Here’s a headscratcher.
Sooner or later, it dawns on you that your greatest assets are also your most vulnerable liabilities. It is just true. And one of mine is kind of a superpower with built-in Kryptonite.
I am the Great Pretender.
On my second re-watch of Kimmy Schmidt, I am struck once again by my similarities to her (comedic) experience of being kept in a bunker, having swallowed hook, line and sinker, that the world had crumbled into a toxic heap. At one point, Kimmy and her boss (Jane Krakowski as “Jacqueline Voorhes”), utilize a technique Kimmy taught herself while in captivity. They are both desperately trying not to be a writhing mass of insecurities and they decide that the way to self-improvement is through the “outside-in.”
This isn’t novel of course, but what makes it so incisive is that Kimmy’s coping mechanism is to “smile, jump up in down and say, ‘I’m not really here, I’m not really here.’” It is the most accurate depiction of my superpower, ridiculous and searing.
I grew up in physical, emotional and spiritual violence. My father was a well-respected, innovative Southern Baptist minister with many secrets. That he was abusive seems like the least of it, but it isn’t. That my mother didn’t see a way out is important to note. That my brother did his dead level best to avoid all of it. That I tried equally as hard to stand up to my father. As a matter of principle.
Despite whatever demon was loosed on me at home, three to four times a week…it was up to me to dazzle and soothe at school and at church. There were many times when on the way to church, there was screaming, hitting and all sorts of humiliating, and it came to a complete and utter stop as soon as we hit the church parking lot.
Almost every serious relationship I’ve ever been in has reflected this history of pain and disguise.
I learned to put my face on, bury myself and play a role. Lots of roles. Most of them impressive. I have hauled (despite my best efforts of SO MANY THERAPISTS and books and medication and meditation) all of these patterns with me, even as I curse them, I reinforce them.
It is infuriating.
You see me through your phone. I am a kaleidoscope, a rollercoaster, a goofball. These things are true. What is also true is that I battle with myself underneath. When my mind is quiet and I look around, I am back in the bunker. I’m smiling, jumping up and down and saying, “I’m not really here! I’m not really here!”
It “works.” I can disappear into the world, loving its tastes and expressions. I can disappear into people, their fascinating cruelties and aspirations. I can disappear into music and nature and art and politics. I can disappear into the ever-elusive allure of the scrolling timeline.
The problem is that I disappear from myself. I vacate the premises and am woefully disconnected to my body. I cannot sense danger or opportunity in the same ways. Hiding so much, for so long made me wistful for escape. Hungry for open roads (and tabs as it turns out).
Following clicks like magpies follow a shine.
Owning up to my affection for the Kimmy Smile, Jump & Vanish when I get to the hard parts is not easy to spot while I’m doing it. Lots of people like when I smile, jump and la-la-la-la my way along. And I like it when people like me. (ß ugh).
I’ll be damned though, aren’t I the one who should consciously determine my flights of fancy? Is this life mine or does it belong to the bunker?