What's my age again?

 

This article isn't about Blink 182. (It never is...is it?) But it is, like most of my current life, based off of something Joan Didion said close to the end of her book The Year of Magical Thinking about seeing herself one day and realizing that she still embodied a young, freshly married 20-something, even though she was nearing 71. I've written about this book before, on Christmas Day in fact, adding a little socially constructed gloom and doom to the holiday season. This time, though, its not all about death, its about living and how to do it. 

A big part of my life is about the clothes that I put on my body. I view clothes as an armor of sorts. If I can figure out the right combination, they act as a barrier between me and other people. They'll be too busy looking at them so they won't be inclined to ask me how I'm doing underneath. At it's base, this practice is an ultimate form of self preservation but psychologically, its frowned upon.

It never occurred to me to think of it as a perception issue until I read about Joan realizing she was essentially a 20-something in a 71-year-old body. It struck me that maybe I am the opposite of that. It's almost as if I've skipped the being-vulnerably-available stage right into the I-have-everything-I-need-no-reason-to-let-anyone-in stage. Most 21-year-olds are apparently falling in love willy nilly all over the place and opening their hearts to people, consequently getting them broken. I...don't really do the latter. I do, however, fall in love willy-nilly, I just tend to keep it to myself. This might be because I've had my heart smashed really badly, but according to people in my age range, that shouldn't allow me to behave like a block of ice. 

I'm not a psychologist or even a psychology major, but I have a theory. Joan also mentions that everyone wants so badly to be a cool customer–someone that is dealing with the death so well. The problem is that a lot of people can't be cool customers. In fact, society labels truly cool customers as mentally disturbed. Regardless, one can't know how they will react until put into a certain situation. I've discovered that I am absolutely not a cool customer.

At the time I poured all of my grief, energy and love, all of my everything into the one thing that made me feel alive: my relationship. The problem with this is that the other person wasn't invested in cultivating our love. I was essentially pouring myself into a sieve. I kept pouring blindly thinking that they were collecting my broken parts to help put them together, and by the time that I realized what was happening I had already lost myself. I continued living as this phantom person for a long time hoping that I could find myself in this other person. As you have probably figured out, this never, ever works, and it sure didn't work for me. After that it became about building myself up to the way I perceived myself to be. 

That's where the dots connected.

Apparently, I saw myself as mature and refined. The process began, and I built myself up like legos. This makes it sound easy, but it was the hardest thing that I'm still doing. There came a time, though, that I felt I had built a strong foundation. I found the right outfit (if you will) and felt as if I could release my white knuckled grip and be shaped by the experiences coming down the line. Even still, I experience these things in a different kind of way. I experience them while knitting and looking over my spectacles. I try to approach everything from everyone's perspective and reprimand myself if I don't. The question is whether or not this method is better. 

Like TS Madison, I just never seem to know.