I am afraid that my outsides don’t match who I am inside.
And I am deeply afraid of marriage, I think. Which doesn’t really make sense for someone whose parents are still married. A rarity, I didn’t realize until middle school.
But, as you all know, I’ve been doing a ton of reflection on people pleasing. and I’ve been reading that book about reflecting men, which discusses how women are socially constructed to please men pretty much all the time. And I’ve already written a bit about pageants, which you know by now I’m writing more on in the novel and how they make people pleasing pervasive. Instinctive.
I’m really afraid of marriage because I feel like I’m just starting to live for myself. I feel like I just sort of met myself, at 22. And I’m just starting to understand how so many things I’d thought — so many things I’D BEEN TAUGHT TO BELIEVE — were selfish are necessary for my sanity. Are necessary for me to enjoy life. Necessary to be happy when I wake up in the morning.
And that’s the problem when your outsides don’t match your insides. Because I am 5’4”. And I have big eyes — eyes so big that a boy told me once in high school “you could come to class high and nobody would even know” (the same boy would hit on me during the thinnest part of my ED and become cruel when I didn’t reciprocate and later write music lamenting over girls who didn’t want him in high school (the music is actually really good though)). I have curly hair that I have not straightened in years. I have a sweet, high voice. I pitch down sometimes when I want to be respected more. They taught me to do that during pageant training (I was 12). Taught me how to change my voice. But to be fair, I’d been picked on in elementary school for it already. I sounded like a little mouse. But now people like my voice, which I have a hard time understanding. People like my voice and they can understand what I’m saying, but I don’t think they understand who I am because I am short with big eyes and curly hair and a sweet voice.
And I don’t think I’m a bad person most of the time. I think I’m pretty nice, mainly because of my religion. I was raised non-denominational Christian. And I still am, even though my multi-racial family could never navigate the segregated landscape of American churches happily and I was in a borderline religious cult during college ( I didn’t notice for a while because it was remote during the pandemic). But I really internalized a lot of it. The love stuff. Never the homophobia. The turn-the-other-cheek stuff, for sure.
But you can’t always turn the other cheek. Because then you start to hate the world. And that’s not very Jesus-y. And you can’t give endlessly to everyone. Because you start to hate the world. And it implies that you have something that everyone else needs (that’s how we got to colonization after all). And I met this woman, here in the city. I met her at this event and then later at this club and my car canceled on me and she and her boyfriend drove me home and we liked the same authors we both grew up doing ballet we were both good girls, gifted girls, and we were both burnt out. We were both tired and I think we both probably hated the world a little bit and I still do sometimes. And I talked to her later, a week or so later and we have a lot in common and that’s saying a lot because…:
You all know I had a breakup recently (6 months ago). I met him when I was 18. And now I am 22. And I feel like I’m coming back to myself. To who I was at 17. I am very intense and cerebral and I think my friends can feel my shift back to myself. I can feel it in my art. I can feel it in my passion. I can feel it in the way I look at the world.
So when I say we have a lot in common, I mean we have a lot in common as I am now. This version of myself who has returned back to myself. And we talked about religion. She was in an intense church before too. One that strips you of your identity like mine tried to do over Zoom. And she explained to me that when you give up too much of yourself, you chew on it, you resent the people you’re supposed to love unconditionally. You have to set boundaries to love the right way. I am working on those boundaries because up until now, I am a very all-or-nothing person. I am a pendulum and I am trying really hard to find balance (even though sometimes I lean into the swing because it makes the art good (?)) During my relationship, I think I was dulled out. I think having a man to reflect all the time helped me ignore the stuff about myself that I really loved and really hated. I wasn’t writing the same, but I wasn’t crying as often either (until I was). And now, I only have me. And sometimes it is terrifying. But it’s also amazing. And liberating. I have my seventeen-year-old intensity again and I think if I can balance it out, all on my own, I’ll finally be able to be who I am supposed to be.
But I don’t think I’m supposed to balance it out on my own either to be honest. I’ve gotten pretty religious in my own right. I read a Psalm a day. I pray on my knees every night. I pray before meals (though this is a tough one on first dates, it can be an awkward work-in). And I think we’re supposed to find balance with something up there. And for me, I think it starts with trying to get people to understand my insides, regardless of who they think I’m supposed to be when they look at me.
I love to be alone. I love to be alone. Until I don’t and even when I don’t love to be alone, I love it with a tinge of masochism. I love to walk around alone. To look at everybody. I think you feel the most alive when you do it like that. And you notice things. I notice things — I notice connections. For example:
Just the other day, I was walking to the grocery store and I saw this man searching the ground for something. He was very thin, his clothes were falling off of his body. And at the grocery store, I realized at the self-checkout, that I’d lost my keys. And I realized — when I was alone like that — that we’re all doing the same things — we’re all a body moving around with a soul inside looking for some semblance of balance. And I was walking around yesterday (before I went to the grocery store) in these white tennis shoes I’d gotten in Berlin, and they were chaffing on my heels so bad, so bad I stopped at Wal-greens to get band-aids, so bad that when I bent over to put the band-aids on my heels, I saw my heels were covered in blood. On the socks. On my shoes. And I limped home. And changed my shoes and went to the grocery store. And thought I’d lost my keys, looked around the aisles, all over the floor, like that man holding up traffic looking for his own entry to something, to peace, to dissociation, to who knows because that’s not the life that I’ve been dealt.
And today, on my way to work, I wore different white tennis shoes. Didn’t want my heels to bleed again. But they chaffed as I walked, they hurt, and when I paused, I saw that once more there was blood, and I tried to walk with my feet pushed to the front to help it a little — I don’t understand why two pairs of shoes, one new, one old are doing this — but as I approached my office, there was a double amputee without legs. And I realized that he once might have had legs. And that they might have hurt. That he was living a life that was painful in different ways, a life that was (that could be still) painful in a visceral way that made my woes look puny. But even the pain isn’t a comparison game. We are all feeling things all of the time. We are all feeling things in our own right.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that you never know what someone else is thinking. You never know what life they’ve lived, but at the same time, we’re all connected, we’re all here at the same time, and we’re all trying at the same time, and you have to give everybody a little grace and you have to give yourself some grace. I’m working on giving some to myself because I’ve given it all to everybody else for as long as I can remember. I want to save my grace for this version of myself that I’m becoming reacquainted with. Who is intense. I’ve missed this intensity. I’ve missed her (and my writing!!! this is the style that I wrote in when I was 17 even though I was so embarrassed of it back then but now it feels like coming home). But I also understand that she’s spent so much time trying to get into the minds of everybody else. I’ve spent so much time reflecting other people. When I was 12, I felt so ugly that I made a rule for myself that I wouldn’t look in the mirror during the day. And now, ten years later, I don’t even care if I’m ugly. Because I’m really understanding who I am on the inside, even if the people around me don’t treat me as such.
Because I am 5’4”. I have big eyes. I have curly hair. I love art. I love art. I think the way I approach mine is intense. I worry it might be a little narcissistic at times, but beyond my family, it is the most important thing to me, and my family is so far away that all I really think about every day now is art is art. And I like to be left alone. I like to walk about and look at the world and look for signs and be left alone. And I think the signs are showing me that I’m pursuing balance even if I haven’t gotten it yet. That I’m trying to align with whatever a true self might look like for me. And I will leave with this, the last thing that doesn’t match, the last thing that I am still hiding and a little reluctant (and embarrassed?) by:
When I was a kid, I was so embarrassed by my music taste. I loved rock. I wouldn’t listen to rap and hip-hop until I was 16, but when I did I hit the ground running. And I grew up studying classical piano and voice. I played the drums for years. I miss music. I miss doing something with my body ( I miss ballet, but I think it’s still too painful), with my hands, with my voice. And I’ve spent so much time thinking about what music I should be listening to based on how people saw me. I was terrified of being given control of music in the car, at a party, anywhere for so long. And if I took it, I thought about who I wanted to present as, not what I wanted to hear. And I’m finally sitting with myself. I’m finally alone. And it is scary but it is invigorating and it is making me question what I want. What I want to do and that is why I have joined a band(!!!) a band (!!!) because if the boy who hit on me when I was at the thinnest part of my eating disorder and no sooner and wasn’t nice to me when I didn’t want his desire can make a decent song, then maybe I can too. And we’re working on some stuff privately, quietly, and I still fear that I don’t look like the sort of girl (woman?) (nevermind, I feel like a girl, so I’m going to call myself a girl) who doesn’t belong in a band, but it’s okay because I just need to sit with myself and live with myself. I just have to live with myself.
and find balance.
and pursue balance.
And that’s why I can’t fathom marriage yet (also because I’m halfway through The Bell Jar), but I’m finding the balance on my own and I don’t think I’ve ever felt this alive. And my outsides don’t have to match my insides, anyway. We’re all projecting! We’re all alive! And there is music if you listen hard enough! And there is music in my head! And I’m going to push all of the stuff in my head out into the world until people see me as I am. Until they are forced to see me as I am. Until I can see myself as I am. Until I am who I feel like I am.
I am 5’4”. I have big eyes. I have curly hair. I have a sweet voice,
And I am writing lots of words in different ways. And I want to sing and scream some of them. And it would be nice if you enjoyed it, but I don’t think that’s why I’m doing it. Not anymore.