People cuddle people. Animals cuddle animals. People cuddle animals. I’ve watched enough cute puppy videos to see the comfort it brings both human and non-human to snuggle up to something else warm and breathing. It’s interesting to see that need for safety, security, and stability in another type of creature. When you think about it, you realize that need spans across all cultures, religions, and species.
I know I’m generalizing. Not everyone is affectionate or wants physical interaction and that’s okay. I still struggle with whether or not I’m that type of person. I’ve always liked the idea of touch but in actuality, it makes me uncomfortable. I wonder if it’s because I’ve been starved of touch for all these years and this is my new norm. Maybe I have just romanticized how therapeutic touch can be and maybe I made it more transformational than it really is. Or maybe I’m just naturally distant. Or maybe I’m just selectively affectionate.
But with the emerging popularity of weighted blankets and the undeniable adorableness of otters holding hands, there’s something to be said for being close. In the animal kingdom, it’s mostly instinct. Survival has a lot to do with it. Safety in numbers. But is it just about the body surviving? That closeness must encourage the head and heart to survive as well. It’s not just a physical need but a psychological response. Maybe when these animals get close to another willing creature, it lets them know they are worth surviving.
That instinct must extend to humans as well. I wonder if that’s where my desperate need to cuddle comes from. When I was cuddled for the first time earlier this year, I felt special for the first time in my life. And for a man who always feels worthless, it made a difference. I felt I was worthy of touching. I was worthy of getting to know. I was worthy of surviving too.
But now that it’s gone, it’s also made a big difference. And I wonder if I was wrong about being worthy of survival after all.
”Something’s missing in me
I felt it deep within me
As lovers left me to bleed alone
Down here, love wasn’t meant to be
It wasn’t meant to be for me”
”When you close your eyes even then your eyelids are beautiful
for so long there have been traces of you in blood vessels inside my skull”
-Showbread, I Want to get Married
A couple of Saturdays ago, I went to a wedding with an old friend. I didn’t know the married couple and all the attendants were new to me but the friend needed a plus one and borrowed me for the occasion. You see where this is going. I just needed to find something blue.
Despite my anxiety around crowds, especially crowds of strangers, I figured it would be a change of pace. A chance to do something different, to ask off work, and dress up a bit. I just hoped I’d be able to squeeze my binge-eating butt into my old slacks. I did…but barely.
The ceremony itself was fine. It was simple, inside a simple church with simple decoration. No blue sashes or neckties. No blue in the flowers. Just a red-faced toddler sitting in front of me and a bellowing baby sitting behind me and they both screamed in unison just as the ceremony began and continued their commentary throughout because my life.
Despite my current situation, I didn’t feel too bitter or sad about seeing two flesh become one. I was pretty unaffected witnessing the standard union of two people, in love and full of life. It happens every day. Life goes on. Good for them. The only discomfort came from those slacks. But one moment did stick out to me. The pastor read a quote from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 that goes:
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Having never been in a relationship, I wondered why I’d never been able to find my own plus one. How had I made it 32 years while God made sure I remained lonely? If He had allowed such a declaration to be included in the good book, why have I always been denied the privilege?
While the ceremony was about 30 minutes, the reception went on for three and a half hours. And it was mostly held outside. No blueberries in the fruit plate while the newlyweds went off to be photographed with family. No blue ribbons adorning the arches. Why do people in the south insist on having outside weddings in the middle of summer? I was drenched in sweat and wanted to leave but the girl I went with wanted to stay for the cake cutting and to try to catch the bouquet. Don’t get me wrong, the cake was one thing this big boy was looking forward to but in this case, I’d rather have air conditioning than confections. I was a good sport, however, and smiled and blotted my face and tried to inconspicuously unstick my bat-winged balls.
And when it was cake time, I eagerly got in line. No blue fondant. The lady serving the cake cut off the smallest piece possible for me. Oh, sorry ma’am, I thought I was gonna be able to get more than a few crumbs that fell off your knife. I looked at her, thinking she would realize the error of her ways and cut off a little more for me but she just stood there so I quickly dipped out and ate the slice in three bites.
It was a little dry.
Turns out, the bride wanted to wait until it got dark outside so she and her husband could walk out under sparklers. Which meant more waiting, more forehead blotting and being the iPhone photographer for everyone else who knew each other and wanted to blow up Instagram with high school friends in rolled hair and pretty dresses.
Even the girl I attended with drifted away for a while to take pictures with former work friends she hadn’t seen in a while. I looked around me and saw everyone with someone else. Girlfriends. Boyfriends. Wives and husbands. Best friends. The caterers and photographers doing their jobs. Everyone with a purpose. I stood by the wall, unsure of what to do with myself. And I felt like there should have been someone next to me. Someone to help me up, to keep me warm, to defend me against my own self-destructive thoughts. Someone to make me feel like I also had a purpose. But the only thing that ever stands next to me is an empty void and that void only reminds me that I don’t have a purpose.
Night fell but the heat did not wane. It penetrated through the dark and doled out more sweat for me. All the single ladies gathered around the bride. As she flung the bouquet into the arms of an overzealous 20-something in a billowy yellow dress, I realized I had found my something blue. It was me.
God knows my heart, knows I have a lot of love to give, and yet I always stand alone. Sometimes I think I’m getting close and despite my hesitations to let anyone near, I do because there’s always the faintest hope that maybe my person has finally come, that this could be the one to turn it all around. But they only turn me in the direction I’ve already traced too many times. And I wonder why God would tease and punish me in this way. Denying me is one thing. This just feels deceitful.
I’m not saying I’m more deserving of love than anyone else but I do think I need it more than most. I can’t do life by myself. I can’t conquer my demons all alone like this.
The ache never really goes away. Sometimes it gets easier to deal with but it’s never defeated. Do you know what it’s like to see the world through glass, to feel others through gloves? To live life for bitter and worse, to endure sickness and hell, to forever be separating until death does me apart?
To be one strand already broken?
Sometimes I think I’d rather lick a trash can than interact with people.
I work with the public. This month marks six years with my current retail job. And each day is hell. It’s not even the work that sucks. It’s the fact that when someone comes into my department, I have no idea what’s going to come at me. Will they be nice or rude? Will it be one or two people or a large group? Will they be clueless or prepared? Are they going to ask me a question I don’t know the answer to, which will make me look stupid?
I feel like people are constantly judging me. That’s because I constantly judge other people. I just assume they are doing the same. Since I’m so insecure, I just know they are thinking how dumb or ugly I am and how I am in no way suitable to offer advice in regard to style or fit because I have no style and my clothes don’t fit.
I’m just not good at speaking with people. But since that is one of the duties of our job, I have to greet every customer I see. It’s not always easy because I can’t just be that person that easily walks up to anyone and confidently offer my services. And as much as being a former artist has helped me develop an eye for good style, I still don’t think I’m excellent at putting an outfit together. I’ve tried to learn about fashion but you go to one resource and it contradicts another one. It seems like there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to fashion. But you try telling that to some people who refuse to put blue and black together or who still swears by pleated jeans.
I wanted to get out of the house to do some quality writing. Sometimes, there’s too many distractions at home. It’s too easy to space out and go two hours deep into Buzzfeed or Cracked. And it’s just so comfortable at home. It’s easy to be lazy when my bed is unmade and my cat is lying there, purring. It feels like the most right thing to do just to slip in the sheets and take a lengthy nap.
I felt the call of a coffee shop. I know it’s kind of douchey to go to a coffee shop and write but I can’t help it. They give good vibes. The atmosphere is chill and the music is mellow and it’s not as rowdy as a regular restaurant.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any available places to write in my town. There are no coffee shops or even sit-down restaurants. I have to travel at least 45 minutes away to find a place to go. I don’t like using that much gas if not necessary and plus it takes a lot of effort to go far away. To justify the lengthy ride, I usually try to stay gone all day and being gone for long periods of time tires me. But with recently decreased gas prices and an inflated level of pain pulsing through my head, it felt worth it to make that trek.
I drove to a cafe-bakery but waited until lunch time in hopes it wouldn’t be busy inside. As much as I like to get out of the house sometimes, my anxiety makes it difficult for me to be in public.
So, I stepped inside and it wasn’t too crowded. I picked up some soup and after I found a seemingly secluded place to sit, I set up my iPad for writing. Not five minutes later, a college-age girl clad in a thick hoodie and sweat pants plunked down at the table across from me.
The anxiety spiked a bit but it wasn’t too bad. “I can handle this,” I told myself. I focused on my soup and tried to relax. A few minutes later, another girl sat with the sweatpants girl. Anxiety spiked again. I turned back to my soup and tried to forget about the thoughts that sprouted from my brain.
“They are going to judge me. They are going to make fun of me. What if they Snapchat a picture of me and include some snarky comment like, ‘Look at this fat loser sitting by himself slurping soup. Lame! LULZ.'”
“Your mind is racing like a pro now
Oh my god, it doesn’t mean a lot to you
One time you were a glowing young ruffian
Oh my god, it was a million years ago…”
–The National, Racing Like a Pro
It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting here in the dining room with a cup of coffee and The National playing on my iPhone.
I feel so wholly, embarrassingly, desperately lonely.
My go-to move when I feel that way is to turn to food. I want nothing more than to eat. Emotions are filling my insides and I want to drown them out with soda and cereal. Sugary cereal that feels so good chewing but awful as soon as I swallow.
I want to talk to someone but I can’t think of anyone to phone. Because I really don’t want to talk to anyone. I’m too tired for a conversation.
I want to be social and it’s not that I don’t like the ones I talk to but it’s exhausting pretending to be interesting, to have to come up with witty things to say, to make someone laugh, to laugh at all.
I want to fall into a void, to be sucked away into a black hole as an excuse to get out of talking and texting and engaging. I want to talk but I don’t want to speak.
I hoped drinking enough coffee would fill me up, would help me get over this craving. But I know better. It’s not hunger I’m trying to satiate.
My head is a coalescence of rage and confusion. It spins faster than I can process. It begs, “Write! Scream! Sing! Get these thoughts out! Why are you just sitting there?” But I can’t answer. Again, I’m too tired. I’m invalid in creativity, apathetic in motivation. I want to sit down and get it out but that would mean I would have to deal with it. And we know I’m not good at that.
So I sit and stare at the wall for hours, take naps and read a few chapters of a book before my eyes go heavy. All distractions. All putting off my problems. It’s a trend I’ve been noticing lately and it sickens me the time I’ve wasted covering up my chronic shortcomings in favor of keeping pain at a distance. But in the effort to avoid it, I hit it head on.
It all piles up, these thoughts, these fears of mine. And when I sit down to express them, they come out in terse bursts, boiled down to base emotions, the extraneous fringe feelings already frittered away along with more brain cells.
What’s on my mind? What’s been festering?
Several days ago, I bought a lip balm that made my lips explode.
I hoard lip balms and any time I see a new one, I have to buy it, even if I think it’s going to suck. When I came upon this particular one, the description said it would make my lips “buzz”. I checked the ingredients and noticed it had cinnamon oil in it. I assumed it would work like menthol or peppermint oil and give the lips a nice tingle.
I slathered the balm on my lips and after about a minute, true to the description, they buzzed. There’s no other way to describe it. But this was no Burt’s Bees tingle. I felt like I had just Frenched an electric fence. I had never felt anything like it before. And it wasn’t pleasant.
I eventually wiped off the product but my lips were left feeling numb and beat up. The description said the buzzing is safe and addicting but I couldn’t imagine every using that product again.
One of the draws to the lip balm is how you can transfer the buzz to your partner when you kiss them. It’s a novelty but one that could be interesting. You’d definitely make an impressive if you kissed someone while wearing this lip balm.
But as I put away the cinnamon death stick, I realized I wouldn’t be able to make anyone else’s lips buzz. I had no one to kiss. And as I surveyed my lip balm collection, I wondered if my multiple failed attempts to keep my mouth kiss-ready was in vain. I had no one to pucker up to. All I had were the tiny tube reminders of lonely lips.
I’m stuck at 17 years of age and it’s depressing.
I feel like I’m getting too old for social media. I’ve really gotten into Tumblr recently and I don’t know if it’s just the type of followers I’ve accrued or if they are representative of the majority of Tumblr users but most of them seem to be young, high school/college-age kids. And I’m a post-college pudge ball who can still relate to their emo musings and pubescent longings. It makes me question my emotional maturity.
I think there might be something to Freud’s idea that we get stuck in certain stages of life while we grow up. I’m not sure about all the creepy sex stuff but I think there are certain rites of passage most young people go through on their way to adulthood. It’s the ups and downs, the lockers and lip-locking, the friendships and failures. Really, it’s about the experience. Each event is a potential lesson that serves to mold you into a well-rounded character.
But I haven’t experienced much, all through my own doing. But even lack of experience can shape you, although sometimes, as in my case, it hasn’t shaped me so much as it has flattened me out.
I never felt like I got to be a regularly teenager. I spent the majority of my time eating and watching television in my room. I was fat from the beginning so I had that complex hanging over my head and that crushed my confidence from the start. Being a weird artist didn’t help matters. I couldn’t relate to the jocks and cheerleaders. Football was a religion and I was an atheist among the athletes.
I went to very few social gatherings. I wanted to talk to people. I witnessed my peers mesh with ease and I wished that could be me but my belly formed too big of a barrier.
I mustered up enough will to attend the homecoming dance and prom but I didn’t have anyone special to go with so I went with friends and at the end of the night, instead of going to the backseat, I went back to my room and to my bag of chips.
I didn’t make out. I didn’t hug or hold or give anyone my class ring. I didn’t have many friends. I was lonely a lot. I was also full of acne, which increased my desire to dig a hole in my bed and wallow in it for all of eternity.
And without being taught by my parents, I learned about art and God on my own. Homophobia and racism and misogyny never made any sense to me. And frankly, neither did church. But I still put effort into God because I felt it was the right path to take and I felt the difficult into finding God must have had something to do with what all the preachers said about how terrible we all are as humans. But I didn’t need a preacher to inform me of my shortcomings. I knew that all by myself.
it is hard to live
when one is bereft of breath
while walking on lungs
People tell me I’m preoccupied with the negative aspects of my life. I focus on the bad and don’t give enough praise to the good. In some ways, I can understand their point. There have been many times when I’ll go inside my head and find nothing but bad and I have to pull myself out and realize I need to give credit for all the good I have going on.
I’ve been made to feel so guilty for not being this shining beacon of light that when I do feel down, I immediately counter my complaints with gratitude. My job sucks but I have my health! I have no friends but I have a roof over my head! I can’t control my weight but at least I have food to eat!
Yes, I recognize and understand all of this but I just don’t think anyone understands how deep the depression runs. It’s not just a matter of inconvenience. It’s a matter of chemical imbalances and separation from people, happiness, and God. It’s a matter of always feeling dead and always wishing I really was. It’s so much more than the outer shell of what you see of me, who you perceive me to be through conversations, and the words you read from me.
It’s like telling someone to ignore a knife wound. You’ve been struck in the chest but you can still walk, right? That’s just not how it works. Every day when I wake up, I can feel the knife sliding in deeper, sawing away at the nerves and edges of organs. I’m sorry, but I can’t just pretend that didn’t happen.
That doesn’t mean I’ve twisted the weapon further in, either. That doesn’t mean I’ve laid myself down and given in to the damage. I don’t point to the penetration and pray for pity. I talk about it. I’m open. I’m honest. I am not diluted into thinking things are okay when I know they aren’t.
And that’s the problem with people who tell me I’m too negative. I’m not negative. I’m just real. And I have enough strength to be aware of the limitations and disappointments in my life. I don’t put a bow around the base of the knife and wear it like a decoration. I know it’s there and I won’t dress it up or work my way around it. I don’t ignore it. I don’t settle for the steel inside skin like others do, rotting them from the inside out.
Every time I sit down at the computer and write like this, I’m facing it head on. I’m working out the blade by working out my problems. And pain and disappointment comes with facing it head on. There will be challenges. There are arteries you have to navigate through. And sometimes you’ll hit a new nerve and you’ll want to give up and just leave it in to prevent further damage. But you’ll never truly be healed until it comes out fully. You can’t be healed if you don’t give your wound some attention.
As with anything, it’s all about balance. Sure, I shouldn’t focus on all the bad. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t deal with it in some capacity. I’m working on it. I go about my business. I get up and drive to work and collect my paycheck. I look forward to the temporary deaths of sleep and the ecstasies of eggs in the morning. All the while, the pain lingers and the fact that I’m not on the floor in a fit should be seen as a sign of progress.
And when someone asks how I am, how I really am, not in an informal salutation, but during an actual conversation, I tell them because I think they genuinely care. And then they tell me I’m too negative, that I should ignore the knife wound. And I withdraw because they don’t get it or they don’t care.
I go home and sit in my room, alone, and get to work on unsticking the blade from my bones.
Y’all, I’m so behind on my writing. This happened a few months ago and I jotted some notes down but I’m just now getting around to posting this…I mean, I have a book to write but I’ll never get to it if I can’t get all this other mental clutter out first.
A few months ago, I met a high school acquaintance for dinner. We spoke fairly regularly for a few years and then she got married and we drifted apart. I never thought her marriage would last and sure enough, when we started catching up with each other over enchiladas, she told me she had been divorced for about two years.
Ironically, the divorce was the best thing going on in her life. Shortly after she and her husband split, she realized she never loved him the way she should have and wasted nine years of her life with him. But she did get a free house, car, and dog out of the deal so it wasn’t a total bust. But other than that, she felt inadequate and turned to alcohol and random sex partners to ease the hurt of being alive.
The more we talked, the more I realized we were basically the same person, Siamese twins conjoined at our crippling insecurities. I felt bad for her and felt even worse when I had no advice to offer up. Usually I can dole out a few words of wisdom and guidance that soothes whatever aches the person I talk to but with her, I had nothing because I’m going through the same problems.
She doesn’t have a job and lies in bed all day and drinks. She said she stays, at a minimum, buzzed, and at maximum, blacked out drunk. She has one night stands. She has no purpose, no guidance, no one to love her. She thinks she’s disgusting, which she’s not. She’s a very pretty girl but all she can see is the “big girl she used to be.” I also understood that. No matter how much weight I’ve lost or will lose, I’ll always feel like the fat guy.
I wanted to both hug and throttle her but couldn’t because 1) I don’t like touching people and 2) I know I wouldn’t have gotten through to her. I think she’s just going to have to go through whatever she’s going through and either become numb to the whole thing or finally snap out of it somehow. I didn’t think there was a cure for what ailed her. There was only control. She can control her symptoms. She can minimize the hurt but if she’s anything like me, and I believe she is, the pain will never go away.