Outside In

Is my smile convincing?

I have worked extraordinarily hard on this grin. I’ve straightened it, polished it, plucked it, and whitened it. I’ve learned how to use it, too. I’ve figured out that as long as you see it, you will not poke and prod me. You won’t look too far past it for anything deeper. If I’m being truly honest, it’s not even that I’m faking. It is more of a survival skill. It keeps me from falling apart just as much as it appeases you.

Does this outfit look okay?

I’m much too careful how I dress. I put a lot of time into this over the years. If my clothes are ironed and modest you won’t look too long. You won’t think I’m stuck-up, or sloppy. You won’t call me a prude or a slut behind my back. If I look good you will think I am doing well and feeling fine. You won’t know I spend days in the same clothes without showering when I’m depressed. As long as I am well put together on the outside, noone bats an eye. These garments, these simple pieces of fabric, are armor to me. They protect me from you. Your eyes, your thoughts and your judgments.

Is the pinterest-worthy organized home doing what its supposed to?

It is supposed to look like I’ve got this. I don’t. I really don’t. But does it look like I do? God I hope so. I wouldn’t want you to think I actually live here alone with a three and five year old. I don’t want anyone to know that I struggle to stay on top of it these days. In the extremely rare event someone comes here I spend hours stashing toys, scrubbing toilets, washing dishes and generally, hiding all evidence of life. You won’t get to see that this is hard for me. I’ll do everything I can to prove I’m just as good at this today as I was a year ago with an extra set of hands.

Does my voice sound right?

If I’m talking to you, I assure you I am working harder at controlling my thoughts and response tone than I am at listening. I don’t want you to hear that today my mind is racing, or maybe that I just finished crying. If I talk too fast, you’ll know. If my voice shakes, you’ll know. If I don’t respond fast enough you might know it’s hard for me to focus. You could figure out that I already forgot part of what you said because some anxiety slipped in and distracted me for just long enough to deafen me.

The effort it takes to project this shield to the outside world is exhausting. I’ve recognized it over the last year. Recently I’ve begun lowering it to some extent. At least with a few close friends.

Most the time, there is something, however small or large, that I do not want you to see. For my own comfort and safety I keep my insides in, and my outsides poised.

22

Twenty Two.

That is how many drafts I have sitting in a folder that I can’t finish, can’t publish, can’t get quite right.

I want to write something joyful. I want these words to not always read so dark and deep. Sometimes I wish my mind, or heart, were lighter. There is no doubt I am grateful for my life, my children and the many blessings I have. Those are the things I think of first. That’s how I start my day, grateful.

But today, being back at work during this time, is strange to say the least. The office is empty compared to normal, and there is no-one to talk to, and if there were we still wouldn’t due to social distancing protocols. The café we normally use is half operational at best. There is sanitizer EVERYWHERE. Everyone is walking away from you instead of toward you. At first it was good to catch my breath, have some adult time. I needed to have time to sit in peace and quiet to actually get things done.

I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to getting back to work today. Two weeks felt like two months without my routine. And while today I feel more grounded than I have in weeks, I wish I could sit here and tell you what an amazing day it’s been.

That I am feeling great, things are great, life is great.

But I don’t want to lie.

I needed to run errands on lunch since I haven’t been able to get out to the stores being that I have at least one of the boys with me at all times. The thing is, I don’t know when it happened, but at some point over the last several years I developed a fear or going out alone. I have mentioned it before, but today it was worse than it has been in a while. I have been on lockdown for two weeks. Maybe it only took that long to go back to being the scared little girl I started out as this summer? I don’t believe that, no. That can’t be.

I’m thinking more likely that the anxiety over current events has my regular fears heightened, escalated. It amazes me how real they feel. A quick trip to Home Depot and the Grocery Store had me lightheaded and clutching my chest to breathe by the time I pulled back into my parking spot at work. If it wasn’t absolutely essential that I get what I needed from the grocery store I would have put the car in drive and high tailed it out of there. Instead I put my head down, clutched my keys in my hands and quickly walked in and out.

I don’t always know when it’s going to hit. I freaking love the hardware store! Go figure! I know in certain environments where there are a lot of men and a lot of eyes, I will ultimately be more uncomfortable. But the thing is, I haven’t been out in the world alone in a very long time. It is so easy to forget that my ex and I did everything together. I barely left the house without the crutch of her being there. Then I could be comfortable. Then I could be in our little world and never even notice anything or anyone around me.

I hadn’t noticed the people around me for nearly a decade. And now it’s like someone walked into my head, took off the blinders, and turned the volume all the way up past ten. I can’t stop seeing people. I can’t stop hearing words I don’t want to hear. I can’t push away the uncomfortability no matter how hard I try today.

Not for long anyhow.

It always seeps back in as if it were just waiting for me to step outside of my bubble.

PLEASER

If a situation brings me to shaking tears in a matter of moments chances are I’m missing a boundary somewhere in there.

Fact: I am going through a ton of stuff right now.

Our whole lives are changing. Good, Bad, and indifferent. But Change is hard no matter what the motives. And change with children is exponentially more difficult.

Fact: I have a lot of fabulous, healthy support.

For others to believe I am “enough”, just as is, it’s out of this world. These people are helping me in ways I wouldn’t have believed I deserved. They guide, but do not make decisions for me. They don’t tell me mine are wrong either. The thing is, I think they believe in me. I’m not just some F*** up to them.

Fact: I have a terrible habit of people pleasing.

If you tell me I’m doing something wrong, my first instinct is to believe you. And next, my head spins with hatred of myself for not seeing something, for missing a “T” or an “I” on the list. It never crosses my mind until too late, that you could be wrong.

Fog

I look forward to this day all week.

It is set aside as this special time when I can finally breathe. Feel moderately comfortable. Completely and fully exhale.

This time it was different.

There is something dark and heavy in the air. I could tell myself I’m just imagining it. I know how to do that. But I’ve done that for too long.

I’ve ignored this exact feeling many times over, and eventually it comes back to haunt me. It rears it’s nasty two pronged head another day while I’m kicking myself, wishing I’d have headed the warning.

This fog is coming from one of two places. The traditional answer is that it’s emanating from within me. And only me. That’s the script that I’ve been trained to read. It says I messed up or missed something. I can correct it and clear the air.

The other, less palpable answer, is that it isn’t just me. I won’t be able to fix it. I can’t flip a switch and vanquish this darkness. It’s not mine to eradicate. This is the narrative I despise. In this version of the story I have to rely on faith.

Faith that somehow, some way, something else can mend this brokenness.

Hands in the air, no driving with my knees. Just allowing something else to take the wheel.

Intolerable

What do you allow?

Are there things that drive you crazy, make you blood boil or your skin crawl, but you stay silent?

I am finding that it’s more difficult for me to speak up than to tolerate things that make me uncomfortable.

In a way it seems that I’m used to being uncomfortable, one way or another; so why make waves?

If I’m going to be inconvenienced either way, at least I don’t have to hurt you, or worse, give you a reason to be mad at me.

God, my need to be liked and loved overshadows all of my other needs. I know it isn’t healthy and yet I allow you to blur my lines just to keep the peace.

To correct this would take hard conversations for me. That says something because I don’t often have a problem talking.

The thing is, I will lose something no matter which route I take. The tough part is putting my feelings above yours. It’s getting sick and tired of being uncomfortable.

Luckily for me, I’m growing. In this growth I’m learning to do hard things. Sometimes it just takes me a while to gather up the courage.

Unluckily for you, I’m no longer willing to be a doormat, security blanket, or worse, your mama…

No More, Not This Time

Walk into a room and before any words are spoken, you know they all hate you.
Somehow from out of the crowd of people hating you, comes a friendly face.
By now though, you already know what comes attached to that face.
A want, need, or desire that you do not intend to fulfil.
You want them to befriend you.
They want to use you.
Maybe they do decide they like you. But for something unsustainable.
Then, when the pedestal they put you on shatters, they leave you.
98% of my relationships are conditional.
Am I pretty enough to parade around?
Am I too loud with opinions, or feelings for you?
Am I shocking you by not wanting to bed you?
I wish the bubble thing that you can stay inside of to protect yourself was real.
I wish my first instincts weren’t usually correct. I wish I didn’t almost always know what you want before you even mutter a word.
Here’s the thing though. I do know. I learned far too early what people want.
I’ve spent years proving to myself that I am more. That I have skills and assets outside of what a person wants from me.
Slowly but surely, I am learning that I am enough, even when the masses want more.

 

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