Saturday, February 16, 2013

On opening up

Sometimes I feel that since graduation I have been living only as an extension of other people.  I was M’s girlfriend and I am A’s friend or S’s friend or J and O’s friend but there are so few people with whom I am simply me.  I continue to find myself in situations where I am the new girl and I’m afraid I don’t stay in any one situation long enough to allow anyone to know me. 

When there is no one in a group that I am an extension of, when I have to just be me, I close up.  I make myself small, try to hide in my own skin, become nobody, inconspicuously invisible.  Like I am afraid if people see what’s really there, they will want to walk away.  Have I always been so guarded, so paralyzingly shy, so incapable of opening up? Did I simply used to be better at denying it?  A false extrovert, putting up a front?

I think I was always drawn to the theater, to acting, because of the mask, because it’s about creating an illusion, and to my dismay I realize that in order to succeed you must break down those walls and be open and honest and oops well now what am I to do?  I have no practice at openness and only practice at masks.  My whole life has been about masks.  I spent at least four years hiding my sexuality and another four hiding an eating disorder.  And I am still, intentionally or not, hiding these things every day.  Just by walking down the street as a pretty, feminine female of average size, I feel like I am hiding.  I am my own mask; an impenetrable layer that cannot be seen through.  And in order to pursue my passion, in order to get a job, I must stand up in front of strangers and be open, be honest, be me?  Impossible.

Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t pursue science, or something to that effect.  I was good at it.  I was good at a lot of things.  Maybe I could be discovering universes.  I always dreamed of outer space.  But the theater was romantic and it seemed so much better, so much cooler, to be an artsy outcast than a nerdy one.  And theater was where I found my friends.  Theater was where I found a place to fit in.  Well where do I fit now?

Not that I can think of anything else I want to be doing.  And there’s the rub.  Is this something I ever had a natural capacity for, or something I forced myself to do because it was a challenge, because people told me no?  I have always been good at taking the path of most resistance. 

I feel the same way about writing.  At least it’s a creative outlet not reliant on another’s willingness to cast me in a role.  But I have the same problem.  My thoughts are a big jumble all tied in knots and I can’t get them out, so instead they swirl around inside me and the knots just get tighter and tighter and tighter.  I can’t be open.  And the knots just make more knots which makes the blockage worse.  Like arterial plaque.  The blood can’t get through.

So here we are, at a cross roads, it’s time for open heart surgery.  It’s not easy performing this kind of work on oneself.  Some days the blood flows freely and other days the blockage is so tight I feel like I might burst; I feel like I can’t breathe.  But I have to do it.  Because we all know what happens if you forgo surgery when you need it.  So it’s time to put it all out there, everything on the table.  Stop editing and cut the crap.  Mix my metaphors and go.  Sure, the procedure is a risk, there’s always a risk.  But they say the reward is greater, don’t they?  Or is that the other way around?   There’s only one way to find out.

Today I was on the subway, changing trains, and I noticed myself in my usual closed off, tuned out state: book in hand, ear buds in ears -- typical of so many New Yorkers in transit.  I decided to take a moment to open up, to really look around me and breathe life in, and a man running down the stairs slammed right in to me and almost knocked me off my feet.

There’s my poetic justice.

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