strange loop.

Last night I rummaged through boxes in the basement, looking for my old journals. With few exceptions, I religiously kept a journal from the time I moved to Chicago until I arrived in Philadelphia–a span of nearly ten years. Some of these are long gone, victims of leaky messenger bags, temper tantrums, and too many cross-country moves. Fortunately, a fairly representative cross-section is buried in a box of Ryan’s clothes here in West Philadelphia.

I realized that I needed to get a firmer grip on the narrative of my Chicago life. Obviously I’m seeing things through the lens of my 31-year old mind. I wanted to know how it all really felt as it was happening.

The first notebook I pulled from the box–a blue cover with a Sailor Moon sticker –I recognized as my constant companion during some of the craziest times with Ryan. Sure enough, it’s all detailed there in surprisingly neat print–drugs (with not a single word written during the apex of our drug use), lurid details about sexual escapades (I found myself embarrassed to read these; I guess I was trying to be a modern day Anais Nin) and all of the secret feelings I’ve never said aloud.

Really, that’s the recurring theme of all of my journals: I cannot share my actual feelings with anyone, other than a few close friends. The notebooks from my Chicago years are filled with sentiments like “I acted like I was completely cool and unbothered by <insert situation here>, but actually felt like I might die of sadness right then and there.”

Oh, sure, I definitely have changed a lot in the past ten years. I am more confident and secure. I am more aware of my true value. And I have a much better understanding of human nature. I’m more patient with situations that deserve that energy, and I tolerate very little emotional nonsense from others.

But nothing underscores my pattern of behavior–especially in terms of love/infatuation/lust–more than a view of a random notebook from 2005. I pulled this one from the box and brought it up to my bedroom only because I could not connect its cover to any particular period in my life. After reading a few pages, I said to no one in particular (maybe Moe, since he was sitting next to me), “Oh, god…sometimes I just really hate myself.”

This journal was about one topic (despite a few futile attempts at covering other subject matter): my quasi-relationship with my best male friend (a neighbor/coworker in Portland). Or maybe it’s more about the lack of relationship there, since I was completely incapable of telling him how I felt. At the same time, I was particularly astute at pretending that I didn’t care about him at all…even though we slept together a few nights each week.

Here’s a quote that sums up my foolishness regarding boys/feelings/communication:

“Reyna and I ran into (a long time crush of mine) at the Hollywood Fred Meyer. It was utterly surprising, because he never called any of us to say that he would be back in town. I felt disoriented for a few minutes after I saw him, mainly because I began to think that there was nothing really there for me any more. It’s as if he has joined the list of situations I have over thought to the point of being bored with them. Reyna argued that really the sudden mental resolution to this situation was relating to this: the inexplicable (and of course completely obvious to my best friend) fact that I am in love with (the boy whose name fills this notebook). I told her to shut up. She couldn’t be more wrong. I crossed my fingers behind my back as I said this, even though the possibility of these feelings had never occurred to me before that moment.”

After years of being friends with the guy we saw at Fred Meyer (grocery store), I finally asked him out on a date (months before the entry above was written). And you know what? He thought I was TEASING him, playing some sort of cruel joke. Because in his mind, why would I suddenly ask him out after all of this time? So then I just acted like it was a joke, saying something semi-mean like, “Yeah, you’re way too poor for me. Ha ha.” Fortunately he moved to Los Angeles a few weeks later, because I surely would have been tempted–most likely after a few drinks–to ask him out again.

Maybe the biggest difference between this journal and the volumes from years before is this: The 22-year old Amanda is convinced that every male in her life thinks she is inadequate in all regards: general physical attractiveness, sexual prowess, socialization skills, and so on. That’s why she pretends to feel nothing. Or at least, she smiles through the most excruciating situations. The 27-year old version doesn’t question her value. She’s just afraid of rejection or embarrassment or major missteps. It’s much easier (or so she thinks) to merely obsess about a situation until all of the feeling is gone…an excruciating process for sure.

The journal from 2000 is filled with phrases like, “beneath my facade of positivity is a simmering stew of insecurity and anxiety.” I was just waiting for the house of cards to fall.

But five years later (and this was the first time I’ve had true feelings of any depth for anyone since Ryan), I wrote “I’m sure that Reyna is bored with my long whiskey-tinged monologues about this ridiculous predicament.” Because essentially, she was the only person that knew the true extent of my feelings. Nothing could fall apart if I never started building it.

Anyway…after reading all of these journals, I just started crying. It was as if I was finally letting out years and years of feelings I had stuffed away. And I was angry at myself for hiding so much for so long.

Volumes of history written in my own cheesy girl handwriting allowed me to finally see the patterns of my behavior.

A few weeks ago, I was so furious at someone, I could feel tears running down my cheeks. Janelle said, “If you feel like crying, you should. Don’t feel weird about it.” But one thing about me has not changed at all: I cannot cry in front of someone. It’s a personal policy that has become second nature to me.

But last night, I finally got it all out…at least for now.

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