I was, by all accounts, a bright, outgoing, bouncy, extroverted child. I was the chubby-cheeked darling who toddled up to another child, whom I had never seen before in my life, in some European airport and flung my arms around him as though he were my long-lost bff. I was bright-eyed and adventurous, making friends left and right with people young and old.
It changed around age four or five. It all blurs in my memory. The timeline fuzzes over and I can't remember whether certain things happened before or after or during kindergarten. I don't know which events slammed me first and set me up for others. I don't know when the walls started going up, or how fast I built them, or all the reasons why.
My therapist wants me to create the timeline. She wants me to through it in my mind, step by step. She also wants me to find out what else might have been going on in those years, aspects of my environment that may have had more impact on me than I know: the sort of things that would be internalized by a bright, emotionally sensitive child and become a part of her without anyone ever dreaming she even noticed.
What is it, she asks, that convinced you so long ago that you would never be good enough?
I don't know how much I can dig. I'm aware of certain elements, and facing those are hard enough. I'm not sure whether I even want to know what else might have been going on, what else might have happened. What I do know is that when I think back to those years, I'm swept away by a wave of grief and anxiety.
I've been talking a lot to my closest friends lately about the nature of my relationships. It's anything but coincidence that I do not have a close girlfriend who lives close enough to be a part of my daily life. I have a couple who live within driving distance, but such is the nature of life and metropolitan suburbia that we rarely see each other and mostly settle for chatting on the phone.
The three girlfriends who are currently my most intimate friends? The closest lives an hour away--forty-five minutes if there aren't cops around--and the other two lives states away. One I've only seen face to face once in our friendship. The other I haven't seen in fifteen years.
It's safer that way, you see. Let someone be intimately close AND be a part of your daily life and the emotional risk becomes too great. If something goes awry in the friendship or someone moves, there's a deeper loss. And even then, be careful what you say. Be careful just how much of your naked, raw, and oh-so-tender inner self you let anyone see. Keep everyone at an arm's length, for protection.
MTL is the first person I've let all the way in.
I knew it would be a risk. I knew that if I was going to let him in at all, it would have to be all the way. All or nothing. He wasn't going to settle for less. And deep down, I didn't want to either.
I didn't know how much of a risk it would be. I didn't know how unprepared I am, from a lifetime of walls and numbing myself down and disconnecting myself emotionally, for both the joy and the pain. Because it turns out that when you love someone enough to let them all the way in, everything becomes brighter and stronger and sharper. It means when I hurt him and he hurts me, whether intentional or otherwise, the pain is agony. It also means that the joy is bigger and deeper. Thankfully, the joy far outweighs the pain and is far more common, but...
Here's where I'm flung back to that five year old self. Here's where I sit and realize that deep down, despite everything, I still don't believe I'm deserving of love and joy. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I keep waiting for him to wake up one day, realize that I'm not worth it, and walk away.
Because deep down that little girl is huddled in a corner, whispering that everyone leaves. And they leave because that is what she deserves.
I don't know how to talk to her. I don't know how to face her pain. I don't even know all the reasons she's there.
sit quiet in your corner
veiled in plain sight
shield yourself from
who might see what's there inside
know what's inside
put on all that armor
fend off every look
protect yourself from
that might break through to your heart
might break your heart
it's pain that teaches you to hide
fear that teaches you to run
never reaching out
never reaching in
always in flight from the unknown
that which you can't control
who tore out your heart so long ago
and told you you'd never be enough
for this world
who made you crawl into
the walls of your own mind
the armor of your own skin
the shield of invisibility
for those without the will to see
and they never get to know
this little girl
with a heart full of possibilities
and now you're grown
and still hiding
still building walls
and donning armor
only allowing those you choose
to climb over
and into your world
with a heart full of pain
3 years ago