I know what makes her tick. I know how she is, and better yet, who she is. And I know all her secrets and what she did to keep them. How she locked them away in a box for years, and kept the key just beyond her own reach.
We’ve always been close. Pushing her out the door each day takes all the strength I have. But resisting her familiar charms helps me gather and sort out my true self instead, the only self I was meant to be.
In letting her go, I let go of her burdensome habits. No more quiet tip-toe up the stairs, shutting the bathroom door, knees to the floor.
Still, when I feel her panic creeping, a few smaller habits return. Sometimes, her leg shakes and she twirls her hair, pulling a long piece around her cheek and into her mouth, turning it on her tongue, creating a wet and pointy tip. Her fingers get in there too. Her nails, stubby nubs. Always something in her mouth. Her mouth remains the vessel that bears her rolling waves of worry and cope.
Before…before now, I always knew when she was empty, void. And when she was full, stuffed. Empty, hungry. Full, packed. And, as it was, I always knew the very moment the fullness was just too much. When she wanted, more than anything else, the blessed emptiness back.
Today…today she is still a wild one, that one. She’s a do anything kind of girl. Eyes twinkling and crazy and fun. Hair whipping around on the dance floor. Wiggling, moving. And she’s touchy, too. She loves gripping the sinewy muscles of his strong arms housed inside soft fabric, and she delights in wrapping her own around his solid, tree trunk waist. She loves to laugh until her belly aches and tears stream down her face.
When she makes fun of herself, the laughter gives her life, and it makes others rejoice and feel alive too, even when it steals all the breath she has, along with heavy chunks of her being. And her words, her words are delivered quick and wicked and sharp. She still covets the center, pulls it in, craves it. The center is her wheelhouse when she wants it to be. The center of the Universe is where she belongs until the tragic moment it isn’t. Until it is all just too much to handle, until it tips too heavy and she is just too much. That moment always comes when she seeks to hide from the world, to conceal herself, again.
For her it has always been all or nothing. Feast or famine.
The ebb and flow of her needs, the in and out game she played, is how I know her best. Back then, she lived her life nice, then mean, then apologetic. She was beautiful, then ugly. Calm, then chaotic. A swinging pendulum of different people. A rolling coaster of twisting and turning emotions, first up, then down, swiftly looping back to the ground.
Her way was always to expand, then shrink. A benign middle place was never comfortable or natural.
In private, she angered quickly and often. Lashing out, vicious. Sometimes she exploded. She punched things, like pillows and walls, and she stewed, resenting. Her rage bubbled up and spilled over like a boiling pot of water, like fiery, red sauce burning and popping on the stove. Anger foul smelling, setting off alarms.
Her people would whisk in then back out, giving her room to simmer down, not knowing how to handle it, because boy did she make a mess. She held grudges. And her brow grew more furrowed year after passing year. Her throat raw, then sore. She hated all that she could not, did not articulate. And deep inside, she railed against that mother-fucker who put his hands on her when she was so little. So little she was. Just a little girl in a dirty sundress with little sandals on her little feet and long hair whipping in the warm wind behind her as she ran away.
She runs from him to this day.
She’s writing a memoir. A memoir in moments. It’s about someone who almost broke, someone who brought herself to the surface. But it’s also about everything that pushed her under, the heady stuff that filled her lungs. It’s about the moments that tried to kill her spirit, and the ones that shaped her life. And the words themselves, those binding words, if truth be told, are both killing and shaping her life now, as they pour out.
It could be the story of any girl, any woman, if you think about it. What haven’t we shared, you and I, if not some of it?
And amid her fits and bits of anger, and wildness, and sweetness, and calmness, she quietly endured. The moments in between, when she felt in control, she went about her business. She married, and had babies, and worked, and loved, and laughed, and showed the version of herself she wanted you to see. Please understand, (even if you do not understand anything else about her), that she tried to stay quiet. She stuffed it down to keep it from seeping out. She worked to keep that big, fragile bubble from breaking, to keep you from being uncomfortable. She wanted to keep you laughing.
When you see her out there in the world, be kind. Know that she’s worried. This past year, she’s dumped her story out onto pages, and the whole thing makes her anxious. Maybe, by now, you’ve heard enough. Maybe you’re tired of hearing about it. Maybe it’s straight up boring, and maybe she needs to give the damn subject of her “journey” a rest already. I know she feels this way, because I know her well.
But then…then, there is this: her favorite children’s book, The Velveteen Rabbit, one that keeps hopping in and out of her thoughts. A story about a cherished toy rabbit, one so dearly loved by a child – indeed loved enough to become Real. And without truly recognizing the path she is treading upon, (all this writing, and talking, and thinking and revealing), she knows in her soul that what she is really doing is trying to love herself closer to Real. Neither stuffed, nor empty. And she wants to continue telling her story no matter the cost. Because gleaning clarity by burying big hurts under mounds of candor (ones miraculously shaped like steps for her tender feet to climb), is what she must do to sustain her authentic self.
If you see her…just smile. She’s trying not to worry so much about what you will think as she steadily makes her way closer to Real. She’s still figuring things out, such as where to go from here. She’s looking for ways to remain on the surface, with you.
Last year, she sliced herself open for the world to see – exposing both the pain and the joy of her daring escape from that dusty, old box she kept locked upon a shelf, hidden from the world.
When you see her spitting out her fear, and coughing out her truth, and gasping for air, know that she will surely make it.
Know it, just as I knew it, the moment I felt her reaching for the key.