Stripping off the Paint

At a meeting with my therapist, she observed of my husband and me, “You really are quite different.” It’s something which I might not acknowledge often enough, because ever since she said it, I’ve been rolling it over in my mind again, realizing the implications.
.
“You really are quite different.” I realize that I’ve been in denial about that.
.
I want him to be more like me–more open-minded, gentler, more active, and helpful. But he’s not. And he tries to change, but he is who he is. He’s opinionated, sometimes abrasive, he likes to laugh. And that’s that.
.
Just one thing that a therapist is skilled at doing is to help us notice patterns in our lives that we might not notice ourselves. I have a pattern of accommodating others at the expense of myself. Stepping carefully around the feelings of others, allowing them to be who they are without my interruption.
.
I’m accepting to the point of being someone else’s canvas, their paint splashing across me at oblique angles. I didn’t speak much growing up, but tried very hard to accept what my mother said and to not upset her. And my mom’s paint has splashed across, in passionate, bright colors and I did my best to keep still, my best to not appear bothered by her loudness, or her silencing my opinions.
.
Although I’ve stripped most of the paint from my past, and there’s more colors in my world now, and I know how to get alone and hear myself, it’s hard to be myself around others who are loud.
.
I’m introspective; I’m open and intuitive I want to study psychology, philosophy, and be a writer. I want more education. My husband is accepting of this–only to a point. But he talks bad about the impracticality of those who major in art or philosophy. He feels that my college loan debt is already capped. I’m done. Which I understand his perspective, I can’t call it my own. I want to invest myself, to live my life, and not be afraid.
.
Seems like little decisions can pull us apart. Andy and I like most churches that I’ve visited in this town. He’s unhappy, angry even, at a couple. I’m fine with looking elsewhere just because I’m open to go wherever the Spirit of God is. Yet, I say this, and I end up… wishing we were at the last church, even more than the others, because of their outreach to the lost, the rock-style worship music, and because they have a diverse crowd. Because the outcast is welcome there. I feel welcome there. But I don’t love going with Andy because he doesn’t enjoy it. He makes little spiteful comments about things he disagrees with.
.
This weekend my husband and daughter went on a trip to my husband’s cousin’s wedding in another state. It was just me. I’m thankful that we’ve been visiting around and found a new church home with a terrific pastor; I went to two churches on Sunday, and both were great. On the way to pick Andy up from the airport, I felt peaceful. Yet as soon as he is in the car and talking I can feel the negative energy. Like little bubbles piercing, little bubbles of sadness. My stomach started to feel heavy. And I started feeling tense. Maybe I’m just noticing this now because of the therapy? He has an affect on me. And it’s not always good.
.
Maybe all relationships, all labors, take a toll on our bubbles of happiness?  Or maybe not. I couldn’t help but feeling that generally, friendships should uplift each other. Share commonalities. Depth. Disagree in healthy ways. I can’t help but feel that maybe we’re more different than I realized, more different than I can safely settle into.
.
Who am I really? What do I look like? And if I showed my full colors, would the world run away? Would they not like it that I was no longer blank before them, so they could no longer drench the space that felt so urgently their own?

Girl in a Pool

Growing up, it was just me and two of my three brothers all the time, isolated while homeschooling. The rare interaction with children outside of my home were magnified in significance and re-projected in my mind; however mundane, these moments were played again and again, hoarded in my memory.

I was 9 or 10, my family lived in a nice neighborhood with a pool. I was swimming along, minding my own business when a boy laughed at me and said, “You have boogers!”

In that moment I felt terrible.

I felt terrible because I was being laughed at because there was something apparently wrong with me. And I felt terrible because I didn’t even know what boogers were. And not knowing a word that another child would use (or, so confidently hurl at me) felt shameful.

I turned and floated away, I checked myself while in the water, pushed my hair back, squeezed water out of my nose, etc. A moment later, swimming around again, the boy looked at me and exclaimed, “She picked it, she picked it!”
.
That’s when I figured out he was talking about my nose. I hadn’t “picked it” but I was nonetheless gross. The grossest. For having a “booger.”
.
It seems sort of silly now: he was just a boy who felt a need to alert the world to boogers and what one might uncouthly do with them. But at the time, it wasn’t water off my back. At the time, cruelty gripped me, and embarrassment held me under.
.
I was sensitive child, and contrary to my mom’s intention, I wasn’t “guarded” by my isolation; it just made those moments stand out more, made me feel worse for having no idea of how to respond.
.
Without practice of social interactions, I had no self-confidence. I was unable to brush comments off. If someone said something to me, it pierced me: I was automatically afraid that I might not know how to respond, or what they were talking about.
.
So I tried to keep myself hidden–and succeeded sometimes–in hiding the tears, the insecurities, and areas of ignorance.
.
I know a lot more now, but I’m still anxious and sensitive. That didn’t change overnight–perhaps it never will. But I realize now that many people feel nervous, and we’re in this together. Writing my thoughts makes me stronger.
.
Expressing what’s hidden can make us stronger. It’s okay to be hurt or afraid. We don’t have to carry our burdens on our own; we can share them. While they may become momentarily heavier while speaking up, some of that weight lets go when we share our troubles with a trusted friend.

Brain, Interrupted

Every night, the brain conjures up visions of places and faces and creatures. We are carried away, perhaps taking flight in the narrative produced by our minds. It’s no small production, a dream. When we break away from that vision, sometimes we grasp for it, feel its loss like a fall to the earth. Sometimes those first rays of light pierce through our awakening eyes to our bodies, and we recoil, cover our heads.

Everyday our brains conjures our surroundings, and we must navigate many distractions and interruptions, and attempt to maintain a coherent narrative, accomplish our goals. It’s taxing, isn’t it? Yet we forge ahead. We keep our faces straight and our bodies tall. No outward recoiling from the interruptions and little falls.

But what if the world is even more of an interruption than you can stomach? What if noise reaches in beneath your skin, so that the click-click-click of the clock is prick-prick-prick upon your nerves. What if intensity of the light increases to piercing like a hangover, though you weren’t out drinking the night before.

We say reality is subjective. We say the world is observed with our individual senses, but how often to we claim that people should be able to modulate their experiences of it? Play it cool? Someone can be too sensitive, as though sensitivity is a personal problem–not a human one. If the world is too hard, too loud, too bright, too crunch-and-munching (eating-you-alive), you just need to toughen up.

There’s a terrible habit among the not-as-sensitive to correct those who are sensitive, thinking that bearing with it will make us stronger. But it doesn’t happen. We don’t get tougher. Instead we lose a part of ourselves in trying to pretend we are fine. We lose touch with humanity by trying to pretend that we’re not bothered by elements of it.

Whoever unsympathetically reminds us to “ignore it” needs to be reminded about that incredible work of the brain. Whether dreaming or wide awake, conjuring the world before you (the noises, the sights, the smells) is not a simple task. Sometimes that noise is more than we can bear.

Your sense of safely existing demands a degree of stability. For most, a rollercoaster doesn’t offer enough enough stability, leaving heads spinning, leaving you feeling uneasy to the core. For some, smaller interruptions are too much. No one can get back to the stable, unshaking ground, by pretending that everything is okay.

The same way other people need food and drink, you may need a share of silence. Perhaps that’s why you pull away. Perhaps you’ve told people how you feel, but they just dismiss it. They call you inconvenient. Picky. Controlling. But you’re not any of these things. You’re different, and you’re human, too.

We all have this complicated equipment and cannot demand that it all functions exactly the same. Doing so would be tyrannical. Accommodations aren’t always too much to ask for. After all, each of us hold this narrative of ourselves; each carries forth a beautiful person inside–and in order to be ourselves, we need a safe environment.