Heart on My Sleeve

Journal Entry- June 10. 2018

It was late, half passed one in the morning, and I was drinking tea in my pajamas when you asked me to come out with you. You had just come home from your new job, wearing the white button down we had shopped for together earlier that day, which I had so pathetically attempted to iron and hung up for you like an obedient housewife.

The night before, we had made dinner together. We ate burgers in candlelight. We spent minutes staring into each other's eyes. We talked about attraction. We talked about a lot of things. It all seemed so out in the open, so definite, so clear, finally, that you liked me too; and I felt a weight off my chest, a comfortability in knowing what was going through your mind, or at least thinking I did.

But this night was different, the clarity had vanished. We walked, mostly in silence, with our arms brushing past one another, you pushing your bike. You made me feel bad for not having a bike. You said it was probably annoying to my friends that I couldn't ride with them- I think you probably meant this to be nicer than it sounded.

We walked to a structure between the river and the train tracks, where hoards of people were gathering, beers in hand- a sea of alternative clothing and experimental hairstyles. You said you felt insecure about your hair and compared yourself to a nearby man-bunned person. I felt "indie" and "different-looking" enough to fit into the crowd, but too sober to feel comfortable. We met your friends from school, whom I attempted stupid small talk with before the music came on.

We were all dancing, my hands slowly creeping out of the caverns of my pockets. I kept looking around and then at you, your hands in the air, a beer in one of them, a look of wonder on your face. I clung to you without touching you, following you like a lost puppy through the crowd of raving people.

A guy bumped into me and turned to say sorry, smiling at me; I was un-phased. But you pushed me toward him with the vigor and awkwardness of a match-making relative, knocking me into him until he turned again. I looked up at him silent, frozen, so confused. You told me, "and then you say sorry back" and I looked at you, then back at him, hating that moment, "sorry."

I was frustrated at you. Why did you do that? Were you trying to tell me something? That I should be looking for other guys? That I should back off? Was this a test? Or was this part of some game I didn't want to play? I had no idea what to think, just that I felt like a sad little puppet without a voice or an ability to guide the moment in a new direction. We looked out over the river together in silence. I felt distant from you. I couldn't tell if I was angry with you or with myself and I said I was ready to go home.

I walked alone, my hands back in their safe caverns, and you stayed behind. I wanted to cry. I wanted to feel nothing for you, but I couldn't. All I could do was think, "why do I have to feel this way? Why didn't I see this coming?" We got home at the same time, you on your bike. I was quiet, my energy shifted to something cold, closed off, not wanting to let you or the thought of you in.

...



These last couple of months have been a practice in accepting my own vulnerability as an asset rather than a detriment. I'll be honest with myself and with whoever reads this, that this realization (still in progress) came about from actively seeking to fall in love; from feeling the sting of rejection and embarrassment, and choosing not to hate myself despite it all. It came from months of loneliness and festering beliefs in my need for someone else, for some significant other to help me avoid myself and my fears. It came from trying to pour all of the self-worth I can't yet seem to muster into some other unsuspecting soul.

This post isn't about ranting or blaming or seeking validation. It's about self-love and trust, and having the guts to be vulnerable and honest- most of all with myself. Even now, writing this, I can catch myself attempting to downplay my feelings, pawning them off as something naive and stupid, or less intense than they actually felt.  But the truth is, I was on a mission to feel strongly about something or someone, and I was doing a good job of it; though, I didn't know the object of my affection needed to be myself.

When things don't work out, as they didn't, it's that same vulnerability that helps one view the situation with compassion; that helps them to recover with forgiveness, with humility, maybe with a little bit of laughter, and with a willingness to remain open. I've flirted with anger and embarrassment, with shutting down and feeling small, berating myself for having emotions. But now I'm starting to see just how much courage it takes to love yourself first and in spite of and because of failure; and after all that's happened, if I want to feel anything, it's brave.