Being Seen

I’m a very difficult person to live with. I can be sullen and withdrawn and maudlin and, even when I’m doing the dishes or cooking dinner and you try to talk to me, I can be miles away – years away – thinking about an ancient conversation I wish had gone differently or idealizing a future that requires zero effort for me to fix.

In short (too late) I’m a magical thinker who tends to give too much credence to my imagination and my feelings. I’m often not rational preferring to listen to my gut and to navigate the invisible reverberations of the emotions of those around me instead of saying what I need or want. I’m terrible at naming what I feel so often times I don’t even try. It’s almost always too acute or too specific and I can’t quite get a grasp of how to explain it.

Imagine the iridescence of some exotic butterfly and trying in vain to describe the brilliance of the shifting, shimmering colors as its wings catch the sunlight. Or the simultaneous strength of wings that can carry it thousands of miles but would rend like paper if you barely touched it. This is my experience of my inner self and I’m always afraid to show it to people – to tell my truth – because I perceive others as being either far less esoteric and complex or maybe they have an ability to just say “pretty butterfly” while I have to blurt out a paragraph of text as seen above.

All of which is merely a prologue for some very unhealthy behavior I’ve displayed this week. As usual I’ve taken my inner anger about my birthday – a nagging sense that no one really appreciates me for the unique person I am even while I push them all away or hide all the crazy/messy facets of myself from view – and I made rash choices. I deleted some social media while vomiting up all my insecurities and pain on another.

I didn’t fight fair. I don’t fight fair. I hurt people before I’ll let them hurt me. I deny my own feelings of longing for someone to see the authentic, original, total me by “reasoning” that if they wanted to know they’d just dig a little deeper. Just try a little harder. Just do a little bit more.

But, again, that’s not fair. I know it’s me that has to change. I know that I’m the one with work to do. I have to receive the love they could offer me more than I’m afraid of them rejecting the “me” I almost never show. I want so badly to be that vulnerable but beautiful butterfly but I’m so comfortable here in my cocoon that I don’t know what to do.

I took a long walk this afternoon. I’ve always loved feeling tired after exercise or standing in the rain or bracing against the cold. Something about feeling the physical fragility of life seems to connect me more with that interior experience that I mostly keep hidden. It helps me synthesize all my thoughts so that I can finally say what’s on my mind or show what I’ve been working on. It helps me lower my guard and realize that we’re all basically the same and that I shouldn’t fear showing myself anymore than I should fear that tired ache of exercise. I can understand the emotional ache of wanting and wishing and hoping and so I should just acknowledge those feelings too.

I feel everything so acutely. The rage at the handling of COVID-19. The anxiety about voting rights. The stress of working from home, learning remotely, and the isolation from family and friends. There are days when I feel like an exposed nerve and the only way I know how to show my family that I love them is to make dinner and clean the kitchen and try to just be as unobtrusive as I can be. I think that shrinking myself to a tiny, quiet point will mean the pain can’t get to me but my brain finds way to route around my body if given half a chance.

I don’t know what the point of writing all of this down is but I do know that I acted out the other night and it makes me feel ashamed. I also know that lots of folks reached out – privately and publicly – to check on me. I’m thankful for your messages. I’m not okay. The weight of this year is crushing and I’m running out of ways to displace that burden. Maybe I ought to just spend all day walking – taking all my meetings by phone so my body can help my soul deal with everything. Maybe I just need a good cry or yell at the universe to let all of those feelings loose.

I just know that I’ve been bottled up and that most times I try to explain what’s wrong I get angry at myself before I finish the first sentence because it isn’t coming out the right way. I spend so much time gaslighting myself that things are fine that when I finally start to snap out of it I’m mad twice – once for suppressing myself and a second time for not changing things immediately.

I’m just the slightest bit hopeful that maybe some of my less-rash decisions will make a little bit of difference. I’m not holding my breath but I’m trying to be honest. Maybe I should have more meltdowns? I honestly can’t tell anymore. I just know that I’m having a hard time and I’m trying to explain how I feel so *I* understand it.

Thanks for listening.

One thought on “Being Seen

  1. Russ says:

    You’re not alone.

    Side note, I miss the bitter knife of cold wind that slices through Midtown in February. Made me feel more alive than anything else. Knowing that pain brought me this odd sense of joy. I don’t know why I shared this.

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