I think about this sometimes: about how messed up we all really are on the inside. How we put on this “day face” and try to just live life and be okay, but underneath all that we have all these layers of neuroses and disappointments and unresolved issues that stay dormant until they’re triggered. Not overtly, most of the time — we wouldn’t be able to function if it were overt all the time — but under. Underneath us, inside of us. Things that happened to us that changed us. Heartbreak and trauma woven into the texture of our skins.
I think about this sometimes when I’m talking to someone, especially someone I know. It’s always more pronounced when it’s someone you know: you’re looking at them and they’re looking at you and you’re discussing something stupid like where to get dinner and all of a sudden it’s a surprise punch in the stomach, simultaneously seeing the person right in front of you and everything they’ve been through smudged around them like a sort of aura. You look at this person who was once on the verge of suicide, or overcame a serious illness, or had a dad who drank or no family at all, and they’re right there, talking, standing. They’re fine. They’re there. And you get this sudden impulse to weep or just touch them actually to make sure they’re real and wish you could borrow their strength for a moment because your own bones are crumbling.
It’s crazy to think about sometimes how all of us, even the most put together of us, are comprised of layers upon layers of experiences that once broke us, cracked our shells; about how we’re constantly mending ourselves, gluing ourselves together so we can remain in one piece and keep going forward for some reason. Underneath the outer layer we’re these coarse tangles of fears and mental blocks and sense memories and the older we get the more they just build and build. Sometimes we want nothing more than to be able to “let go” and leave the past in the past where it belongs, but these things imprint, in a way. They brand us. We can’t get rid of them and we wouldn’t be ourselves without them.
I was talking to a friend of mine recently and we started discussing our “stories,” and the more she told me about her life the more I became in awe of her — I felt like, if I were ever made to go through what she went through, I probably wouldn’t have made it past the 8th grade. But then, if I step outside of myself sometimes and take an objective look at what I went through, I’m in awe of myself as well. It all looks like so much more when you just look at it from a distance; more intense, in a way. More overwhelming. More something.
What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger but it also makes us f-cking tired.
We promise ourselves we’re going to stop letting ourselves get hurt. We wrap ourselves in impenetrable cocoons, or we try to. But it doesn’t really work that way — as much as we want to become immune, become untouchable, we can’t be: the world still wants to play and we can’t really say no. We’re just as fragile and breakable as we’ve always been; we just have more layers on this time around.
Of course, someone somewhere always has it worse. And I’m not going to say everyone deserves some sort of medal for getting out of bed in the morning. But damn it, when you think about all this weight that piles up on us, and all our different coping strategies (some adaptive, some not so much), and the scars we accumulate throughout our lives (everyone has them) that make us all the interesting damaged messes that we are; the way we individually experience loss and heartbreak and nothingness and push through it, we’re doing a pretty good job as humans. We do things. We go to work. We go to school. We do the laundry. We breathe. We function. We grieve and we pick ourselves up and adapt and keep going.
We keep moving, because there’s not a whole lot else to do.