Thursday, August 1, 2013

MISSION SEVEN: Identification

The greatest mind blow one can receive on the other side of treatment is that life is much more than you thought it was; or rather, it could be much bigger than you previously believed. The second "Holy Moses" moment is the epiphany that you are not at all who you thought you were. The presentation you had previously displayed, the identity you once thought was your own, which you had so carefully crafted to protect your inner frailties, was in fact nothing but a performance. One Hell of a grand performance. Thus, when the actual You-- the one who had been painstakingly encapsulated and left to lie dormant-- starts to unfurl and reveal herself to you... There are no words. I could perhaps present the sensation to you in song, The Red Hot Chili Peppers rendition of Rollercoaster of Love-- "You give me that funny feeling in my tummy"-- but I will have to do my best with the following, feeble-minded text.

If there were one word I could use to describe my pre-treatment persona, it would be “Resilient.” If I had three words, “Resilient as f*ck!” The subconscious nerve that was somehow aware of the imbalance in my system directed my brain to compensate for its weaknesses almost from birth. I knew something was “off”; I self-protected with steadfast personal conditioning. Thus, the public Meredith was a rock-steady, reliable, strong-but-silent type. I was a stubborn bull in a polo shirt. A stubborn bull-dozer, more like. I would just put this Bitch into high gear and go. Running a tight ship on a quickly sinking vessel, I suppose I thought I could make it through the Bermuda Triangle-- before submerging into its perplexing vortex-- if I just sped like Hell. Well, we all know how the "full steam ahead" plan worked out for the Titanic. 

For a time, I was indefatigable. School, homework, good grades: check. Family matters, mediation, dutiful daughter: check. Patience, loyalty, just stay calm: check. Hobby after hobby after hobby: check. I held together the little, screaming Munch man inside me by promoting an outwardly placid demeanor. It was a "fake it til' ya make it" scenario. In the end, it wasn’t the valiant racing around, my hyperactive attempts to craft a rich outer life, or my skillful indulgence in or distraction from my chaotically toxic inner life, that caused my eventual collapse and total exhaustion. It was [holding-myself-together] that did it. Big, tight , uncomfortable squeeeeeeeze. Lying to myself that I was OK, that it would "all be all right," that if I just held on a little longer, I could make it-- these were the things that broke me down, for they were fruitless attempts to counteract my very nature. 

The identity that I had chosen was a heavy one to bear. I became who I thought I needed to be to survive. The result was a highly imaginative girl with obscene ambition and very poor interpersonal skills. To protect my inner fortress of “stay calm, stay calm,” I kept everyone at arm’s distance. I socialized, I had friends, I could even be hilarious; but so often I heard the sentence-- “You’re so mysterious...” Really? I’m pretty sure I’m just quiet, but whatever you say. In any case, I had managed to NOT develop a personality. I was too busy trying to keep mine under wraps. I had become an utterly blank canvas. Not even a drop of paint. I had subdued my inner tension until I had diffused myself out of existence. (That’s how much I hated myself back in the day). It was far more violent than suicide. It was self murder.

Meanwhile, the Real Me-- who was crazy in other ways-- would still manage to peek out at random moments. Obviously, around friends and family with whom I was comfortable, I was more prone to relax, but I never totally let my guard down. It was in acting that I found the greatest escape. High School drama club, acting class, an attempt at the acting profession: these were all attempts at unleashing a hidden energy and vivacity that I normally felt the need to cage. As I had no identity to speak of, putting on different faces and just "being" out loud was cathartic. It was a magic trick: I could be emotional and honest while in disguise, thus keeping my shame cards close to my chest. This coping method helped. For awhile...

Then, I grew up. I slowly started to realize that I didn’t want to be a director’s dancing monkey. I wanted to be myself. But I didn’t have a self... “Eff.” (Commence flashback to Meredith crying on the floor like a fool because she doesn’t know who the Hell she is). The desire to carve out a niche for myself in the world, in a fashion that was not reliant on another’s words, and my increasing need to develop a self that was honest and not a  mere reflection of others, became somewhat desperate. I was my Everest. I didn't know how to come out from hiding, because I was too busy trying to give people what they wanted. As such, bitterness started to infect me like a virus.

Sometimes, I would think that I was on the right track. Maybe I would land a gig by some luck, and I would feel temporarily validated in my work at least. Often, the directors/producers with whom I collaborated expressed genuine surprise at how well I had done because they "had really taken a chance on me.” The back-handedness of this compliment always burned a little deeper than the compliment itself. In the audition process, I would generally feel totally defeated, because I didn’t “stand out." People didn’t “know who I was,” or know “what to do with me.” I wasn’t “a type.” This used to get my goat and break my heart, because I thought I was secretly a super-fun person. (Flashback to Meredith talking to herself and laughing with her imaginary friends as she sings in the car or talks to herself). Now, I understand and accept the numerous rejections I 've experienced, both in the acting world and the real world, which were one and the same for me. I was on such lockdown that I didn’t express myself AT ALL. I wasn’t even a fully formed human being. No one on the planet earth believed in me, because Me was a person in theory and not fact. I don't blame the universe for my actions. I was the lone gunman.

When the levees of my emotional torment finally broke, I had to come to terms with the fact that I did not have it all together, that I had indeed fallen apart from the inside out, and that I could no longer force a smile when there was literally nothing in the world to be happy about. After the initial panic, I entered therapy and started to feel the noose loosening. Now, as I acquiesce control to the powers that be-- my nature-- I feel the person whom I had once so fiercely tried to keep imprisoned-- the girl I’d once labeled as utterly despicable-- coming out to play. I’m starting to say things instead of think them. I do instead of ponder. I’m slowly learning to express myself and what I think. Mostly, I am no longer so afraid of the sound of my own voice. 

I'm constantly surprising myself. Wait, is this me? What?! In fact, now that I'm meeting with myself face to face, it turns out that I’m a bit of a smart-ass. I always knew that I had a sarcastic/cynical streak, but gee whiz! I’ve got an opinion on every preconceived notion, and I pretty much reject all of them. After a lifetime of trying to be modest and diplomatic, to sit with hands folded and legs crossed in First Lady posture, I realize that I’m not all that old-fashioned or proper or docile. I have definite classic ideals about honor and duty-- I, like Spike Lee, want to Do the Right Thing-- but I am actually incredibly divergent from my original self-perception. I’m a total non-conformist, unconventional, not interested in the norm, done with tact, annoyed by Betty Crocker, and disgusted by anything resembling the Apple Blossom mentality. Blech. Get real. My problem for so long was trying to be the girl in a cardigan. It nearly killed me. I much prefer jeans and an old, raggedy t-shirt ,which doesn't even fit properly. And sandals. And my toes aren't painted. You guys... I think I might be... a bohemian! (Shh, don’t tell my parents).

All the wasted hours I spent regulating myself, staying in line, trying to be a good citizen instead of myself... All the hours I spent rejecting myself... Man, how I curse the waste! I still tell my depression to go to Hell every day, because it so screwed up my life. It’s not fair! But, it is what it is. That was who I was. I survived, and now I’m here, doing my crazy, nonchalant thing, not caring about expectation anymore. I don't follow the general plotline that life continues to suggest we all tread, and I don't stress about tomorrow, or money, or building security. (Probably not good, that last bit). The free spirit in me-- the little girl that used to dance in the sunshine when she thought no one was looking and believed that the world was full of endless possibilities-- is back and feels justified in seeing the world just the way she does. My vision needs no fixing. I can see; that's all that matters. The only difference between me and the uncontaminated girl of my youth is that I'm a big girl now, in the big bad world, and I'm not afraid of Virginia Woolf. My motto has mercifully metamorphosed from, “Work hard,;play later” to “What the fudge have I got to lose?” 

This new gypsy is ready to try anything, go anywhere, take chances, and just live life as a human being (and not an apology) for a change. It's quite exciting! Sometimes, when I realize that I am this person and have covertly been her all along, it takes me by surprise and gives me a kind of groovy whip-lash. I can also get startled and confused, which makes me want to start going back to my old instinct of ignoring my instincts. The way I am living is unsafe, un-solidified, uncertain. I've never been here before. I don’t know where the road will go. It's nerve-wracking, but I’m somehow not scared of it. I know that all paths have no end, they intersect, meet, fork, and couldn’t be mapped by Urizen himself. So 'what the fudge do I have to lose?' Life isn’t a plan; it’s an experience. Why fight it? Why fight myself? I get it. I dig. (Cue to Meredith smoking hashish and dancing around with "flowers in her hair." Her parents are non-plussed, but she is sooooo good).

1 comment:

  1. Just be safe on this adventure called life there are a ton of weirdo's out there! I think most people are acting to some degree...who am I not sure...sometimes I feel like I have snapped and went to crazy town myself, but thank God I purchased a round trip ticket and came out on the other LIVE LAUGH LOVE
    Love you,
    Auntie Paula


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