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C08P39 – Nothing

C08P39 – Nothing published on 16 Comments on C08P39 – Nothing

I am a support person for a friend struggling with an eating disorder. Part of the initial support process was attending education sessions for parents & friends at the clinic. People in treatment would be there with their support groups, and one of the clinic staff would run a discussion group with all of us. It had a huge impression on me, and impacted in particular Mizha. In part, because I could not help but think, “There, but for my art, go I,” because there was very little that separated us outside of the coping method, and the consequences of those actions. What struck me even more was how amazing so many of these people were, and how not a single one of them could see it.

The people at that clinic were by far some of the most interesting, intelligent, creative, kind, and brave people I have ever met. But they all considered themselves worthless, bound by the numbers on a scale, their self-perception tied to trying to achieve a weight that they were never “good enough” to get to. I couldn’t understand how they could not see how beautiful they already were, in every way that mattered. In every way that is guaranteed to last. I found them so amazing, and they thought of themselves as nothing. It made me realize how often I had thought the same thing of myself. How little good I could see in myself. And it made me start to question my own poor opinion.

Mizha’s arc was heavily influenced by these experiences and realizations. So in many ways, her arc is dedicated to the amazing men and women who can not yet see in themselves the worth that others do. And I hope that someday they can see the incredible strength and value that exists in them, even if they don’t believe today that it is there.

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Children visit this site. Moderate your language accordingly.

In my case, an underestimation of myself comes as a bitter end of an overestimation. In childhood, one reads how the adults make mistakes, how they start going in cursed circles, how one weakness affect the whole life and thinks: “No, I won’t be in such a situation, because I’m a knight in a shiny armor.” And then the reality strikes.

Yet, I won’t argue that one has to lower the standards for herself. To the contrary: I think, that whatever goal you want to reach in life, you will never achieve. So, it’s better to thrive for something great and end up with something good, than to aim for something average and be left with nothing.

The only two relatives from my childhood family left living think they are “nothings”–their words, in fact–and I often wish that they had wanted make something tangible, any craft serious or silly, that gave them some sort of material creation (poetry yes, but no not food–that doesn’t last in the simple material way I mean), for relaxation and self expression.

Of course each of them could find ways to undervalue their creations, but we who make things eventually learn how to wonder at them, and our creations (even funny old ugly knit scarves) can anchor us through trying times.

It’s so sad that I can’t bridge the gulf between us in any way–they clearly don’t like my creative work, don’t want to know what I get out of it, and wish I would spend my time with them (not, for example, with my husband and child).

And I have, believe me, listening, and listening, gently suggesting, introducing them to one lovely activity, or place, or person after another, to no avail . . .

Ultimately, people have to choose for themselves if they have worth. It can’t be given. I’ve had to learn that for myself the hard way. Nobody can give me value but me. And what makes my heart sing may be completely different than what somebody else loves. I had to embrace it for myself!

That’s why your characters connect so much–you base them off stuff like this.

(Now please remember that feeling you had looking at all those wonderful people. That’s how I feel when I hear you be sad, and I’m sure a lot of readers share that feeling.)

It is very strange what we can convince ourselves of as we go through life. How a person can look in a mirror or step on a scale and not see they are ALREADY pretty, ALREADY Skinny (Sometimes drastically so), and yet their mind and their body tell them it isn’t enough and they can’t be worth anything until they’re skinnier, lighter…

Harder still is trying to make them see the truth…delicately, sympathetically, with encouragement for improvement.

It’s a tough road.

Mizha definitely has a complex, and I hope someone can find a way to make her see past what she believes is worthlessness.

Well I have a problem myself. I suffer from a mental disorder that makes me one day feel like I’m the main character in my own story, to the next day wishing I would just vanish, cease to be.
So I can relate to those who feel like they cannot just cope with what life throws at them. All you can do is try and realize the worse may not be all that terrible as it seems to be.

Not gonna lie, I shed some Manly Beads of Eye-Sweat after reading this page, which is why this comment is so late in coming.

I’ll be blunt: Thank you. Thank you so much.

Many storytellers use death, especially the death of parents, as plot devices and inciting events — nothing wrong with that — but then gloss over the effects of that death on the characters who feel the shockwaves. Or represent those effects in ways that ring hollow to those who have walked that road in reality.

But when a storyteller finds the courage to show death’s toothmarks in the bones of the living, and to do it well, it’s a wonderful thing.

Some context: Every time we’re reminded of Mizha’s recent backstory, I think of my mother. Last year my grandfather, who helped her raise me when we had no one else, was diagnosed with a particularly nasty form of cancer, and the doctors gave him about three years to live. I was away at university halfway across the continent, and her two brothers were struggling with crises of their own, in no position to help her care for him as he wasted away in front of her. We couldn’t afford a nurse, he didn’t want to be abandoned in a nursing home… and so like Mizha, she took care of him herself — a task with a round-the-clock schedule, heavy lifting, bathing, feeding, dressing, constant monitoring, and being a mother all over again, on top of the agony of watching her father die slowly and painfully — while working a full-time job with ridiculous hours and very limited paid leave.

It was a superhuman task, and she had to do it alone. Fortunately (?) of the three years the docs gave him, Grandpa didn’t quite last one.

To this day, she’s plagued with Mizha’s same sense of incompetence — I should have scraped together money for a nurse, I should have taken him to a hospital, I should have quit my job, I couldn’t keep him out of pain, I couldn’t give him peace, I failed, I failed, I failed as a caregiver, as a daughter. As for me, to my eternal shame I was late to the party so to speak, eventually mustering the courage to put family first and skip my finals to come help — only catching the tail end of that agonizing experience as a result — but even I didn’t get away from the Nothings unscathed; I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in Mom’s skin.

When I see Mizha, I see my mother, and I see the scars of doubt and anguish and shame and misery tearing at them both. When I see Tama, I see myself, returning too late to be of any use to either of them. The moments when the characters really throw down the mask and show those scars are rare, but when they happen, it’s written with such pure truth and honesty.

The Nothings are a lie, in that they’re untrue. But they’re also a truth, in that they’re real, and seeing them played out on the page is more cathartic than I can ever describe, no matter how briefly they appear.

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