We are a culture fascinated with people expressing their feelings. The headlines imply shock as they caption images of the President with tears in his eyes. Reporters stand in front of frozen images of screaming mothers and crying children as they tell the tales of tragedy. This was so bad, people felt things. Our society seems to have an acceptable range of emotion before it becomes a spectacle. Maybe I have made myself a spectacle by feeling things here out in the open. Maybe that is bad, but I don’t even remember how to hold back anymore.
“Not everyone shares as much as you, Tori.”
Maybe I should share less, but I have never been good at holding back my feelings. There has always been a size and urgency to things when I feel them. Before social media, before livejournal, before the internet enabled me to express my words broadly, publicly, I drowned my closest friends in my tears, joy and pain. I even drove some away.
I cry a lot. I have always been a crier. My mom told me once that she thinks I feel so deeply because she cried so much when she was pregnant. My father died just 2 months before I was born. I was born into loss. My path has been challenging, but life is hard for most, and they don’t spend their days in so much sadness. My grandmother says I should be tougher, that I come from strong women. I am tough. Just because I feel things, just because I cry, it doesn’t mean I’m not strong. This life I have lived, it has given me no choice but to be strong. I have learned to be strong.
“I think that’s part of my mission here. To show people it’s okay to feel things.”
Empowered with a keyboard, I express more than my share – I live loudly. Both in my pain and celebration, I am loud. I know that not everyone shares as much as me. I figure people who don’t want to follow, will look away, will walk away. Or maybe like a car wreck, people just can’t help but look at someone feeling something. Even as they judge. Perhaps I am searching for validation, for inclusion, for cheerleaders, for love. Sometimes the fear and loneliness feel so big, it’s crippling. This imaginary connection to the world, this cyberspace that connects these words to your screens, makes me feel less alone.
There is no logical reason to feel lonely or unworthy. I have amazing people in my life. I have lots of people that say that I can call or text or reach out to them when I need, but I still struggle alone on a Saturday afternoon. My pain is small compared to the lives they are living. I don’t want to bother people. They should be laughing and reveling, not listening to my tears. I am working on why I feel so little in the world, why I feel unimportant. I want so much to matter. So I look to the internet to ask, beg, cry for reassurance that under this pain there is worth and value. Even though I can’t see it, I want to believe it’s there. Passive-aggressive displays of weakness begging for attention. I soak in your words like a sponge, trying to fill my heart, and then feel dirty and weak for it. Why can’t you just suffer in silence? Why can’t you just shut up?
Maybe because I have a hard time with being social. Maybe because I am more introverted that I show. Maybe because I feel like I can only handle people in small doses. Maybe because of all of this, I have come to believe that people feel the same about me. Even the people who I believe like me, I believe like me in moments. There is only so much of this that people can take. The bigness that is my feelings, that is the way I express myself in the world, is too much responsibility. When I receive validation, I reject it, certain that they just haven’t seen enough to realize the truth. So before they push me away, I run. Maybe I am afraid that they will get to know me, the real me, and not just the first impression of me. That once people actually see who I am, they will go away too. I cannot handle more loss, more rejection. I am doing the best I can. Tell me how to be better. I will be whatever you want. I am too much, or not enough. So I feel things loudly. I am upfront, all cards on the table from the start. This is who I am. Leave now while you can get out safe.
I have always assumed people don’t like me. I remember being a camp counselor for rich, smart kids for two summers. The second as a supervisor, I spent the majority of the summer certain that the pretty, popular counselors disliked me. I felt like an outsider. They were never mean, they just never expressed their approval otherwise. I remember the last night of camp, as we tossed back shots, and I shared with them my assumption. They laughed, because I was completely wrong. How did I get so off base?
I have never forgotten that moment. I have tried to use it, almost a decade later, to have confidence in my worth and value in people’s lives. People like me. I’m not that bad. Why wouldn’t people want to spend time with me? I’m awesome. But then all the doubt comes back and I start to think that I should be smaller, quieter, that I should somehow not be me and it would be better. But I just don’t know how to hold back. I can’t be anything but me. This is my truth. So rather than intrude on people’s space, invade their lives, I let them choose. I live loud and let those who choose to listen do so.
I had no idea so many people were listening.
My heart has been breaking for over a month. I have not hid that fact from the world. I am angry, and sad, and disappointed. I feel like everything about me has been rejected. My best wasn’t good enough. There is nothing wrong with me, but it still wasn’t enough. I make assumptions that I am the one feeling this loss, while he has ridden off into the sunset, happy we are now strangers, relieved of the burden of me. I have been struggling more than average with the idea that I need to find a way to be smaller, to feel less, to make less of an impact on this world and those around me.
But, then, you were loud too.
Thank you for your notes. Thank you for your words. Thank you for the validation. You have answered my selfish calls with powerful voices. Words of love and encouragement have reigned down and I have tried to sit with them instead of push them away. It is so hard for me to believe you, but I need to. I needed your words and approval and encouragement. I needed you to hold me up. I am sorry I am so needy. I don’t want to be this way. I am not as strong as I pretend. It is an act. So many people I thought ignored me, I had no idea you were watching. It is hard to believe, but somehow, being loud and open, it was okay. You see something I can’t right now. You witnessed strength when I didn’t see it. So thank you. In very big ways. Thank you. I wish the emptiness in me wasn’t so big, I wish I didn’t need you. But I do. Thank you for everything you’ve given me this month. I will never forget the kindness I have experienced in the last month of my life. If all the pain was to have that in my life, it is worth it. You opened my eyes. You made me believe in myself again. You made me see what you see. It has been a true kind of magic. The love has been bigger than anything I’ve ever known. Through the anger and sadness, it has been hard to feel anything bigger than the gratitude. A billion times, thank you.
I am okay. I am not too much. I am lovable. I am worthy.
I’m going to keep living loud. You can cover your ears if you don’t want to hear. Someone out there does. They told me so.