I’m reading Amanda Palmer’s Art of Asking and it is, naturally, bringing up all sorts of emotions for myself. I’m going through a bit of an emotional purge in my life. I started generating an idea for a really weepy, vulnerable post. I still want to do it. I probably still should, I just want to keep myself in a good, working mood. It’s just reminding me how much I want to be a writer and I want to share my work, and I get in the way of letting that happen to protect myself from the possibility.
Mainly, I want it to be perfect and as a mortal, and someone out of practice with personal essays that aren’t just paintballing against a white wall, it ain’t gonna be.
I also remind myself that I face that reality everyday when I post. When you can’t help secretly hoping that some post will arbitrarily connect and take off and somehow the person I am or that I’m trying to be can get seen, can be chosen and selected and pulled out of obscurity and therefore, loved. Even if you know you didn’t try all that hard, or didn’t edit, or didn’t write anything that means anything other than a factual account of a deeply introverted person’s deeply uneventful life, you kind of hope that might happen.
…okay, so maybe I am going to write this.
Like, I hesitate to tag, because there’s this sense of trumpeting – come in, come visit, aren’t I clever? I put this odd amount of self into it. It’s this weird notion that sure, I can write this, sure, I can post it, but if it’s wrong? What if I screwed something up? What if my opinions aren’t everyone’s opinions? What if people actively DISlike it? (And really, they should, because the imperfection in it is mind-boggling). And if I invited them to look at it, I crowed it was good enough to look at, spend their precious time on… I think that bullshit all the while riding along with this hope of love and delight and flower crowns and victory.
I remember when I was a very little girl and I would get in trouble or would have a crying jag ( as a sensitive sort, this was often. I cried at earnest people in commercials, at a dog’s bark across the street at shifts in light I found beautiful,) I would be sent to my room. Once there, I would tantrum for a bit. Thrust myself around, pluck at my skin, sneer in my little girl mirror, howl and rage. Typically, though, I’d end up on the bed, huddled rather small, willing myself invisible.
If you would just come in, I’d think to myself, if you would just come in and comfort me. If you would just come and hug me. See the hurt I just saw or felt or took on. If you would just some in and soothe me, then I wouldn’t have to take all this on my own. The hurt would be acknowledged and it could leave me.
I could never vocalize this request. Already a whiner, asking for this level of cosseting and attention that no one else seemed to want or need or get, felt very risky. Also, I felt I knew my parents’ reaction after a few feeble attempts of trying to explain the empathetic response I was having. Impatience with that felt like judgement, felt like I wasn’t getting it right, like the narrative was fucked up. All of this is not to say they didn’t care. Didn’t love me 100% with no caveats. I just wanted them to be different than they were and I wanted them to know this without having to say it. On rare occasions, I’d stomp out to the living room. Mostly, I was ignored, or worse asked, “why are you crying again?” This brought out the most powerful wave of anger when I felt as though I was radiating the pain of the universe. It felt like I was being mocked for my empathy. I’ve since been given a name for what I felt. Alain de Botton calls this the “paradox of the sulk.” He writes: ‘If I have to spell this out to you, you’re not someone I want to be understood by.”
I just had this obstinate sense that if someone cared, like in the storybooks I read, they’d show they cared. They’d wordlessly know in the same way I knew. In the same way I’d, even as that young girl, rub my mother’s shoulders or brush her hair when she was sad. So I’d stay in the room, shaking and screaming inside my own head, fire behind my own eyes.
And eventually, I would exhaust my own ability to dwell on whatever petty wrong caused all this and the optimistic and buoyant parts of my creativity would rush in, characters of their own, and they would settle around me and cheer me up. Or at least quell the upset so that I could distract myself with books, or tv, daydreams, food, of course, or from time to time, actual writing of my own which offered me the opportunity to be as selfish as I dared. Where there was endless time to worry over my feelings, endless souls that could be conscripted to the task.
So I figured out, okay, so no one’s coming in. And if you go out, you’ve failed the test. If you explain, you’ve failed it. You’re waiting, Godot-style, for someone who will think you’re worthy of “coming in for.” and will know, behind closed doors, that you’re there. Well, good fucking luck with that one, sweetheart. And I got less bothered and less willing to break down over tiny things and less willing to expect emotional interaction with anyone. Over time, this has played out in its own sharp, sad saga that I have hinted at here, but I’m certain I’ve never addressed head-on. I don’t know if today’s the day for that one, either.
I have grown up (a bit) since then, but making art (writing), seeking an audience for that is like setting up one of these emotional tests. There’s this huge opportunity buried in it, but it’s weighed down by this incredibly unhealthy belief that nobody’s going to be able to overcome. That has nothing to do with wanting and everything to do with not knowing. Because I don’t ask. I don’t invite. I shrug my shoulders and so you never have to fail the test you didn’t know that interacting with me entails. There is no connection or disconnection. There are just ships passing in the night.
When Amanda writes about wanting to be believed, to be real. I’m right there, in that space, in that room, wanting just that. What I needed to know then was how to be vulnerable and ask rather than…well, angry I didn’t get what I wanted. The book has reminded me what it feels like not to ask for that connection, and, the risk you can minimize when you’re not hinged on the result of asking, acknowledging that people are checking in on me and do care, and the glory of taking the offered flower.
I really feel like this year is, in part, about seeing and taking the flower.
on another note (because this is what I started to write before I let myself write the other business.)
…I still really like you. Like a lot. I make it crystal clear to myself that this is a self-indulgent fantasy. So none of the psychic interrogators can rap my knuckles for the things I think about you. But there’s some kernel of hope for myself that is at the center of it. Like you’re the pro forma, the concept art, of someone who could be in my life and make me not linger at doorways anymore. But I’m trying to stop worrying about it and like myself first. Doesn’t seem to be a reason to play at outlandish stratagems when I still harbor such negativity about my body, my mind, my worth as a person, when I still struggle and fret and twist in the wind. That, I imagine, and it’s a good sign that I can go so far as to imagine, is where the bravery needed to send an earnest hello will come from.
My world took a snow day. We spent 300 each on a regulator for our water pressure. I got a work email from the old job and answered it, though I did realize now, having pulled the bedding apart to get it washed that I got texts and calls about the matter as well. I mean, hell, I don’t know. One of the things I was thinking about towards the end as I made my decision to leave the old place of employ was how little I liked the constant umbilicus of work. I like the feeling of going to work, doing work, and then going home to not think about work. Something my therapist felt was a good thing for me to do regardless, but it was really hard to do when you’re getting calls from your boss asking how things are going or 4-10 emails about things that are going on which always translated into tasks to do. Now, I made myself a to-do list because I have a lot to remember, and I emailed it to myself and I forgot about work today. It made space for other things in my head and it is a curious feeling when other worries and other concerns start to spread their wings.
Desire for worthiness. Desire for organization. Desire for generosity (in the form of starting to think about Christmas presents early this year. For other people, not myself, mind. Since starting old job, I’ve sort of just begged off proper Christmas gift-giving, the thoughtful, target-specific kind. It would be nice to pay some attention and show up with things that aren’t glorified gift-cards.) Desire for health. The remainder of yesterday’s pizza, enough Diet Dr. Pepper to make my muscles twitch beneath my skin, some Cheerios, and a waffle can’t constitute any sort of “diet” – it’s just random shit my body, it seems, has no idea what to do with anymore. I definitely feel…off. Like the cough is still just lingering, haunting my throat. I definitely want to do something about it. But I don’t want to subscribe. I think like I’ve been advised here, just some sanity would go a long way, to get through the holidays and be in a position to consider the value in a “body strategy” for 2015. To not feel like I am starting from square one, even though, honestly, I only ever start from the bottom. That’s what tells me it’s time, generally, to stop with my lawlessness and to put on the bridle and chase the carrot, so to speak. But I’m having one of those instances where I just feel really sad that I can absolutely get why I’ve done this – turned off the valve that allows me to relate my body to the outside world – and now I find myself in a position where I feel inflow of finding someone “sparkly” and I go to flick the switch, to start the works back up again, and it’s not…it’s not happening.
That you can have all the patterns and plans and blueprints for life, and be angry at yourself for not following them, but nothing beats the random arrival of a kindred spirit to make you realize you maybe have your priorities all wrong. And having done the few things I’ve done this year, traveling, quitting, writing, I want to plateau. I want to stop and steady my steps, but there’s no time for that and I feel the pushback in every direction. I look at my draft and it’s not good enough. I look at this room and it’s despairly not good enough. I look at the job and I’m not writing, therefore, it’s not good enough. I look at the balance of time and I’m failing right now. It says what foolishness is this to even think about saying hello? To speak of admiration as if speaking does not mean asking to be seen, to be judged. I become a pebble beneath a warhammer. I become nothing in the face of the shame I feel at being a thing that has navel-gazed herself away.
Like, this is such non-issue, me finding someone on the internet swell and me being flummoxed and frustrated that I am neither witty enough nor beautiful enough to allure them away from their far-distant life and into mine where I would gasp in horror if they were suddenly to appear. As though it’s just a matter of me having the self-esteem to charge in and send emails and click like buttons and then, the ineffable romance I desire will be secured. I mean, this is not a problem that I am required to solve, but it is illustrative of the issue at hand. When the man arrives in my life, the tangible, localized threat he will be, that I do care about in this sort of way, what the hell am I supposed to do about it? Because my response in the past has been non-response. And posts like this. Circuitous thinking.
I want to grow. I feel like losing weight, ironically, is a part of that. A critical part given how much I choose to think about it.
The new insurance covers therapy. Thinking about it. Really thinking about it.
Because I was asked to do some professional writing, I instinctively thought I could just post the draft of it here. I thought I could easily spit five hundred words out – but then was told all that was needed was three paragraphs and goodness knows I can’t get anywhere at all in three paragraphs. And then I wondered how I could edit out all the local references to keep it vague enough for this venue and then I thought, fuck it, I’m way too het up about everything right now to not use this place the way it was intended: to vent.
I’ve been more annoyed and angry at everyone at work, and their just almost absurd behaviors. They’re going to have a rough four days without me. Cause that’s all it is…4 work days I’m missing…and as of today, I don’t care. I don’t care if they can’t help people without me to operate Google. I don’t care if they can’t remember things and just ask me. I don’t care that they might have to do something because I’m not there to cover so they can just talk. Though I’m sure that my presence really has no impact on whether or not that happens.
And worst yet! They murmur and mutter and shriek and cackle until I pass by and the newest guest hollers at me: “Are you losing weight?! Good for you!” and they go back to kvetching and talking while I am running around maniacally trying to explain that the whole computer isn’t busted (despite it being a Windows 2000 – yeah, just marinate on that for a second), you just didn’t type in the .net on your emails so they gave you an error message along with trying to do all my work and the sudden pile of crap given to me even when I expressly went through my big, unbearable to do list with my boss and he agreed that it was important for me to get everything done or as we say around my office, “You just make it work.”
And the boss sees me unwrap a piece of gum and jokingly hollers, “You’re cheating!” And I have to explain, no, it’s just sugar-free gum. Jesus.
And I’m doing my best to eat what I can and still not be gone from the office and someone brings in a giant cake for a party for her son’s second marriage (who never speaks to me when he goes to see the co-worker, and the bride I’ve never met, but convention requires me to still spend more than $25 bucks on a gift for them both) to be served tomorrow on the patio and the co-worker comes up, as maternally as she can, and tells me to watch what I eat. And I’m supposed to thank her, she stands there until I thank her for her concern.
It’s like you’re doing what you think you’re supposed to do and then someone asks you to bend just a little bit to make a project happen, and then someone wants just a bit more and you do it because you don’t want to be the bitchy person who refuses to do some small thing and all of a sudden you’re bent over the ravine and they can walk right over you.
And I set up my hair appointment and they might have to special order the color, but I don’t think she understood at all and now I’m pissed that it’s not going to be what I want at all.
So much of the time, the frustration and friction comes from internal factors rather than external ones but it is hard as hell to know that when you’re in the moment.
Saw an appropriate tweet today which I paraphrase now: there’s one way to know if you’re in the moment…if you want to get the hell out of the moment.
So my mother’s really invested in my diet.
Fuck. She called me to ask me how it was going which is the EXACT opposite of the low-key vibe I was going for and said she was making lettuce wraps. I got the whole 9 yards when I went to get them, though. I left feeling really frustrated because she doesn’t seem able to hear me. I think I’m going to actually have to pull out my assertiveness class notes and say that I appreciate the support – because I do – I need the help to get going, but I just can’t do this…thing of being her “weight-losing daughter”…her daughter who is OK because she is in the process of losing weight. Because to me, this attention, this gung-ho needling just reminds me of a hundred thousand agonies I feel surrounding the fact I have it to lose. I just want to blank out and have the food help me do that. I just want to get away from anyone who is telling me “Well, obviously, you’d want to get up and run laps and eat ice cubes and have the willpower of Superman because if you did you’d be skinny and you’d be healthy and okay.” I want to get out of those moments of “Oh, I love you, but don’t you want to fix it? Don’t you want to flip that switch? I can’t relate to you until you flip the switch.”
And then she puts rice in my lettuce wraps. And I feel ashamed suddenly for being irritated.
I have to keep remembering and restating and re-being all the damn time.
I want to do a low-carb diet. I want to eat what I want to eat to achieve that. I want to be responsible for what happens with it…if I exercise or don’t…if I go crazy and get lockjaw chewing gum so I don’t throw myself into a vat of chocolate mousse…if I abuse the elipses because I’m suddenly daydreaming about vats of chocolate mousse. I want to get all the intention and the expectation and the evaluation and the constant oversight back to me. Mine. I want to take ownership of this experience…
But that always seems to fuck it up. When I just do it, for a good while, it works just fine. When I start worrying about what people will think if I don’t do it, inevitably, the feeling of vultures circling overhead begins and I just want to say fuck you. It’s mostly towards me – but I feel it to everybody who brings up anything related to the diet, excuse me, “lifestyle change” and it’s just a sign that I’m frustrated and doing things that aren’t quite working and I’m working with expedient choices rather than what I really need, but as soon as I feel that I’m being made into this failed project, it becomes the trigger to kill everything and get out from under this scaffolding I’m encasing myself with.
Here’s what I need to do…
I need to accept that it’s happening. It’s ALL happening, concurrently. And my ability to process IT or deal with IT is limited. My capacity is growing and I’m learning, but there’s still limits. I had a bit of a minor freak-out. Or maybe a succession of miniature freak-outs. I did better to eat more, and more often, but it wasn’t enough because I was prioritizing work and I have 2000x more work than I have ability to handle. So even a cup of afternoon decaf made me whirl like a whirling dervish and panic a bit on the drive home that I was going to drive into a ditch.
I just need to reckon I’m back on the pathless journey, the way you can’t escape, but you can’t get lost on either.
If there’s frustration, legitimate anger, I’d like to shake the sieve and find it.
What compels a person to remain in an unhappy state, full in the knowledge that if there’s anything to be done about, they are the only ones who can take action?
What compels me to complain, to stress, to eat myself immobile when I know that fact about my situation?
I need some love exposure treatment. I advance towards an idea made of television, books and movies, and a gem grinder of a mind. The numbness is the worst enemy because I feel the hope all the time until it arrives, and then I feel its echo battering around inside this glass cage. I need a carrot, proverbial and metaphoric and double-entendreed, on a stick.
At least that’s what I need today.
I drank a quarter shot of gin tonight. It was filled with lavender and the first sip was shocking. Alcohol! It is just like alcohol and I think, perhaps, it is also like drinking poison and maybe I should not be drinking this and how do people drink this. But then as the sachet of lavender and juniper and death subsided in my throat, I thought, oh, I could drink that. Put some tonic in that, I could drink a lot of that!
Probably not at $45.00 a bottle.
I need a good shake. In a nice way. Not an accusatory, finger-wagging, repent thy sins hellfire sort of way. I just need a rest, a recharge, time off this public stage.
I need regular meals. I need to lay off the salt. I need Someone to make me feel like Someone and not this anonymous blogger screaming into the abyss. Or typing as the case may be.
I want to explain my thinking.
I wanted to go to the grocery store and get some proper healthy food so that I could start losing weight and dating musicians and movie stars. But I’d been running all day, had these very high-sugar breakfast items, an unfilling and nutritious sandwich at lunch and was nervous as hell about getting to the place where I’d be given this free gin and where I was required to for work. I don’t even know why. It’s a stretch, but I’d been there before, but in my mind, I was completely helpless. As if you’d asked me to construct a life size Statue of Liberty made of sugar-cubes in 10 minutes. It felt that farcical a request, so I wheedled my way for help. And by the time we’d got there, I was tense and stressed and even the drinking of the gin made me feel like I was Nell attempting to behave like, well, anyone who hadn’t been living out in the woods all her life.
And then, that went well, but my blood sugar drove me up and down as I ate another sandwich and smoothie and suddenly, I wasn’t stressed, I just felt exhausted. Numb. So when we got to the grocery store, the idea of going aisle to aisle and buying carrots and celery I had no intention of eating seemed both dumb and another Statue of Liberty. Odd that eating more sugar, that private mollification, that cap on the day, was fine. Necessary, in fact. So a box of mini-eclairs was bought with a defiant sneer.
And now, of course, I feel like shit and unmoveable shit that needs to put her clothing in the dryer. And I feel sure that tomorrow is a great day to radically realign my priorities – exactly as I say every night and morning before I throw myself under the bus and berate myself for smiling at boys who turn up at my desk, for being talkative and cheerful, for being open, because my shirt’s too tight and I’m terrible, face-wise, and they can’t see any of the delightful or good things I know about myself, all they see is a girl they don’t have to think twice about.
And then I feel so angry and despairing and stupid because I got all those feelings on a combo meal order, number fucking two, and they come in deep-fried from the factory the same way every time and nothing changes because I can’t even define and implement even one positive choice for myself two days in a row.
So it doesn’t matter if there’s junk around me or things left undone because there’s no one knocking on this door and I can’t even allow myself to wallow because I know better than that, too.
I’ll always be comforted by knowing that in any given situation, I knew better. Doesn’t matter what I did or didn’t do, I knew better.
Fuck, get away from me.
I have to hesitate because I wanted to use you. I wanted to open up all your windows and bust them open with a baseball bat. I wanted to piss in your zinnias. I wanted to crayon all over your symbolistic white walls. I wanted to spend all five hundred words venting and vengeful and to end up aglow with catharsis. Oh, blog, I wanted to put you up on the rack.
But I cried in a dark bathroom, stared around into the mirror, said Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, Bloody Mary, trying to make out something, make out nothing, trying to ignore the helpful spirit that made itself known to me.
I am angry, still. I’m mad at how much is thrown on me. How I leave so little room for my own sorrow that when I give myself an inch of it, swarms of everyone else’s falls down to fill that vacuum and I am pressed in with the blocks of concrete and this worm of disdain, of rage.
Nobody gives a fuck. I got it. I got it cold.
There’s a deadline. I got that, too.
I’m shutting the door. I’m shutting it over and over again until I can get the hell away from everybody’s demands. Everybody’s expectant gimme fingers. Everybody’s cooing “Oh, you’re so good. You’re so good to us.”
When the only response that anyone has to your sorrow is to tell you how they have it worse, I don’t know how to deal with that. I don’t know where this one-upsmanship can go. I have empathized myself into a pit.
I ache to distract myself. I had bread. I had one slice of pizza. I had to willfully go home and stop eating anything so as not to justify eating even more. So now I am so tired, and I have to get on the bike, and do the situps and this makes me feel bad and upset instead of inspired and good. My sinuses clogged with the snot of an overwrought monster of the mind.
I want to be better than how I’m feeling right now. But most of me wants to feel what I feel right now more. To not just let it be swiped away. Every choice is the wrong choice.
I was just…nothing went my way today, nothing, and I had to smile and drop things to make things nice for others. And it seems like I do that a lot. So much that I feel the ugliness of martyrdom upon my shoulders and that’s not what I want either. I just want to vent. I just want to keep going.
Why won’t the weight come off? Why do I spend so many hours alone? Why won’t I read more? Why do I miss my viola?
It’ll be alright. It’ll be fine. I will take care of it. I’ll tamp it down. They’ll take a little more. I’ll care a little less.
At least, I take solace in the fact that last bit isn’t true. It’ll never, ever be true.
And you. This shadow burnt on the pavement of this heart. Hard to take solace in a shadow, but I’ll take off the martyrdom and wear your gossamer over my bare shoulders instead.