It’s always been a layer of fat covered by a layer of fabric. People were kept at arm’s length to lengthen their stay. No one could ever get inside my brain or beneath my body. I was closed off from the world because I thought it would be easier for everyone. I shrank down so as not to get in the way. But I only ended up diminishing myself.
It’s like I’ve always been shaking hands while wearing gloves. Only feeling the vaguest sense of shape and grip. Basing all my life lessons on what I’ve learned through leather. I was satisfied enough, knowing that I could come and go with dulled senses, unencumbered, and see others off to continue their journey in the same condition.
And then someone came along and thought it best to slide the glove off my hand. To want to truly touch me. And when it came off, my hand was pale with paper thin skin and nerves still new to the elements. And when we shook hands for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the raw feelings. Like a lightning bolt blasting through me. Tactile information flooded my system, buzzed my brain, and jolted my heart into motion once more. It was the silk of skin, the hills and valleys of veins and wrinkles. The warmth, a soft pulse inside a palm, the quiet buzz of life. It was terrifying and electrifying and once I became accustomed to the feeling, it was addicting.
That’s when I began to understand how other people craved the touch of one another. There is so much more to people than a general shape and perfunctory pressure. There were hidden details, secret sensations, invisible chemicals that danced between skin, signaling something inside me to no longer shrink, but to expand.
It’s like quenching a hidden thirst, feeding a long-dormant hunger. How could I not want to continue when I never knew this kind of nourishment existed? I couldn’t see it as greedy or abnormal. The only oddity here was never knowing this was an option.
But as much as I wanted to continue to consume each sensation, the one who removed the glove decided it was best to slide it on again, unable to cope with the possibility that my skin might be as healing to them as theirs was to me. They only reached out once more, not to wrap their arms around me, but to shake my hand goodbye.
As much as I wanted to shrink again, as much as I wanted to concede to concealing myself, I knew it was no longer a viable option. The glove was suddenly suffocating. The skin-to-skin was too pure, to real to repeal from me.
Still, it hurts to think about what my hand might have to endure to feel skin again. To experience all of the wind and rain, the ache of winter, the burn of summer. The needles of rejection stabbing my fingertips, the jagged edges of a broken heart slicing my knuckles. My skin isn’t tough. My nails aren’t armor plated. But the seasons are changing and I think I should as well.
I don’t want to settle for salutations experienced through stitched fabric. I want to replicate that real feeling over and over again. I want to extend my hand in hopes I can feel human once more, that someone will come along with a firm handshake, see my glove on the ground, and grip me even tighter.
My supervisor at my retail job hugs me every time she sees me. I try to dodge her but she seems to hone in on me like some sort of snuggle sniper. She’s a short blonde waif-like lady with a Tinkerbell haircut, frosted eyeshadow, and thick square-framed Coach eyeglasses. She always grabs my arm and throws it over her shoulder, then wraps her arms around my waist.
And it’s uncomfortable. Not Weinstein-level uncomfortable but I’m just not used to being hugged and it feels abnormal to me. Which probably makes me abnormal to everyone else.
My supervisor knows I am not on board with touch but she tells me it’s good for me and I’ll get used to it in time. And maybe that’s why she’s so insistent on tackling me. She thinks she’s helping.
“Hugs are healing,” she told me one time. And it made me think back to all the times I’ve seen people embraced when they were sad or in need of some kind of emotional support. Her statement seemed to ring true…for other people. I can’t think of a time when I was upset and in need of a reassuring squeeze.
Outwardly, I don’t like touch. But sometimes humanity pierces through my robotic veil and… I kinda crave it.
I didn’t grow up being hugged much. My family is not affectionate. And I somehow found myself with a group of friends who were also not affectionate. So, for me, hugs just didn’t happen often. So now, when they do, I clam up. I’m not used to another person’s skin, a firm embrace, a gentle touch on the back or brush of the arm.
It’s all foreign. And most people fear foreign.
A lot of the fear of touch stems from how I feel about myself. Hugging me is like cuddling up to cottage cheese. I’m lumpy. I don’t like touching myself so I can’t imagine anyone else lusting for a handful of my hindquarters. I always think it would be better for everyone if everyone stayed far from me. But does that physical distance manifest into mental ramifications of a lack of physical contact? If hugs are healing, is distance damaging?
I don’t feel human most of the time, for various reasons. It’s nature and nurture. It’s chemical, mental, and physical. I didn’t experience those near-universal milestones. I don’t understand the concept of first kisses and first brushes with other body parts. I can’t relate to or share those experiences with others.
Touch is one of the ways in which people bond, not just to each other, but to something higher than ourselves. Even animals cuddle. They cuddle with each other and with us. It spans across sex and species, blood and brotherhood. It’s not just an every person thing. It’s an every creature thing. It’s universal. It’s how we can belong, provide protection, receive comfort, share safety.
And when you don’t have that, it’s very much alienating. Not to mention, potentially physically harmful.
While I fear it, I’m not totally devoid of the desire to touch and be touched. I see couples holding hands, hugging, kissing. It’s on tv and movies and in books. And what about those “touch porn” Taltz commercials?
But my problem’s not psoriasis. It’s psychosis.
Anyway, I think, “Wow, I want that. How nice would that be?” But since I’m kind of asexual, I’ve never had that in my life. I don’t know the intimacy, the close proximity of sharing a breath, the feel of two sets of lips pressed together.
And that’s where the conflict kicks in. I abhor and admire touch. I rail against it while daydreaming about it. And that sentiment transfers to other people too. I think about those who say, “I’m just a hugger!” Like my supervisor. She has no problem touching people, hugging, pulling in close. And I’m envious of that. It almost looks freeing, to be so open with yourself and others, to be able to express affection in that kind of way.
On the other hand, there’s something very attractive about someone’s cold demeanor, those who don’t want to be touched, who put up a wall against physical adoration.
So where do I fit into the fold of fondling and fleeing far away?
I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy. When it comes to food, I’ll either starve myself or binge my face off. And when I think of touch, I either want to fully embrace it or shrug it off completely. I just can’t seem to wrap my head around wanting to wrap my arms around everyone. But who said I had to do that? What if I was just selective about who I touched? And what if that selectability makes touch all the more special?
It certainly looks special. Human. And once I can get over the uncomfortable hump of being hugged, once I can recognize that I am touchable, that I deserve someone else’s hands on me, maybe I can learn to like it. And maybe my supervisor was on to something. Maybe hugs are healing. I just wonder what, and who, it’s going to take to get me to start believing it.
Heartbreaks and bellyaches seem to be the name of the game as of late. But why shouldn’t it be? One always leads to the other.
I had my usual year-end binge in December and said I would do better in January. Don’t I always? Don’t we always? But the funny thing about making plans is every time I say I’m going to do better, I usually end up doing worse. It’s the conscious effort, the deliberate decisions that derail me every time. It seems I always do my best when I don’t think too hard about it.
After helping myself to Christmas leftovers, Valentine’s Day came around and I had to allow myself some candy. And by some, I mean 3 boxes of post V-Day clearance candy that I ate in as many days. I also had two new donut shops open up and Taco Bell has these new amazing nacho fries and I discovered a new coffee shop in the town I work in. I’ve also had various co-workers who wanted me to join them for a dinner out and how can I refuse the chance to go to a restaurant? It’s been a whirlwind of grease and cheese, fried chicken and Cheetos, ice cream cones and creamy parmesan noodles.
I’ve been progressively bingeing more and more and it’s getting so out of control that it scares me.
These new food discoveries and opportunities are just convenient excuses to eat, to soak up all my melancholia with a slice of fried bread. But my face is getting fuller and my pants are getting tighter, all following the familiar formula of sadness leading to overeating. My mother criticizes everything I do so I get fast food. My dad only talks to me when he’s drunk so I eat 20 snacks a day. My boss at work drives me crazy so I ignore my packed Lean Cuisine and grab a burger and fries for lunch. I’m bored on my hour-long drive home so I eat a bag of chips to occupy myself so I won’t sleepily swerve off the road. I’m lonely as hell so I treat myself to two desserts after dinner.
I try to walk a straight and narrow path and these people come along and throw me off course. They’re demeaning or dismissive, dramatic or deteriorating and sometimes I think they’re determined to throw their drama onto me. And I have to eat in order to balance myself out again. It’s the only way I know how.
But I also know it’s not the best way. I look at myself and see the changes, the way in which my lack of support system and sour opinion of myself are bloating my body, branching out into every aspect of my life, making work harder, making family more frustrating, and isolating me from the fun times I used to care about.
My tears are like the tide, coming and going and I have no control over the contents of the ocean or how they sway to and from the sand. All I can seem to do is sit back and watch and respond accordingly. I don’t have a choice, just a spectator to the mouthfuls of agony, awash in a fog that hovers over everything and steals all the scenery from me.
I’d been looking forward to this mini vacation for months now.
Back in March, I searched my work calendar for the next holiday and almost keeled over when I realized it wasn’t going to be until the end of May. Would I even last that long? I circled the 29th and trudged through the work day, counting down each week as it slowly passed.
Since my company does comp time instead of overtime, I’d acquired enough comp time to take the Friday before Memorial Day off, which gave me 4 precious days instead of 3.
Right away, my mind raced with all the things I wanted to do. I had a lot of writing I wanted to catch up on. I also wanted to start working on some other art projects and get back into being creative again. What I actually ended up doing was staying in bed catching up on Orange is the New Black. At first, I was annoyed with myself. I’d piddled away 4 days when I could have been constructive. But then I realized I needed to recharge my batteries. If staying wrapped up in sheets and widdling away at my Netflix queue was how I needed to nourish myself, then I needn’t get so down about it.
Says the guy who thinks deep dish pizza is therapeutic.
I’ve really noticed a dip in my energy the past few months. I’ve never been a poster boy for stamina but the only energy I can muster these days is to fluff up my pillow before taking a long nap. I nap during my lunch break at work. I nap when I get home. And then I go to bed at night and I still can’t seem to get enough rest. The only time I feel good is when I’m dozing off.
The only reason I don’t sleep more than I do is that sleeping passes too much time. Before I know it, it’s a new day and a new crop of crap to deal with and I often try to prolong the morning sun as long as I can.
But at the end of the day, after I’ve dealt with mentally declining coworkers, sycophantic supervisors, and self-disgust at how horrible I am at humaning, the only thing I want to do is get out of my head. And the only two ways I can do that is either by eating or sleeping. But neither is a good solution yet I’m too tired not to take the easy route.
I know most would say I’m too lazy to be exhausted. I sit at my job and sit at home. I get it. But depression can be draining, too. As much as I try, I can’t turn it off. I can only delay it with dreams and donuts but as soon as my eyes open in the morning, the dull ache sets in as I set myself up for another struggle.
I wish I could get lost in writing and drawing again, like I was able to do when I was younger. But again, I get in my own way and I’m such a perfectionist that I can’t simply color an image or draw a picture or write a poem without picking it apart. I know I’m capable of better. I see it in my head, feel the rhythm of the word, taste the nuanced tones but I can’t seem to translate it to screen. And it frustrates me so I just don’t bother. Eating is often easier.
I only get out of bed because I have to, because I have a job and bills. And as much as I’d like to travel or learn a new trade, the exhaustion empties me out again and it all seems like an Everest-sized endeavor. My bulb has dimmed so much that I can only see as far as the end of the work day. I put up with bureaucratic b.s. and nap in my car and go through the rest of the day sleep drunk and scan my calendar and circle a date in July, a day steeped in the dark.
Although I only work once a week at my retail job now, I keep running into my old recurring nightmare customers. The timing never ceases to amaze me. They have all week to come in and shop but they just happen to show up on my particular work day during my particular shift. I see them, wince, and want to retreat to the back room but once we’ve made eye contact, I’m sucked in and have to help them out.
It’s like a greatest hits of headaches and it’s pretty figgin’ annoying.
But working once a week has helped put some distance between me and the retail job and has also given me a different perspective. Being able to see all these crummy customers grouped together, one after another, week after week, I realized I’ve had quite a few unpleasant exchanges with customers during my six years of working there. I have to wonder if some of them aren’t particularly happy to see me, either. I might have made quite a few enemies.
But to that, I say good because, in my store, the customer service is always right.
Don’t get me wrong, I know there is crappy customer service out there. I’ve encountered it myself. But I can honestly say that the majority of my co-workers at the retail store are really good at their job. We all come in with good attitudes and try to help the customer as much as we can. And most of the customer complaints have nothing to do with us. They are usually upset about return policies or coupon restrictions or the clothing selection. And we try to find ways to work around their frustrations. Sometimes we can and sometimes we can’t, but most of us always at least try.
And this is where I’ve had problems with the customers. They want to use five coupons at once or get angry when I can’t give them cash for a return without a receipt. They want to go against policy, abuse coupons, and receive something for nothing. And when I won’t let them get their way, I’m the bad guy. Sometimes it’s not worth the trouble of a ticked off customer and exceptions can be made. Or at least alternative solutions that make both parties happy. But being in retail long enough, I can tell the difference between a customer we want to keep and one we won’t mind losing. But the interesting thing is the customers who declare they will never shop in our store again usually come back. They just get angry and say things out of frustration. But once that 25% coupon arrives in their mailbox, they reconsider their resolution and repent with a raspberry wrap dress.
I’ve learned that sometimes you just can’t make someone happy. I could go to the back room, take out a needle and thread, and sew a customer a shirt from scratch and they’d shout over the stitching. It’s been a hard lesson to learn, a lesson that has spilled into my personal life. But all I can do is move on knowing that I did the best I could and if that’s enough for some people, that’s great. And if it’s not enough, that’s unfortunate. For them.
I’ll just pop another Advil and keep a keen eye out for those perturbed patrons so I can duck and cover when I see them coming.
I’ve been crying a lot lately.
It’s mostly been over inconsequential things, like dog videos. And they’re cute videos about dogs tucking in babies or hugging other dogs. Just generally being sweet and adorable. It sounds lame on the surface to cry over this kind of thing (What the heck, am I a pregnant woman?) but I just love animals and dogs are just so amazing and beautiful and have pure souls. I’ve never met a bad dog. And they’re just so cute and it warms the coldness I have inside. And when I see those damn ASPCA commercials or the inevitable screen grab of abused animals that are advertised on the web, it breaks my heart. I don’t just see the images of freezing puppies chained to a fence or a cat with one eye sitting in the corner of a cage. My mind goes beyond the images. What happened to them to get them in that situation? What cruel person took this innocent creature and tortured it and neglected it? I step into their fur and see the world the way they do. I wonder how long they suffered. I hate that they never got to know love. I worry for them. I wish for them to be okay. And it just makes me so sad that there’s so much suffering in the world, especially suffering animals because no one cares about animals. We hear, “Save the Children, Save the Refugees” and I totally agree with that. But you don’t hear “Save the animals!” as much.
And then on Facebook I saw this video of this kid who had a mental and physical impairment but this guy at Starbucks gave him a chance and made him a barista and the kid said he felt like his life had a purpose now. That made me cry, too. And I thought that was just really nice of that guy to help out the kid and I thought it was great that the kid felt like he had a purpose. And his purpose was making coffee. And that seems so simple and inconsequential and maybe it is, but to him it wasn’t. Maybe it was just the fact that he had something to do, something to contribute to the world. He could help people. It was something so small but he was so grateful for it.
I turn that on myself and I feel like a jerk. I feel like my life has no meaning. I go to work every day and I fold shirts and tell customers their coupons don’t work on Levis and they get pissed at me and give me a hard time and then I go home. What am I contributing to these people, to the world, to life? I have dressed a lot of people for funerals, both attendees and the deceased. I suppose you could say by helping these people dress for a difficult situation, I am easing some of the burden. And maybe I am. And maybe they don’t think twice about my small contribution. I don’t know. All I know is that it’s not enough. But should I not be grateful for the little bit I do? Whether I’m pushing coffee or khakis, if I’m assisting someone make their day easier, isn’t that enough? Shouldn’t we all be helping each other, whether in small or large ways?
I constantly go back and forth between feeling useless and realizing that I am not. Or if I am, I could always do something about it. I could be an activist. I could spread good news. I could give to charity. I could hand out compliments and positive vibes to others. It just never feels like enough because I don’t see the effects of my actions. At work, I send people off with their clothes and never see how good they feel wearing their new outfit. I compliment someone’s haircut and don’t get to know how that might cheer them up if their in a bad mood. I donate blood and never know if it might have saved a life.
I guess this kind of sounds selfish, right? I do all these great things and get nothing out of it! It’s not that I’m looking for recognition or accolades. I just want to know that the admittedly little bit of good that I do is making a difference to someone. In the grand scheme of things, we are all useless. None of what we do or say is really going to matter. But some of us can make the littlest blip on the cosmic radar. Your great leaders. Your great artists. Your presidents and advocates. Those who created a lasting change. Those who started a revolution in thinking, working, loving, living. Even all that might not matter once the world explodes. But at least it might ease the burden on others for as long as everything is still standing.
I’ve tried to be a good person. I’ve always wanted to be accepted and trusted and I’ve made great effort to be the kind of guy that people could come to for laughter, guidance, or at the very least, a comforting presence.
That doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I have so many flaws that my face burns with shame. I’m lazy, selfish, and judgmental. My emotions range from complete apathy in regard to serious subjects to near mental breakdowns over simple slip-ups. Yet despite my irrational tendencies, I try to rise above them and be reasonable. But one person’s reasonable is another person’s bat shit crazy so maybe I’m not doing such a good job. All I can do is try my best. I know I falter. But overall, I hope I do a decent job. I think I’m likeable. I think I make people happy.
But the one thing I’ve neglected is my own happiness. During my life, I’ve met a lot of people who were not good for me. When I was younger, I didn’t always recognize these unsavory souls until later on in the relationship. More recently, I’ve been able to spot them fairly quickly. In either case, I have trouble letting these people go because I don’t want to be the bad guy. Remember, I want to be the one people can talk to, not the one people talk about. I’m always worried the end of a friendship will lead to bitterness and bad memories.
Despite my reservations on removing people from my life, I’m starting to find there’s been a shift in me. As I’ve gotten older, or maybe just more fed up, I am starting to understand the importance of these bad influences being taken away. But each time I consider cutting someone out, my fear of being irrational pops up again. What if I’m blowing things out of proportion? What if I’m the one in the wrong? What if I am just someone who can’t take a joke at my own expense, someone who is too sensitive, someone too needy to be neutral?
But the one question I’ve not thought to ask myself is, “Does it even matter?”
As I prepare myself to say goodbye to a friend, I always feel like I have to have a definitive reason for letting them go. What was the one thing they said to me that I could no longer tolerate? What was the one big event, the one final insult that pushed me into pushing them away for good?
There is usually never one moment or memory that comes to mind. It’s mostly cumulative, a collection of snide comments and false sincerity, lack of support and abundance of superiority. But it’s hard to put someone’s behavior into a single sentence that could sum up my decision. Fortunately for me, when I do decide to stop talking to people, they do not ask for evidence. Most of the time, they don’t even notice. That by itself should be reassurance enough that I did the right thing, that the friendship must not have been that rock-solid in the first place. Still, the doubt lingers.
It still makes me feel better to have a go-to motive for severing ties with others. But I sit back and realize it doesn’t matter if there’s a motive. Maybe it’s not so much about being rational but being resistant to putting up with anyone who makes me feel bad. There’s no right or wrong. People behave differently. Some behaviors mesh. Some do not. Being incompatible with someone does not mean either person is bad or that anyone failed. It just means sometimes we are better off not being around those people. In your life, people are either going to help or harm you, and many times these actions are unintentional on the other person’s part.
We have to take care of ourselves and if someone isn’t making us feel good, we don’t need to be around them. It’s really that simple. That’s not to say we should immediately and entirely break it off with those who give us the occasional side eye or insulting slur. But when the not-so-good feelings are frequent, it’s time to say goodbye.
Although I still struggle with to be liked and although I do feel like I let people down when it’s time for me to bow out, I know I’m doing the right thing. I’ve taken care of too many hearts other than my own and now it’s my turn for some TLC. But still it does hurt. I still think about these people. I still miss them. I wonder if they miss me, if they feel bad, if they feel anything at all. They keep moving forward while I feel stunted. I feel their void almost every day, even if I’m the one who put it there. It would just be nice to know that someone else cared as much as I did. That’s one of the side effects of ending friendships. Sometimes when you cut people out of your life, you’re the only one left bleeding.
“I was supposed to do great things
I know the road was long
But I wasn’t raised to shoot for fame
I had the safety on
I cut my ties, I sold my rings
I wanted none of this
If you start from scratch you have to sing
Just for the fun of it…”
-Cold War Kids, Miracle Mile
I’m a failed artist. I created an animated short film no one watched. I’m a failed writer. I wrote a book but no one read it. And I’m a failed person. I tried to give myself to others but I have no friends.
So what’s left for me?
It’s weird because now that I’ve written my book, I’m almost entirely over writing. While I had another book in mind, I’m likely never going to write it. I could write it for myself. But I would also want it to be professionally edited. And I can’t afford that. I couldn’t even afford to have my first book edited but I thought I might make that money back in book sales. That didn’t happen. Not even close. I can’t take that financial risk again. And if I can’t make the next book the best it can be then what’s the point?
And when I think about it, there’s a piece of me that doesn’t even want to blog anymore. It’s partly because I’m burned out on writing and partly because no one seems that invested in my words. I had that same exhausted/defeated feeling when I finished my student film in college. After I exported that final animated file, I had no desire to do another one.
Now that the book is done, I feel a huge weight has been lifted from me. I wonder if that’s why I don’t feel the urge to write anymore. Maybe I had this need inside me to just finish this one project, to get this story out of me. And maybe all the other writing I did was a distraction. I was writing and it felt good but I wasn’t working toward that one true act that would bring me the most satisfaction. And now that I’ve finally accomplished it, there’s no need to continue with the distractions.
So, I took about a month off from most social media. After the complete failure of my book, I felt pretty bummed. It’s not so much that I expected to sell one million copies but when you can’t even get your friends and family to read a book they know is so special to you, it’s disheartening in the worst way.
And because I’m passive aggressive, I thought, “I’m just going to remove myself from the Internet for a while, see if I leave a hole of some sort. Maybe someone will miss me.” I needed someone to realize I was gone. And I needed it to make a difference for them. It was a sad (and lame-ass) attempt to feel like someone cared about my existence. But, um, no, no one did. I’m sure no one noticed I was gone.
It’s kind of amazing how much we can expose so much of ourselves online yet still be so invisible. In a sea of memes and selfies, it’s hard to find recognition. Especially if you aren’t very good-looking. If you’re not a shirtless dude or a girl who constantly hoists her boobs into every selfie she takes, not many people are going to give a flip about your book or song.
These days, people seem to care more about lip fillers than a fulfilled life. I can’t really blame them. I love a good cat GIF as much as the next animal lover but all these junk food-like distractions keep us from relating to each other. Although I want to laugh and be entertained and shut off my brain, I also crave connection. I want to know my struggles are not my own, that someone has already plowed through the path I’m going to have to travel on one day.
Maybe I wouldn’t take all of this so personally if I didn’t rely on it so much. If I had friends and fulfilling relationships, I wouldn’t need to lean on anonymous Internet accolades. But when I was younger, I was weird and the Internet was my only friend. Now that I’m older, I still leave people scratching their heads and the Internet is still the only one who seems to listen, to recognize, to give me some semblance of a mutual understanding.
I’ll never look better than I do right now. And my memoir was the best writing I’ve ever done. So, if people can’t get on board with my beard or the way I bared my soul in my book, I suppose there’s nothing I can do to win anyone over. And I’ll just have to be okay with that.
After the disappointment of my book, I contemplated whether or not I should ever write anything ever again. And there are many days when I feel I’m done with writing all together. But there are also other days when I still feel this strong urge to write. It’s not all about attention but about resolution as well. Even though I’m virtually unseen, I am still very much a human with complicated emotions and a thought process that could rival a hurricane. And with no friends to confide in, I must turn somewhere to organize the mess, to release some of the pressure, to try to make sense of the situation that’s been handed to me.
I started writing as a therapy tool. And then I thought I might possibly make a career out of it. But now that I see it will never happen, I’m falling back onto the therapy. And I think I’m really only doing that until something more effective comes along.
So, from hiatus to hi, I’m back (at least for now). But I want to shift my focus, to post more of what I want instead of what I think others might like. It’s almost kind of freeing because it’s not like most people are going to see any of this anyway. I tend to filter my writing with an audience in mind. But with the realization I have no audience, it’s time to get more real, to go deeper, to be bolder in the exploration of my disgusting existence. I want to examine the desolate husk I’ve become, not to find a solution as I’m far too gone for that, but to purge myself of the hatred and the agony, to be clean for when I come to the end of the line.
I’d better hurry. It won’t be long now.