From the Fast Life (23 July)
In second grade, I was excited about a new book I had gotten and was reading it to an adult. Partway through, the adult sighed in exasperation and said, "Your voice is SO BORING. Hurry up!" I didn't feel like reading anymore. I felt like crying. Obediently, I finished the book, but my chest and throat hurt for a long time.
Around the same age, I was at a store and caught a relative shoplifting. I pointed out that this was wrong. The relative tried rationalizing it with the cheap price of the item. I again pointed out that it was wrong and God did not want us to steal. The relative put the item back but not before huffing in annoyance and saying, "Why do you have to be such a goodie-goodie?" The words made me feel singled out and alone.
As a teenager, I was sent to a government state leadership event to represent my county. In one of the meetings, I misunderstood an assignment and began delivering the wrong type of message to a group of a hundred people or so. I only got through about a minute when an older woman sitting among the panel angrily interrupted me with "That's enough, young lady!" I was extremely embarrassed and then realized she thought I was mocking the organization's agenda. Regardless of the abrupt end to my part, I still had to stay up on the stage through the other participants' performances. After the segment was over, I returned to my seat in the audience humiliated. I stayed quiet for the rest of the weekend's events and relegated myself to a quieter role as a reporter.
There are countless times when I was either chastised for talking or scared into silence. Maybe it was due to the impressionable age I was when these types of experiences began or maybe it was due to the personality I came to earth with, but all my life, I've unconsciously gathered experiences to fortify the thesis that I am a burden to people when I speak. I am boring. I am self-righteous. I am a threat. So, I tend to clam up about things that matter to me. Silly, huh? And yet, there it is. (Is this surprising considering how much I jabber on and on sometimes?)
As a result, I have a hard time gauging when is an appropriate time to speak up (I'm sure this doesn't surprise you), and it leaves me open to experiencing negative feedback resulting in -yep- me shrinking back into my shell.
Only recently, did I realize how much this "burden" belief has affected my ability to make and keep friendships thus far. You know the feeling you get when you bottle things inside for a long time? Can you imagine what it feels like to keep it inside for... ever? The result would be that no one really knows you, and truly, they wouldn't because you wouldn't have given them the chance. It doesn't matter that really you were doing others a favor by trying to not be a burden.
That I rarely open up probably comes as no surprise. Sometimes, I make a joke, share an embarrassing story, or offer some insight (really, there is very little I wouldn't do for a laugh or a really interesting conversation), but my real thoughts, the ones that matter, are like the random bobby pins lost underneath the fluffy scrunchies and hair-tangled brushes of my mental caboodle, hidden in corners and camouflaged against the black and purple plastic. When someone gets too close to a bobby pin, I pull out a banana comb and yell, "Look! My boobs are sagging!" to distract them. (I'll drop the caboodles analogy now, but you know what I mean.)
When I do momentarily open up, it is because I either feel like I am going to explode or I am testing out the theory that "I might be an ok person after all." A lot of times, this backfires. Maybe I choose the wrong people to share with or the wrong time to share or even the wrong thing to share. Intellectually, there are a lot of sensible explanations, nevertheless, it is my emotions that tend to win with "you should keep quiet, especially about things that matter to you."
So, if you've ever found me "intimidating," "unapproachable," or "nice, but hard to figure out," now you know why. In a nutshell, I'm just protecting myself.