Everyone else is already taken

Another outcome of meditating regularly is that it makes it impossible to be anyone else but yourself. Or it’s getting older. I concede it could be either.

I find it to be an enormous relief anyway, because I’ve spent much of my life attempting to be someone else. Someone light-hearted, outgoing. Up for a laugh. Someone who doesn’t get hurt easily, who glides on the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune instead of allowing themselves to become floored by them. This person I was attempting to be was impossibly selfless and good (pssst, I’m not; I’m quite awful). She loved crowds, parties, big groups of people. She loved it when she was the centre of attention, like, that was no big deal. She lived for today and to hell with tomorrow. I was always drawn to those types of people. I was deeply fascinated by them. How were they not worried all the time? Did they not think about consequences? What about the past – did they not give a hoot about that and how it encroached upon the present? And what about the future – did they not realise all this goddam light-heartedness was a sure road to ruin?

I hate crowds. I feel anxious and worried in large groups of people. I much prefer long chats with a single human than boisterously regaling tales to a bevy of cackling, lusty friends. I am absolutely introverted. I like being on my own, I crave silence (Announcement: There will be no silence for the next 18 years as you have chosen to have three boys. Thank you.) I am as shy as hell. I haven’t got a clue what to say to most people, and will often come across as just bloody odd because I will launch into some deep navel-gazing commentary when all the person had asked for was my name. I can’t laugh at people’s jokes, ever, never have been able to. This is because as soon as someone launches into telling a joke I get insanely panicky in case I don’t understand the punchline and have to give one of those fake laughs, which I might do in the wrong place or inappropriately. Perhaps they weren’t even telling a joke at all. I’m not selfless and good, really, by nature – only this morning I started marching quicker than the lumbering man behind me in case they were running out of scones at the local coffee morning and he would get the last one with cream instead of me – though I would love to be. I am so ridiculously sensitive that you need only say boo to me and I will worry about it for the next few days afterwards. What did it mean? Was it my fault you said boo? Why am I the kind of person people say boo to? If I have a few drinks, I worry I am an alcoholic. I can’t throw caution to the wind about anything, it just isn’t in my nature.

Growing up, I followed the herd, trying to have ‘fun’ doing things I seriously hated. Going out to crowded nightclubs in my 20s – I hated, hated that, the noise, the lights, people shouting over the thumping music. Drugs – tried some, all made me almost instantly mentally ill and for days, sometimes weeks, after. Most of my friends were wild, carefree and drank a lot, then got up the next day and did it all again, and with a smile on their face too. Anyway, of course that all falls away as you get older (and for most, much younger than I was – I let all that drag on far too long) but still, I was afraid to be myself. I think it’s partly why I was afraid to write too; in case anybody found out who I really was.

I’m frustrated with the amount of time I wasted trying to be other than what I was. I don’t know what this was, a kind of escaping from myself I suppose. It’s really hard to start to learn to like yourself if you haven’t in the past; it’s like you have to build yourself again from the foundations, brick by brick. Or perhaps it’s like you are a sculptor. That quote attributed to Michelangelo comes to mind: The sculpture is already complete beneath the marble block. That’s you, who you are. The rest is all stuff you have accumulated. You are a perfect work of art underneath.

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