On my desk is a little yellow post-it note that says, “Poem about vulnerability.” It’s been there for almost a year, next to my pen cup and sometimes pushed under my copy of the AP Stylebook. It quietly waits until I can cross it off my to-do list and throw it away.
I have not yet written that poem. I can’t figure out what to say, whom to say it to, and then what to do with it later. A circle of vulnerability problems, if you will.
It’s not just the poem. It’s my whole life. (Picture the internet meme of Anchorman and the words,”Well that escalated quickly.”) I have a supreme vulnerability problem. I’ve always known this, and for the most part, I can work around it. Humor and sarcasm are two of the ways around vulnerability I employ. But I also like the concept of “beating somebody to the punch.” That is, before I can be rejected (or hurt or misunderstood), to simply get out of the situation. Sometimes that’s by doing the aforementioned behavior before the other person has the chance to, but mostly it’s just by leaving.
I can psychoanalyze the reasons why I do this. It’s not a mystery: I’ve been hurt before, didn’t like the feeling, and closed up shop. Some may say it’s a control issue. I think it’s a lack-of-control issue. I can only be responsible for myself and what I say and do. I can’t control what someone else does. It’s a human-sided variable, and I like to isolate it. Like a lawyer, I don’t ask questions I don’t already know the answers to. I certainly was not the one to say “I love you” first to Jesse, because I couldn’t be sure he’d say it back. It’s a good thing Jesse went out on a limb 14 years ago, or we probably would still be dancing around that phrase.
(I’m finding it hard to write about vulnerability. Which I guess is telling…and funny. I know I’m holding back large chunks of why I don’t practice it and what my life is like because of it. A leopard can’t change her spots, I suppose.)
My surgery is Monday, and while I like to think I have it all together, I don’t. I have to be the patient on Monday, and I truly suck at that. I’d rather do anything else than look to someone else for answers about my own body. I feel like I should be able to handle all of my own problems because, well, they are mine. I have to take responsibility for them. I have to tend to them. No one else. I have no problem with people talking to me about their problems, but somehow, I can’t trust people enough to reciprocate this for me.
I told Jesse that if the instantaneous biopsy has undesirable results, I want the doctor to just go ahead and change the course of surgery instead of going out to talk to Jesse, and explain what is going on. I want to be the first person to know what’s going on with me. I feel like since it’s my body, it should just be my problem, relieving people (like my husband) of the burden of disappointing me. It’s also going to surprise no one that I’m also very uncomfortable with support, though God knows I need it.
In explaining this situation to some friends yesterday, I think I offended one. He was nice enough to engage me in a conversation about what was bothering me, (which he did eventually get out of me) and then asked if I wanted to talk about it some more. I said no. I clammed up. I was probably stand-offish and evasive. I wrote him an email last night, apologizing for my strange behavior, hoping he understood it was my uneasiness and not his attempt at being a friend that made it so awkward. I’m afraid more of those emails will be in my future if I don’t get my head on straight about letting people into my life.
I have no problem expressing myself, but I always hold back a few cards. I deal with things myself, like I was brought up to do. Help was a four-letter word, and I have always been more than capable of handling myself. But sometimes I wish I wasn’t wired like this.