadays, unless we're talking about a critical emergency (hospital, evacuation...), nothing is going to take from me my seven-eight daily hours of sleep. Nothing is more important than that. If I have one less item to release, so be it. If I have to go shopping for food in the evening rather than in the morning, that's what will happen. But my sleep is sacred. If I don't have rest, I am good for nothing, and "good for nothing" defeats the fight against self destruction.
I haven't finished fixing what there is to fix. I broke so much that I now have to continue working hard. My partner in SL is a constant support. We live a quiet life that helps me in my personal struggle. Visiting places, shopping, and then talking a lot. I've never felt attacked by him and up to this date, I can't recall of a single disagreement that finished in saying things that were later regretted. We've barely needed to say "I'm sorry."
As peace started to enter in my life, I felt I could start to open a bit to the world. SL-related, the first thing I did was to participate in the SL feeds. I started following some people that I had already been reading for a long time in the forums. There's a radical sector that considers a few of these people I follow, no less than Satan's spawn. My being friendly to them, of course, turned me into another of those Satan's spawn. That didn't came as a surprise to me. I've been observing radicals for long enough to know what they would do, and at that point I was strong enough to just ignore their hate.
For somebody like me, always curious about why people do, think and behave the way they do, that extremely narrow view of the world is amusing, up to some extent. It's like observing a three year old, starting to learn the world, needing to have clear and very simplified "right" and "wrong" lines for their toddler minds. The sad part is that this behavior is observed in alleged adults. Their huge corpus of prejudices don't let them realize that the people they slander are often smart, fun, and with an uncomfortable habit of making you think about what you don't want to think: your own preconceptions. So the people they slander could actually teach them a lot about life. But they prefer instead to cover their ears, sing "lalalalala I can't hear you," and are quick in screaming that you are what your friends are. Although I find that simplistic view of life quite laughable, one thing is for sure: I prefer to be surrounded by smart and fun people, than by radicals full of anger and hate. If something has to permeate my life from people that surround me, I prefer it to be a smile and a brain. In the end, I'm trying to run away from self destruction, not return back to it.
Participating in the SL feeds brought very good things to my life. One of those things was to know a few people that were also fighting their own personal struggles, not making an "oh poor me" public spectacle of it, but rather, making others smile despite their own pain. In a way, they helped me, and I cannot thank them enough for the example they set.
Participating in the SL feeds also brought something back to my life. I have always liked, wanted, to write. One of my dreams is that some day I will write a book, but not a technical one. Perhaps essays, or perhaps a novel. Perhaps both. Writing was interrupted by... it doesn't matter what, and now thanks to SL I again have a chance, plus a medium that inspires me through its landscapes and people. SL also gave me the ability to convey some feelings through images, something that I never thought I could do, and the SL feed lets me share all that in a way that is safe to me.
Yes, despite my introverted and reserved nature, I'm also human, and I also want to share what I feel is important to me. It's just, whiners, "victims" and attention whores occupy so much space with their laments and their "it's all about me!" screams... How could I dare ask for a chance to share, for my own space?
My partner had the answer to that: You do not ask for a chance to share. You stop being shy and put yourself out there.
That is not easy for me to do. This may sound stupid, but I often feel like the most uninteresting, dull person in the world. Why would anybody want to read me? Still, I pushed myself. If I was really uninteresting and dull, that would be for everybody else to decide.
And so, with my "second" and "real" lives intertwined, I realize that as my birthday arrives and the year is about to come to an end...
I have saved a garden that was about to die. Nature is grateful and when I now look around, I see no more death, but green and flowers instead. I have started to fix "bureaucracy issues" that were delayed for years. I eat better. I sleep good. I survive in RL thanks to my work in SL, while the economic situation in my country is still critical. I have learned modelling in 3D (something I wanted to do since I was 17)... and I am even teaching about it! I'm writing again, sharing it, no longer thinking that I am uninteresting and dull. I have lost 20 kilo since summer (about 44 pounds), which is making me feel very good on several levels, and is helping me feel stronger. I have made the first step in rebuilding some personal relationships that were broken, and let others approach me again. I have realized that it is not true that everybody wants me dead. Some people even love me. And I also begin to like myself, to smile at the woman that looks at me every morning in the mirror.
True, there is a lot yet to fix, and other things will break along the way. But for the first time in my life, I feel like celebrating that I am alive. I don't want to dwell in the pain. I want to feel that living is worth it. Join me, if you so wish.
Happy birthday, me!
IMAGE: Happy birthday!, in Flickr
Also published in Connecting 365 SL Lives