A thing that irritates me about myself is that I am not as brave in person as I am online and it often causes me annoyance. People assume I must love provoking people and must get a thrill out of their angry responses and thus it’s fine and part of the fun for them to share those angry responses with me. Please don’t do that unless you’re genuinely afraid there’s been a death threat I need to know about. I honestly hate it and find it very stressful to read all the ways I suck.
I do say things in writing I am often too…I don’t even know…not in the right frame of mind to say anything about in real life. Writing buys time for reflection that real life rarely affords, I guess is what I’m saying.
Anyway, I’m going to this thing on Sunday and one of the people who might be there is one of the people who hosted a Facebook discussion about how much I suck. I have since been talked down off the ledge by mutual acquaintances who believe she was trying to have a more nuanced discussion, something along the lines of “while I don’t agree with what Betsy’s said here, I am appalled at how people are treating her” and her friends took that as justification for having a discussion about my evil ways. And I am trying to be the brave, fearless person people seem to think I am based on my online persona and not let it bug me that I have to see her Sunday.
I’m off the ledge, but let’s be frank. I’m not off the roof.
When I’m walking the dog, my mind tends to wander, like how things kind of bubble up when you’re trying to go to sleep, but when you’re trying to go to sleep, you can let things bubble up and if one of them is Jason Statham for some reason playing shirtless soccer in your front yard while all the women of Nashville drive by jealously, you can just roll with that. But when you’re walking the dog, or at least, when I’m walking the dog–if you’re also walking the dog, why are you so quiet every damn morning?–there’s no encouraging one train of thought to the exclusion of others. If my subconscious mind wants to chew on something, wants to move something to my conscious mind, it’s going to keep coming up on our walks.
So, every morning this week, I find myself imagining saying to this Facebook friend, when I have to see her on Sunday, “When was the last time someone asked you if you were afraid you’d be shot over something you wrote?” And then I imagine all kinds of responses. I run off crying to my car and come home and never leave the house again. I stare at her until she withers up into a heap of ashes. Whatever. In no scenario can I imagine what she could say to me that would sooth me.
And that makes me not want to go.
Here is the other thing, though (and, admittedly, my head is quite far up my butt here), I have been in relationships with people where they obviously spent a lot of time doing to me what I’m doing to my poor Facebook friend–imagining some pending interaction between us, gaming out the alternatives, and deciding that they already knew how things would go, so I should just also go along with and match up with their version of me.
I have hated that. And felt it entirely cruel and unfair and, frankly, nuts.
So, just for the sake of not being cruel and nuts, I am going to go Sunday and be a person and be open to her being a person and sometimes we bump against each other and hurt each other and Jason Statham cannot come and murder everyone who hurts your feelings.
But it also makes me feel a tiny bit of compassion for the people who have done this to me, since, when I want to do this, it comes from a place of fear.
I wonder if they were afraid of losing me. If knowing me, but leaving room for me to just be me and to have my own responses that you can’t anticipate necessarily ahead of time, was frightening to them, because it meant I might leave them or change my mind about them. Better to game out everything, to decide ahead of time how I will be and respond and then try to force me into it, better to make me predictable, and then they knew I wouldn’t be lost to them.
I have been lost to them.
It doesn’t work.
I’m babbling, but I wonder, a lot about how many of us, how much of the time, are motivated by fear and misery or the avoidance of it. I think I am, a lot. I have tried, since realizing this, to recalibrate my life to be motivated by happiness and pleasure and the pursuit of those things, but, in many ways, I feel like it’s a task akin to trying to learn to be right handed if you’re born left-handed. Even if you can switch, it feels weird. There are always times when you reach with your left hand. But unlike being left-handed, which is awesome and I like it fine!, how I was taught to approach the world makes it very hard for me to live in the world. I have to, for my own well-being, live differently, even if I often fail at it.
But, much the same way as not being a drinker tends to bring into stark focus how much the people around you drink and why, trying not to be a miserable fuck sure does show you all the ways people are miserable fucks and why.
Miserable fucks. Man. I’m trying not to be one. Trying being the operative word.