I got your thoughtful note, in response to my startling revelation on Thursday night. We were going around the circle, sharing things we didn’t want anyone to know about us. Will, who’d suggested the activity to our Spiritual Seeker group, started off with, frankly, a lame ice breaking revelation that he hadn’t brought his dog to the past two sessions, because after it had growled and pounced at me [two sessions ago], he was embarrassed and felt it a poor reflection of his training. Basically, it was an illogical insecurity he harbored that we all instantly stifled with affirmations to how much we loved the mangy beast, and how a dog acting on instinct could never be a bad reflection of his training (Oh, perish the thought!), because dogs are individuals prone to fits of territorial paroxysms, just as humans can be (it’s a spiritual group, remember?). As everyone flooded Will with good vibes and chakra strengthening thought beams, I was incubating within myself a ploy to up the ante; to reveal something meaningful that many could relate to, in order to spur confessions that could get us somewhere – in order to reveal our deepest fears and anxieties that our insecure psyches clutch in crooked fingers, knurling into the fetal position with barbed knuckles divaricating about all that we want to remain secret, as we pull it behind the shadow of our physiognomy, brows and eyelids cleft and cusped, respectively, darting towards any threat to our private let-downs.
I wanted to blow this wide open, and I considered it a challenge to myself, to be the one to breakdown the barrier of the ego. As my mind flooded with ideas of what I could divulge to others and still save face with the contrived personality I had projected over the months, everything from the mild crush I had on *everyone* in the group to suicidal tendencies entered and were quickly chased out of my mind with a flailing dish towel that offered melee whips to my ego at the thought of revelation. The moment my mind flitted to the anorexia I’d combatted most of the summer, I knew it was the one. Easily relatable to anyone that has struggled with self esteem, and yet an equally difficult chink of my armor to be flashing at a bunch of strangers that I read and discuss books with on a monthly basis. I waited for the silence that followed Will’s submission, and staring straight at the table, spoke: “I’ve struggled with anorexia since high school, and still sometimes starve myself.” I waited for the stuttering admissions of self hatred, the staggered promulgations of other self-esteem motivated self-inflicted suffering. I heard silence. My vision burned holes of embarrassment into the table, while boiling the stress induced water that was never too far from my eyes. The craters of embarrassment quickly transformed into fiery portals to hell, as – still without a word spoken – Alyssa extended a box of Kleenex (with lotion) towards me. I waved it off, still waiting for anyone to speak – anything.
“Is there anything we can do to help?” – except that.
Uh, YEAH. You can fucking admit to me all the fucked up parts of your life, so that I’m not sitting here feeling like the only person that’s ever done shameful things because I didn’t like myself as I was. ALYSSA.
“No, I’ve been really good with it for the past six months”
“Thank you for sharing your struggle, that took a lot of strength for you to say” Kera remembered her mouth, snapping her gaze from the floor to my tinged red eyes.
“No, it felt kinda…good.” Saving face, saving face – see guys it wasn’t that hard. I’m not screaming internally and perching my hopes like a Disney animated turkey vulture on your parallel self hatred. Half smile, to demonstrate how *good* it feels to unsuture your festering personality in front of strangers so that they can gawk at the odors of decay.
“SO, were you ever bulimic?” —Stefan, not a week out of a mental institution, in his mental downward spiral often resembles a child in both behavior and physicality. Freakily enough, as the boyfriend and housemate of Alyssa, he has basically taken on the identity of Alyssa’s child, as she quickly turns to chastise him for such an insensitive question.
Just somebody go next, I’m tired of all discernments being fixed on my averted gaze, or *suddenly* agazed with the pillow cover at their elbow. Everyone is embarrassed for me. I shouldn’t have said shit. I should have dug up some meaningless obscurity about my life that no one will ACTUALLY care about, so that we can all go on pretending to heal our emotional wounds and drive home feeling *real good about ourselves for conquering our emotional traumas through sharing it with strangers*.
Stefan: “Well, you all know how my life has been for the past week.”
Alyssa strokes her baby on the head with a crook’d neck and soft doe eyes, “Yes, you’ve been dealing with a whole lot of paranoia, babe. But that’s all okay now” She speaks to him as though he were either hard of hearing or an actual infant, long slowly paced wording punctuated with understanding nods.
Stefan gulps down the last of a home-brewed beer out of a Ball mason jar. “Yeep, I’m on Seroquel now, BELCH”
Yeah, fair game Stefan. Fair game. Stefan is probably the winner of the activity, as we’ve all been pretty privy to the shit storm his mental state has been for the past few weeks. Hell, the past few years. He used to be engaged to a cute lil girl, until one day she came home to him rambling about the aliens that were contacting him through his dreams. Fast-forward three years, and it’s only gotten worse. He no longer talks about the aliens, but I suspect it has a lot to do with how many times people have told him it was all in his head. I think if I have faith for anyone, it’s Stef.
Zach spoke. “Some of you who know me,” the man I spent Valentines Day with, frantically copulating in the field that introduces my house, underneath a pine tree that played more of a role in the love making than I’d care to admit, followed by a two hour drive to Cape Henlopen during which I unsuccessfully sucked him off, eventually skinny dipping in the frigid Atlantic, then nakedly cuddling about a fire on the dunes, was hopefully now going to cover my pride with an equally humiliating confession “Know I’m not even on a speaking basis with my parents, and I spend most of my time alone in the woods. So, what I don’t want anyone to know about me is that I am extremely incapable of being vulnerable.”
“Same,” Alyssa tacked onto his “confession” quick as a fly swatter.
*Cue sarcastic applause in my head.
Well, well. That sounds like something you should have said when Will was ensuring everybody would be comfortable participating in this activity. It really isn’t that difficult to say, ‘Hey, you know what Will? All the tearful admissions of internal guilt and shame and fear sounds real nice and all, but I’m just not feeling it right now. Let’s play Buddhist Monopoly instead,’ now is it??
Now that everyone’s gaze was agreeing with Zach’s pussification, I allowed mine to rise from the table and reel about the traitorous faces. They settled on yours Brian, still fixed disquietly on the floor, flooding it with anxiety. If I’d been observing you in any other context, Brian, I would have been certain from your stare that the floor were actual lava which you were frantically, within the statue of your body, deducing the best way to maneuver. I sent accusational darts into your soul for a comfortable 30 seconds, knowing you wouldn’t dare let those brown orbits settle on mine. I would have sent them into your soul for longer, dear Brian, had my lover man not risen from his seat on the floor and squeezed next to me in the armchair, offering a comforting cuddle – most likely out of shame for not having the strength to admit part of his struggle in my presence as I had. As I took in the resumed shameful quiet, the cynic in my head marched about with freedom, careening in threatening circles around my internal victim. The town crier of my soul became the drunkard at the bar who slurs in the faces of Flyers fans when they inevitably lose a game, proclaiming his own team’s victory in boastful insinuations. Oh, so that’s it. I’m the strong one, eh? Of course everyone here’s struggled with self esteem – but the self abasement by admitting it? ‘Nah, we’ll leave that for whoever goes first. Let them be the “strong” one,’ except I’m not strong and your silence proves it. My so-called avowal was probably one of the most gilded confessions I’ve ever had. To be perfectly frank, I wanted to hear some dirt on all of you – EXPECTED to hear some dirt on you. And that’s exactly why my revelation was anything but strong. You can bet to hell that I would have kept my Irish-Catholic-Shame mouth fucking SHUT if I thought you were all gonna pussy out on me.
Will Spoke. “Well, I have something to share,” you already went? “A couple years back – some of you’ll remember this – when I cashed that bad check?” I’m not one of those people, bud. Will nods, eyes meeting recognition in Zach, Alyssa and Stefan’s faces. “Yeah, I actually considered suicide at one point. I was in a really bad place with all the court proceedings and explaining it to my parents and da-da-da. I was paranoid man, every time I heard the gravel crunch on the driveway, I knew it was the cops. I remember standing in front of the judge and he was just talkin’ at me and talkin’ at me, and I couldn’t understand what I did wrong, you know? And that was just the first court date – I didn’t think I could do it – livin’ with the feeling that at any moment a cop car could just pull up and.. take me away.” Will let his eyes sink to the floor, normally such an emphatic talker. “Yeah, one night I got really close and I ended up callin’ a suicide help line,” his expression, still on the floor changed slightly. “Yeah, they put me on hold – – it was a really fucked up experience” alright Will, I see you. I see you lifting the mood by loosening everyone up with your story-telling ways while simultaneously calling my anorexia ante. You’re not so bad, Will.
After everyone had a laugh at the prospect of a suicide help line prioritizing their suicides, the atmosphere was less forced, and the group quickly transitioned to what the next meeting should discuss. It was then that I realized that two of the seven members – Kera and you, Brian – would not even trouble themselves with any admission at all. I greedily returned to the rage in my starvation-maintained stomach.
So that’s it? BULLSHIT. I know all of you have struggled with SOMETHING – if not low self esteem. I meant to say what I said as a conduit for you all to express things you’ve been repressing. I’ve never told anyone, including family, about my *struggle* and what would really make me feel better about it is to know that I’m not alone, or for someone to relate THEIR struggles with self esteem and destructive habits. It would have felt far less humiliating to know that you guys have also grappled with that type of shame-induced behavior. I only realize how un-strong I am from seeing that expectation go unfulfilled. It would have been an ACTUAL strong action of myself if I had been able to admit to being so insecure about getting fat to the point that I starved myself without needing others to admit things on par with it, and I didn’t realize that fact until just the opposite happened. I can understand people being uncomfortable with making themselves vulnerable, but I also feel as though that type of insecurity should have been disclosed before anyone else admitted to something, uh idunno, seriously embarrassing like that – In fact, I feel kind of bamboozled that my admission was met with a handful of tentative confessions of inability to actually participate in the activity. A bunch of cop-outs, really. Will described the activity (that he’d done the week before in Men’s group) as a tear jerking time where everyone divulges their deepest secrets – everyone. From that, I thought my divulsion would be the first of seven, and it ended up being the first of two. Ha-ha that’s not to say that I don’t feel different from it – no, sir. Now that I know the world is full of a bunch of pussies, I certainly will not allow other people’s cowardice to make a fucking fool out of myself. And that certainly doesn’t mean that I’m going to keep my secrets inside in the future – should you be so lucky. Nope, I will continue to reveal uncomfortable parts of myself to others – for the same reason of helping them to feel less shame in their own lives – but I’ll do it without the expectation of hearing any of their trauma. And without further ado, here’s everything that I don’t want anyone to know about me:
(continued in Part 2)