(I'm fully aware of the irony that this blog post is in written format. It took a long time.)
I've noticed I'm most present and open to the world when words aren't involved. Reading, even reading excellent books with the full faculties of the sharpest mind I can have, makes it too easy for me to slip into a glazed-eye daze. Talking, lipreading, even thinking in words -- ditto. They're not bad; they're just overly strong muscles that twitch towards habits of not-being-here, because I grew up not wanting to be part of the world around me. (Or not able to; it's hard to tell the difference.)
When folks asked where I was from, I used to say "the internet," as if that were my home. It was. It isn't any more; I publish there occasionally, but live in my skin, here in this town, here with these people I can touch. I can learn to love the people I am physically present with. Differently, maybe. But you love everyone differently anyway.
The people I love most aren't here with me; they'll never be all in one place. And this hurts, and I mean hurts, sob-into-pillow-until-unconsciousness-comes hurts. This happens a fair percentage of my nights now; the current bout started about a month ago. It alternates with falling asleep to wild jolts of terror. These alternate with nights of peace. It's funny, the shit that comes out when you finally learn how to feel safe; I figure this is some sort of detox reaction that will improve once the shit's run its course.
So yeah. My feelings: I didn't shut them down because I didn't have them, I shut them down because they were too strong. I can't truly be somewhere and not feel deeply in my response to it. This comes with a wild capacity for anger... and gratitude. I still get teary-eyed out on the highway when a song comes on with snare drums I can hear; it's still surprising when I inhale deeply, and I'm randomly -- in ordinary moments -- utterly astonished just to find myself alive, 25 years after I so nearly wasn't.
I can learn to be more comfortable with presence that's in-person; I am possibly little bit too good at presence at a distance, so I'm experimenting with... not doing that. No books, no internet, no phone -- or really, only little slips of those when necessary. This forces me to face, day after day, a world that scares me. And I find that yes, I cry a lot. (And holy crap do these instances have more to do with hearing than I want to admit.) But also -- I'd forgotten this -- I laugh as well.
I laugh when Kyler sticks his head under my shaking knee so I can lipread him as he coaches me through yoga poses, whose instructions I have never heard (turns out cues to expand this or bear weight on that make a huge difference). I laugh when other dancers add "Mel can't hear instructions!" to the list of Fun Games We All Play With In The Studio -- the same sort of rule as "Only Three People On Stage At Once!" or "There Must Always Be Somebody Lying Down During This Dance!" or "We Are Walking On A Grid!" -- no pity or judgment, just acknowledgement, adjustment. I laugh when I meet Sam Brunhaver and remember that I, too, need to face the person that I'm speaking to; I laugh because I live in a world where all of my friends have this amazing superpower (zomg high frequencies!) and hey, who wouldn't want to live in a world where all your friends have got a superpower and use it to help you?
And it's from this sort of space that I was so struck by this video of Brene Brown (thanks, Emily -- especially for linking me to the transcript) that I went through and pulled quotes from it. (So yeah, all the remainder of the text in this post? From that talk.)
"Maybe stories are just data with a soul."
"There was only one variable that separated the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging and the people who really struggle for it. And that was, the people who have a strong sense of love and belonging believe they're worthy of love and belonging. That's it. They believe they're worthy."
"The other thing that they had in common was this: They fully embraced vulnerability. They believed that what made them vulnerable made them beautiful."
"They talked about the willingness to say, "I love you" first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees... they're willing to invest in a relationship that may or may not work out. They thought this was fundamental."
"You cannot selectively numb emotion. You can't say, here's the bad stuff. Here's vulnerability, here's grief, here's shame, here's fear, here's disappointment. I don't want to feel these. You can't numb those hard feelings without numbing the other affects, our emotions. You cannot selectively numb. So when we numb those, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness."
"Our job [as parents] is to look and say, "You know what? You're imperfect, and you're wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging." That's our job."
"To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen; to love with our whole hearts, even though there's no guarantee -- to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we're wondering, "Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?" just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, "I'm just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I'm alive.""