I often wonder what is so bad about me that I am afraid, or disgusted, to be alone with myself. There is plenty in here to be ashamed of – I never went to college, I come from a poor white trash family, I’ve been beaten and abused in every sense of the word and that can lead a person to feel as tattered, worn and useless as an old rag. However, I know that there is something about me that is worth something too, so I’ve never been too sure of why I can’t appreciate that value for what it is in myself as I would if another person with those same flaws and attributes were standing before me. Well, I think I may have triggered an occurrence that can lead me to the origin of my dislike.
I tried to make a friend, recently. I don’t do that often, really. Most people come into my life and I escort them out as quickly as a fat kid taking on an oiled slip and slide. I don’t have the easiest time trusting people, and I think it’s because I know most people don’t stay. I never really picked it apart beyond that. I knew there was something about me that was too rough around the edges for people to stay around, I guess I let the idea roll off my heart pretty quickly with the rationalization that not many people want to be friends with the uneducated white trash girl with tattoos who used to do a lot of speed. I’m sure that there is a part of you that is thinking, “But that is obviously not the girl that is writing here now. You can’t be uneducated trash, you speak clearly and concisely, you love and care for your children, you are obviously a smart person who is trying to put her life in the right.” And those things are all true. But I’m online, and my identity is veiled by the wall that is the computer monitor. I am safe tucked away back here, being this faceless person. These words on the page are the innermost, vulnerable me. The me that is very much scared, and hurting, and broken and desperate. Out there? Out there in the world I am a different kind of human being entirely.
I used to think that the differences in who I appear to be, and who I am, were simply adaptations to my environment but I realize now that that isn’t entirely accurate. Most people will only ever know who I am “out there”. The social butterfly, the girl that makes you laugh and says over-the-top things and drinks too much and listens to loud, hard music and gets in fights at bars and flirts shamelessly and just generally kicks life’s ass. This is the girl who, when given lemons by life, tracks life down and tells it where to put it’s goddamn motherfucking lemons and somehow manages to get her money back even though life has a strict no return policy. Most people really, really like this girl. And why not? She’s fun, she’s crazy, you don’t have to take anything seriously, if you date her you get to have all this fun crazy sex, and if you don’t date her you still get to go along for the ride.
The only problem is that she is just the armor. She is there to hide the girl inside that is very much the scared, hurting, broken and desperate girl on these pages. That girl inside is real, whether you want her to be or not. She is in there, and she navigates this ship more than most people can ever really know. She is the core of who I am. I don’t mind that; I don’t mind being vulnerable or letting people see that I’ve been bruised a bit by the life I’ve lived. The only problem, I guess, is that most other people do.
Everyone wants to date the pretty, fun, crazy girl. Until she lets you in, and you have to see the parts of her that are dark, and sad, and damaged, because those parts aren’t easy and fun. Those parts are serious, and real, and make you think and feel and most people don’t want to think or feel about anything beyond the end of their noses. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say “Most people are inherently selfish because they don’t want to hear about my daddy issues.” What I’m saying is that most people have enough of their own damage, they don’t want to know about mine. The people who are in my life, and continue to be in my life, are those that can face that kind of darkness, who have an intimate knowledge of it from their own journeys, and having walked that path themselves can say, “I get it.” They aren’t afraid to look at the dark, they don’t run from or shy away from it. They don’t live their lives to be IN it, but they have the courage to know there is a time and place for it in all lives.
There are the people who want to hear about what movie I went and saw, and what bands I like, and how drunk I got last weekend, and then there are the people who want to know what makes you tick, because they are so intrigued by what makes THEM tick. Because they can step back and recognize that all life is, in the end, is the ticking.
So I’m trying to be friends with this person, and I don’t think they want to be friends with me. This person knows the armor of me that is so much fun, and I thought I could see glimpses of what made them tick, and that perhaps we shared some ticking in common, and so I tried to show them a bit of what’s under the armor. But every time I lift the chain mail they vanish, and resurface much later to steer the conversation away from the ticking. I’ve begun to distance them, and am putting the full suit of armor back on, and in the midst of that was when it hit me. While trying to tell myself that this silly, unsubstantial person on the internet really meant nothing at all and I shouldn’t take it as a rejection, I realized: it is a rejection. And that’s the core of it.
When I am alone, there is no armor. I can’t amuse myself with humor and self-deprecation. Who laughs at their own jokes? Who smiles at the sight of their own smile, who can create witty banter when they’re alone? Who is the life of a party of one? My armored self is useless when I’m alone, which leaves nothing but the ticking. It’s not that I’m afraid to face the darkness alone, it’s not that I’m afraid to walk the path through myself. I’m a writer, we are nothing if not introspective, the path through my own heart and mind are well worn and familiar. I realized that every time I have allowed someone under the armor who then said, “But this isn’t FUN. Put this away and bring back out the FUN Jennifer” who I am at my most real and vulnerable has been rejected. Every acquaintance I have tried to make a friend has reconfirmed the idea to me that there is no value in what makes me tick, because no one is interested in knowing it.
I don’t want to be alone because I am sick of knowing what makes me tick. It’s like a metronome in an empty room. I don’t want to hear it anymore. Having real conversations about things that hurt us, or scare us, or about love or beauty or art or feeling – they’re not FUN. I have been trained time and time again through a series of rejections of those things that are intimate and real that if I’m not going to be fun, I shouldn’t even BE. Alone, it will just be me and that metronome of my heart, beating out of my chest like a drum sounding a call to no one. What a terrible, wonderful darkness that would be.
I want to believe that if I learn to peel away the armor when I’m alone, and let the ticking lay bare, perhaps I won’t need the armor someday, and people can take or leave me as they please without it hurting so. Perhaps I will love the sound of my own heart beating so much, that I won’t hurt if no one else wants to hear it, like a song I never teach another soul the words to. Does it make the lyrics or harmony any less beautiful if they only fall upon my ears? I don’t know the answer to that. I just know I still want to believe that intimacy and raw human connection are noble pursuits.