Do sheep ever itch in their own wool? I wonder this sometimes when I am squirming in my own skin. We struggle so to feel comfortable in ourselves, constantly bombarded with purchasable upgrades to our inadequate selves, our flawed forms. We are encouraged to keep track of where we lack and overlook the richness our lives already contain. Enmeshed in a culture that normalizes the telling of half-truths and the maintenance of big lies, we are tricked into feeling small while the deeper parts of us keep chanting: “But we are HUGE!” We are taught to put all that is infinite into cute, easily definable, easily digestible, homogenous boxes of consumption. Be less like the ocean and more like a lovable human juice box. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, try online dating for 15 minutes and you’ll soon find out. A whole human heart and life and experience reduced to 4 photos, 3 sentences—an attempt at seeming desirable, do-able, reduce-able. We want to be able to reduce the abyss so we can be brave enough to face it.
Over the past couple of years, I have tried in my own ways to fit into the online dating landscape. And yet I could always feel the buzzing, flashing, flickering of my neon sign: “What in the hell am I doing here?!” But there I was alone at night looking for someone to take interest in my 4 photos, my 3 sentences. I came up against a lot of dead ends. I played with the amount of realness I could "get away with," as if being real is a punishable crime. As if adding money to a bank could land you in jail. And while I can't know the reasons why, I suspect that the great deal of non-responses I received to my honest dialogue was the result of being “too real."
Why are we so uncomfortable with meeting people as they actually are? Is it because we might then be expected, or possibly compelled to be as we actually are? Here's what my 3 sentences did not say on my profile: "I want next level love. My farts smell. I am hoping to get married and make babies in the near future." I was trying to figure out what amount of me was acceptable, what percentage was allowable. What version of me would be rewarded with a response, and possibly a cocktail or two.
I, like anyone, long to belong. But this type of trying begs the question: what’s the point if you stop belonging to yourself? The agonizing itch of pulling the wool over your own, or anyone else’s eyes, because you fear your nakedness will be deemed offensive, repellant? The abandonment of what is for the hope of what could be, when simply being is the whole goal no matter how often we forget to remember this. The truth shall set you free, or on fire. Whichever comes first. Just ask the witches.
I am a highly sensitive, intensely feeling person and my whole life I have heard the message that stoicism wins; that cold, calculated reasoning succeeds; that emotions are something to be contained, compartmentalized, concealed, and ultimately overcome. Here’s the deal: you do not overcome emotions. You can either feel them, move through them, understand and learn from them as you come out on the other side. Or, you can bottle them up and they will make you sick. They will make you mean. They will make you suffer worse than feeling them ever could. Sure, perhaps it is a more manageable, more subtle and slow form of suffering. But it is suffering nonetheless. It is a suffering that will disconnect you from life so effectively that you won’t even notice. You’ll just flip a lot of people off when you drive and get really uncomfortable when people have the nerve to cry.
What if we started feeling okay with feeling? What if we stopped putting periods on each other's run-on sentence realness? What if we stopped imposing our own punctuation on each other's meaning, the mutable grammar of feeling, the embracing of our underlying and intrinsic hunger for the truth? Our hungry hungry hearts are malnourished.
I have spent so much of my life feeling unlovable and highly leaveable because of the depth of my feeling. I do not say this in self-pity. I say this as a battle cry of acknowledgment. I have felt that I feel too much to be someone that could get another to stay. I am losing interest in feeling that way. I am tired of measuring myself against some unspoken volume of acceptable emotion, some agreed upon allowable depth. I am here to feel. I am here to dive. If my thirst is too deep, then go to the shallow end of the pool. But don’t make me feel bad for being endlessly curious about what undiscovered life is dancing down below. You don't roll your eyes or hide from the biographies of Jacques Cousteau.
I’m just trying like anyone else to figure out how to navigate this eternal floating-falling-seeking-searching-feeling we reductively call “living”. Some days are easier than others. Some days feel so hard that I can only manage to curl into a ball and bawl—a bawling ball of life. A fetal curl of feeling the weight of it ALL. Sometimes I feel like I am crying for everyone and everything and all time. NBD. Sometimes I feel I am crying my grandmother’s tears, my grandmother’s grandmother’s tears. Sometimes I feel like I am crying for all the lost loves who couldn’t stay and couldn’t cry for the loss of me. Yes, I am a woman who may force you to face, to feel; but who, if you let her, will create a crack that allows light to shoot out and shine in. Yes, I am a woman who will love you so fiercely you’ll learn new meanings for the word. Here’s the thing about feeling a lot: it works both ways. My pain is the deepest of reds, but my joy is the brightest of yellows. My hurt may hurt your heart, but my laughter will regenerate cells and cure cancer. Feeling is healing.
Over time, I have been learning how to stop making myself small and to stop apologizing for doing the very thing I know I was put on this earth to do. I spent years subconsciously looking for people and relationships to confirm my deepest fears and doubts—that I am too hard to love, too much to maintain. I am not too much. I am me-the size, the depth, the volume-that I am. I am as lovable and as leaveable as anyone. We all are. If someone cannot stay, it is not because I have failed, it is not because I don’t know how to be the right size. It is because the lessons we offer each other are ones that come with eventual conclusions. Beginning is but one type of education. Staying is another. Walking away, a no less revelatory experience, on either side. I have been on both sides. I have more compassion because of this. If you have never been left, I hope one day you will be, not because I am cruel, but because unknowing is its own form of cruelty and I hope for you to be kind, to learn how to stop hurting others by learning how awful it feels.
A few months ago, I deleted the dating apps from my phone over feeling the futile frustration of it all. Too many dead ends. And sure, fear still sitting at the head of the table. Unsure if I was able to show up as my "better self" and not just the weary lady who'd been rolling my huge busted ass suitcase full of pain all over creation. Showing up sweaty and weird looking. Flinching when anyone reached for something in my vicinity. Afraid of getting it wrong again. Falling on my face instead of in love.
But then, one night, out of a soft and uncomplicated mixture of boredom and curiosity, I downloaded Bumble again just to have something to do. To ponder and wonder at the mystery of not knowing what was next… In bed, alone, sleepy face illuminated by the screen, I scrolled with no expectations. I roamed in the rare freedom of desiring nothing in the process of looking.
And then, a match. A message sent. A response. A conversation budding from the bulb of never fully giving up hope—a hope that is constantly redefining both its parameters and its target. My hope has worn different faces, held different courts, sought different cures for morphing wounds. Perhaps inspirational posters have rendered the word cheap, but for me, hope is a highly valuable currency. Hope is simply a determination to keep going. To keep finding out how to live within the eternal state of unknowing. It’s the counter spell for the intoxicating effects of doubt. It doesn’t mean you know anything. It means you are dedicated to the process of wondering from an elevated plane, even if that means having to daily, hourly, climb out of the bog of 'What Is, Is Never Enough.' What is, is all there is. What if that is enough?
What am I afraid of? Feeling feelings that hurt? Is it really so simple? All these efforts we make to protect and then possibly miss out in the avoiding. How to not paint this present person the color of the past. To leave life and my mind and my heart open to learning new shades of blue. To trust that I can handle any and all future revelations. To trust. If I can't trust myself, then I am lost. To trust. I am getting there. Everyday I wake and try the best I am able. That amount varies as the light varies, as the sea changes, as the trees blossom and then drip decay onto the sidewalk. My best is what I am able. Everyday is a practice in celebration and forgiveness. Everyday I keep trying, and for that I am gifted the glory of my unfolding life. All I have to do is keep going.
This match. He is a man, a human as huge and complex as the stars. Over these past few months, his 4 photos, his 3 sentences have been replaced with the vast and unknowable sea of his human mind, his human heart. I am honored to be sitting at the shore, watching dolphins jump out, squealing with delight every time a humpback whale spouts. I am trying to be patient with the pacing of what is revealed to me. To be spacious in my anticipation. To show up simply as the shore containing my own ocean. Perhaps this time I will be able to hold that knowing, find ease in my capacity to encompass. Enjoy the simple life-giving force of being kissed by the body of another’s water. Not feeling empty at low-tide knowing the promise of high-tide, his or my own. Knowing it's all just life happening, eternally grateful for the education. Trying my best through it all to stay with what is true, I am exactly the right amount of me.