Exposure

I am the type of person who physically recoils from the idea of you reading my diary. But I’m also the type of person who forgets to put her diary away and instead leaves it open on the table when visitors come round. I’m the type of person who walks along the street and blurts out what she’s thinking about to herself before she realises she’s not alone. I’m the type of person who may or may not leave sex toys on display when her grandparents come to visit and who won’t notice until at least the second time everyone has been exposed to them.

Privacy is not something I am good at.

The side-effect of revealing myself to the ‘wrong’ person I talked about the other day, whether real or imaginary, sent me into something of a tailspin at the time. Realising that I had unintentionally, yet intentionally, made parts of myself public made me feel excruciatingly exposed. I started becoming contracted and brittle, stuttering through my business endeavours, entirely conflicted about the right course of action, hypersensitive to every indication that people were seeing me. I was too self-conscious to commit to anything. I had chosen to reveal myself, but I hadn’t thought through what that might actually mean, and now that I was, I didn’t like it. I wanted the benefits of feeling courageous, but none of the other consequences.

Bit by bit, I shut it all down. I’ve talked about this before too.

I’ve been diligently trying these past few years to get acquainted with vulnerability, because I’m so very terrible at invulnerability. Vulnerability is a thousand times more healthy than invulnerability, I know, but I guarantee if I was better at not accidentally exposing myself that would be the choice I would make every time. If I could control all the variables, I would.

I am perfectly happy to expose myself on my own terms, in a very controlled, curated way. But not so much in a vulnerable way. I don’t want you to see me make a mistake. I don’t want you to see a side of me I didn’t specifically choose to show you. But I will, and you will. So I’ve been trying very hard to be okay with that. To be okay with all of myself, so that if you don’t like it, at least I still do.

It’s a fucking journey.

The Next Source

My friends organised a virtual murder mystery party the other night, and I was assigned a flamboyant celebrity character to embody for the night. And, not long into the night, I thought, yes, I’ve missed this.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about certain aspects of myself that I have disowned over the years. One of which being my attention-seeking, overtly unconventional, indulgently outrageous aspect. It used to be that I couldn’t help being that way, but being that way brought me so much pain, in the form of shame and self-hatred, that I eventually quashed it. I made myself less. I made myself smaller. I made myself easier to tolerate. It’s such a common fucking story that it’s hardly worth telling.

I thought the attention-seeking and the outlandishness were the wrong part. I thought the shame and self-hatred were caused by them. So I toned down the former and, indeed, the latter subsided.

In the subsequent years, I began to understand it was the shame and self-hatred that were, in fact, the problem, and over time I worked on them and, one way and another, disentangled myself from their grasp.

But, even though I still considered the playful rebel an intrinsic part of my identity, I couldn’t even admit to myself the extent to which I had diminished it. If I have ever fully embraced that side of myself, it could only have been in early childhood, because as far back as I remember, the reckless abandon, exaltation and satisfaction of its expression were always followed by excruciating self-consciousness and remorse, that prematurely cut them dead.

I believed, very potently, that it made me a bad person to indulge my desires so openly. And I also thought that maybe it shouldn’t. And I also didn’t want other people to think that I believed that it made me a bad person. I wanted them to believe that I didn’t care. I wanted to believe that I didn’t care. But I cared with such exquisite clarity that it gradually immobilised me.

I have been trying to unfuck myself for such a long time. My entire life’s endeavour has been trying to unfuck myself. And it’s funny, really, how the source of the fuck has been so very elusive all these years. I’ve tiptoed down so many shady back-alleys and climbed down so many winding ravines, tirelessly searching for the source of the fuck. There is always another source of the fuck. Like a desert mirage, the source of the fuck is always just out of reach.

To locate the next source of the fuck, I must first embrace my brashest, bluntest, boldest tendencies. I have been actively avoiding this my entire adult life. It’s been a limit I’ve been unwilling to cross, even though I’ve known I needed to. Because I don’t fucking want to. And I really fucking want to. And it’s all just very confusing.

In Spirit

My last post made me feel a little bit vulnerable. Like I wanted someone who actually knew Adam to tell me it was okay to talk about him like that. Like the idea of showing it to them made me want to crawl into a hole and cover myself with mud.

I have learned throughout my life that I am highly unusual in the way I experience love, and the way that I communicate about it. This is mainly because love to me is – very viscerally – an intense, free-flowing, transcendent, abundant, radically inclusive sensation. I feel it powerfully, for lots of people, at lots of times, and it isn’t correlated particularly to whether anything ‘warrants’ it. The way I experience love, on a day-to-day basis, is the way other people describe love when they’ve taken mind-altering substances. And, unlike Adam, instead of learning to embrace it, allow it, and let it flow through me, I encased it in layers of sickening shame from a very early age so that it had no choice but to explode out of the fissures at inopportune moments.

So now I am weird.

And I often worry about coming off as a creep, or intruding where I’m not welcome, because of how many times I have tripped over my own clown feet trying to navigate the dichotomy of intense love and intense fear living in the same house. My house. My confusing, inappropriate house.

It may be that I never learned to operate the dial that people have, to moderate their feelings to appropriate levels. Maybe I don’t have a dial. Maybe I don’t even have a switch. I spent a lot of my life trying to hide my whole house-full of flashing feelings under my skirt with a flushed look on my face. Constructing an artifice of unconvincing stories to justify my awkward stance and panicked, darting eyes. It was exhausting, ineffective, uncomfortable, and really, really weird.

By the time I met Adam, I was enacting a life experiment; to accept and integrate my radical version of love. And I was being pulverised by it. But Adam was the first person I met – possibly the only person I’ve ever met – who embodied that radical version of love. And so I learned it was not only viable, but also vastly preferable to anything I had ever known before. And so I kept going.

Nearly six years on, I’m comfortable that how I love is how I want to love, and it’s pretty easy for me to allow that. Until I have to walk on these creepy clown feet. But at least I’m there in spirit. Which I guess is where he is, too. Begging the question: Does it actually even count at all if you’re only there in spirit?

Positive regard

Seems silly to kill a streak for no good reason.

Dave Hause sent me down a little winding path of nostalgia today.

I haven’t spent much time looking back this past year. I mean, I have in an unwitting, flashbacky sort of way, when my pain has overridden my reason and demanded I gallop through past landscapes while it takes gritty snapshots to justify its existence.

But I haven’t reminisced all that much.

The past is a chequered palace I haven’t really felt safe walking the halls of.

But last night, I listened to Dave Hause and, far from being drenched in quiet misery, I was stirred to something resembling, well, resolve. I had forgotten something about Dave Hause and his music. I’d forgotten about the huge Heart in it. The Hope in it. I’d wondered whether it might draw me back to a version of myself I had left behind, but instead it simply nodded to that version, and I laughed about it, and felt fortified as this new version of myself, so many iterations later.

This evening, I found myself looking through photos from one of the most difficult and painful times of my life – from when my son was barely one and I was destroying myself trying to save a relationship with his father that couldn’t be saved. And there was no sting of betrayal, loss, regret or victimhood. Merely an oozy, burning feeling of consolidation, as I integrated different aspects of my life and my self.

At some point, so long as we don’t hold onto it, the pain and shame of the past dissipates and leaves us with memories skewed toward the positive. While I was looking the other way, it seems I have been blessed by that phenomenon of late.

Tough love

I think I’m sliding into a new awareness of myself in relation to others. It’s too subtle to call a levelling up, but I’m hoping I’ve at least passed a checkpoint, because I don’t want to have to do these past few weeks over.

I’m in an awkward phase right now where I’m feeling the need to chase down the disharmony in my life. I’ve spent the last year or so cultivating peace, so this new strategy doesn’t appeal, but it’s either that or let myself stagnate. The growth is where the challenge is. And for me, right now, that is in my most difficult personal relationships. Personal relationships that I may prefer the luxury of writing off. Personal relationships it would be perfectly reasonable to encourage writing off.

It’s important to detach the idea of having them go the way I want them to, and having them teach me what I need them to. I regularly get stuck in the former because I resist the latter, which causes pain and makes me want to reconsider. But the only way out is through, and they are teaching me. And I’m starting to feel the effects.

Maybe I’m learning the hard way, but then that wouldn’t be anything new.