Reading me

The therapy chronicles continue! This time part therapist, part coworker. These are not new thoughts for me, but rather a (mini, please so mini) shout out for accountability. Warning- The words that follow include in-depth, exhaustive internet Googling research.

I was told recently that I am “hard to read.” This got in my head, in a curious way. AND THEN OTHER PEOPLE AGREED. Ok, I’ve received that feedback before. But I honestly thought I had been so forward with that person. I know my sense of humor, that sarcasm thing, can make me come across a certain way. I’ll acknowledge that when my blank face is on, I don’t express emotion. I did some googling, because I really don’t know what to do different. The internet said “hard to read” means I hide my feelings.

The internet also said:

“People act like they want to peel away your layers, they want to piece you together because if they do, it takes away the fear of the unknown. On the rare occasion that someone does genuinely want to know you, you’ll show them every quirk and crack in your carefully constructed persona because when the time is right, it’s thrilling to be that vulnerable.”

This is sounding like a John Legend song.

I’m thinking “hard to read” isn’t the whole picture here. Lets focus our inquiry on sarcasm.  Extensive internet research tells me that sarcastic girls like me are rarely serious, say mean things when displaying affection, and sometimes regret things that come out too quick. Also, texting is hard. Sarcastic women have good judgement to read situations and are basically emotional superheroes.

And then the internet said:

“Sarcasm is likely a defense mechanism to keep that huge heart of ours protected, or it’s a coping mechanism because sometimes, even the most confident people freak out over meeting new people or working a room. Don’t let this one, very strong, overbearing personality trait overshadow the entire person, or her ability to love. It just means you’ve found a woman who doesn’t take herself too seriously. Just know that when we do give you sweet compliments, they are genuine. In the end, life’s too short not to rub salt in the wounds. Let your life dance lightly on the edge. We all enjoy being kept on our toes a bit. Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not a ballerina, and I won’t dance on pointe forever.”

But I WAS a ballerina (in training) and I WILL make you dance forever! Cue evil laugh. Can I blame this on being a Scorpio?

Ok, serious now. My perspective leads me to believe I’m avoiding rejection, avoiding vulnerability, avoiding shattering the emotional stability I’ve found. Distractions veiled with humor. I make anything into a joke. I can laugh about things instead of being upset or embarrassed.

This is different than oh say, a year and a half ago when I (in my opinion), expressed my emotions without hesitation. I reacted to my emotions quickly. And now I feel more content, cheerful, and I don’t need to react. I can “soften, and ease through it,” as therapist has quoted countless times. I have to be serious at work all day, in my personal life it’s nice to keep people on their toes, be lighthearted, enjoy. And when I’m positive and funny, I’m not sad and depressed. It’s a one sided human experience.

I’m getting stuck on this. I really thought I’d been acting transparent!

Well, what the hell, Becca?  What do we do? Coworker said I need to step up my game. Therapist said I need to pause before using humor, and look at what I’m avoiding in the face of laughter. Fine, I’ll try it. That’s where the accountability comes in, my friends. There is no way I’m practicing unveiled honesty without some help.

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Let’s move

Let’s continue on the wavelength of vulnerability. I grew up a dancer. Every day, hours a day I practiced and took classes and beat up my body trying to become a professional. I took ballet and pointe, modern, lyrical, jazz, tap and hip hop. Yes….I actually did hip hop. I had a gamut of experiences; I was part of Illinois Ballet Theater, on competitive teams, the high school dance team and competed around Illinois. I was in recitals, danced at football and basketball games, went to conventions and camps. I drove downtown Chicago to take classes. I did everything I could. When you dance, you use your body as a vessel of movement and emotions. You take what’s in your head and connect it to music and steps. Your body expresses what you’re feeling or tells a story without words.

A dance teacher once told me I looked so serious, so unhappy when I danced…Yikes! There was my wall, the vulnerable brick wall I struggled to overcome. Being open with facial expressions felt like a risk, letting someone witness my innermost feelings. Scary. Although dancing is personal, it’s also a place where others judge you, compare you, and tell you you aren’t good enough. I didn’t get a part in a ballet when I was 13 because I was too short. She couldn’t say it was because my butt was too big. I would never become a Rockette because I didn’t grow higher- you have to be 5’6’’ to even audition.

I felt fat, basically all the time. Having a butt and thighs that take up space in the room isn’t ideal. Dancers are supposed to be skinny! And agile! And look the same! Around age 16 I finally realized I wasn’t going to have the “body type” to make it as a professional dancer. So I stopped taking ballet as serious, and focused on rocking the dance teams I competed with. That was tough. That was my biggest dream balloon, flying away.

In college I joined the dance team and had all the fun you could have sitting on the sideline, cheering and dancing, waiting for sweaty basketball players to fall on you occasionally. I had a coach with a Southern accent, thus I learned sideline cheers with a twang. “Baass-ket, baass-ket.” She was also downright mean. We were told we were dumb, didn’t do things right. We had to try out every week to perform. She told us we were out of shape. She compared us to each other. We had to stand profile during auditions, our body shape apparently determining our ability to dance. I remember thinking…. No one has ever treated me worse than this woman. Being beaten down, told I’m not good enough, told we’re stupid and constantly criticized…why am I doing this? The fun I had dancing wasn’t worth the abuse I faced practicing. I quit that year and focused my energy on another dance group. Quitting was the only way I could finally stand up for myself. For the years I grew up being told I was never good enough, skinny enough, flexible enough, expressed enough. Never enough. But with less time to dance, it was as if my personality changed.

I still don’t dance as much as I should. I don’t have a daily opportunity to dance to relieve stress, to express myself, to get what’s going on in my head out through my body. So that stuff stays stuck inside. Inside the mind, body, thoughts.