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.
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.
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.