During a text conversation yesterday, I gently teased a close friend about how he openly admitted he was terrible at expressing his feelings. Just one of the many things we had in common, it made me smile because I know exactly how that feels.
I am terrible at expressing all the emotions people WANT to see. While others squeal and express their joy loudly, I take my joy quietly. I smile and on the inside, I’m screaming. But on the outside? I’m calm, quiet, grateful. But it just somehow ends up not being enough. So naturally, my brain kicks into high gear searching for the things that could be “just enough”. And I never find it in time to display it to the people who want to see my jumping for joy moments. That’s just one of the many things not being able to express myself does; it builds and builds and builds, I have no way to express it verbally or physically, and by the time it’s made its way to my mouth, everyone else has moved on.
I frequently find myself frightened that I’m being too much. Whether that too much is too quiet, too loud, too bitchy, too kind. People associate my silence for me breaking down inside… and they have the right to because that’s usually the case. I’m scared that I don’t fill that ”enough” quota for the people around me. I’m either too honest and people shy away from my honesty about my feelings, or I lie, and I feel it weigh on my shoulders, which in turn makes me wonder if the other knows I’m lying. I rely so heavily on texting because I explain myself better in words than talking, but not being able to capture the other person’s mood in the text makes it a slippery slope.
In the grand scheme of things, my introvertedness coupled with my general anxiety makes me quite miserable on the inside, but not because of depression. I am still waiting for that moment when someone tells me I’m enough and it’s true. 100 percent true. I constantly want to be better but being better isn’t just about being held and told it’s alright. It’s about feeling affirmation and that I’m not forgotten. It’s not just tough love. It’s a healthy mix of the three. I learn fiercer when my love isn’t questioned. I don’t choose who I fall in love with. I do, however, choose whether I tell anyone about it, and I usually do.
I write all of this to preface a moment I had with my mom today. We don’t regularly get to see each other because she works all the time and I’m in school. By the time we’re both home, we’re exhausted and just want some peace. Quarantine hasn’t changed that routine, except that I’m home all day trying not to get sick. While helping her pack some boxes in companionable silence, she told me, “I like it when it’s just us. We’re usually in our own world, but we get to talk and that makes me happy.” In that moment, all I could do is smile and look down. Now, I’m in tears because hearing someone that… that they enjoyed my presence, that I mattered even if they couldn’t express it every day, that means the world to me.
I think in the day and age that we currently live in, feeling like we need to accomplish a lot of things to feel productive, we forget to check in with our people. We ask if they’re okay, but we don’t ask the real questions. “Hey, I remember you said you were feeling (blank), how are you today?” The questions that show each other that we remembered that we care enough to want to know the answer. Asking some one how they are every day in the same manner is asking to start a script, whether it is meant to or not. We’re always, “doing good!”, “Fine I suppose”, or simply “doing good.” We disconnect somewhere in the middle of communicating that makes it less effective.
As for the friend I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I try to switch it up every day because I genuinely care to know his thoughts and feelings and what have you. But at the same time, I fear I’m asking too much of not just him, but anyone who I reach out to, because I don’t want them to feel backed into a corner to conversate. It’s an endless circle of doubt, wanting to engage and connect, and doubting I’m worth anyone’s time.
Even as I write this post, I feel extremely conflicted in what I’m asking of the world. I want communication with connection, with meaning. I want people to remember to affirm the people in their lives. People like me, we thrive over being told we matter, because we spend so much time doubting that we’ve done well enough, that we’re smart enough, that we’re just enough.