Smoking with the Ghost in the Back of My Head

Lisa Loeb’s song “Do You Sleep?” is playing on Spotify as I write. The house is quiet. Dana is getting ready for church, and I am sitting on the couch in the living room literally waiting for something to happen. I could make something happen, but I am not that industrious yet. I haven’t had any caffeine, so sitting here is about the most exciting thing I will be doing until I can get the energy together to go get some.

It’s nice, though. There’s a lot to not doing anything and sitting here. My mind runs 3,000 miles a minute, so I actually get more done sitting and staring off into space than I do at any other time in my life. For me, great thoughts come in the quiet, even when I am moving. Sometimes I pace. Sometimes I dance. I just know that the energy I spend while thinking is different when I move than when I sit.

One of my friends from church is a psychologist trained in dealing with emotional trauma, and luckily, she is in the choir with me. She can tell with one sideways look how I’m doing. I am very emotionally vulnerable at church, and because I’m in the choir, I try hard not to absolutely FLOOD OUT with emotion. If I look at her, she will smile and remind me to move. I rock back and forth on my heels until the tears dry, and every time, I am amazed at how fast it works. She cannot be my therapist because we were friends first, but she is invaluable to me as a friend who can take it. I don’t need her to listen to my problems. I need her to be able to read me and tell me what to do. If you know me at all, it is a gargantuan bit of control I’m letting her have, because most of the time I am hell bent on no one being able to tell me what to do. In some cases, it makes me Leslie. It makes me an original.

In others, it makes me a rigid asshole.

It’s something I struggle with daily, because I am fighting to own myself after so many years of NOT. I feel like I have to be stronger and more resolute in my willingness to bend because all I have done in the last 24 years is try and mold myself after someone else’s image because she told me I could trust it more than I could trust my own….. just not in so many words. Generally, if I am defiant, it means that I think you have heard what I’ve said, but you haven’t actually listened to it. For instance, I am no longer a fan of the high-pressure sell. If I say no, I expect you to respect it. I do not want five more minutes of arguing with you over whether I should do x or y, because that five minutes is not me hearing that you want and need me at said event. It is me hearing that what I want is irrelevant.

So I get angry. You just meant love and warmth, but in my mind, you’ve stepped over my boundary and tried to push me into doing something I just don’t want to do and you aren’t listening to the fact that going into social situations is not the same for you as it is for me. Social situations, for me, are a mixed bag. When I feel good, no sweat. I can front for a couple of hours. By “front,” I don’t mean that you aren’t getting part of the genuine me. I mean that I do not have the ability to be funny and charming when emotionally I feel a Chevrolet is on my chest. You just have to realize there are days when the Chevy doesn’t move. That I cannot overcome my anxiety long enough to think that going into a large crowd will be fun.

In the sense that an agora is an open market, I have severe agoraphobia. I do not dislike small gatherings of friends, but I dislike going to grocery stores at 5:00 when everyone is getting off work and shopping for dinner all at once…. or Central Market on Sundays. Seriously, I’d rather have a tooth extracted.

People ask me all the time how I function, because it doesn’t seem like I have any of these problems. Fanagans, there’s a lot I’ve been hiding over the years. I’ll never figure me out, much less you. What I know for sure is that right now, people are fighting with me over boundaries and Dana says it’s because I’ve never had them before.

She’s never wrong about stuff like that.

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