Thursday, September 4, 2014

an impression of you

i often think about appearances. how revealing and deceptive, confounding and illuminating they can be. what do you see here? what did my mother, taking this photo, see? what did Lola, Ian and Dakota see as they looked at us? 

i have no idea how the internets sees me. i know that i experience social media increasingly more awkwardly as the years move further away from the short time when blogging was a true community of friends, when everyone commented on everyone's blogs and there was only the unpleasant, far off whiffs of social climbing and positioning that began encroaching into the town hall. i often hear that what most online interaction boils down to shouldn't be taken personally. but of course, that is mostly posturing, human beings- even the adult of the species- experience life personally, and attempting to move away from that, while productive and healthy, is just that, an attempt, not our natural state, at least not at this time in our evolution. and like most things in this strange world, there are all kinds of shades of gray. if a cashier snaps at me, i don't take it personally. if that cashier snaps at me again, i still won't. but if that same cashier talks politely and calmly to the customers in front of and after me, and snaps at only me- then yes. i take it personally- to a degree. i take it as directed at me specifically, but i don't take responsibility for it, as i did in my twenties, i don't feel that some inherent flaw with myself has intruded into life once again and is causing this frizzy haired cashier with two inch long nails and thin lips to take a particular dislike to me. now, i understand that probably, i look like her best friend in college who stole her boyfriend, or she doesn't approve of the way i'm letting my daughter dance in the aisle. whatever it is, it's hers. she can own it, dance with it, tap it with her long thick nails, but she can't make me hold it. i teach my children about this. your whole life, people will ask you to own things that aren't yours. people are burdened. they want to unburden. don't take those packages, they aren't yours. 

in my twenties, i once went around asking everyone i knew very well what they had thought about me before they knew me. i insisted they tell the truth, and after enough haranguing, i got some fascinating answers- some that made me want to cry. i found that a few people had all thought i seemed unfriendly, unapproachable, while others thought the exact opposite, that i appeared ditzy, overly excitable, shallow. i was very blonde, thin and into wearing revealing outfits in my twenties, and my insecurities affected my personality more than i realized. i had cultivated a persona of silliness long ago in order to both relieve my own sadness and in order to prevent other people from shying away from the heaviness i lived with. i am a naturally very ridiculous person in some ways, and so this persona was only fake in so much as the duration- i wasn't quite that silly, quite that often. the most striking response i got was from a close girlfriend who used to not like me. 

' What did you think about me, back then? ' I asked her.

' Oh you just seemed so bitchy. Like you always wore cute outfits and drove around in your white car all smiling and happy.  ' 

' ???? ' I was dumbstruck. This time in my life she was referring to was my late teens and early twenties, a time that was incredibly burdened by trauma from my childhood, PTSD, a constantly stressful relationship, panic attacks and zero money. I worked so, so hard for every ounce of happiness or freedom i experienced, but my friend and her friends who had thought i was a bitch at the time didn't know or care to know. It's what they saw when they looked at the picture.

online these impressions are even stranger because as we all know and discuss, you can manipulate your image with more ease and gusto online, or in letters, than in person. there are no eyebrow arches to give your true feelings away, no hand gestures, no blurting things out before you can think, no unfiltered faces in unflattering light ( unless you are lena dunham, god bless her. obsessed. ) it's the classic American experience in many ways, head West and re-create your life, build a new town that looks how you want it to, and tell your friends what you want them to know. i have struggled with this on Flux, being a purist with truth telling, i tend to self flagellate if i notice i am fudging, and expose myself. so if i posted two blog posts that were cheerful and happy stories but life at home was actually sad and hard, i'd post a blog post so mother fucking depressing raw and real you'd question if i needed comments or shock therapy. ( probably both ) since childhood i have liked to shock people but only with the truth. i don't like to create to shock, but i do like to expose to shock. i enjoy the sensation of fat, bold truth popping in someone's face as they try to look away. 


what i found out over the last four years was that crafting a 'brand' out of myself was not possible. i literally could not do it, and i did try. if i could make buckets of money doing that, and stay home with my kids and write my novel? hell yes! but i couldn't do it. i'm not constant enough, as a person or a blog. that's the entire intention behind this place, what i started with, the idea that i would make myself come here and tell the truth to the best of my ability about my life. and the truth? it's always changing. it's not a brand. 

what i see when i look at that picture up there are pockets of words that hold profound meaning for me.
i see the words:


at the time this picture was taken Mr. Curry had been sick a year, and it wasn't getting better. it was grueling, psychologically and physically, and i felt the weight of our entire family was on my shoulders, the responsibility to keep each person emotionally  and physically cared for, to keep them aware of myself as anchor…. and then i keep looking, and it is just as memory does for me as i look back, like remembering childbirth, yes i remember the pain, the suffering, the anger, confusion, doubt, the exhaustion, but look at the leaves on those trees, the light all around us, the entire season of Fall going to sleep in the brimming light of Winter cresting across the breeze, the engagement of our family resting in a moment of grace and love, the running i had begun tentatively doing that was bringing my body back to life, the enormous cheesy smile that Ever had all day, the embrace of Mr. Curry's arms and how for that day, the pilot light of his soul was able to escape the jail of his brain, and what do i see? i see life. human life. 

“When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls all silver'd o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer's green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.” 
― William ShakespeareShakespeare's Sonnets

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