There I was (on a night just like this), laying on my stomach on the red and white checkered quilt that I've designated as my outside blanket. I was looking up, squinting into the 6pm sun that was getting ready to set across Washington Park as my friend Kate tilted her head up toward the sky with eyes closed to add additional theatrics to the point she was making.
We were talking with another friend about how hard it is to get out of the bad patterns we all get in. You know, when you call the ex when you're a little tipsy, or when you smoke the thing when you're lonely, or when you eat that stuff when you're sad, or when you just generally feel like a piece of garbage and you don't know why....we all have examples, and it can be destructive to not talk about it.
So Kate, in all of her glory with the two of us hanging on her every word, sort of drew these little circles in the air with her annoyingly elegant hands and said, "Ok. Imagine that you're in a bubble," <Insert my scoffing here> "and all of the people you love and trust are saying kind, true, and supportive things. All of those things they say are swirling around you, but it's outside the bubble. You can see them but you can't hear them in the bubble. The only way to let this stuff sink in is to get out of the bubble."
Kate does this thing when she knows she's on the verge of being the wisest person in the room, and sort of sits back to let her words sink in, then looks up to the right, and nods. It's so frustrating...I want that kind of calm self-actualization.
When I say something wise (which I usually just repeat from Our Lady of Compassion, Brene Brown...bless'ed be thou...), I make sure everyone is looking at me, and then demand immediate and verbose affirmation.
"Ok fine, so how do we get out of the bubble?" I asked, equal parts unsupportive and bitchy.
"I don't know, but I know you are the only one that can do it," Kate responded softly and resolutely.
"OK FINE. How do you get out of YOUR bubble?" I pressed without either abandon or any semblance of support in the least.
"Well," she paused and opened her eyes, "I think sometimes I just can't take it any more, so I have to get out. Sometimes the bubble is so destructive that it bursts and I have no choice."
When the sun shines on the side of Kate's face that time of day it makes her eyes turn that clear color of a really good whiskey that I can't afford. Her eyes are that color whenever she's right. It's very annoying. In my defense, my eyes are the color of sapphires when I'm really mad or I've had three glasses of sauvignon blanc (it's a chicken or egg thing), so at least I have that going for me.
Sometimes when Kate says something really profound and I have the privilege of watching it all unfold, I feel like I'm over here chewing cud and signing up for the newest season of Jackass. I'm sort of afraid to tell Kate that she has it way more together than she knows, and to give herself a break.
Then sometimes I remember that we all have that kind of wiseness. Do you know how I know? Well, if you'd shut up I'd tell you.
Because when you hear this kind of truth it's not really a surprise and sometimes it stings a little. Wise AF stuff stings sometimes, but it doesn't sting as much as this stupid bubble metaphor I've been obsessed with for a week and a half. I've also been obsessed with what the next DeFazio's pizza I'm going to shame-eat will be. #CheatDay
For me, the fear of what's outside the bubble seems more painful than what's in the bubble, but it's what's in the bubble that's killing me. And the exit is on the inside. Awesome. I pay a lot of money for people to quite literally burst my bubbles.
My bubble lies at the bottom of a very deep ocean. Or maybe it's a sea. There is a difference, you know.
My bubble lies in this deep place where I can only see the light from the sun sometimes. That bubble has everything I need to get by, but it gets very small very quickly. I know the surface is where I need to be to thrive, yet I'm scared to get out of the bubble to get to the surface because there's a whole lotta water in between me and the air, ya dig? The swim is really going to suck, and I have no idea if I'll make it.
This metaphor is a little thick, I know.
I KNOW, OK?? I KNOW!
My point is that getting out of your bubble might be the beginning of the work, but all the best air is up at the surface. And yeah, you've got some things weighing you down: the way you see your body; or the boy that you can't forget; or that rainbow flag you keep trying to shrug off; or what people will think of you when they see you for the first time in a while.
The problem with our bubbles is that we're never going to have enough likes on that InstaG picture to make that bubble big enough to sustain us. You'll never be thin enough, tall enough, fit enough, smart enough, Spanish enough or even confident enough to make enough space in that bubble to keep you alive forever. All the obsession with perfection does is create an illusion in your mind that you could somehow be so flawless that you will never be judged again.
Bad news: that makes your bubble smaller, and when we feel like we don't have any elbow room, we panic and numb the uncomfortable realization that we need to get the F out of there. My numbing comes in the shape of Chinese food with a white wine chaser. Sometimes it comes in the form of power watching Netflix or shopping, or avoidance, or anger, or....and this is a new one....sleep.
I hate this bubble.
Getting out of your bubble is not about pretending that the things people think of you don't matter, because lezbe honest, they do. It's letting those things happen and showing the hell up anyway. Showing up is vulnerable....vulnerability is brave...bravery is sexy.
(And remember that I'm single...get at your girl if you're showing up.)
I think getting out of this goddamned bubble is about trust. And I don't mean learning to trust others...that crap is earned. It's a privilege to earn my trust. I mean another beast entirely...trusting ourselves. I think the thing that will propel us to the surface is learning to trust that if I'm in a world of hurt, I will love myself enough to get the hell out of Dodge, and to make the right decision for myself. I mean, it might take four or five tries to get that one right, but that's why we practice. Practicing this stuff builds trust.
Ps, as an aside, can we also address that happiness is terrifying? That's a bubble in itself. If you're too happy it must mean that things are about to go tits up, right? I know. But that's the myth of this friggin bubble. It's telling us that it's keeping us safe and sound in this garbage, and all it's doing is keeping us apart from the real joy.
I'll check with Kate on all of this (after I hit "publish" and get 8 solid hours of sleep), but I think she'd be on board with me saying that getting out of the bubble is about taking a deep breath, doing a quick rosary, and trying to find the surface. It's not going to happen over night, and you might crawl back in the bubble a few times, especially when things are hard. I get it, and don't worry. It's a practice.
You can do it. Keep kicking. We're all on the surface cheering you on.