Thursday, April 29, 2010

Tales from the Darkside: Validation

Borderlines live in this world rather like the narration in Tales from the Darkside.

"Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality.  But there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is just as real, but not as brightly lit.  A Darkside."

After this menacing narration comes the doubt, the pain, the hurt that doesn't end, the horror of knowing that people who say they care about you are just placating you.  The terrifying world of loneliness where everyone is an enemy and you don't realize it until it's too late and they've hurt you beyond repair.  The fearful world of fog.  And then when it's all played out and another tiny part of you has fled in fear and self-preservation, comes the closing narration:

"The Darkside is always there, waiting for us to enter, waiting to enter us.  Until next time, try to enjoy the daylight."

Everything, once you have entered the Darkside, is fog.  All you can see are the solid, real-life object that are within six feet of your eyeballs.  Then the fog starts.  I can see the table, the TV, the recliner, Sookie curled up on the chair.  But when the Darkside comes, its all in fog.  It's distant from you because you are not good enough to exist in the same location.  Everything poses some kind of challenge and when a borderline forces herself to get up to meet that challenge, she invariably fails.

Validation is something that a borderline always seeks but never realizes if she finds. The word hit me yesterday for the first time in trying to describe my feelings to someone.  Validation seems to be, at least in this moment (and moments are ever-changing in the Darkside), the key to keeping a borderline in the daylight world.  If a borderline paints an exact copy of the Mona Lisa in an afternoon while her children are asleep, it is never as good as her husband's secretary's doodle of Garfield on the back of a post-it note tablet. 

The thing about borderlines and validation is that validation does not lead to an inflated ego.  It does not lead to a sense of superiority.  Validation to a borderline leads to one rung being added on the ladder that will dig her out of the fog and into the daylight.  Validation will give her a reason to try again when she failed the first time. A borderline rarely feels superior to anyone and when she does, it's short-lived, or is only a ruse to see if you agree.

Sometimes a borderline doesn't even have to do anything to receive validation for.  Just validation that she is there.  That she exists.  That you heard her words, read her story, saw her wave, enjoyed her presence.  It's redundant to you, but to a borderline every singular experience, no matter how many times it's occured, is new and exists in and of itself.  Maybe they should make a Borderline Validation Card that can be stamped when validation is needed so that next time the borderline can just look at her card and say "Oh, I've been validated for having written something well already.  Good.  I can move on from here. Let me see what else I can find to hurt myself with."

Moving through fog, where everything has barbs and prickles, where words are bloody swords and smiling faces are masks hiding grotesque skulls, a borderline lives in a Darkside where each day begins with rejection and tries to pull herself up toward something better.  Where each validation is a rung on the ladder to daylight. 

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