Living in the Gap by Cheryl Oreglia
No wonder I often feel confused, especially when I’m lost in personality, this happens when I ignore my authentic way of being in the world, and slap on an old frayed mask, hoping no one will notice. As Akshay Vasu so eloquently states, “There was a closet somewhere inside me…Day after day I stored so many masks in that closet that one day I searched for my real face in it and it wasn’t there. I never understood whether I lost it or I forgot how it looked like, the more I searched the most lost I felt.” It seems I’ve never been stellar at being me.
There are people who can smell a fake a mile away, and that’s why I wear perfume, to throw them off my scent. This is my hope, if I smell nice, the association will linger…
“Perfume was first created to mask the stench of foul and offensive odors…
Spices and bold flavorings were created to mask the taste of putrid and rotting meat…
What then was music created for?
Was it to drown out the voices of others, or the voices within ourselves?
I think I know.” Emilie Autumn
My authentic self is much quieter, intentional, and introspective rather than reactive, jolly, and sanguine. Where the mask is bold, mysterious, witty, with glittered eyes, I tend towards the opposite when alone. It looks a little like withdrawal from the outside, but I’m actually quite busy dissecting my experiences as if a frog in sophomore science, cutting out the heart, the liver, the pancreas of a moment, and then peeking inside.
When I’m alone I chase ideas for miles, catching up to them when they’re worn out, where I find them spent, panting, leaning against the curb. The pursuit can be hell and that might be why my laundry is always caught up?
When I’ve run out of distractions, totally consumed, post four cups of highly caffeinated coffee, this is when I finally sit down, and write. I spew out some shitty rough draft, and then I painstakingly weave through the material, patching the holes, replacing the worn threads. With all the conversations going on in my head, I might question my sanity, but I never feel alone.
I am guilty of relying on the mask in social situations where the ratio of who I know and who I don’t is bottom heavy. There are actually people in the world who love socializing, they would prefer being with people more than showering, sleeping, or grabbing a fork and eating straight from the refrigerator. It’s weird. I’m not sure if it’s bad genetics or they’re simply missing an important gene? It could be both.
But when they’re with people they’re in their glory because I believe they’re secretly zapping our energy cell by cell, as if a vampire, they suck you dry, and simply move on to the next victim. You can spot them pretty easily, they’re all giddy, smiling, and talking up a storm, as if they’ve been clogged up like the kitchen sink, and they sort of spew when released to the public, carrot peels and all.
The ones who look pallid, pale, peaked are the introverts, usually they’re wearing a skewed mask, desperately watching the clock, or playing with their phones. On some level I think our phones are turning us into social zombies? Who has time to practice their social skills when Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snap Chat all need simultaneous updates. It’s as if our primary relationship is with our A.I. system instead of each other, it’s sort of adulterous, and in need of reconciliation.
Howard: I thought you didn’t like Facebook any more.
Sheldon: Don’t be silly, I’m a fan of anything that tries to replace actual human contact. Big Bang Theory
I’ve come to believe that people can either inspire or drain one another? You know what I mean? The ones who inspire me are usually the ones I know best and spontaneously feel great joy in their presence. It’s a potent emotion, it barges in unannounced, and there’s really no denying it. This is what it feels like to be seen, to be accepted, to belong. According to Brene Brown it’s our deepest human craving and if you have people who do this for you my advice would be to keep them close.
What is best for Cheryl is to divide my time into tidy sections, as if sorting ones sock drawer, a pair for socializing, a pair for work, a pair for my sweetheart, and three to be used as slippers, or chew toys for the dog, whom I never mind being around?
Solitude matters. And for some people it is the air that they breathe. Susan Cain
When I’m forced to attend say a company event with Larry, one of those fancy affairs where I won’t know a soul, I shop Nordstrom on line until the panic subsides, then I slap on the mask, and spend a good part of the evening in search of escape, wine being a popular choice. Which is counter productive but provides a wonderful barrier, plus you can always excuse yourself for a refill, then hide in the bathroom if need be. Not that I have ever done such a thing. I’m just speculating.
I spend so much time in my head that I feel like my social skills are rustic, unpolished, rough around the edges like an unfinished table or a stool with a missing leg. Unbalanced is a good image. I’m like “girl get out of your head and into a life,” but the truth is I’m much happier living behind my words.
But I fake it well.
There is something about wearing a mask that changes you, the more anonymous you become, the greater the sense of freedom. Subversive aspects of your personality can emerge, because anonymity acts as armor, protecting the true self, and empowering the one who is acting from a place of fear. Andre Berthiaume says, “We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin.” Ouch.
When I mention my introverted nature I often get astonished reactions. In fact, in my nuclear family (Mom, Dad, Nancy), I was considered a virtuoso “extrovert,” because I was the only one who could pull it off, and I wore perfume. My Dad was a close second, Mom faked it well, and Nancy well she sort of hung around with extroverts so she wouldn’t have to talk. Whatever works people.
My Mom was what I call a controlled socializer, she planed her events carefully, in meticulous detail, and then she’d spent time in recovery until Emily Post (her guide to most everything) claimed a dinner party was absolutely necessary. Jeanette Winterson claims, “Don’t you, when strangers and friends come to call, straighten the cushions, kick the books under the bed and put away the letter you were writing? How many of us want any of us to see us as we really are? Isn’t the mirror hostile enough?” The truth is we connect best with each other when we’re being vulnerable, honest, open, and receptive. It’s a shame we kick the best part of us under the couch?
My immediate family got used to pushing me out into the world because no one else wanted to do it (it’s like the Mikey commercial), “Cheryl, could you go borrow sugar from the neighbor,” “Cheryl, could you call so and so and invite them to dinner,” “Cheryl, why don’t you go to the such and such event, you can represent the rest of us, make sure you say hello to so and so.” I’m not kidding. I’m like who is supposed to be adulting here?
In fact they were so good at telling me who I was I actually believed it for much of my life. E. E. Cummings wrote, “The greatest battle we face as human beings is the battle to protect our true selves from the self the world wants us to become.” I now consider it a blessing because I was forced to practice something that did not come naturally to me, although therapy was required I believe it was to my benefit, because now I have an ambidextrous personality (I made that up so don’t google it).
The point I’m trying to make with way too many words is social skills can be learned even if it doesn’t come naturally. So Mom and Dad had it right all along.
I’ll admit this to you, I used to fantasize about living in Dr. Dolittle’s giant pink sea snail, remember the spiral walls, and soft pink cushions? A she shell before it’s time! That should have been a clue, but I ignored all the evidence, because the shell was kind of a cool idea, and until now I kept that tidbit to myself.
It’s never a good idea to organize society in a way that depletes the energy of half the population. We discovered this with women decades ago, and now it’s time to realize it with introverts. Susan Cain
Anyhoo, spending time alone is a way of honoring my authentic self, that quiet voice that I can only hear when I shut up, turn the noise down, and listen. Cheryl Strayed says alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was. Amen sister.
As if a snail, spending time out of the shell, with people you love is also important. So today I’m going to notice when I get lost in personality, and try to meet the self half way, you know what I mean, pull off the mask, bring a little more of me to the table. Is anyone with me?
- Be a loner. That gives you time to wonder, to search for the truth. Have holy curiosity. Make your life worth living. Albert Einstein
- Introverts are word economists in a society suffering from verbal diarrhea. Michaela Chung (no shit)
- People empty me. I have to get away to refill. Charles Bukowski