Imaginary

I remember back in the day, before online dating really took off and people were more still using personal ads and the like, my friend and I were joking about how dysfunctional lesbians seemed to be, and created what we felt would have been the perfect ad. We never posted it, of course, but I’ve often been curious about how the direct and honest approach would have actually gone.

We included buzz words like “functional alcoholic”, “mentally unstable”, and “emotionally unavailable”, then peppered in such desirable details like “basement bachelor”, “nine cats”, and/or “retail job”. From there, we added the piece de resistance in the form of generic likes, such as long walks on the beach, and finished it off with an offer no one could resist: “Coffee?”

I don’t even drink coffee, but whatever.

We laughed about how lesbians would be drawn to the broken yet brutally honest figure at the centre of our ad, and each time we phoned in to check for feedback, we’d no doubt be told by the automated recording lady that we had “one…million…new messages!”

Our voicemail-box and our dance cards would have always been full, we were certain.

I have no idea how to sell myself, but I also don’t really like sales. That makes my marketing and PR dream a bit unrealistic, but to me those things feel different – promotion and sales are similar but different in ways that I like.

I think.

Really, I should probably just open a giant wildlife preservation and call all the animals to me like Dr Doolittle.

Dr Suelittle?

Get to be in the studio twice this week, which should be fun. Tonight is our fifth radio play – an old Ellery Queen mystery is on the docket! And then tomorrow we get to chat some with Torri Higginson about the upcoming second season of This Life. My day job life is pretty chaotic right now, and my outside life is…what it is. Stressful. Disappointing. Not sure why it can’t ever be just quiet the way I like.

But then again, maybe that’s not really what I want at all. It’ll be interesting to see how things go from here, I guess.

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The Lying Wall

I once dated a person who was, for all intents and purposes, a chronic liar. And when I say ‘dated’, I mean moved in with and tried to forge a relationship. I knew about 2 weeks in about the constant lying; about how very little of what she shared about herself and her life was untrue, yet I slipped easily into the role of placating and enabling. There was much more there, to my mind, so to me it was worth it. At least I went in with eyes wide open, I figured, and the lies were mostly unimportant, in that I didn’t care if a particular event happened or didn’t happen in her past – I was dealing with the person in front of me, instead. I felt at the very least it was a good exercise in learning compassion, empathy and patience. I tried to be supportive of the person standing in front of me, even as I took everything said with a grain of salt. Or a silo of salt, depending on the circumstance.

Anyway, this isn’t really about trying to defend either one of us. We all make choices, and we all live with them. Whatever.

The interesting thing is how the whole experience bled over into the rest of my life, even to this day, though to a much, much lesser degree.

I spent just over a year in that relationship, and apparently that was enough to form certain habits in my relations with other people. Friends, mostly, because I only had one actual relationship after that, but really, it’s affected everything in some form or another.

I didn’t notice it until that next relationship, but that’s likely because that was the first person I allowed myself to really get closer to, and be vulnerable with. It’s an odd experience, to remain vulnerable and honest when you don’t really believe what the other person is presenting to you. When you see mostly a façade, yet allow yourself to be open and real…it’s peculiar. One would think, looking at it from the outside, that it would be difficult to just be yourself, and not put your own guard up, as well. But I think it’s actually easier that way. Like how actors often feel more free on stage than in one-on-one scenarios. There’s something liberating about being able to just put yourself out there and not be too concerned with what will get reflected back to you. When you talk to a brick wall, you don’t worry about what it thinks of you; you just talk. And when it goes a step further to reflect only acceptance and love as a reward for opening up, it actually feels pretty good. You’re still aware that it’s a façade and only partly true, but part-real love is better than all-real hate any day.

When you are open to accept any amount of positivity, it’s amazing where you can find it, and how far even a little bit can go.

There are, of course, downsides. One is that eventually the lies will be about you, so if you’re not at least a little confident, that can be destructive. I lucked out somehow, because while most of my confidence was shattered by my own mind, at the time, where this liar chose to strike was in a ridiculous area that didn’t really affect me at all. The insinuation that I had removed a small amount of cash from a place where I didn’t even know there was any – after I’d just “loaned” her $1500 (which I also knew would never be paid back) – was pretty ludicrous. I think I actually laughed at the accusation, but I can’t really remember. It affected me that little.

No, the lies that turned on me were not very severe, and far too familiar to what had been said about her ex when they broke up. They were a non-issue, and nowhere near what I’d been expecting.

Weird to be in a relationship and just waiting for both shoes to drop and the lies to become more personal.

Another downside is the one that has stayed with me, and that is in the distance I create between myself and other people in my life now, and ever since. Whatever barrier I’d put up between her and I has basically stayed up. I guess it was more around me than it was between us, and I sometimes still catch myself questioning things more than I’ve been given reason to. Questioning or doubting…the assumption that no one is being completely honest with me is a tricky path to navigate sometimes. It doesn’t stop me from being open with other people, but it does stop me from accepting any kind of real affection or other positive emotion.

I just don’t believe anyone.

I mean, I can’t blame that all on this one person, of course. I know the sensation existed long before that; for as long as I can remember. But it was such an easy mindset to slide into, and not even notice it until more than a decade later. As well, it’s one thing to notice, but another to dismantle and re-create something else. My therapist has given me crap for that more times than I can count; for not looking at her during a session, for not allowing an actual connection to be established, for denying myself the ability to see for myself how someone else feels about me, and how in the moment they are. Even with her, part of my brain knows I’m paying her to listen to me, and thus doesn’t completely receive anything more personal from her.

Usually when she says something nice to her, I tell her she must be drunk. It’s our little joke; one that she only puts up with to a point.

I remember describing how my first therapist was kind of like a hologram to me; that she didn’t exist outside her office space. That she was just there for me to vent, and when I left the room, she ceased to exist. She broke the barrier one day by touching my arm out of genuine concern, and the realization that she was an actual human being crashed in on my consciousness with more force than I ever would have believed possible. Had anyone asked me before that moment if she was real, I would have said, “yes, of course she is” and thought the other person was a tad loony. But I didn’t really feel it – didn’t know it with my full being – until that day.

It’s a weird barrier. It allows me to feel safe enough to be open and express myself more than I did before the liar came into my life and I constructed this particular wall in response. But it doesn’t allow me to receive anything real from anyone else. As an added bonus, it also allows me to blow perceived negativity way out of proportion if I think there is any directed at me. It basically skews my reality, even as it allows me to express myself more.

In other news, I’m looking into possibly working with some cool writing prompts, just for fun. I maaay even post the results of some of those exercises here! Stay tuned!

Being Mean For Honesty’s Sake

I often think about honesty, and truth, and the price of putting it out into the world. Like, I almost never speak or write what I actually think or feel. Even on here, I know it will be read, and for sure some among you will take whatever it is personally. That’s what we do; we assume everything is directed at us, whether it is, or not. I mean, the internet makes that much easier, because everything posted online has a degree of, if not anonymity, then at least distance and separation between the author/speaker and the individual reader/audience member. We can say and write whatever we want – promote our truth – and for sure someone out there will read it and think, “Fuck…is she talking about me?!” Whereas, if someone speaks to you directly, via letter, email, telephone or in person, there’s really no denying that you are the one to whom they are referring.

So I, for one, self-edit pretty much all of my actual self away. Or, not away, but hidden inside. I don’t express at least 90% of what I actually think or feel – at least. Probably more. Because it’s mean. There are compliments and such that are nice, so I try to say those, at least when they are true. Usually, though, truth and honesty is pretty mean, and it hurts people. I don’t like to hurt people, even people I don’t like, so I keep it to myself. To spare them. To spare you.

But what is that doing to me, I wonder? Keeping it all in? Surely it’s not the healthiest way to live. (And don’t call me Shirley)

I see and hear people purging what seems to be everything that comes into their heads, regardless of how it may make another person feel. Which I guess is great for them, but they’re mean. Many don’t even appear to try finding a way to express themselves without being hurtful. Either they don’t notice how their voices are being received, or they don’t care. Neither is a quality I want to nurture in myself, and I don’t even like people. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be a better version of this inherently evil species. The best version I can be. Or, you know, just better than I could be, if I cared less.

This post went so differently in my head while I was riding to work on transit this morning! It was less vague, yet more stream of consciousness-y.

I think we get ruder and meaner as we get older. Older people will say stuff to your face and not give a crap about your precious feelings. They don’t need to hide behind the interwebs. They’ve got stuff to say and not enough time in which to say it all, so they get out as much as they can, while they can. There’s definitely no time for beating around the bush, or re-phrasing, and no point in keeping it all bottled up inside. Each new day is an opportunity to speak your mind. And now, with the internet, we can be different parts of ourselves depending on our communication method of choice in any given moment. We can show one semblance of truth on Facebook, another in an email, and something quite different to those in our immediate vicinity. It would be interesting to watch the internet generation get older – see how many selves they have when all of the feel like expressing their truth all the time.

I wonder what I’ll be like as I get older? Will I still try to remain quiet, or will I just start expressing my anger and hurt and whatever else I think and feel to whoever will listen? Will I even care if anyone is listening? Maybe I’ll just talk, anyway. To animals, to the air around me. I already apologize to inanimate objects on occasion, so it’s not a far leap to raging my way loudly down the sidewalk, really.

Would I feel better, expressing all these thoughts and feelings? Would it be a relief to just get it all out? Or would I see how my words affect people and just end up wallowing in guilt and regret all the more? (Though, I’d probably get lots of space to myself on public transit if I was speaking my thoughts aloud…food for yet more thought)

It’s so easy to say, “I want you to be honest with me”. But trust me – you really don’t.  Or to say, “Tell me how you really feel.”  Yet truly, you don’t really want to know.  I am not mean or rude enough to make my thoughts and feelings known – yet – but I am absolutely mean and rude enough to have them. I watch you and hear you express yourself, and sometimes it even hurts me, but so far I’ve resisted the temptation to reciprocate or follow your example. It’s not always easy, but I’d rather that than than have to live with the consequences of the effect my words would have on you. Also, I’ve been keeping it all to myself for so long that it’s not only a habit, but I’m also not entirely sure which ones are real overall, versus which are just momentary or reactionary “real”. Which will still be true tomorrow, and which are just lashing out in hurt or anger. When I think about it, it’s difficult to tell for certain. I’m emotional, just like everyone else, but I recognize that emotions fluctuate and change and come with varying degrees of intensity. What I think or feel in a given moment may just be a knee-jerk reaction that winds up not being accurate once I’ve taken a moment to breathe through it. So the idea of doing permanent damage to a relationship, friendship, and even a stranger’s day – all to satisfy a temporary need that may or may not make me feel better – is just not something I’m willing to do yet. It thus far does not seem worth it.

Besides, I’m also aware of how I hurt and insult and upset and anger people on a daily basis without even realizing it. That sentence doesn’t make logical sense, I suppose, but there it is. I know it’s happening, I just can’t usually tell when or why. When I do realize something specific I’ve done, some line I’ve crossed, it’s too late. The damage, however unintentional, has been done. That realization alone is enough for me to carry the guilt and regret inside me for likely the rest of my life. Having that person or people telling me how I’ve made them feel, or highlighting my error in being, makes the burden 100 times heavier. Maybe it makes them feel better to point out my shame, so I let them have their moment, or moments; whatever they need. That’s the only way I feel like I can even partially make up for what I’ve done; allowing them – allowing you – to express how it’s made you feel. But I know how that makes me feel, so I won’t reciprocate.

Usually.

Truth hurts. That’s what they say. It hurts because it’s often mean. It hurts because something we are afraid is true has just been confirmed by another. While part of me wants to be honest with you, and tell you what I think and what I feel, so far, I just can’t. Because even though it’s not my intention to do so, the truth – my version of it – would hurt you. Or anger you. Or confuse you. Or any number of other adverse ways in which it would affect you. Therein lies my frustration. I want to be open and express myself, but I hold back because of how it’ll affect you. Because of how affecting you in a negative way would feel to me.

So far, it’s just not worth it.

Though, at the same time, sometimes I’m drowning in unexpressed and unvented emotions. Yet I see you appearing to have no qualms about putting your thoughts and feelings out there, regardless of how it might make me or anyone else feel. Regardless of how it makes me feel. More and more I wonder to myself – if I am showing you more regard than you are showing me, and if I am showing you more regard than I am showing myself – how can I ever hope to find any sort of balance in my own life? It’s not my job to coddle you, and yet that’s exactly what I do. All the time. Every day. By my own choice. Not because I am a nice person. Not because I wish only to spread peace and love across the land. I’m not a unicorn.

I do it because, above all else, I fear a life without you in it.

Sometimes I just wish you felt the same about me.

Editing & Aging

Confession time!  Despite my declaration that I would be honest in this space, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t keenly aware of the possibility of an audience, and therefore self-edit as I write.

There are people I hope read it, as often I am trying to learn to talk to them in particular.  There are some I hope don’t read it, for various reasons depending on the circumstance.  There are billions I just don’t care one way or the other about.

Though having a billion views would be insane and cool, now that I think about it.

Anyway, it’s not that I’m intending to spew falsehoods here.  But I definitely don’t intend to tell the whole truth every time.  And there will always be way more that I don’t write about, because, you know, life.  But if you find I reveal more to you specifically than I do online in a more public forum like this, then you’ll know you’re someone I trust with more of me than the norm.  And as someone who writes creatively from time to time, the mere fact that I don’t write several drafts of each post prior to letting anyone read it is proof that this is all at least more raw and real than my other works!

So, moving on, lately I’ve been thinking about aging.  Not in terms of getting old, but in terms of getting older.  The hate directed at Carrie Fisher for whether or not she has “aged well”, for example.  What does that even mean?  How does someone age well?

I already know I can’t age gracefully, because grace is not a word that would ever be ascribed to ANYTHING I do.  Graceful, I am not.  There is no reason to think it could be a way I’d age.  Or even walk.

But to age well?  How does one do that?  Does it mean fighting the effects of aging in an attempt to appear as though one has not aged at all?  Because that would seem to be without grace or doing it well, as your attempts still won’t stop it from happening, nor will it stop the Earth from turning, so ultimately you will have failed.  And failing does not mean you did something well.  Quite the opposite, in fact.

So aging well must instead mean embracing the process and accepting the things you can’t change, while simultaneously understanding that every line, wrinkle and scar is there because you lived.  You’re living.  You’re alive. You grabbed life by the balls and participated in it.  Created it.  You got on the ride and held on for dear, well, life.  You laughed, and cried, you loved, and lost, you smiled and frowned.  You worked, you played, you created and destroyed.  You were here, and you have a story to tell.  Even as your story is still being written.

And when you look in the mirror, you see someone you know and love looking back at you, but it’s weird because that person is WAY older than you see them in your head.  The you in your head is young and vibrant and in many ways still just a child, but with the ability to legally purchase alcohol.  Maybe you even have children of your own, or pets, or a plant, yet there is the occasional quiet voice in the back of your head that’s, like, “Who’s brilliant idea was it to give ME a kid/dog/hibiscus?”

Maybe on the inside, none of us ever age.  Maybe on the inside, we are forever young, and no matter how old our bodies are, we still want someone to take care of us when we’re sick, or fix things for us when we’ve been irresponsible, or just go out and play with us for awhile.

Carrie Fisher said her body hasn’t aged as well as she has, and those words ring very true to me.  I spend my days in an unpredictable body that I barely recognize as my own, thanks in part to MS, and when I look in the mirror I’m usually startled to see what the outside world must see when they look at me, because it’s just the very surface of who I see in my head.

Maybe aging well means finding the balance between those two realities, and then finding a way to express that balance.

I’m thus interested to see how well a generation of selfie-takers age.  Will they do better or worse than those of us who didn’t grow up taking photos of ourselves every day, keenly unaware of what we look like most of the time?  I wonder.

In the meantime, though, it’s Sunday afternoon and the sun is currently shining.  I’m gonna take Brody the doggie to go outside and play for awhile.  After I wake him from his nap.