Don’t let them see you sweat. I learned that mantra as a little kid.
It was exemplified by my mom, always cool as a cucumber even when she was hanging on by a shoelace. Later on, I perfected my game face in the service industry even though, at my core, I was prone to disintegrating under pressure rather than pummeling through.
Perception is a funny thing. Even my family and friends oftentimes see a smoke-and-mirrors vision when it comes to my world. Lately I am trying to love the imperfect, human parts of of my personality.
Since moving to Nashville in 2012, I’ve become known as the girl who somehow “gets” everyone. However, even on my best days it’s quite possible that I miss the mark. Humans are temperamental beings and different depending on the day. As a biographer I try to emulate someone’s essence in a finite amount of time and space. In spite of my x-ray vision, I still walk away from a lot of interviews feeling perplexed. There’s pressure in trying to capture someone’s most flattering facade.
We are complex creatures, which is why I am obsessed with my job.
When all the attention is constantly on the other person it’s easy to overlook your own feelings. Someone commented recently, “You are so uncomfortable when it comes to answering questions about yourself.” My skin crawled and my heart was pounding.
“You’re doing that thing!” a guest said to me at the Southern Festival of Books Friday night fundraiser dinner. Please don’t tell me your secrets, I silently prayed. I was sick of being privy to other’s private lives when I could barely process my own internal dramas.
Some of us are skilled at hiding our dark sides. Others care not about filtering their thoughts and feelings. After a lifetime of being a people pleaser, I lean towards the latter these days. Still I am skilled at which “me” I want to bring out in the moment.
“You know everyone in town thinks you’re loaded right?” a good friend said to me the other day as we huddled in our spot at Pinewood Social.
“Don’t they know that I lived like a pauper for the last three years?” I snapped back.
“They make assumptions rather than ask.”
I am certainly guilty as anyone of projecting an idealized, highly edited image of my life. Maybe I’ll start Instagramming the emotional meltdowns, moments of insecurity and mornings where I don’t want to get out of bed. At least they’ll be rooted in reality.
This summer, while promoting my book, my grandfather passed away unexpectedly. Next my best friend relapsed on heroin, which unraveled his life and ripped out my heart. In the margins, there was family drama, bouts of depression and financial snafus. However, it was my season to work on the fame, slap on a smile and suck it up.
Bullshitting can really be a buzz kill.
When I sat at dinner talking to my BFF this summer he admitted that his addiction was due to fear and anxiety. “I care so much about what people think that I’ve never really figured out who I am. You’re the opposite of me, which is why I love you Lil.”
At age 33, he couldn’t find joy in any situation or deal with the demons that plagued him on the daily. In spite of our community-oriented society, we are all lone wolves at the core. This control freak had to relinquish the desire to fix and allow him to figure it out on his own.
That was the night I realized we have one chance to make it count. Facing the fragility of life brought to light that I had nothing to lose.
“Welcome home, asshole!” my friends said when I strolled back into the Windy City. They were equally proud and pissed that I had been away for so long. Truth is, I had waited until I could come to terms with my new self. After 3.5 years of conflict, I finally embraced being coined a “Southern Writer” by Style Blueprint one day and taking shots of whiskey with my Chicago chums the next.
Back to back, side to side I am all of those things. Part of me wants to give up my wild woman ways and yet, knows I won’t ever be tamed.
So upon my return to Nashville, I invited my snarky sense of humor and sailor mouth back into the equation. Like love, laughter and the ability to lose myself in the moment they are simply part of my DNA. I also greeted the girl who wants to cope with life in healthier ways. She doesn’t want to self-medicate her way through the mess.
“Never apologize, never explain,” supermodel Kate Moss said once.
While I want to be kind, I don’t feel the need to always be nice. I’d rather be slightly ridiculous in the vein of Hunter S. Thompson, and ruthlessly honest when it comes to capturing my experience. Once I embraced reality I was able to reallllly appreciate it.
I’m gonna squeeze the gold out of every given moment. Fuck you fear because I’m moving forward.