Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Metamorphosis of the Rock Hard Bitch

In college, one of my roommates watched me blink back tears as I struggled to figure out why I hadn’t heard from the man I was dating – now I know it was my own fault, and in trying to get his attention I had inadvertently ended our relationship – and said in wonder, “Could it be, Morgan, that you’re not near as tough as you always make out yourself to be?"

Fast forward eight months or so, and my nickname had become Rock Hard Bitch amongst my fellow American exchange students in Spain, not because I was a rock hard bitch, but because all of them were surprised to learn how caring and sensitive I was underneath the rock hard exterior I showed when I first met someone – the rock hard bitch they had all originally thought me to be.

Anyone who knows me well knows what bullshit this first impression is; anyone who’s known me since childhood has likely exclaimed, perhaps more than once, “Geez, Morgan, you’re so sensitive.”
At some point, I started to make up for my sensitivity by presenting a less sensitive front: one that was rock hard, unreachable, impenetrable, invulnerable. As was the case in Spain especially, when I was as out of my element as I had ever been, I threw up those walls to protect myself and to get through the daily motions of trying to be understood and understand in an accent I was unfamiliar with, in a language I was not all that comfortable with yet, in a foreign country that was far away from the one where I had grown up – the one whose psyche had just been rocked by a terrorist attack. I was terrified, and I didn’t know anyone, so I did the only thing I knew how to do: I hid within myself and faked a confidence I didn’t feel. 

It was not the first time I’d been called something similar to a rock hard bitch, and it would not be the last. I always found the label amusing, because it was so obviously NOT me that I found no reason to be offended. I was even proud, because it meant that it was working: that I was presenting the strong person I had always wanted to be instead of the terrified unlovable child that I always felt like inside.

It’s been years since I’ve been called Rock Hard Bitch. In the past four years or so, I’ve been working hard on being able to show a more vulnerable side of myself; instead of needing to find reasons to bring others down or pick them apart to justify my own actions, I’ve been working on accepting my own humanity and the humanity of others. I have been trying to remember that perfectionism is the opposite of being human, and that perfectionism is a goal I should not strive for because it will mean striving away from the amazing subjective and varied existence of actually being a human. I have been working on this, and yet it seems that I still have a long way to go.

I gave my unfinished manuscript to a friend to read. This is a person I have shared many things with, whom I feel I have opened up to and often shown a vulnerable side to; this person is also a regular reader of my blog. When he gave me his feedback, he told me that – among many other wonderful things he had to say about my writing, things that gave me the strength to continue on when I had been vacillating on whether I should finish the damn thing at all – my book showed a vulnerable side of myself that he had never seen: the cracks, he said, in my otherwise well-put-together exterior.
Oh God, invisible audience. What have I done? What have I done by channeling that Rock Hard Bitch persona for so long that she still stands between me and my friends; my life; the person I am striving to be? 

Every day life feels very personal, very too close for comfort, very raw and terrifying to some extent. I do not walk around fearing a physical attack, but I do find that I walk around with earphones in so I can’t hear the whistles of the construction workers, I separate myself from many people whose needs feel like much more than I can bear, and I find myself spending time alone because it feels better than spending time with others that leave me feeling depleted. All this, and yet it is no longer a case of needing to be angry at those people; I do not blame them anymore for what they need from me, I have simply realized that I don’t have to give to those people and that it’s best to be away from that need. At the same time, I’ve been working on being more honest with those that I do value: showing that vulnerable side that causes me to burst into tears at the drop of a hat, because sometimes that’s just what I need to do. It’s presenting the gooey sensitive side of me and hoping to be understood, but not being attached to that actually being the case; instead, just knowing that the act of showing myself is important, not necessarily to others, but to me. 

It seems, however, that I am still a work in progress; that often I am terrified enough to throw up a wall and stand behind it without even realizing it’s there. It seems that even here on my blog I am not showing myself in all my full humanity, and you know what? It’s true. It’s true because my book IS much more vulnerable, otherwise I wouldn’t have struggled as much as I have in whether or not I should publish it. I say this before it is even done, and yet I find that NOT writing is worse: trying to hide that vulnerable part of me ultimately feels like a personal betrayal. And I can’t do it anymore, invisible audience. I can’t deny me any longer. The Rock Hard Bitch is tired of doing her job: tired of standing between me and the rest of the world. Although there is definitely still a use for her – not everyone or every situation is safe to be vulnerable with or in, after all – she is tired of working so hard with no time off. And I’m tired of letting her. So here’s to progress, and baby steps. Here’s to humanity, in all its imperfect and vulnerable glory.

Love and not-so-rock-hard kisses

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