I've got no idea how to get started. It's been so long since I sat down and took myself seriously enough to be here. I've been rattling around in a life that seems too big for me for way too long now. I used to fill that space! I even overflowed it, on really good days!
I want to explain, I want to make sense of it - I want to get over it and get out! Part of me is screaming IT'S TOO SOON - YOU'RE STILL WAY TOO CLUELESS - TOO MANY LOOSE ENDS TO MAKE SENSE OF THIS!! And part of me, the quiet part, the little girl, she knows it's time. She knows I need to open up. She knows that this pain feeds on quiet - because it gets to be the only voice inside my head, keeping me in check. She knows the last bits of clean & sane know-this-about-me will mould without light. She knows I need air and wind and being naked. Yes. She's wise. And she's still there, so there's hope. (there's always hope, she says to me. she never tires of repeating herself when I'm off and deaf. she's plugged in, she sees these things much clearer than I do...)
I want to be poetic about it all - make it beautiful where it really stinks, but she tells me not to worry about how it sounds; and once again, she's right. Worrying about how it all sounds is what gets me here in the first place. It locks the door on me. It cuts me off from my gut, and from sanity, to put it dramatically, and that's always the beginning of the end.
This crap loops all through my life. I'd really love to say I'm getting better at handling it, but I'm not - not visibly, not obviously. And the time to get angry about that isn't - now. It's never. It isn't about getting angry, frustrated at what I'm doing to myself, although it always seems that way for the longest time; just kick your own butt, honey! that's all you need - a good whoopin' and you'll be right as rain. If you'd just get in gear and fit in, you'll be dandy and the world is right!
I'm scared of sounding too dramatic. I'm dead scared of being misunderstood. I'm scared of feeling like the only one who gets like this! I'm scared to throw myself out here, naked again. Really, really scared! But I need to. Because all this starts with feeling like I don't fit in, like I'm not good enough, like I'll never get it right - oh yes, elusive it, indeed! - and my first answer always is, to pull out. And I'm starting to think - okay, the little girl inside told me - that I'll never find glu for repair if I don't come out and show myself again.
Basically, it's really simple. Undone of pretty and sliced open, I was raised by a mother who Knows. I'm not here to vilify my mother. It doesn't help. Lessons learned are lessons learned, and in the end, the only thing that really counts is - how you learn to make up for it - how you learn to cope. I'm not here to excuse her, either, but I do know she wasn't out to get me. She meant well. She was - and is - just never flexible enough to realise that I needed to be right, at times, too. Because what I'm left with now is a broken compass. And way too much stock in what a fabled crowd of Other People think.
What I grew up with is this warped blueprint of how the world works: you do things right, you're good. You do things wrong, and this includes all versions of not-quite-right, you're no good, really. There is no manual for Good. There is no manual for Wrong either, but you catch on pretty quickly. You can gather it from a look, a word, a nod. There's a lot of disappointment involved, and you learn to apologise, because it's the quickest way to get on with things. And if you apologise this much, there must be something wrong with you to start with. That gets ingrained. Deeply. That feeling lasts. You hear 'I didn't say anything!', but you know that look and you don't need the words anymore. You weigh looks and gestures and you know. (have you ever considered you interpret too much? she asks, and yes I have. I have with hindsight. I know NOW. and it isn't necessarily too late to change - to learn to ask, but it's so hard to stop the damage mid-sentence, because I'm afraid I'll hear I was right; I'm wrong, and I really don't want to hear the words out loud...)
If I were asked to describe my way in this world, I'd go with tentative vulnerabilty. There is a lot I don't know. I know we all come from different families, different biographies, different circumstances - not to mention cultures, so I don't feel equipped to weigh and judge. And I don't want to weigh and judge. I like the surprise and the sense of wonder. I like making things up as I go along. I don't like carving things in stone, not being able to revisit, to re-examine, to try a different angle. I like to think, to analyse, and I like to brainstorm, to toss things into the air and see how they land. I don't know what was there first - finding a way to cope with being wrong pretty much anyway, or an innate curiosity, but this is what I'm left with. I'm tentative, I'm vulnerable, and I don't really know. I'm vulnerable because I talk about not knowing. I talk about not being sure. I talk about being wrong, re-assessing, trying again - I talk about that all the time. I talk about how hard life is at times, and how I don't know what to do to make sense, spin meaning, and I always hope for 'me, too!'
But I have quite a few People who Know in my life. People who are Sure. About a lot of things. They're sure about their parenting decisions, about what they'll eat tonight. About their politics, the colour of their underwear, their hobbies and how much time spent on those is reasonable. They're sure about their talents, their skills and their abilities. They know how to measure up, and how not to stand out in a crowd. They're awesome, they're good.
These are good, solid people, and I'm not here to vilify them, either. I know no one is that sure. I know that at least part of it is what I hear them say - because I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, to be wrong, as I expect to be, at the bottom of things - and in part it's a - cultural thing? A contemporary thing? That we need to be seen to be sure? To show the world we know what we're doing? To have and hold opinions like they're our armour against change? I'm not sure (haha), all I know is, me and my open vulnerability, my lay-it-on-the-table attitude - when my solid ground starts sloping - I'm no match for their Knowledge.
I'm vulnerable because I expect to be wrong. And because I don't have a lot of worthiness in my back pocket on the best of days, let alone the slippery sloping days. I wasn't taught to carry myself, I was taught to - whatever you do, get it right. Without a compass. I don't have goals to fall back on when things start coming apart - meaningful stuff that will drag me out and up and into the light, because what I swallowed all those years ago was - life isn't about meaning, it's about not putting your foot wrong. It's about doing what's expected & about Knowing - being sure. I grew up thinking People Know. Hoping one day, I'd Know, too. Because Everybody Knows. Only really sad, silly, broken people - flawed, faulty, incomplete people don't know.
Some days - more and more days, longer stretches, it's important to remind myself of that! - when it's me and my gut and my brushes and my je ne sais quoi, and things are in place - I'm soaring with the best of them. I don't give a rat's ass about Knowing - knowing that I already do know on an instinctive, intuitive level that I'm alright, I'm okay, flying with my warts and who'll stop me?! But my gut gets clogged. It invariably does. Because I'm not necessarily heading somewhere - shouldn't I be headed somewhere - and shouldn't I Know?! As soon as I try to control being okay - hell, being Fabulous! - as soon as I try to tentatively, vulnerably explain it - as soon as I look up to make sure People see that I'm doing alright...
... that's when I see those looks, those gestures again. That's when I hear People telling me what to do, how they Know, how they got it covered, how their ducks are in a row. These People do a lot of their talking in my head. I talk for them. Inner mean chick does. She knows the drill. She knows when I'm ready to listen, and she takes no prisoners. She dresses like Everybody and digs in. I lose faith in myself and my gut, like I've always done in the face of Everybody, and I literally, physically pull back from the world. I stop seeing friends, stop answering emails, stop drawing, stop hanging out on Facebook, stop reading how everyone seems to have got it all figured out, and I don't want to hear about it either. I lock myself in with the one person who can make it all even worse: me.
For the past two months - give or take - I've been tearing strips off myself, reducing me to something not quite fit to feed a stray dog. All while fighting it, of course. It's been a war zone here - fighting myself for fighting myself for fighting myself. I've been playing footy with irritable bowel syndrome too, for the first time in my life - which is less than helpful when you're trying to trust your gut - but it's told me some truths by joining the party.
When you try to find your gut, your intuition, your I-know-a-few-things-about-me? Don't adjourn into your head. It's what I've always done - that's where the austere room lives in the world - but for the first time ever, I got feedback! It didn't help, and it still doesn't help just to know, but it's a serious clue about how to get out! And clues are good!
There are huge, gaping holes in this story. There are the things I don't know, things I'm not sure how to add up, things I don't want to drag up again, some good juicy examples of things that were said, and a good stack of things that would make this a book, as opposed to a long-winded blog post. One of the biggest holes is probably - why don't I throw everything at fitting in, if it matters that much?! All I can offer is - I think I tried that. Way back when. And it didn't work. I didn't get it. I didn't know what I was supposed to do, or what getting it right was meant to feel like - so I gave up. I think I decided at some point that it's - easier to come in from left-field, the element of surprise and all that - than to try and come in all dressed up, facing disappointment and a need to apologise. At least this way I could always claim they just didn't get it - even if it never really helped for long. Same fight, different coat - but it's how I 'coped' and I can't go back. At the bottom of the whole thing, it's always been about fighting the unfightable. Fighting myself for my sanity. Because it's about what I believe about myself, in the end, now that I'm all grown up. I'm not entirely clueless anymore, but I don't know everything. Ah. Elusive. I'm just not Know Everything-material. My personality can't handle it, my gut knows, but my head is stuck in the sand, ostrich-style. Or something. Holes, huh?
What I do know for sure, is that it's time to go out into the world again. Naked. Tentatively vulnerable with all I've got. And my brushes. I actually know at the bottom of all this - it's okay. I'm alright. I know more than enough. And the only way I can prove it to myself is if I go out in this raging storm out there and stay upright. One street corner at a time.
Do I like my personality? Do I want to change? Is it comfortable, not-knowing, and is there some sort of comfort in the falling, too? Some peace in knowing the enemy? I don't know. I'm forever much too close to this whole thing to claim clarity. What I do think is - I should get me one of those fabled Tribes, a gathering of Soul Sisters to keep me honest and on the straight-but-not-narrow - a new and improved Everybody to hear in my head and change my life! I LOVE reading about those, come across them all the time - great idea, too! Just one question: where do you get one?!
My story isn't all that unique. I don't come from unimaginably terrible things - I just live with a lot of harsh glaring lights and struggle, at times. So why do I get naked and share, anyway? Because I've been really lost, and really lonely lately. It helps, to write it down. It sort of feels like a fresh start, an opening to slip through - or the promise of one, at the very least.
And because I want to tell you - because we all need to hear it at times - 'oh yes, I get that. Me, too, sweetie. Me, too.' You don't have to say it, if you don't want to. I just want you to know you're not alone!