Our life experiences play an enormous part in the way we think and behave. We learn from them and prepare ourselves for future experiences that challenge our sense of self, our belief systems, and our wellbeing in its entirety. When we get hurt, we learn to protect ourselves so that nothing and nobody can touch us again. And yet it proves to be both a blessing and a curse.
Yesterday someone said to me, “You’ve changed a lot over the last couple of months… You’ve gone back into your shell and closed yourself off again… You’ve become so serious, like you don’t know how to laugh anymore…You just seem so SAD all the time!” This was coming from someone whom I’ve known for about eight years and only started keeping in touch with again at the beginning of the year, after a five-year hiatus. That there was a five-year hiatus is reason enough to take that claim with pinch of salt. That the claim actually seemed to strike a chord somewhere in my system is reason enough to take it seriously to a certain degree. Fortunately, I was able to justify some of it.
It’s true that I don’t talk much to people these days, except when I’m at work; in fact, it’s probably my overly articulate and exceedingly verbal job that has robbed me of the energy and patience to talk to anyone outside of work (texts and IMs notwithstanding), except the closest people to me, the number of which I can count on one hand. And my inability to laugh when people say the stupidest things may very well be mistaken for seriousness. And it’s true that when something bad happens I shut down and crawl under a rock until I’ve recovered, and shut everyone else out. But I don’t think I’m ‘SAD all the time’; there just isn’t anything to be wildly ecstatic about. And yet this appears to be a complete change of character altogether in others’ eyes.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve thought a lot about things that have been said to me about not being myself in certain circumstances and around certain people. And even though I conceded that they probably had good reason to think so, I thought that at the very core of it all, I couldn’t not have been myself, because I don’t know how to be any other way. But then at one point someone asked, “Is there something you’re running away from?” And then the reality, that had become such a deeply-ingrained part of my life and who I am that I was barely conscious of it, resurfaced: I was running away from the possibility of getting hurt again.
Which makes me a walking contradiction.
We are well aware of the risks we have to take when we want something. We know what we stand to lose, we know we could end up in dark places, but we also know what we stand to gain if we get past all that; the pain is merely a lesson to be learnt along the way, a lesson that we discover was worth learning when the pain is over and we’ve gotten what we want or when we come out of that dark place. So what is the point of running away, if it only takes us farther from what we’re trying to reach? That guard we put up, coupled with our natural instinct to fend for ourselves, goes against everything we’ve been working for and only makes everything worse than it already is.
So why can’t we let our guard down? If in the end we do get yet another (proverbial) slap in the face we know that we got into this completely of our own accord and there’s no one to blame except ourselves, so why are we subconsciously stopping ourselves from trying for what we want and subsequently repelling everyone else? We know that in the end our hearts will win over our heads and we’ll probably do it anyway, but maybe it’s just the task of patching up that heart all over again, and the pain that comes with it, that keeps pulling us back one every three steps. Maybe it’s the terror of opening up only to have it thrown back in our faces like all the other times we tried.
I know what I want when I want it. I know that in the end I’ll throw everything away just to take that risk all over again. And yet I know that if I lose everything, I will never be able do it anymore.
So I’m a walking contradiction. A stupid, stubborn, walking contradiction. And probably a bit of a hypocrite.