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.

Self

I wake up with a spiked paddle in my hand.

From the moment I get up off my knees I silently beat myself with that thing all day.

Yes, I know better. Doesn’t matter. The damn weapon has been attached to me for almost as long as I can remember.

Some days I am distracted long enough to whereas I forget to beat my own self down for a few hours. I can assure you I will pay for it at night, in the dark.

Not sure if there is much difference between this self flagellation and my many former vices.

I’ve put in some work over the last several months to allow myself to lesson the beatings, but they still come.

With all of the added silence that comes with this new isolation, I am finding myself having to constantly put the paddle down. Instead I reach for the phone, or a book, or busy myself with endless cleaning.

I try to remind myself to treat my own self kindly, to use positive words when I talk to and about myself. Sometimes this works, and other times I just tell myself to shut up.

Can we please open the world back up now?

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