Once upon a time.
About 3-7 years ago.
My girlfriend and I were fighting.
The fight or argument was about something. That something is inconsequential.
She’s upset about something that I did or didn’t do. She explains her feelings and reasons for being upset. She does so in a calm, collected, but urgent tone. She tells me that she needs more communication from me. About my feelings.
The sinkhole in my stomach begins to open.
She tells me that she wants to know what’s going on in my head.
I can feel my brain, my lungs, and my heart slowly slide down my insides on their way to the bottom of the widening chasm in my abdomen. She tells me that something is wrong with me; that the way I deal with ‘things’ is wrong. This is what I hear. My vital organs are far down the well now; safely cloaked in the darkness of the hole.
This upsets me. I can deal with things however I damn well please, right? I give a quick retort, with my foot planted firmly on the ground, stating, ‘I am what I am!’ (Popeye the Sailor Man! apparently). She continues speaking, imploring me to give back, desiring some transparency amidst my intentional fogginess.
I have stopped speaking. I am done. The silence is a brick wall, which I safely hide behind. I am protecting myself. She is dictating everything. Her ease with expressing her grievances and needs makes me uncomfortable. She is vulnerable. She is ‘putting herself out there’. And she is trying to fix me. Apparently, I am flawed. She has the power.
I turn my eyes inward and look down at the sloppy mess of brains and heart at the bottom of the abyss. I shovel dirt on top of them. I shovel some more. I pile it on until my most vulnerable parts are buried deep, deep within my belly, safe from the prying reach of ‘the fixer’.
Now, I look her in the eye.
The silence makes the air in the room go humid and thick. The room is transformed. I see her weakening. She begins some faint pleading. Now, you see. I have some power of my own.
The less you know about me, and how I feel, the more power I have. Since I can’t be you, with your bleeding heart on your sleeve, I’ll have to be the alternative, the heart covered in dirt.
I have spent years of my life hiding behind walls of silence. Excuse after excuse has propped up these walls and reasoned their existence.
– I just don’t know what to say.
– I can’t say something bad, because that would upset you, and that would be catastrophic.
– You’ve hurt me by making me feel inadequate, so I will hurt you with mystery.
– Why can’t this just be easy? Why can’t we just move on?
– If you just knew me, then you wouldn’t put me in this situation and we’d be ok.
– It’s your fault.
I graffiti the wall I hide behind with these phrases, tag WJGjr. I own these statements in my silence. But not anymore.
Behind a wall with my vulnerabilities six feet under, I felt safe. Yes. Very safe.
For some time now I have cautiously strolled on the greener grasses blanketing the earth outside my walls. I’m out in the open. It’s scary. And exhilarating. I feel exposed. I feel alive. There are still traces of dirt on my heart and mind, but everyday they grow cleaner and brighter. Some days they are radiant, shining brightly, illuminated so that all the joy and scars are visible.
I speak because I want you to see me.
I will fail, at times. The silence will catch my throat. But I know better now. I know you, Safety, and what you’ve cost me. A great deal. You are an alluring illusion, and a warm blanket, but you will never be the sun.
I am promising to live a life full of sincerity, kindness, grace, truth, and courage. I will say things that are difficult, embarrassing, funny, honest, and cliche. I am trying.