the monster hiding in plain sight
I have lost count of how many times I have brushed the dust off my computer to start this entry. Inevitably, my fingers get lost before they even touch the keys and I end up staring through my reflection in the screen and my mind retreats from opening my hurts again. The words are there but the will to push them out into the open and force my hands to navigate the keyboard is painfully absent. But here I am, trying once more because that’s what I do. If at first you don’t succeed….
Fake it til you make it. It’s not the first time I have heard that phrase although most often it is associated with monetary success or celebrities. Pretend to be something you aren’t until you are. Breaking it down that way makes it seem ludicrous and laughable but at the same time, it rings with just a little bit of truth. Sometimes it is just a matter of convincing your mind that you are something to make it become a reality. In my case, however, this is the farthest thing from the truth. What am I a faking? Strength, confidence, poise, happiness…I could go on forever but these are the biggest “offenders” in my arsenal of fake. Pretending to exude confidence is supposed to keep me from being taken advantage of. It protects me in so many ways. You could picture the character from the Snoopy cartoons walking around with his blanket cluthced tightly…that would be me with my feigned confidence.
YES, WE ARE SO HAPPY
However, out of all my “fake until I make it” ‘s, happiness is probably the most sinister. Pretending to be happy when you really aren’t carries more weight and more danger than anything I can think of. I am happy in my life, my marriage, my role as a mother and wife, my career, my past, my present, my future. The reality of this: my life is miserable more times than not; my marriage is sinking to the bottom of Loch Ness; my role as a mother and wife makes me feel inadequate and overwhelmed; my career…I will skip this one; my past cuts through my consciousness with every memory and fills my dreams with tumultious nightmares; my present floats by unnoticed as I deal with the pain from my past; my future is nothing but dread of what my memories my brain might generously decide to uncover to add to my nightmares. Pretending to be happy is just a blanket that shrouds the monster hiding in plain sight, the proverbial elephant in the room but so much more maniacal. Pretending to be happy requires me to keep up this front and pretend that no one can tell my life is falling apart. It takes energy to continue this game of hide-and-don’t-seek.
WHAT MAKES IT ALL FALLS APART…
I feel like I have gotten rather skilled at holding myself together, at walking with confidence, smiling, and carrying on polite conversation. One might never be able to see the holes in my marriage or the shattered pieces of my heart I cradle and shelter from more use and abuse. You might think a defense like this is as many miles high as it is wide and it probably is. But all it takes for my wall to come crashing down, for the shrowd to come flying off my “monster” is little more than a few simple words. “Baby.” “You are so beautiful.” And with something as small as this, I am knocked flat on my face. Why?? So much of my world revolved around words from as far back as I can remember. The things that hurt the worst, far more than any physical abuse, were the words. The “I hope you choke and die.” The “You are fat and ugly.” The “stupid,” the “hate,” the “b****,” the “mistake,” all of it. It burrowed down deep into my brain like a fragmented bullet too volatile to attempt removal, there to stay. I think this contributed to my “affair with words.” My writing is a far cry from anything Pulitzer-worthy but it’s my best way of expressing myself and it is by far one of the best ways to connect with the real me. But the part of me that connects with words is also the part of me that craves them. THIS is my monster. This is the monster that has grown to epic proportions during my marriage. It has been starved for more years than I care to count. It has never been called baby, babe, honey, or anything else other than my cursed name for that matter. It has received a version of a complement on occasion (“You look nice” or some mild variation of this) but it is also accompanied by a face that doesn’t support this. It lacks in emotion or perceived sincerety which causes it to be categorized with the things not worth remembering. And the monster is starved a little more. The craving for the pet names, for genuine praise, adoration, and appreciation for my eyes, style, body, or whatever is always there and the longer it is ignored, the bigger and more insatiable it grows. To be honest, I have gotten used to it. I used to beg, whine, and cry to get what I needed but even then nothing happened and when it did, it came tainted with disbelief since it had been elicited by less than desirable behavior. Yes, I was like a toddler crying and screaming for his mommy’s attention. But eventually, I gave up. What used to be a very vocal plea for these words became silence and in that silence, the monster grew larger and hungrier.
SAY IT, JUST ONE MORE TIME
Enter: the unsuspecting, kind compliment. I actually get them a lot. Most of the time I am able to brush them off with a polite “thank you” and the monster is none the wiser. But every now and then, my defenses are a little weak, a little tired, and definitely not equipped to ward off an incoming assault of compliments. “Babe, you are a goddess.” In that instant, I become nothing more than a puddle on the floor; the monster has its first hint of sustainance in years and the fight is on. My logical side says to shut it down. “Woman, you are MARRIED! WTH are you thinking going all butterflies over here?!? You know these guys just troll decent-looking girls and give them compliments to see if they can get a reaction.” But the monster begs even harder, “Say it, just one more time. I NEED TO HEAR IT AGAIN.” Part of me genuinely wonders what they could possibly see in me to say things like that. The rest of me is busy falling for a stranger who may or may not even be genuine. Why? Because words. Words that I will certainly never hear again if I tell them I am off the market therefore making these things mildly inappropriate. Selfishly, the monster wanted to string them along and let the endless supply of words continue to flow. Logic still screams no. The monster wants perceived happiness. Logic wants misery and starvation. The monster wants to fill the holes left by neglect and fix the wounds from years of abuse. Logic wants to leave the holes alone and let the wounds continue to fester and rot. Eventually logic wins. But with the win, bitterness sets in. I tuck myself back into my bunker to wait out the rest of my life wishing I could find the “fast-forward” button to get it over with. I live vicariously through my favorite Tim and Faith songs about love and marriage and disassociate myself from my misery. I retreat into my thoughts like I did growing up because it’s safer there. And I neglect my husband. Why would I feed him when he can’t figure out how to take care of me even after all these years, all the begging, and not-so-subtle “hints?” I guess that’s what happens when you marry a stranger because you pretend he could save you from your dad.
Until next time (in my bunker)
(I really do love this song FYI <3 )