Saturday, May 14, 2011

Too Much

(I'd love to credit this shot, but I have no idea where it came from)

When a child is out of control or afraid, and I am also afraid or weak, it is still my job, as the grownup, to be in control. I must put away what I feel to ensure that my child feels safe. 

I parent every human I encounter in this way. And when I can't, I'm reminded of the reasons why I must never, never let down my guard with anyone. Letting down my guard leaves me with vulnerable spots open, and if they hit one, I might hurt them with my response. Not physically, but that doesn't reduce the impact. 

I am too much for most people. Too much immediate intimacy because I already know their soul - and trust me, it's not on purpose. Too much love, which I can't help. but feels like over-intimacy to others. Too much power in my excitement and in my disappointment. Too much strength in my defense to hurt. Too much. 

The only way I knew how to avoid being too much was to be nothing at all. To give people only the surface, the smile, the encouraging word. To not let them really touch me beyond a brief reachout to see who they are so I can gauge how to behave. To keep myself well back of anything they might see, so that even if they hit a soft spot, I would only feel a tiny prick through the layers of distance between us, and I wouldn't have a gut-wrenching response that might throw them off-kilter. I honed this skill over years, with precision. People liked me. I got promoted regularly. People invited me for social engagements. I "had friends." It just never turned into what I needed from friendship, and I got lonely in here. 

Here's what I discovered along the way: I can't give all the good stuff of intimacy without risking that I get a big hurt. My hurt is too much for another person to experience in its rawness and still love me (my husband being the single exception currently in my life).

As I daily reach over a chasm that I dug with my own hands, trying to bridge between my dangerous, powerful, incredible self and the person people see and meet, I have no idea how. I'm clumsy. I'm careless. I vacillate between intimacy and coldness. I tell them what I think they need to hear to know what I want them to know, because if I listen too closely I'll get sucked into their humanness and let down my guard. I don't trust myself to be open without being unable to protect others from what I can be when I'm hurt or, god forbid, angry. I can't even be unguarded in casual conversation, or I might overpower you by accident. I must choose my words carefully so that you don't misunderstand me. I can't let you close enough to hurt me, because if you do, and I hurt you in return, it will break my heart into pieces. I can't trust you because I don't trust me not to be clumsy. I am the grown up, and I must remain in control. I only know one sure way, and it largely denies me.

I used to think my "authentic self" was not ready for prime time. Lately I've been thinking I was right in the first place, and maybe my authentic self simply has no place in this world except inside of me, a powerful watcher caged behind a carefully constructed wall. This week could be enough to confirm it.

And yet. Here I am, writing this out loud. So where does that leave me?

Music today from The Music: Breakin' (I need to move!)
(or if you want to stay in the heaviness a little longer, here's Jane Siberry: the Walking and Constantly)