Unfortunately, the blog no longer exists. I didn’t get to know Natalie well, but she was one of my favorite reads. I realize that nothing stays the same and for whatever reason, she doesn’t write anymore. It just makes me sad when blogs sometimes just fade away. I hope Natalie sees this post and knows her words touched me. This piece reminded me so much of my thoughts and feelings during the terrible teens and tumultuous 20s. They sure did leave some scars. This was originally published on August 4, 2018.
It all started as a game.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a people-watcher.
As a child, I would watch people for hours before even attempting to talk to them.
I’d scrutinize how you spoke. What you wore. When you laughed. What you liked. Whom you talked to.
I would watch and watch, try to figure out who you were. What you wanted.
And once I put together the pieces of your identity, I would form my own, making sure they clicked.
It was like a puzzle that only I could finish and it amused me to have that sort of power over you: to control exactly what you see.
But under all of that, I’d ensured that I was that girl:
The girl you want to speak to.
The girl you share all your secrets with.
The girl you like.
I flit from one person to the next, as graceful as a butterfly.
Always smiling. Always pleasing.
You come to me when you don’t have anyone else, and it’s my shoulder you cry on, it’s into my ears you whisper your darkest secrets.
I soothe. I comfort. I encourage. I motivate. I charm.
And when I’m finally alone, I laugh.
I laugh at the world, at how gullible you are, to think you know me, to trust me the way you do.
I laugh till I cry and then I cry till I can’t breathe.
The tears never end, it seems, they flow and flow relentlessly, leeching me of everything.
The real joke was on me, all along.
And I’d never realized.
I look in the mirror and don’t recognize the shadow that looks back into my eyes.
I don’t ‘like’ her.
I despise her.
I see myself wrapping my hands around her throat and squeezing until the light slowly fades from her eyes.
And then, I realize the girl is me.
The irony: I’d gained the affection of everyone else, only to realize that I couldn’t win me over too.
Alone, I’m a coward. I’m despicable. Spineless. A doormat. A hypocrite.
I morph myself to suit the people around me. My very identity is built on everyone else’s desires.
I’m no one without someone to please. Nothing without a task to complete.
And there is nothing left of ‘me’ now, of the person I could have been.
Before. Before all the masks.
When I look back, all I see is crushed dreams, and when I look forward, I see an eternity of nothingness.
But it’s what I see when I look within that truly scares me.
Joy feels like exposure to the harshest elements. In showing it you become a pawn in the game of advantage like taken of that is.
Allowing happiness to make an appearance, well, that’s just a sin. “Be humble, accept things with grace,” they said. As they shushed my feelings out of jealousy.
Feeling like a kernel doubling in size, well, that’s just ruinous. “Let’s not have a grandiose, public display,” they said. As they swatted my butt out of anger.
Having intensity acknowledged on the surface, well, that’s just suicide. “Behave yourself!” they said. As they locked me away with a pious vengeance.
Where did it ever get me to give a voice to what bubbles up happy tears and excitement? Hide your feelings, stomp them down reactions was all I ever got. Because no one really wanted to meet the real me.
As we’re growing up, we continually shape and define what’s important to us. For me, this was always an easy task as I continually challenged and questioned the world around me. Consistently prioritizing and seeking fairness may be what gave me a strong drive for justice.
I recently came across something I’d written a long time ago. I may have been in my thirties at the time. Not quite sure what prompted the thoughts initially. Even though written over twenty years ago, the original statements remain the same. These are the relatively few things I think I need to stay a calm individual with others. To stay sane, well, that’s another story for another day.
DO what you say. It speaks volumes of you as a person that I can depend on you.
Smile when I smile at you. It does us both good. When you are having a bad day, know that my smiles mean I care about you, and it’s meant to lift you.
Don’t be a liar – about ANYTHING! I appreciate honesty, above all else. If you are honest, we will always find a way through together.
Recognize that every individual on this planet is a human being, including yourself and deserves respect just for that fact alone, regardless of their race, religion, color, gender, sexual preference, political beliefs, or the country where they originated. Maybe then we could look forward to some of that World Peace that beauty contestants speak of during the interview segment.
If you can help someone when they need it – DO IT! Giving to someone in his or her hour of defeat is the best gift you can give, every time.
Read, learn, listen. Take every opportunity to educate yourself about your world. You are a human being who lives on this planet and in this society. Your understanding of how it works and runs contributes to it running better, for all of us.
Please make choices in your life that benefit you, not hurt you. ALL of us deserve a good experience on this earth. I care about you.
If you make a mistake or have done something wrong that causes hurt – big or small – take ownership of it, feel genuine remorse and say “I’m Sorry” like you’ll never do it again. Forgiveness feels right for both of us.
Looking at these bullet points now, it feels appropriate to expect these things of others for my well-being. But when I look at my relationships, in general, it seems to challenge people to give these most basic elements. I don’t understand why we wouldn’t want to create harmony over distress.
Then I look at it from the flip-side – am I one hundred percent doing these things for other individuals? And I have to say, no honestly. There are a couple of statements on this list that I’ve periodically had a hard time doing. I’ll leave it to you to decide where you think I’ve fallen. I will say that when I stumble, it’s because of this human ego.
All I ask is that people do their best and maybe remember to keep their ego in check. And I’ll match their efforts. At this stage in my life, I’m more determined than ever to be that person I expect others to be. Something I would never have conceived of doing in my youth.
It’s gorgeous here in the Summer. You can’t help but feel drawn to the wide-openness of the land. When the sun shines, and I take a walk or drive to the neighboring town, being out in it brings me a sense of freedom. I’ve come to love that feeling. Holding my cup of tea, I enjoy looking at my little slice of heaven through my kitchen window every day.
This year will mark 18 years living in Small Town, USA. The attractiveness of the land is what has kept me here. I enjoy it. On good days, I always stroll around my neighborhood to get some fresh air and sun. I appreciate the peace of my small town and the smell of the fresh wind.
The people and their politics, not so much. I get it. Red state, red town. It’s only about 900 people who live here. And if they could stay living in the 1800s, I think they would prefer that.
I won’t lie, intermingling hasn’t gotten any more comfortable in the years since our family landed. The closed-mindedness I experience on an almost daily basis is choking most of my goodwill. The longer I’m a resident, the harder I bite my tongue – most times. Recently, though, I just had to trounce a few ill-conceived thoughts escaping out of the mouths of my neighbors. If only they would have kept them shut. It didn’t end well. I wasn’t what you would call being very neighborly.
I know things, and people change eventually, but in our little town, I think it will be later rather than sooner. I understand that it’s a lot asking them to step out of their comfort zone, or even into a headspace of progressive thinking. Sure wish they would, though. It would make living here almost perfect.
Sometimes kids are out playing in the park. Today there was a group of young boys maybe 14-15 years old out dribbling balls on the basketball court. The very first thought in my head – most likely, this is the next generation of Trump supporters. My happy brain pauses slightly, feeling surrounded by ignorance again. I forcefully shake it off me and intentionally focus on immersing myself in the wind and sun.
Life continues, and I keep walking as far away as I can get.