Soooooo, last night I realized something. (Cue the drumroll!) I think I spend my life as a 7-year-old. Ish. 7-ISH, really. But in that general vicinity.
I’ve written ad nauseam about childhood bullshit, so I’m going to keep this as short as possible:
Smart kid. Really smart. REALLY smart.
Knowing, even as a kid, that I was different. I did not fit in with my peers at ALL. (And not even the best parenting can stop all awareness of one’s own circus-freak-ness.)
Starting school – private school, zero tolerance for bullying and shitty behavior.
Transferred to a public school – not so much with the zero tolerance rule = lots of bullying and shitty behavior.
No learned skills for dealing with the bullying and shitty behavior (due in large part to aforementioned “differentness”) = spending a lot of time wishing to be left alone, but getting bullied mercilessly instead.
Wishing desperately to fit in – to be thinner, blonder, more affluent, more self-confident, more popular. To be anything but different.
Knowing that the only people in my corner were the adults, which in turn, made things worse. It made me MORE different and led to all kinds of “teacher’s pet” crap.
Knowing that if I pissed off the adults, I was REALLY up a creek.
Bullying got so bad that Mom pulled me out and homeschooled me.
Started college at 14.
Spent a year on the sidelines, still insecure, watching the groups around me.
Deciding to become someone else – I spent a year watching the “popular” girls in the dance dept (my major at the time), analyzing power dynamics, clothing choices, conversation topics, attitudes, etc. (Me and Jane Goodall, man. We are SOUL SISTERS, ok? LOL)
Showing up the year I turned 16 as a WHOLE DIFFERENT PERSON: I became my own avatar.
WDPerson is wildly succesful: liked, pretty, popular . . . also kind of mean, but I DID NOT CARE, because you know, LIKED, PRETTY, POPULAR.
WDP sticks around, gets nicer, but otherwise stays pretty much the same.
WDP has been around for more than half my life now. I’m 33. I’ve been WDP Marste for longer than I’ve been Marste. Man, THAT’S weird to think about. I don’t know how NOT to be that person anymore. And honestly, I don’t even know how or if Marste is any different from WDP.
But inside, I am still 7 years old. I still spend my life in abject terror (and that is NOT drama – there are not words strong enough to describe the level of that fear) that people only like WDP, that if they really knew me, they would laugh and point and confirm all over again how different and unloveable I really am. I eat and drink to squash that terror. I eat and I drink because that 7-year-old is anxious ALL THE TIME, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I eat and drink because that 7-year-old is struggling against being wrapped up tight and stashed in the closet, even though she scared to DEATH of what would happen if she came out.
It seems funny, because everybody likes me. I mean, I’m sure there are individuals who don’t like me after getting to know me (not in an insecure way, just that not everyone likes everyone), but on a purely superficial, see-you-at-work, hang-out-in-groups level, everybody likes me. I have worked damn hard in my life to make that happen. But on the flip side, no one likes me – they like the persona I’ve constructed. No one actually knows me.
And that in turn, informes my WHOLE FREAKING LIFE.
If I eat compulsively, I don’t have to feel the 7-year-old: not her anxiety or her constant whispering (man, THAT sounds horror-movie psycho, doesn’t it?). If I stay fat, I can say that it’s the reason I don’t date (not much, and almost never seriously). If I stay busy, I don’t have to have close friends who might catch me in an unguarded moment and glimpse the 7-year-old circus freak. If I excel at my job, then those in authority will never be unhappy with me (hello, teachers!). When those in authority ARE unhappy with me (or even just offering genuinely constructive feedback), I panic, I get flustered, I get angry: I AM DOING MY BEST, CAN’T YOU SEE THAT? YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO BE IN MY CORNER, GODDAMMIT!! WHY ARE YOU TAKING AWAY THE ONE THING I AM GOOD AT?!
That persona informs EVERYTHING. People are shocked when I tell them that I am an introvert. They’re incredulous when I admit that I’m almost cripplingly shy. Because see, those are things about ME. But WDP can walk into a room and work it like a public relations professional. (I figured I’d better clarify what KIND of professional there, LOL.) Most of the time, anyway. Sometimes the anxious 7-year-old wins, and I spend half an hour at the party, cowering in the corner, trying to bully myself (yes, I see the irony) into socializing before making an almost panicked break for the door.
No fucking wonder I’m always so tired. It’s not a sleep issue. I’m maintaining a fucking PERSONA 24/7. It’s exhausting. No wonder I go home from work and don’t want to see anyone after: when I’m home by myself I don’t have to maintain that performance. But then, that’s when I have to deal with the anxious 7-year-old, which is also exhausting.
So. Right now I don’t have any non-depressing way to end this post. So I’m just going to call it a day and go do some of those damn Geneen Roth exercises. (Which, supposedly, will eventually help.)