About"Um, I'm thinking . . . that a lot of my internal conflict and malaise comes from the tension between the life I ACTUALLY want to live, and the stories I'd love to be able to tell?"
Because I think we’ve reached our quota.
I am over. This. Shit.
How was I so stupid? This is a few years out now, but I just had this revelation after watching the documentary. It was never really a real thing, was it? And it never was going to be. I was just a means to an end. And then I expired.
I understand, now. Finally.
What a strange feeling, to realize I meant nothing to someone who gave me so much of themselves for so long.
Life is weird.
“Young Adam was always an obedient child. Something in him shrank from violence, from contention, from the silent shrieking tensions that can rip at a house. He contributed to the quiet he wished for by offering no violence, no contention, and to do this he had to retire into secretness. He covered his life with a veil of vagueness, while behind his quiet eyes a rich full life went on. This did not protect him from assault but it allowed him immunity.”
I transcribed these words from a favorite novel, “East of Eden”, with mechanical pencil onto the wall of my room, in the very farthest corner of my closet. We would be painting my room the next day. I dared myself to do this; to see if I would be found out before deep burgundy paint was slathered onto the walls.
No matter how obvious I thought I might be to the outside world, this was my deepest secret. I hadn’t been able to leave a 10-block radius of my home, and then sometimes not leave my house, and then sometimes not my room, going on three years. This terror had been growing, festering from deep inside of me from my earliest memories. I knew the day would come but I did my best to carry on a normal life. Then one day I decided to stay home. I stayed home for seven years.
On the weekdays, my alarm was set for 3:24, 3:42, 4:02, 4:12, and 4:24am. I was to my job, which was seven blocks away from my house, by 5:00am. The drive was short, dark, quiet. I closed myself in my office from 5:00am to 12:00pm. I drove home during the midday lull. The only people I had to encounter were people sitting at bus stops, gas station attendants, joggers and their dogs.
I always returned to an empty house. But still, the daylight was terrifying. In the .09 miles from my office to my room, the terror that gripped me was so consuming I found myself in tears by the time I locked my bedroom door behind me.
The afternoons were the best time to inspect my skin and hair. I had a small window in my room that provided a warm afternoon light. I constantly felt filthy, covered in marks and scars, dots and bruises, saw pieces of hair that I was convinced carried something dangerous or set my body off balance. I would inspect and pick, pull and groom, for hours. I would take every bit of skin and hair I had removed and put them in a tissue and take it to the outside garbage bin, convinced they carried something horrible and I was unsafe with them in my presence.
The sound of the cars passing, or an engine revving, or the garage door opening, induced panic. It meant I was no longer alone. That someone would be home, and I was convinced I could hear their thoughts, about why I was still in my room or what I was doing while in there. Or even worse, that they would not think of me at all. That I had just dissolved into a ghost in my small room at the back of the house and maybe they didn’t even remember I was there or ever had been.
On brave days I would walk down to the corner market. I would buy three things: a can of tuna fish, a small pack of red licorice, and a small bottle of water. I had decided that these were “safe” foods and this was my diet almost entirely for the first three years of my self-confinement.
I longed for salt air, sand, and sea.
I longed for the feeling of someone’s arms around me.
I remembered being 19 and the very last time I was the passenger in a car, or on a bus. I remembered what it was like to cross the river and go downtown. I had almost forgotten the rush of emotions I would feel at hearing or performing live music. I missed the way your stomach drops as an elevator goes up, up, up.
I realized I would never kiss anyone or be kissed again. I realized I would never have children. I could never share space with someone or be a part of a life that didn’t exist outside of my room. I started reading websites for women who weren’t able to have children and began preparing myself for a life where I would never know what it would be like to be a mother. I imagined what kind of husband I might have had if things had worked out differently for me.
I spent hours planning what to do the day I would be forced to move. I became obsessed with this thought and built elaborate schemes to convince my family to never sell the house and to always let me live there.
I wished I would develop a horrible illness that required me to have round-the-clock care so no one could question why I couldn’t make the birthday party, or the wedding, or never brought a boyfriend home. Illness and physical pain, premature death and suffering seemed like the most probable escape from living in a world that terrified me.
One day I found a bird on the walkway leading up to our front steps. He was dead and rotting. I picked him up and placed him out of sight, off to the side underneath a birch tree. I would touch him every day as he decomposed and wondered if I would contract a fatal strain of a virus. I inspected my skin and temperature, eyes, and tongue, constantly for weeks following this while simultaneously reading medical websites to see if any symptoms had developed.
The world was too much. There were too many people that had hurt me, and that could hurt me. Noises caused surges of despair, being touched unexpectedly caused bile to rise in my throat. I had violent, horrifying dreams every night. I had obsessive, damning thoughts every waking second that took up residency in my mind which left no room for anything else in life. I practiced believing that this life I had, would be all I ever had. The little glimpses of happiness I had from memories would fade and then I would have nothing but my four walls, and soon the one bit of honesty, my last cry for help, would be painted over and only I would know it was there.
I was always an obedient child. Something in me shrank from violence, from contention, from the silent shrieking tensions that can rip at a house. I contributed to the quiet I wished for by offering no violence, no contention, and to do this I had to retire into secretness. I covered my life with a veil of vagueness, while behind my quiet eyes a rich full life went on. This did not protect me from assault but it allowed me immunity.
- - - - - - - - - -
You all were my only connection to the outside world. I don’t know if I’ve ever thanked you. So, thank you.
Just having one of those days where I question everything about my life and choices and feel hopeless about ever being happy.