52. In a Sense

“It’s so easy to sing it to a crowd, but it’s so hard my love, to say it to you out loud.”

‘No Light, No Light’ by Florence and the Machine

I very often mumble or trip over my words when I’m talking, or say something that’s immediately mortifying. For a society that builds its socialising around alcohol, it has taken me decades to learn surprisingly little, except to not even try again. Pubs are not for me. Deep friendships have died within a short conversation, and for months I have dissected the interaction until I know not what is true and actually took place, or what I thought did happen. I find it so difficult to socialise in a group, so generally stick with one-to-one interactions or activities like craft classes or concerts where talking is not a requirement.

Yet, when I write, I have no hand-wringing fear of regret. I’ve always freely given myself in poems that were spoken in assemblies or sung as lyrics. Long-forgotten beaus with my love letters kept in shoeboxes for years. Twitter/texting conversations with the exact same content that would be in my handwritten diary – that is if I didn’t regularly destroy all paper traces of my thoughts.

An imagined intended audience, whether there or not, lifts the writing over an invisible barrier and releases it. Much of the time, it is an entirely fictitious stranger inside my own head. The permanence is liberating. I’ll never know a fraction of the people who’ve read or listened to things I’ve written, or their opinions about it.

I still cringe over something trivial I said to someone years ago, who no longer remembers my name, but not think twice about writing about a raw, desperate moment for anyone to read.

I’m secure, self-aware and know myself well enough to be receptive and grateful for feedback from immediate family and friends, but I wouldn’t censor my writing for them, like I try to do so often verbally and fail. But I want to respond, not react. Writing is way more comfortable a way of relating to others than talking. It is not the curation of a persona, but rather a way to sort out the jumble into a list of organised words, to communicate more effectively.

I’ve been told I can act, and take direction, but I wouldn’t voluntarily view any recordings until it was long over, if ever. I do dance like no-one’s watching, and they may very well be covertly filming it, but I’d never want to see it.

My screen name is the muddle inside my own head. When I’m upset, my head is a shed.

I know exactly why I do this and I’m working on it. Judgement, rejection, awkwardness, acceptance. The claustrophobia of crowds; to absorb and filter their emotions if I am expected to try to find common ground. I cannot fit into the space allocated to me. It drains me. Inexplicable crying at gigs. I’m invisible and rarely myself. Vulnerability and the possibility of meaningful connection gets easier with fewer people around me.

Give me a heads-up on how you are, so I can prepare and tune in. Surprise me with a curveball and I may be so immediately overwhelmed that I recoil and need to retreat with a quick exit. A permanent one if I find out someone did this on purpose because I need to learn not to be “so sensitive and take things so personally.” I might be crushed easily, but I don’t need to be fixed because I am not broken. I have a friend who recognises this; when I need to “de-stress my distress.” Time alone and my batteries recharge, that is if I’m not ruminating on some stupid thing I’ve said.

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