I’m often torn between sharing my inner world and keeping it to myself. The things that interest me, the things I learn, the things I grow through, the struggles, the conundrums . . .
I never know if I should share or not. I’ve never been able to make a strong case for either side. So I vaguely describe things. And when I would vaguely describe them, I used to get upset that my friends wouldn’t act as mind readers which just made me feel more isolated. Isolation is something I’m used to. I’m used to feeling like I’m in an invisible glass bubble where I can see everyone else but they can’t see me. Now I’m at a point where I get startled and shocked when someone sees me. When people call me by name or speak to me directly, its a shock to my system and I truly don’t know how to react. I’ve felt invisible for that long. I have a family full of large personalities and if you didn’t do inventory, I could get lost and forgotten about. I never felt unloved, I just rarely felt seen. This is the root of my social awkwardness. There has to be a plant medicine for this and I need to find it.
Its one of those things where I can trace back to specific instances of this feeling. My stepmother, who you will never see me with in a public setting without my father (and even then, I either didn’t know or I was bribed or I was asked by my granddad), was one of the biggest creators of this feeling. She would take my sisters to go do things they liked (trips shopping or to the nail salon) and then ask me if I wanted to go while knowing the answer. I preferred books, astronomy, and watching Iron Chef. As a kid, I couldn’t understand why I was left out by some people but completely validated by others. I distinctly remember my grandmother asking my mother for my school schedule since I was enrolled in Flagler County while my cousins lived in Volusia. She would make sure that when I was here, I was included ahead of time. Elizabeth and Norris constantly made me feel seen and loved in ways I could never translate into writing. They never scolded me for being more quiet. They never said “why can’t you be more like them?” They never compared me in a negative light like my dad would do.
So I insulated myself. I became more quiet. Faded further into the background. Existed on the absolute lowest of keys. I became so hidden in plain sight that conversations about me started with ‘so what is Lynona doing? I haven’t seen her for awhile.’ It felt safe. You can’t compare me if you don’t know what I’m doing. You can criticize me if you can’t see what I’m doing. You can’t tell me my dreams are too big of you never hear about them.
Then I get to college. I get into a space away from the perfect little boxes my parents individually built for me that I will never fit in to. College showed me how to be Lynona. I was around characters that existed without apology. And I met my best friend, Dion. He taught me what it was like to enjoy what you love and not worry about if anybody else liked it. He taught me freedom. I had been so used to having m wings clipped to my sides that I thought it was normal to feel trapped inside of my own skin. Confused by this conflicting, I realized that my feeling of being trapped was actually deep-rooted conflict and a lack of communication skills. It’s hard to communicate what you don’t understand. It’s hard to understand without being able to communicate. This process is about twenty times more difficult when you need the person who saw you and they are now gone. How do you begin to navigate the world when the two people you trust are either gone or dealing with a loss you can’t even imagine?
Often times, I sit amazed at my grandfather. I truly can’t even imagine what it’s like to slowly lose your partner. To see this human at their brightest and vibrant moment and then see them as something barely more functional than a vegetable. To spend 40 years with someone and now they’re gone while you’re still here and healthy. My heart breaks every time I think about it. And now I’m here, watching him slowly fade away.
I recently started my new job. There is a significant number of good looking guys that also work there within close proximity to me. I’ve already been fussed at to stay away from them. It is what it is. We wear name tags. Within a few days, some of them would say hi to me but not be close enough to read my name tag. I’m terrible with names, name tags help me to not call people by the wrong name. You know how someone tickles the back of your neck and you feel a shiver down your spine? Extend that feeling to the back of my arms and that is what it feels like when they call me by name. It makes me so uncomfortable!!! And I know exactly why. It stems back to that whole “being seen” thing. I’m really not used to it. You probably think I’m exaggerating. It already feels weird when Black women acknowledge my existence and become invested in my life. But when guys my age do it, my brain has no idea how to process these things. And it should. I’m 24. I shouldn’t be struggling with the basic event of a guy greeting me by name. I shouldn’t be having this discussion at this age, but yet, here I am.
Another example, the farmers market. There was a point in my life when I would go to the farmer’s market almost every Sunday at Lake Eola. It has become a running joke that my husband will probably find me at a farmers market or a grocery store because those are the only places I go outside of work and home. Yes. I know. It’s pitiful. I’m doing my 20s wrong. I haven’t tried cocaine, been on yacht, visited Miami, or dated a rapper. Not even once. I’m disappointed in myself. Every Sunday, I would see the same parking attendant. I’m a creature of habit and if I don’t park in the same spot everywhere, I will lose the car. Whenever I go to the Millenia Mall, I either park in front of California Pizza Kitchen or down the aisle from Earl’s. I parked in front of the Cheesecake Factory once and had to wander the parking lot for 20 minutes, at night, looking for the car. At the farmers market, I park in the same parking garage, preferably on the third level, along the outer wall. Routines are needed. Dude is really nice, I hope he has a great life. But he would stress me every week simply because I’m used to being invisible. And I didn’t realize that this was an actual problem until one day I was in the car with Brian and he said “you know how much money we could save if you just gave him your number? We could probably park here for free most of the time.” So then every interaction after that day would just be avoiding eye contact with Brian until after I parked and changed the subject to the food I wanted to eat at the farmers market. Because I’m awkward already and that situation just makes it worse. Life hack: get a friend who is much better at small talking than you are, I gladly back away and let him talk to random people on a regular basis. I don’t even like ordering my own food in restaurants. I always end up doing or saying something weird. It’s a problem.
In a perfect world, this would be the part when I tell you how I’ve overcome this character flaw. But we aren’t in a perfect world. I guess putting myself in situations that require me to be seen is a potential solution.