A Writer, A Strange Man & Personas

Sometimes I think I’m ready. Sometimes I think I am my own self enough to plug back in with the rest of the world. Go ahead, I say, it’s been long enough, ten point five months of absence from the daily grind, more than six straight months of abstinence from the online social networks, two years away from toxic family members. By now you know exactly who you are, your likes, your dislikes, your strengths, your weaknesses. It’s like mourning, right? Can’t sit around grieving forever. So what if you’re this new and improved version of you for a mere one year versus fifty years, it’s time.

Go ahead, I think you’re ready— stronger, braver, less angry, less sad, less smiley, less effusive, way more even keel. So plug in. And then, I’ll read some literary industry’s didactic article by a writer — who under ordinary creative circumstances produces work I usually enjoy— about the top five things writers should be doing in order to be industry worthy, and the next thing I know I’m trying to slip numbers one and four of the article into my daily routine. Gah! And I realize, nope, still too raw to be considered cooked, my love.

I thought I left the nine to five to be a writer, but I was wrong. That was a pretense concocted by my angels to get me on a soul-searching journey. It makes sense, it wouldn’t have worked any other way, knowing my pragmatic personality. When I think of one of them coming to me in a dream or vision saying something like: Maria, it’s time for you to discover who you really are. We, the angels of your life, hereby strongly suggest you quit your job and go in search of yourself— I laugh! I’d have said, I’m a middle-aged woman with responsibilities, stop playing with me. I’d have thought it was my darker side on one of her bored and mischievous routine attempts at self-sabotage.

Of course, I’m a writer and yes, I am currently pursuing a writing career, but that’s on the human level of things. On the spiritual level, more serious agendas are afoot.

When I come here to publish a blog post I no longer look at the statistics. I’ve trained myself to ignore the little orange dot in the upper right-hand corner of the page, which indicates a notice on the blog. I simply write. I’ve learned if I am at all serious about writing I can’t concern myself with what people think about what I’m writing. So I’ve been spending the majority of my days living in the cave of my own thinking.

Once ago, I had a strange relationship with a middle-aged man. No, not that kind of relationship. We hated each other. I mean we really hated each other. Let’s call him Cornelius. Cornelius and I met some years ago and discovered unhappily that we would have to regularly spend time in each other’s lives. He was about fifteen years older than me and while I erroneously thought I had known men like him before, it was clear that Cornelius had never known a woman like me. For one, I was a city girl and Cornelius was a rural type. Also, not only was I extremely quiet when he came around, I lacked a servile quality of character that some women don to make men like Cornelius feel comfortable. It’s not that these types of women were actually servile — in reality they were smart, capable women — it’s that they understood the peace of allowing certain men to feel unthreatened by the opposing gender, based on male-female history and all that. Back then I was more self-consumed and more focused on my own personal history with men than I was interested in peace-sake social norms of male-female behavior.

Anybody offended yet? Yeah, well fuck you, get over yourself. Writing is hard enough without having to worry about all the possible crybabies tuning in.

Like I said, I thought I had spent time around men like Cornelius before but I was wrong. I knew men who were composites of Cornelius. Men around his age, yes. Men, who were sometimes outspoken, loud and crass, yes. Men, who tended to show kindness and generosity towards women who flattered them, umm, a few. Men who were macho and arrogant like him, oh yes, lots. Men with affluence that they prefer to hide, never. Cornelius was a new experience for me, but I refused to admit it back then. I realize now that I was of an age, well enough past my twenties, where I didn’t want to appear unworldly or unknowledgeable.

When Cornelius came around, I got quiet. And I thought in my quietness I was projecting an appearance of politeness; I thought I was minding my own business and not bothering anyone with my reticence. But members of the social circle at the time, especially Cornelius, were actually stealing glances in my direction. Apparently they smelled my sizzle and my boil, despite the pleasant smile I planted on my face. I hadn’t yet learned that smiles and pleasant feelings do not radiate if they’re unorganic, if they don’t originate from within. If you don’t FEEL it you can’t PROJECT it (Yah, I know- FML). While I was using quietness as a polite disguise, my actual thoughts screamed, Who in the hell is this shitkicker and why the hell should I bow to him?! And my eyes would scan the environment for a makeshift weapon just in case I felt the need to defend myself and clobber him.

The women, when they felt like it, mustered sympathy for me, tsk-tsking silently and looking past me like I was a blind girl who might have mislaid her cane. Or they would exchange looks with themselves and then with Cornelius, which said, yes, she is a deformed monster, but we’re stuck with having her here.

One day, my car battery died and I found myself needing a ride to the mechanic. The women arranged to have Cornelius give me a ride. Oh yeah, they all had cars but somehow, magically, all members of my gender among the group found themselves unavailable. Cornelius surprised me with his willingness to give me a ride. Once I was in the car with him, after a few minutes of awkward silence between us, Cornelius shocked me even further by striking up a friendly conversation. I loosened up, reciprocated and we found ourselves swapping stories about our families and even stumbled upon a shared pastime affinity, tennis. As he dropped me off, Cornelius sincerely pronounced, if I ever needed a ride again he would be happy to take me.

Did we become good friends after that day? Hell no! I was still who I was and Cornelius was still who he was. But I think our hearts broke a little every time we saw each other after that because we learned something about each other that we couldn’t quite explain to ourselves, and certainly not to anyone else. We learned that we were in fact human, instead of the monsters we had each allowed our separate minds to conjure in order to permit disdain. The problem was this (and I’m just guessing here, but I think it’s a good guess), Cornelius and I realized we were two clever assholes pretending to be charming. How could we go back and explain that to the group without compromising ourselves? No way, it couldn’t be done. Soooo …. yeah.

I have spent so much of my life consumed with reacting to the activities and people of the world, that I grew accustomed to projecting fragmented personas and keeping my whole self hidden. Forty plus years of living that way versus two years of disengagement. I still have plenty of work to do. I’ve discovered I am just as resplendent in my beauty as I am grotesque in my ugliness. I am just as worldly as I am ignorant. I am just as knowledgable and sagacious as I am dumb as a bag of rocks. I am smitten, I like this woman whose many mouths I’ve stuffed with socks for way too long in this life. She scares me, thrills me, delights me, frustrates me and fills me with awe. And dammit I sure hope she’s contagious!

But she’s so new and so young, I have to give her space to keep growing.