I’m making a lot of changes. It’s scary. Scarier than anything I’ve known. Rest assured, none of them involve adding more tattoos to my stellar roster, or piercing parts of body, or dying my hair. They might involve sleeping with inappropriate and unavailable people who will crush me. We’ll see. Nobody does casual sex better than a person incapable of hiding their vulnerability, right?
The changes I’m talking about now are internal and they are happening at quite a pace. I mean, they’ve been happening for a year now, but over the past two weeks they’ve been happening much more rapidly. I feel this urge to shake up my stupid, tiny, cowardly little world.
“I think,” said my therapist, “that up until now, you would rather feel depressed than struggle through having any other sort of feeling.” And she’s not wrong. But her saying so kind of stops me in my tracks. Maybe this is one of those false epiphanies you read about, but I don’t think so. To me it’s kind of revelatory.
Because I always thought I felt too much. I worried people could see that I was too sensitive. The reason I kept my cards so close to my rack wasn’t because I was scared -- no, it’s because I knew I was crazy, and I dreaded nothing as much as I did someone looking at me and realizing how deep my insanity goes. Because if you feel something and you don’t understand it or it causes you pain or happiness, you’re crazy.
Yeah. To me that was a rational argument. Where did I learn that? Why have I never known I had a right to it all? Instead I played a part -- tortured, insane little girl who feels too much. That’s basically a V.C. Andrews novel and I am DOWN with that. I am always ready to blame myself. It’s as natural a feeling as pulling phlegm up from the lungs when it tickles and cracks. Ah yes, the church of self-loathing, there is no creed, you just recite the stupidest thing you said that day out loud, over and over again in disgust and wonder. Flagellation is optional but highly recommended.
It never occurred to me that I was so totally averse to feelings not because of how they would make me look to other people, but simply because of how much they scared me. But they do. I don’t like feeling out of control. I don’t like surprise laughter that bubbles out of my throat. I don’t like fording across the river of the unknown, unless we’re playing Oregon Trail and even then I mostly misjudge. I don’t know what to do when I’m angry with someone. I don’t understand that feeling. Not when I’m sober, anyway. When I get mad I twist the feeling around in my guts like a wad of dried out clay until it takes a shape that is familiar. “Oh, I’m not angry -- they are angry at me. It’s my fault.”
I can’t even be properly sad without worrying that I’m being melodramatic, that I’m a step away from a depressive coma. There’s always a voice that tells me I’m overreacting. But...if I’m feeling it, if that’s what I’m feeling, how can it be an over-anything?
It hurts the most when it is something good. It hurts so much. I can’t follow through. His leg is pressing against my leg in the cab and for a second I have this revelation -- “It’s you” -- this moment of seeing, this intense belly-burning tingle and yearning. Then I do nothing. Then I say goodnight. I get out of the cab. I send you home. Because I like you. I like you and I am scared to death of feeling that way.
God. There are days I wish that I were one of those control freaks who fits the sitcom mold. A b-list Reese Witherspoon plays her part. You know the T.V. women I’m talking about. They have careers and no love life and are called frigid bitches. They do stuff like wake up early, iron their underwear, and are meticulous with their time-table. They aren’t troubled. They’re just uptight. They just need to let their hair down and smile once in a while.
Real control-freakery doesn’t look like that. Trust me. I’m sitting here in stained dirty cords with glasses so dirty I can barely see through them to write. I’d rather be that TV lady. But I’m not. Instead I have to sublimate all this crap until my whole body is basically one giant scab, healing tight over a hot, terrified mess.
I’ve built a walled in garden where I live. A hortus conclusus. Look ma, I went to school! I know this garden really well. I have a routine, I can tell I am human because I live there, and I have habits and lists and things I do from one day to the next. I’ve deliberately arranged my life so that I always know what I’m going to feel next. I’m always prepared for whatever happens. It used to be the case that I would rather feel dead and numbed and sadder than I can say rather than have to feel anything else. I don’t want to do anything that scares me. I want to feel safe. I want to feel in control. I don’t want the highs and lows that truly living bring with them.
I don’t think I can take it.
Except... what if I can?
I quit my job. It wasn’t a bad job. It was fine, as jobs go -- the hours were great, the people were excellent. I walked to the office every morning and prayed a taxi would hit me. I have felt this about every job I’ve ever had. Answering phones for nuns, flossing the teeth of children, taking out trash at an architectural firm: Where is the car that will stop me in my tracks so I won’t have to do this anymore?
Then, last week, it occurred to me that maybe I didn’t have to feel this way. Keeping the job was choosing being depressed and anxious over having any other feelings. How far has that gotten me? Not far at all. Emotionally, I'm like a baby deer still slick with amniotic fluids. So okay. I quit? Then what? I write for money on the side. I write more and more. I make money doing it. I’m single. Why not just see if I can do that?
I’m thirty years old and this feels like the first real risk I’ve ever taken. I feel nauseated and nervous and ecstatic and worried. I do not know how I feel tomorrow. I do not know what is coming and today right now this very second for the first time that feels wonderful.