Not In Kansas Anymore

I find that these days I am often surprised that I have a reflection. It’s not that I have lost my sense of self. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

Recently I did experience an awakening that made me aware of what a lack of self I had. It’s not that I didn’t have an identity. I did. We all do, it’s how we get around and drink things without people going, “Hey, why’s that coffee mug floating in the air?”

It’s just that the self that I identified with did not match up with my true self enough to ring true.

Haha. That sentence was a mess.

What I’m trying to say is, I had been wearing a mask for so long just to avoid being invisible that I was surprised to discover there was actually a face underneath the mask when I took it off. And even more surprised that I don’t completely hate it.

It was difficult, shedding a mask that I’d worn for so long it was practically chemically bonded with my skin. It was really difficult. Especially since the mask bore such close resemblance to my real face that I often forgot I was wearing one. Now this is about to sound completely contradictory, but I’m not one to be fake. I’ve hated the idea of posers and fake people since I was young enough to understand how humans often default to interacting with each other. From a very young age I understood that I thought differently from other people in the sense that I saw very little need to put on a show for the sake of reputation. I was what I was and I gave you the option to take it or leave it and that was that. I’ve never wasted my time much with people who wanted me to act a certain way or were obviously preoccupied with having me believe they were a certain way. The idea of relating with such people has always been boring to me. It’s such a false interaction. Why bother with the energy? It’s much more interesting to deal with people who accept the way they are and challenge you to accept it too.

The problem with the identity I had before is that in my attempt to stay as raw as possible I lacked the flexibility to change in response to others. I wanted people to accept the way I was but was quite unwilling to let them affect me in return, which is unfair. I think the reason I became this way is because I had experienced so many exchanges with dishonest people that I had become jaded. I had been let down so many times by the possibility of authentic people that I decided I would force people to accept me the way I was before I was willing to accept them. And I think the really sick thing about my condition was that it’s not that I wasn’t willing to take. I was completely willing to take anything people had to offer me in the way of relationship. I just wasn’t willing to take and accept them as a person. It was a trust issue.

Even though I’m pretty perceptive when it comes to reading people, I’m pretty dumb when it comes to reading their actions in the context of emotions and social cues. I would be able to see if a person was showing their true self for the most part, but then be very unsure of what they wanted from me. A question I would often ask myself is, “What does this person hope to gain from this interaction?” People’s motives are often so double-sided and shallow that I didn’t trust that it was worth nurturing a relationship with them. And if I don’t trust what they can give me, then why bother offering myself in return?

As I encouraged this way of thinking and being in myself, I developed this thin, almost translucent mask that said I accepted myself so entirely that I didn’t need other people. It’s strange because it was a mask more for myself than for showing to other people. I wanted to be able to look in the mirror and believe that I wasn’t this intensely lonely creature who longed for meaningful connection. I did a good job too, because I believed it. For a really long time.

I’ve recently gone through some serious bumps in the road that have led me to re-evaluate how I handled some of my most precious relationships (of which there are not many) in the past. I’ve gone through and am still going through this spiraling cycle of regret about how I could have loved better had I just not been afraid to be vulnerable and taken off my mask.

Even though the regret is still hitting me hard, I’ve pushed forward enough to realize that the thing to do is not to waste time reminiscing, but to strive to do better in the here and now. Even harder is to realize is that I have to let go of those people I will not get a second chance with, because they have the right to say no.

So I’m all naked and gross now, like a snail whose lost it’s shell, but then realized it’s been a slug all along.

It’s nerve-wracking. I mean, really quite terrifying to try to approach the world with an open point of view after all this time hiding under a shell. And I’m honest enough with myself now to be able to admit that I’m terrified after being blasted into the sky by this tornado of a thing we call life.

It’s weird to walk past a mirror and be startled. Like, “Whoa, what was that? Oh, yeah, that’s just me. That’s how I actually look like.”

It’s even weirder to find I’m not invisible after taking off my mask. Not necessarily that I love everything I see. There’s still so much that I know needs changing. But I breathe a little sigh of relief when I realize, “Ah, I can work with that. Those frown lines can turn into laugh lines with some effort.”

It’s surprising to find I’m actually glad I’m not in Kansas anymore.

~LDA

Unrequited Love

When you’re in a relationship with someone, (be it romantic or platonic), the most comfortable arrangement is to feel like they like you just as much as you like them.  I used to think that most times that’s how it pans out if you’re careful, but I know now that oftentimes feelings in a relationship are uneven regardless. Most times the way the scale is balanced is unclear until key events slap you in the face and make this clearly known.  Like maybe he decided that flirting with the waitress while you sit alone at the bar is an acceptable way to start a date, or you realize on a night out that this girl’s laugh is a little too obnoxious for you and if she mentions the word literally one more time you’re going to literally connect your knuckles to her face.

Well, every now and then you get into a relationship where it is blatantly obvious that this is the case from the beginning, and you’re on the disinterest receiving end.

You want with all your heart for them to be as interested in you as you are in them, but you can tell that the attraction is lopsided, if not one-sided.

You’re sitting there having this intense amount of intrigue in the person, but you can tell that they are only mildly curious about you at best.  You can’t quite figure out what about you is serving as a complete turnoff to the awesomeness that is you and this bothers you.  Eventually, you’re left there ruminating so long about how you can change their level of interest in you that you start thinking things that should never even enter your mind.  You actually begin thinking about what ways you can change yourself to fit the desires of the other person, (which is crazy because you’re you and that’s amazing and no one in the world should make you feel otherwise).

The brainstorming starts turning into crazy talk:  “Why don’t they like me?  Is it my style?  My hairdo?  My love of all things yellow?  Ohmigerd, no.  They figured out my left leg is half a centimeter shorter than my right one didn’t they?  I knew someone would figure it out one day!  What am supposed to do now?  That’s not exactly fixable.  Well…maybe if I nick a piece of my heel off here…” Then you realize how ridiculous you sound so you start to reassure yourself that you’re lovable the way you are, but then you start to remember things that went wrong in past relationships, and you begin thinking maybe your ex’s dislike of your Disney plushie collection and penchant for singing along with television jingles isn’t all that unreasonable.

That’s when the worst question sets in.

I’m lovable aren’t I?…Pssh, of course I am…

Wait…AREN’T I?!

Now, it’s not always so severe of a case.  You may not question your worth to such an extreme degree, but the self esteem questions come tumbling in nonetheless, if not crashing in.  It really sucks.  My advice to you when you’re faced with the possibility of these obviously lopsided relationships:

Run the other way.

No matter how fantastic the other person really may be, they’re not worth losing your mind over.

And if you’re on the other side of the equation where you’re seeing that some person is latching onto you that you really don’t care to engage with, let them down easily but clearly to spare them some grief.  Or better yet, take the time to genuinely look them in the eye before you do.  It just might turn out they could become one of the people you love most in the world if you just stop holding yourself back and be honest with yourself.   

~LDA

Too Cowardly to Love

There’s this really insane part of us that longs to love so deeply that we don’t care whether or not we receive love in return.  It’s a part of us we try to bury for fear of ourselves.  The day we are born our instinct is self preservation so this illogical part of us that is so willing to be vulnerable in exchange for nothing is terrifying. We tuck it away in a file cabinet of our brain labeled “Do not open at all costs.”

 

But it’s there.

 

And every now and then we remember that we were born selfish but programmed selfless. 

 

 

Whether it be a pang of loneliness in the night or a relationship gone awry, we are reminded that a part of us wants to trust and give affection so much that we are willing to take the risk of complete rejection. 

 

There are some of us who in a rush of panic or a wave of unconditional love peek into that file cabinet and glance into the forbidden file.  Some of us survive, and walk into a healthy relationship.  But others of us are destroyed.  Having taken the risk on the wrong person, we are pulled into a cycle of pain and betrayal during which we hope against hope that things will change for the better despite being torn down again and again in exchange for our love and compassion.

 

Those of us who get stuck in that bitter cycle tend to be looked down upon by society, by both the happy couples and those of us who lack the courage to peek.

 

“How pitiful,” we scoff.  “Can’t they see it’s so obviously hopeless?  Only a person who lacks self respect would continue to put themselves in that situation.”

 

Suddenly we’ve forgotten that love is blind and keeps no record of wrongs.  Or worse, we never knew.

 

The people who get stuck in abusive relationships are most often those of us who have gotten in touch with the side of us who seeks to give affection so much that we don’t care whether the subject of our affection is worthy of it or not.  That beautiful and twisted side that only sees human beings as creatures worthy of love despite our nasty underbellies.  That callused and forgotten side that was simply created to love.  Having been disappointed again and again, surely the persistence of this side is not an attempt to receive love, but to give it. 

 

Those broken people should not be spit down upon, but looked up to, for the courage it took to wind their inner workings back to start. 

 

What if all we broken people did the same?  We could put away our shame and function in all our wonderful capacity.

 

Only guilty people scoff at the innocent in hopes the world will forget the shame of their cowardice.  They are the ones who were to afraid to brave a glance into the file cabinet.  Only guilty people have to run away from themselves in order to avoid running into the arms of another. 

 

All it would take is a little bit of faith on each person’s part to heal the world, but there will always be that one who in fear of betrayal lashes out and continues the horrific cycle of hurting and being hurt.  And so, we will always be full of mistrust.  Our souls forever lost to the fear of abandonment, even though love is just around the file tab.

 

 

 

~LDA