It’s three in the morning, and the rain drums quietly on the roof. I walk ponderously between sleep and wakefulness, going through frustrated dreamlike states of loneliness. Different people are shown to me, and my mind expresses a backward desire for being reached out to by them. Blames them for not knowing that I’m alone, frustrated and needing to be seen and loved. My mind proposes strategy after strategy, in its unending helpfulness. This is my primary way of dealing with loneliness: Planning. I stumble into one dead end after another “Maybe if I wrote this person, in this way…” or “Maybe if I said this when I meet that person…” but they all fall short. I know I will be a different person when the time for plan-execution arrives, and what I feel is happening right now.
The raw feeling is not one of failed planning though. The feeling is that of a physical weight on my chest, and the sensation of an iron mask on my face. It has no symbolism, it’s just that physical sensation. I can try to tease it apart with an analytical scalpel. Turning it into words and concepts, but I already have clear primal understanding of what is going on. It is the sensation of being alone, and it feels wrong. I am in my bed alone, and it doesn’t feel right, and my body is reaching out. My brain tries to help, asking “What if I did this?” but my body is no more advanced than when I was ten years old and missed my parents. Through years of suppression I have forgotten how to physically react to it, so I simply lie there and stare into the darkness like so many insomniacs before me.
My body insists that something is wrong, the pressure remains on my chest, urging me to do something. My mind goes through scenarios and solutions, propositions of what I could do differently. How I can build to protect myself from this feeling.
But something deeper is wrong, because I can write this for everyone, but not to anyone. There is no single person I feel comfortable reaching out to. There is no one that can know this. Because no one has the keys to the inner sanctum of my cathedral. The doors are open, and the cold stone floors and massive pillars are on display. You’re expected to talk in hushed tones, but no one even knows of that room five stories below, where a heart beats. And I don’t blame them, because it is hidden away with great care; not open to tourists. The most you will get is a picture on a post card.
I have built my relations with my strength, with my can-do with my know-how. I thrive in being alone most of the time, and I consider emotional outbursts and loneliness to be weaknesses. When people are out of control I mostly react to it with a controlled caring facade, but I’m rarely able to hide my patronising disgust. If their lack of control hurts me or ends up asking me to change, a cold gate will immediately slam in their face. Unfairness cannot be tolerated after all. This disgust is also at myself obviously, so I try to prove that I am sensitive, by exposing that which seems sensitive, rather than exposing that which is sensitive. I tell the story of that which resembles openness, rather than tell the reality of that which needs to be seen.
I was surprised when I learned what the word vulnerability meant. I thought it meant being hurt and in a state where you should be hiding. A state where people could easily utterly destroy you in case they saw your moment of weakness. I saw it as being temporarily weak, and open to attack. This is partially true, but only when seen from the narrow point of view of the fighter. I only learned very late in life that it meant: Letting someone in to a place where they can hurt you… Or heal you. It struck me as such a surprise that this was the meaning. To give someone the keys to do either. Admitting to those around you when they are in a position where you are easily hurt by them. Doing this in the context of a fight is suicide, doing this in the context of love is required. If the keys are never given, you will never be hurt and never be healed.
A few months ago I am sitting in the opening circle of a contact improv class. People are sharing how they feel mentally, emotionally and physically. A more than average number go into crying and hugging sessions, sharing various diagnosis’ with the group. When it comes to me I say (in a feat of classical me-ness): “I feel emotionally stable and physically strong”. It’s a pun on all of their pain of course, and it’s funny enough to illicit laughs from the group. It’s not funny enough to stop anyone from crying. I have the feeling that some wiser person sits in such a group, looking at me, knowing what is happening. And in that persons wise kindness it feels sorry for me. But at that moment I’m hard and blind.
I pay for it in the middle of the night of course, when there is no one to reach out to. When my mind’s go-to reaction is strategic planning on what I could say or do to make someone reach out to me. At all cost I want to avoid being vulnerable to the specific someones. To all those people who holds the keys to my heart without knowing it. It’s so easy for me to blame them for not reaching out, to enter into a state of bitterness, or regret at my own failings to share. But the truth is that I didn’t tell them. I just left the keys at their place. Like that friend who knows how to fold the origami birds. Who always makes them from a random scrap of paper and leaves them on your table. You keep them for a little while, but then just throw them away.
In my fear of vulnerability, I made it clear to the world that it shouldn’t come close. Don’t piss in my cathedral, don’t even talk. Don’t even think about crossing the velvet rope that leads into the basement. Because to me vulnerability means being hurt, and not healed.
I’m not fixed in this obviously, I could make it seem so. I could make this out to be a “story of me as I was” but that would utterly defy the point. I don’t write this to be seen either, I don’t write it as an invitation into my cathedral; that place is closed off to the public still. This is me, as I am, I’m ok with that.
I write this because in my writing the most common feedback I have gotten is “I feel less alone in my feeling”. I write to remind myself to be there when someone reaches out to me in their loneliness at three in the morning. Because if they dare to do this, maybe I will be inspired by their bravery and do the same some day. For now I’ll just go back to bed.