Insecure (Or, How to be a martyr whilst doing laundry)
Have you ever felt so self conscious that you forget how to walk?
Like, you're walking down the street, but you know there are people in the restaurants that you're walking by that can see you, so you start walking with more intention. Really, you look like an idiot and you know it. Why are your feet so floppy all of a sudden? Were you always so hunched? Do you carry your bag on your right or left shoulder? You want to pick your head up and walk with pride, but you know you'll trip over a curb, or small dog, so you walk, stooped, like you're protecting The One Ring. You're just terrible.
We are so insecure. It didn't even occur to you that no one noticed you walking down the street because no one notices anything. They were all painfully aware of how terrible they chew to ever notice that you stepped in that puddle.
For me, not only am I hilariously awkward all day every day in normal things like telling the hostess at a restaurant that I hope she enjoys her meal too, but I'm painfully insecure in my relationships.
I know I'm not alone in this.
The thing is, we know we have hard evidence that we could testify to in court on a stack of Bibles to show how horrible we are. We always say the wrong thing. We always bring people down when we go out. We never know what to wear. No one ever would want to get to know us...the real us.
I'm writing this in a writing group with other writers writing things I could never think to write in my life. One guy, the head writing writer, asked me what I use to write.
I answered, My hands? On my laptop?
He laughed and all but ruffled my hair on my cute little head.
I still have no idea what he meant. Are there other things one writes with? Oh God. What kind of workshop did I sign up for? This is the height of today's insecurities.
Otherwise, I've been feeling pretty rad these last few months. Feelin' good, lookin' good. I'm on an internationally ranked podcast (don't fact check this because I don't know where we stand today), I'm a wildly popular writer (with my mom), and I'm officially recognized in the local watering holes as something other than "Kellie's sister." It's not that I don't get insecure, but usually these days it is a low hum, rather than a blaring horn.
Yet, still, there I was, last Friday night power folding my socks at a laundromat at 8pm, snorting with rage and indignation. That's exactly what happens to me when I'm insecure. That, and power texting everyone in my phone (like I am at this exact moment) for validation.
The reason I became so insecure last Friday and found myself loudly folding my period undies was sort of a mystery to me for almost two hours. It started innocently enough: three of us were going to grab a drink. One didn't feel up to it, the second decided she didn't either, and I already had my bra on.
Anyone who knows me understands the only two rules I have:
- If my bra is on, we're going somewhere, you don't have a choice.
- If my bra is off, I'm not leaving the house until the sun comes back up.
Out of the clear pale blue winter morning sky, I was knocked off my feet by such a wave of some kind of gross emotion, that it just about took my breath away.
I got in the shower, deciding that I was going to take myself on a date. Maybe I'd hit up an old friend for a random drink. That's what grown ups do, right? They text an old friend and meet for a glass of wine? Oh wait. My old friends live in Colorado.
Fine. I'll go to the movies. God damn it. I had a panic attack in a movie, and it takes some talking into to go. Do I have the energy to be brave and vulnerable and insecure all at the same time? (Spoiler alert, yes - we do that all day)
OK FINE! I'll write.
Okkkkk fine. I'll do the laundry I've been ignoring for two (read: three) weeks.
My neighbor and reluctant heterosexual life partner, Kate, is back from Spain and graciously offers for me to do laundry at her place, but it's really hard to be a martyr when you're using someone else's washer and dryer. So I put on the only clean clothes I had left in my entire apartment, and drove my UHaul full of laundry over to the laundromat around the corner.
It was me and some guy that just clearly got dropped off from prison. The cracked grey industrial garbage can was overflowing. No one has ever swept the floor. There was a dried up ketchup packed that someone had stepped on and left. The soda machine doesn't work, which depressed me even though I don't drink soda unless it's mixed with booze. The TV blared a kids show on a channel that didn't quite come in. The deli next door shut down for the night. And the only two washers running were mine.
Everyone else has everyone else.
The symbolism was not lost on me in the moment: This place was my emotional state.
All of the empty machines displayed alternating messages that said: FILL. 25. Fill. 25.
I then had a moment of deafening clarity that I wanted to feel full too. I wanted to fill myself, for once, with feeling loved and wanted, instead of with booze and food. I wanted to be chosen. I wanted to not have to want for once. I looked down with eyes full of self-reflective martyr tears, (that are totally wasted when no one can see them, by the way) and noticed that my sneakers were dirty.
They're knock-off Converses. I spend too much on filling everyone else to afford the real thing. I'd probably just get them dirty anyway.
I looked to the guy at the end of the room who was probably sharpening a shiv or something, and thought of starting a conversation, but then he got a call and left.
I picked up my phone, which I had dramatically put on silent, and saw I had missed texts from a friend. She said she felt bad and sort of felt like she bailed on me that night too. She knew I had my bra on, and she knew I needed more than just sitting around this winter. She said she'd be there if I needed her.
I was really heavily dedicated to my martyrdom, and was really busy building a pyre in which to burn upon, so I don't think I texted her back.
It's amazing how when we feel insecure, we want everyone around us to go down with our sinking ship.
Luckily, this friend comes with a life raft, and usually a bottle of wine.
I was a jerk.
I folded my men's XXL sweatpants (how am I single) with fury.
This felt gross. I'm the one who doesn't do gross feelings any more. I'm the one who preaches having hard conversations. I co-host a freaking podcast on iTunes about this nonsense <shameless plug for Not Another Anxiety Show>.
I put my laundry in the car and called back.
I started my monologue with that I wanted to practice this whole friendship thing. Like, intentionally. Then I sort of didn't know what to say, so I got curious. I just couldn't put a finger on what felt so awful. Something triggered this emotional shit-storm, but truly, the events were completely benign.
I talked, and she listened. She talked, and I was as close to listening as I've ever been. About an hour later, it all came down to that for some reason I was triggered. That's it. I also learned that my friend valued me and had a chance to tell me right there, and it felt amazing to hear. I want to hear that every day.
I also got to listen to my friend, like really hear her. I subscribe to the belief that everyone is doing their best with what they have. That doesn't mean that you have to accept behavior without boundaries, but it does open you up to hearing people a little more. I heard her say that she's going through a tough transition and it's taking more energy than she thought to get out of the house. I dig that man.
What's cool about all of this is not that I actually figured out what the exact moment of impact was for my emotions. Who cares? Emotions are dumb. They come at you at a million miles an hour, and often take you off guard. Same with crappy thoughts. Can't help them; wouldn't try to.
The importance of that night in the laundromat is that I got curious about my insecurities, and I made the choice to trust someone who held the space for me to get weird. Trust builds trust like that. I loved hearing that I'm loved and valued, but what I felt in my tiny black coal-like heart is that I don't need to hear it to be ok. I am ok without validation every minute, but it takes some intentional trust falls to get there.
I don't know if I'll feel insecure about my friendships again, but I do know that I have more ammo next time the gross stuff pops up out of nowhere.
My advice to everyone: Get curious about your emotions. Get real with the people that you want to be your people. Get intentional about building trust. Get the chicken parm pizza at DeFazios. Get treated for herpes after going to the laundromat.