I read a meme a few months ago, and i’ve been turning it around in my brain since then. I knew right away that i wanted to write about it, but any time i sat down at the keyboard, nothing i bashed out seemed to capture my feelings. I can’t find where i saved it, i can’t even be sure i did save it, but that’s okay, i’ll give you the gist.
The creator of the meme requested that at their funeral, people tell the truth about them. Further, they asked that no one give banal, meaningless or patently false accounts of them as a person, because they didn’t always have a smile on their face, and sometimes they were an asshole.
It struck me, and resonated, long after i’d seen it. It also led me to some other thoughts that are along the same line… I think? I’m going to attempt to present these ponderings in a cohesive way, but as with anything i write, just because i get it, doesn’t mean you will.
I want to be real and i want to be known.
But sometimes i’m cool with being hidden and fake.
Like when i’m at the injectionist’s for some cosmetic work. I can see how most people act when they’re there. It took some courage to go and be surrounded by young, beautiful women who look like they’re IG models, and older sophisticates who appear to have a lot of dough. I don’t have much chutzpah left over after coping, to boldly be my weirdo self. I feel fine about plastering a huge smile on my face and using that voice – you know the one, right?
Some people i don’t know well enough, and some set off inside alarms.
It’s fine to behave in a somewhat generic, slightly subdued way until i know folks better, i think. If you want to come at me as 100% you, i’m cool with that, i just personally feel a bit safer in new social situations with a bit of anonymity.
There’s also the odd time where the person i’m interacting with triggers me (reminds me of an abuser), or just plants immediate red flags – like the person who stares in an overtly sexual way.
Many situations don’t require me to be my full self, and some things flow better without the full meal deal of my personality.
When i’m at the till, paying for my items, and there’s a bunch of people waiting behind me, neither the cashier nor the waiting customers are looking to forge a lifetime bond with my (incredibly charismatic) self.
I don’t think i could be described as down-to-earth, or even genuine, as an ex-friend once informed me by email (yep, still a bit tetchy about that one). I’m a multiple, after all. My face can be a mask, my body the puppet of a person who is not quite me. I’ve hidden my true self from others many times – both reflexively and with conscious intent.
I always want to know the truth, but sometimes i’ll lie, and i don’t feel bad about it.
If i don’t want to do something, and i don’t have the energy or desire to go into the reason why, i will totally fib.
If it’s a large gathering, or maybe i don’t know the person i’m doing the thing with very well, i feel no guilt begging off due to illness.
I should say though, that i’m fairly up front with my mental/emotional/social issues, and i’m selective about who i socialise with, so most of the time i can just say, Can’t people, and it’s understood and accepted without further explanation.
If my response could hurt someone’s feelings, i might lie.
That How do i look? one comes to mind. If i’m close with the person asking, i may say if they look awful. I’m more apt to pick something i like, or pick 1 piece of the outfit to change. I know for some that’s not good enough, and i’m obfuscating. Okay. <insertshrughere>
Sometimes i’ll purposely misunderstand the question. I’ve found that people are often loathe to restate, so i can avoid saying the potentially hurtful or contentious thing.
I’m glad when people ask more than one question at a time. I’ll pick the one i can be honest about without getting into something i’d rather not. That dislike to restate the question comes into play here.
I think there are a lot of situations where lying is fine.
It’s been my experience that everyone lies.
It’s also been my experience that, those who rail about hating liars are often the biggest ones, and i give them a wide berth.
There are only 2 people i won’t lie to – my doctor and myself.
The rest of you are fair game.*
I bring this up because i’m not “honest to a fault”, and i don’t want to be.
Another thing i hear said with respect to the dead is that they would give you the shirt off their back.
Well, i almost certainly won’t, unless you’re my child.
My husband won’t get the shirt off my back, and neither will my best friends.
I may die of exposure without my shirt, and i like living.
If there’s room, i’ll share the space inside my shirt with whom i will, but that’s dependent on circumstances.
There is a point at which i’m giving too much, and the point is mine to discern, and i do so carefully. I will not empty my vessel for anyone, and seeing as my children are all grown now, no, not even for them.
I don’t see the virtue in poverty.
The dead share nothing.**
Another thing you couldn’t say about me is that i’ll do anything for anybody. I won’t.
Which brings up judgment too, because i will judge. I will ask myself if doing the thing is worth my time and resources. If i don’t think it is, i don’t do the thing.
That’s not to say that i won’t still throw good money after bad, or help someone that i think may not appreciate it. I’ll pour myself into an unwinnable cause.
But i’ve taken a hard look at the situation before i decided to throw the dice anyway, because sometimes i win when i lose.
Oh, and my favourite remembrance of the dead:
“They were always happy, and always had a smile on their face.”
I’ll be damned if i’m going to smile when i’ve got nothing to smile about. Hiding and subjugating how i feel is one of the things that screwed me up this badly.
I can smile at a person on the street, or at someone who’s providing me a service. I don’t need everyone to know i’m having a low day (mostly). I don’t need to tell everyone that i’m currently riddled with anxiety (usually). But if we have any kind of rapport, i may very well tell you a bit about my sadness or stress, because it helps me, and i dare to think it could help you, too.
This is not contradictory to my prior statement that sometimes i wear a mask on purpose.
These are choices i make, dependent on the situation, with whom i’m dealing, and how many spoons are in my drawer. I’ve collected a number of tools over the years that are there to help me be functional in my day-to-day living. If i can, i generally prefer to let it all hang out, but that is not always wise, or appropriate, or timely, or safe.
Discernment. I haz it.
Sometimes it’s no one’s business.
Further, it’s normal and fine for folks to have neither the time, nor the desire to get the full HistrionicaButterfly experience. I can be a lot.
Which brings me to the best part.
Occasionally, i can be a good and proper asshole.
Let me demonstrate my honesty.
There are reasons and explanations and mitigating factors that perhaps cause and at least influence my assholery, but the unvarnished truth is:
– i hate questions, and will obfuscate, hedge, and get outright testy in my answers,
– my sarcasm can verge on caustic,
– i’ll disappear with no warning or explanation,
– i keep even the most worthy people at arm’s length,
– i regularly make mountains out of molehills,
– i’ve got a know-it-all streak,
– i’ve bitten more than a few heads off for no good reason,
– i’m so focused on myself i can miss the needs of others,
– i can be vicious,
– i sometimes manipulate others to get what i want,
– i’m an excuse-maker and dodger of responsibilities.
There are more, but they fall under annoying personality traits rather than character flaws. Like my ability to talk the leg off a chair (or clamming up when it’s most important that i talk), or spend us into the poorhouse, or my exhausting need for reassurance and approval, or my constant self-doubt.
This is me. This is who i am. Dying doesn’t remake me into a perfect human. Loving me doesn’t mean that i wasn’t sometimes hard to love. It won’t be disrespectful to tell the truth about the kind of person i was. In fact, it’d be honouring me.
I’ve failed many times. My biggest failures involve the people i love most in the world.
I’m standoffish, emotionally unavailable, unreliable, and intensely self-focused.
I can be pushy, obnoxious, thoughtless, demanding, critical, and infuriatingly contrary.
It’s only the truth.
It doesn’t negate all the wonderful, beautiful, amazing things about me. (I won’t go into those, because the length of this piece would treble. Heh.)
Of course, once i’m dead everyone’s free to sugar-coat me or not, as they will.
A person reading this might think the truth doesn’t matter so much to me, but in fact it does, very, very much. I share this nakedly in part to emphasise how important it is. I don’t think it’s contradictory or even ironic.
Do yourself and the rest of humanity a favour and don’t slap a coat of Hollywood paint on the portrait of my life.
I’m absolutely fabulous, and also an utter shithead.
If I try to seize this self of which I feel sure, if I try to define and to summarize it, it is nothing but water slipping through my fingers. I can sketch one by one all the aspects it is able to assume, all those likewise that have been attributed to it, this upbringing, this origin, this ardor or these silences, this nobility or this vileness. But aspects cannot be added up.
~ Albert Camus
*I’m being facetious, here.
Also, my blog is brutally honest, in case anyone was wondering.
**I’m referring to literal resources, here. Food, drink, shelter, money, physical effort, even time.