This week’s Spin Cycle is all about respect. I’ve been mulling it over all week and, to be perfectly honest, have had a hard time deciding what angle I was going to attack this from. And now here it is, Friday, and I’m still pretty clueless. This has not been helped by the sleepless night I just spent (eff you, menopause-induced insomnia), so you’ll have to forgive me if this post, well, rambles a bit.
I don’t think about respect as much as I did when I was younger, probably because I respect the people that matter and know they respect me – people that don’t respect me don’t matter, those that don’t matter probably don’t respect me, and I really don’t give a big hairy rat’s patootie.
It took me a long time to get to this point, probably because it took me a long time to learn to respect myself – and, like love, you can’t expect it from someone else unless you first learn to give it to yourself. I think a lot of us feel like loving and respecting ourselves is just too narcissistic, when it’s really necessary. After all, if you can’t give yourself the love and respect you’re due, how can you give it to anyone else? To say nothing of expecting it from others – it’s simply hard to respect someone who has no self-respect. I used to wonder if my first marriage would have been different if I’d had the self-respect I gained in the years following my divorce, but hindsight coupled with maturity is a both a blessing and a curse – it took me years to realize the answer to that was “probably not” simply because he had so little self-respect. Nor would he believe me if I told him that I hope he’s found that self-respect…but I really do.
I’ve also found that as I grow older my definition of respect has matured. When I was younger the respect I wanted from others (as well as that I gave myself) was very intertwined with my desire of approval, something I wanted desperately. Now, I don’t give a shit if you approve of me or not; I have my reasons for doing the things I do and you don’t have to agree with the actions or the reasons, but I’d like you to respect them. I respect yours, even when I don’t agree with you.
The focus of my respect has also shifted somewhat in recent years as well. Like far too many young women, I had little respect for my body – I spent a lot of time abusing it, mostly trying to achieve some sort of silly, socially idealized beauty which, for me, was simply out of reach. These days I have a much more healthy respect for it, and it has little to do with my looks. Once you enter your forties, the realization that your entire life is no longer stretching out in front of you sets in – very likely half of it is behind you. I no longer worry unduly about how I look, but I do care very much about living the rest of my life as a healthy, happy, independent human being.
The scope of my respect has broadened as I’ve matured, as well. Like a lot of poor, struggling people – especially poor, struggling single parents – I used to have little respect for my environment; at least I didn’t think about it much. When you’re living paycheck to paycheck and wondering if you’ll be able to pay the rent and the daycare and buy clothes for your kids and still put food on the table, you don’t think much about where the shelter and the clothing and the food come from. All you care about is obtaining them. These days I’m fortunate to be secure enough to be able to think about the source of the necessities of life and mature enough to care about how the acquisition of them affects not just me, but those who come after me as well as those around me.
See? Told you – rambling. And I’m afraid I’m having trouble respecting my dying ovaries right now. I know, it could be worse – the rest of me could be going along for the ride. I sure would respect a good night’s sleep, though.