“Sorry,” Nancy says, “you don’t get to be the loser.”
I nod and laugh and wipe the tears from my cheeks. What I had been so self-conscious about sharing with my friends, the story that had been infused with shame, slowly lost its fizzle. Bubbles of shame rose to the top of the story as I spoke it, and now? It’s just regular water. I drink it, and Kim lights the candles.
I pick up my pen. My heart has something to say.
Another, much earlier morning, maybe fifteen years ago.
I stumble into the hotel room where two friends are sleeping. I’ve had what might be called “a lot” of gins and tonic (is that pluralized correctly? Is it like brothers in law? Anyway.) plus some sloppy intimate time with some guy I met at the reception, at which point I decided that my worth directly depended on his interest in me. Back in his room, it was awkward and off-rhythm, but it met a need, until it didn’t. So I figured out what floor my own room belonged to and found my way back to it.
I loudly greet my drowsy friends.
They grumble, shoot a few dirty looks my way. One of them probably tells me to keep it down.
At first, I’m annoyed they don’t want to talk with me. People! I’m tipsy and titillated. Someone kissed me! And more! Clearly, I have things to discuss.
Drunk brain adjusts the hazy focus of this picture. Well, the room is dark and they were sleeping. And it’s probably three in the morning.
“Oh,” I say, working it out, “I’m the asshole.”
Later we laugh about this story. It was a funny moment.
What’s not funny is me deciding that moment wasn’t nearly long enough for me to be the asshole. I should probably put myself in a position to feel that way regularly, regardless of circumstance. In fact, maybe I already knew how to be there.
Yet another morning, about twenty-eight years ago.
I wrote him a note and passed it somewhere in that upstairs hallway of St. Sebastian’s or maybe in the cafeteria before lunch, asking if he would Go With Me. Location unclear.
He writes back. No.
Later that day, in a hallway between English and Math, we actually discourse about it, as much as sixth graders can discourse. He is, after all, a pragmatist, the first in a long line of pragmatists I will pursue, trying to get my heart needs met with my head. You can guess how that works out.
In response to his response, I ask him my favorite question, “Why?”
“Well,” he says, practical, “you’re a dog.” He huffs out something between a laugh and a sneer. Either way it’s caught on the corner of his lip.
In a much later moment, I will consider being called a dog a compliment, a reference to a totem animal who represents loyalty, faithfulness. Now I take it as the insult it’s intended to be. I am ugly, and he would be embarrassed to be with me. So inspired by the conversation with the pragmatist, I make the next logical leap.
I should be embarrassed to be with myself.
Even though I feel huge, unwieldy, part of me shrinks to the size of a bean, rattling around under my rose colored sweater.
My head absorbs the information and crafts a plan. Okay, I’m a dog. I shall now spend the rest of my life trying to hide that fact from men. Distract them with my sexy brain. Or my generous spirit and superb niceness. Or gin. Yep. More gin will do it. Then neither of us will have to look at me. Not really.
My heart? Not really involved.
I stare out the window. The rain hasn’t stopped since last night.
I paint my nails, both sets. Lemon Shark yellow. Sending an SOS to the sun.
I float some questions out over my cup of tea. They mingle with the steam.
What would happen if I don’t have to be the failure, loser, dog? What if pleasing other people doesn’t actually meet my own needs? What if it doesn’t matter what they all think? What if the only thing that matters is what I know, in my heart, whether I know it now or simply need to stay tuned?
The rain slants left and right and straight again. It keeps going. It doesn’t apologize or try to trick me into thinking it’s the sun. It’ll go until it’s finished. It knows what it is. Or better, it is what it is.
Usually, I hate that phrase, especially when said to me as a defense for bad behavior. But right now, I like it. Rain rains, regardless. It’s not a defense for bad behavior. It’s not a defense at all.
What if Jen jenned, regardless?
Today I will loosen my grip on the tight hold of who I’m supposed to be, what will please everyone else, and how to fix my life so it’s “right.”
I will give my head a rest. I will involve my heart. I will treat it as the bridge from thought to need. I will let it show me the way.
Your FHP activity for today, should you choose to accept it: Join me. Involve your heart. If you don’t know what it’s saying, find a way to get quieter. If you still can’t hear it, apply more quiet. Give it as much quiet as it needs, for as long as it needs. Maybe five minutes a day. Maybe five hours.
I don’t know and I won’t try to tell you, because it is, after all, your heart. Because I’m not a pragmatist. And you haven’t failed if you haven’t figured it all out, or if your life is other than something someone told you it should be. Sorry, you don’t get be the loser, either. Or the dog. Or the Lemon Shark. Or even the rain.
You get to be you, with your big beautiful heart, which one way or the other, has something to say.
Photo credit: “Miss Omija writing time” by Raheel Shahid is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.