I literally just finished Kristen Forbes’ essay “Dream Girl” when I realized I needed to write about my own experience.
Forbes writes: “We carry our best selves into public and our worst selves into solitude.” So true. Having just spent three weeks in what feels like the closest I have ever come to solitary confinement, I do know the feeling quite acutely. I have seen my worst. I feel like I am a single parent at age 20. I work all day–hardly seeing a single soul or leaving the prison of the pale blue walls of my first floor studio– and then I take care of the kids (that I nanny) at night. Time to go out? I’ve had to cancel plans more than once. The kids have needed me. The only soul I knew in San Francisco also just moved this weekend. Who am I going to walk my dog with now that he’s gone? And who would I have gone out with anyway? I have no opportunity to meet people, though I crave social interactions with a frightening intensity that I didn’t even know I had. I am the one who spent 40 minutes hungrily talking to the mother of a friend of the little girl I take care of when I picked her up from a play date last week. I had never met the mother before, but she was human, and kind, and interested, and most importantly– another person. I was crazed for connection.
Maybe my Facebook posts look exciting, jovial, adventurous, and happy and my Instagram pics beautiful, gorgeous, and of course, I look awesome, clean-shaven and well-put-together in them all. They are not completely disingenuous– I did experience those moments– but here’s what I don’t post online.
I didn’t post a picture of me crying the on the bus a few weeks ago because I felt mentally lost and overwhelmed. What was my life doing and who was witnessing it and telling me it was going to be ok? I mean who was REALLY seeing me do this— look ugly, exhausted, depressed, harried, scared, and crazy?
I didn’t write this as my Facebook status update last week: “Could barely make myself get out of bed today again. I feel so lonely here by myself; I miss my friends, people, my family, my cat. Please come hug me. I feel like I would pay you $50 to embrace me right now.”
I didn’t tell you about the dirty dishes that have piled up in my room, the garbage I have taken out only once in three weeks, the boxes I still haven’t unpacked in the corner of my room where I won’t step on them.
I didn’t tell you about how, on a particularly hard night, I tried to sleep, couldn’t, made myself take a shower in an attempt to wash how I felt off of me and down the drain, and then dried off and sunk to the floor feeling as if I could not get up. I was fricking naked on the floor, unable to feel motivated enough to get dressed. Is that how I portray my life to you, to the public? Like I do indeed do things like that? No. But that’s the truth. And I barely show it to anyone. Even the people who love me the most. Even myself. Because perhaps if I can tell myself a really good story about my situation, then maybe it will be easier to believe my own story than face the pain of what is true.
I could just bullshit my way into a better dream version of my life– about how I’m rising to the occasion, overcoming every foe, feeling like an awesome friend, colleague, nanny, significant other, person– or I could admit that while there’s progress and I am indeed doing those things to a degree and sometimes a really satisfying one, I am also these things. I am also literally naked on my floor, unable to dress myself, hoping something or someone will just come help me, have pity on me and tell me that everything is going to be ok. I’m just scared and I want to feel loved and needed. That’s the truth.
I’m a mess sometimes. A crazy one. Is that what I want to show my church? My friends? My parents? The world? No, I want everyone to think I’m awesome and that I have it all together. I want you to think you can always count on me, that I can be strong to help you. Well, guess what, I am in need of you more than you know. And I’m afraid to call you and admit that to you, that I’m afraid, in tears, breaking inside, begging for a divine intervention.
I want to think this about myself too. I want to think I’m just so graceful, and wonderful, and brave. Why am I so obsessed with lying? Perhaps because I’m at a loss when it comes to how to fix myself, how broken and lost I can feel, how desperate, and needy, and fragile. I don’t know what to do about those things. I don’t know how to process how I feel, who I am. I don’t understand so I make something up, and try to believe that instead. And it all crumbles, eventually. Lies have no integrity, bullshit has no real narrative, no truth. It’s a compromise with reality, a fabrication. I’m in awe of how subtly I do it, probably because I want to believe it so badly.
So when you ask me: “Cameron, how’s everything going?” and I answer, “Oh my gosh, everything is so awesome! There’s so much good going on! Haha!!!” I am not telling you everything. I may be telling you that because I’m afraid of what I would really say if I were honest.
You: “Cameron, how’s everything going?”
Me: “Well, really I just want to cry right now, and I want you to hug me. I have no idea how to do my job, be a responsible nanny, find the right school to go back to, know when to be in a relationship, when to be out of one, how to be in one, how to not go back to school and into debt, how to not feel crazy, how to do my best, how to love– to really love, in a way that heals; how to be a good son, how to express enough gratitude to my parents for all they do, for my friends for all they do. I don’t know how to do anything. I just show up and do my best. That’s how everything’s going, if you really wanted to know.”
I pray to God everyday for the grace to not hurt someone else, not hurt myself, not misunderstand, misstep, misdirect, miscommunicate. I pray myself into tears sometimes, so great is my desire to do right.
And yet I still manage to mess things up. At least that’s how it feels. Yet everything keeps moving forward somehow and I’m still here, somehow endowed with the courage, love, or craziness to spill all this out. You may wish you hadn’t known these things about me. That’s ok; I feel the same way about myself sometimes.
In conclusion, it’s not certain what revealing all of this will mean to you. Maybe it’s just gross. But you know what? Maybe I am kind of gross and maybe that’s just ok to admit. I can tell you one thing: no matter what, I always just want to do the right thing. No matter how messy things get.
How do I want to move into 2013? I want to bullshit less. I want to let myself be more vulnerable to myself and to others. I want to sit with myself and my pettiness and my worries and jealousies and just be compassionate. I want to make friends with myself and do my very best to just relax into feeling how loved I am, valuable I am, needed I am. I want to feel God. I want to feel and know I am part of something bigger than myself.
More than anything, during those chapters of life when I am bringing my worst into solitude with me, I want to have the courage and the love to look my crazy, naked, helpless self in the eye and say, “Hey buddy, you look pretty awful; let’s sit together and you can tell me about it and see if a little honest heart-to-heart doesn’t get the burden of the world off your shoulders.” What I would give to be honest with myself like that. But that’s what I am deciding to work on so I know I will get better.
Back to the original essay, “Dream Girl”, that set the tone for this post. Forbes writes at the end of her piece:
“In my solitude, I wallow in my loneliness. I eat macaroni out of a box, as if I’m not worth the effort of real cooking. I set the smoke detector off and a scene from a charming sitcom does not unfold; instead, I stand cursing, groaning, irritated.
This is the most me I’ll ever be, and it’s the me I work carefully at concealing.
I’d like to meet someone who likes beer and coffee and rain and camping and brunch and smiling, but more than that, I want to know someone. I want someone to know me. I want someone to peel off my persona, see the madness behind my silliness, and like me anyway—not just in spite of my truth, but because of it.”
That’s what I really want (and perhaps maybe what we all want….)– to be liked for my truth and not just in spite of it. But really because of it, because of that honest truth, that authenticity that just bares itself. I hope and pray I have the courage to do that, and then to do that for someone else, and honestly for everyone I meet.
I won’t lie to myself and say that I’m great at this. I’m a self-professed Master Bullshitter. But I can’t do that anymore. Oh, will I try! But I am dissatisfied with unreality. It screws things up. I want to see the beauty and messiness of what is– not what I hope it will be.
I want to be so bare that I can feel the grace that, despite how crazy I may feel, is holding everything together much more perfectly than I can ever imagine.
Please read Forbes’ essay here if you haven’t already! It’s so great, in my humble opinion.