This one is going to jump around a bit, but I wanted to start with Twitter, because people are starting to follow me like gangbusters, but I have my doubts as to whether they are real people or not. Does anyone else have this problem? I am getting followed by all sorts of companies and media outlets that seem more interested in commerce than reading my feed. I don’t mind, necessarily, because a follower is a follower. However, I am not in need of search engine optimization, real estate, or clothing. I go to Macy’s. End of story.
I actually don’t Tweet all that often, I just use it for my blog feed most of the time, which is exciting because my work is getting a much broader audience. I’ve also got some exciting new followers, like the rewrite editor at USA Today, and some liberal Christian ones from tagging Nadia Bolz-Weber in a reply to a Tweet from one of her fans and including her. It’s truly humbling that word is getting around, and that people seem to like the way I weave my faith all the way through my web site, because it’s not just something I do. Faith is who I am.
For instance, I constantly believe that most of the words that flow out of me are actually prayers in disguise, because my strength doesn’t come from hiding my emotions, but from releasing them and being vulnerable. Life has imitated art as I become less and less scared of being vulnerable in front of people, and not wearing the mask I was programmed to wear at a very young age.
First, there was the natural mask of preacher’s kid, because you don’t want everyone in your congregation to know the ins and outs of your family. No one ever told me to do this, I just knew to be on my best behavior because if I wasn’t, my parents weren’t going to hear it from two or three people, but two or three hundred. It just wasn’t worth it to be vulnerable and human in front of people because when you are the preacher’s kid, they treat you differently and hold you to a higher standard, as if the black robe my father wore extended to the rest of us. The first thing my sister said when my dad announced he was leaving the ministry was, “does that mean we can cuss now?” My personal mask got thicker when the emotional abuse started, because then I had even more to hide.
It wasn’t just about being a preacher’s kid anymore. It was about protecting my relationship with Diane at all costs, because I knew that if I talked, it would be taken away from me. As it was, we were on thin ice and trying to find time alone rather than people seeing us together. I would say now that it wasn’t romantic, but certainly seductive to slip away under the radar.
It was also weird that being a preacher’s kid comes with a false sense of security on the part of other parents, that letting their kids hang out with me was safe because of course I was a “good kid.” In some ways, I was, but my problems were not things that other kids should have heard at that age, because I’d gone from 14 to 25 almost overnight. I was not young and sheltered, but an abused kid with abused kid emotional reactions. Hanging out with kids my own age seemed juvenile to me and hard on them, because it was. They didn’t need to hear my shit, and I didn’t want to talk about the things I should have been focusing on when I was that age. I wanted to have adult conversations because I’d lost the skills to hear 7th and 8th grade problems because they were just so trivial to me. Did I want to talk about problems in our classes or 7th grade relationships? No. I wanted friends who also talked about adult things, because I couldn’t relate to kid stuff anymore. It wasn’t interesting compared with drug-dealing, alcoholic girlfriends and being a closeted teacher. When I was a junior in high school, I had a panic attack before I left for the homecoming dance, because I was going with a boy and not only did I feel like I was cheating on the one I loved, I felt like I wasn’t being true to myself, either. Gary was an excellent beard, it was just a shame he didn’t know it. Before the prom (Gary was a year ahead of me), I got an allergic reaction brought on by stress and an internal histrionic mess. Angela came over and shot me up with cortisone so I could still go.
Years later, watching Queer as Folk, I cried all the way through the scene where Brian showed up at Justin’s senior prom, because I would have given away a limb for Diane to have done that for me….. the only difference being that I have two left feet.
It was an interesting relationship, because even at that age, I knew she was telling me things I wasn’t mature enough to hear without taking on her problems as my own. I am an empath, and my mirror neurons were on high alert for the entirety of 7th and 8th grade. Even when Diane moved away, they still went off, but it was less so because we were just writing to each other and talking on the phone rather than seeing each other twice a week. Having some space and time to respond was much easier for me than being in the moment with her, because then I had less time to come up with something to say. I am still that way. I told Sarah last week at therapy that I am uncomfortable without a delete key. That I have problems starting up real conversations sometimes because while I am fast on my feet with quips and jokes, I am not necessarily able to come up with anything truly meaningful on the spot, because I am too impulsive and often say things that would have come out better if I’d seen them in black and white first. There are so many times in conversation that awkward becomes ononmatopoetic, either because I’ve reached too deep into my emotions and people don’t know how to respond to it, or I’ve used a sarcastic joke that just doesn’t land.
I joke when I am uncomfortable. A lot. Most of the time, it’s conversations where a simple I hear you or , “uh huh” is all that’s really necessary. I am also fond of using obscure movie or Doctor Who references that people don’t get instead of showing real emotions. I think a lot of people are guilty of this, but in my journey to become the authentic “accidental saint” that I am, it’s something I want to change. The problems of the world are real, and people tend to open themselves up to me. They do not want pablum in return, especially when they’ve just bled out emotionally.
The juxtaposition is kind of weird, because on paper, I have the ability to respond with much more grace and mercy than I ever could in conversation, because unless the person is someone I know really well, I often feel like I have a mental patient magnet on my forehead. For instance, one time I rode the bus in Portland, and it was a not a quick trip. I struck up a conversation with the driver, and made the mistake of telling him that I was a psychology major (which I was, at the time. I’ve switched to political science, but have enough hours that I’ve already completed my minor). Upon hearing this, the bus driver seemed to think that meant I was a licenced therapist, and proceeded to tell me about all of his problems whether I wanted to hear them or not. He went deep, and I honestly felt like a doctor trapped on an airplane. If you tell people you’re a doctor on an airplane, they tend to open up about their maladies. It’s the same with being a pastor or a therapist. Tell people what you really do for a living, and your reading time is effectively lost.
Sometimes I hate it when people……… emote.
You don’t know the person well enough to really assess their situation, so it’s hard to act as if you are. However, I am too polite to actually tell them to stop talking. I hear Rigby from Regular Show in my head a lot, because one of his catchphrases is yelling, “STOP TALKING!” There are rarely times that I wish for a turbulence or the bus to crash, but sometimes it wouldn’t hurt, you know?
For instance, I would never in a million years wear a clerical collar while traveling. There are times when I am just not up to be moved by other people’s words, because I have 1800 books on my Kindle and I’d like to finish them at some point. I say “moved by other people’s words,” because sometimes I am open to the universe and allow grace to happen in situations with strangers. I am also intensely introverted. It just depends on my mood, like it does with everyone else, I suppose. I just have to remember that sometimes, burying myself in a book is cutting off allowing grace to happen.
Hold on. I have to Tweet about this.