To let you see me

In a high school sociology class, the instructor gave us this great publication called “Masks”, although it now seems to be called “Please Hear What I am Not Saying.” Tomato, toh-mah-toe — in any event, go read. And then come back with a spicy bloody mary to read the rest of this. 🙂

As the sequel to “What goes unsaid,” this isn’t so much insight into what I don’t say but, rather, where my head is when my eyes can’t seem to make contact with another human’s. And, as always, there’s tunage involved. 🙂

“Yeah that’s me,
Yeah behind you
Hoping that you won’t see
That I’m not all
They make me out to be
But oh to let you see me
’cause I am not that pretty
But you will find out and then
You will leave me.”
— Melissa Ferrick, “To Let You See Me” —

Someone who matters to me (and, by default, whose opinion of me means the world to me) mentioned that I often look left when I tell stories, and if you’ve read “Cheap Psychological Tricks” (as I have), then you tend to wonder if someone is lying when their gaze averts.

But the thing with me is, I don’t lie. Really. Sure, I have things I’d prefer to hide — who doesn’t? But like I tell people who show an interest in learning what I’m really all about, if you want to know something about me, then you must ask me directly. Most people find me hard to read, so it’s OK to ask — I don’t offer up a lot of information otherwise. And like I said in the “What goes unsaid” entry, I often start to talk and then stop myself. And it’s not that I feel it’s unimportant — I guess I just wonder if the other party really needs or even wants to hear what it is I have to say or whether it needs to be shared in the first place.

But then, there are the people around whom I am so comfortable that I just talk. And talk. And keep on talking. And I catch myself starting to reveal too much, so I look away. Plain and simple. There’s a part of me that wants them to know and understand me, but there’s always that damned voice from my shoulder that tells me to hold everyone at arm’s length as much as possible. Don’t let them know that you’ve laid out your heart like a map of Metro D.C., for them to peruse at will and take what they want from what you’ve offered. Don’t let them know that you want them to be interested in what you’re saying. Be aloof, be distant, be blase — just don’t let on that you are being real. Keep ’em guessing, I suppose. They can’t hurt you if they don’t know how.

The thing is, I can back up all of my stories. Hell, I probably have written accounts of 98 percent of them — I do have a habit of chronicling the most mundane of life’s details. And sure, my reality is colored by the way I see things — and I know this. I always feel like I need to put up a disclaimer that the stories you are about to hear are “as witnessed” by me.

I could joke that I look away because I’m embarrassed about having two different eye colors, but that would, in fact, be a lie. The truth of the matter is that I am fairly accustomed to people who simply look right through me, for whatever reason. And to have people who are looking at me, trying to piece me together in the same way that I might be trying to decipher the puzzle that they might be to me … wow. What is it that makes me try to turn the moat that’s already around me into an electric fence?

In any event, what I don’t let on is that I am studying people while I’m talking to them. Even if I’m not looking at them, I know if they are watching me. My peripheral vision is spot-on — I know whether folks are looking at their watches or inching away or just plain itching to run for the hills. I also know whether they’re moving closer or following the story. I learn more from watching their shadows than I do from watching their pleasant smiles and perhaps obligatory nods to show that the are listening.

And it’s not to say that I enjoy it when people are talking to me but aren’t looking at me. Drives me kind of nuts, actually. Then again, it gives me an opportunity to study them. I was just writing in my private journal today about how I study people’s hands. But when you think about it, that’s only part of what I notice. I can tell you the eye color of everyone I know — I can tell you whether I am envious of the length of their eyelashes or whether they thrust out their lower lip when they’re thinking. I can tell you if they blink when I ask them a question they aren’t certain how to answer right away. I can tell you whether they get a sparkle in their eye when I say something so off the wall that they weren’t expecting a curve ball but are playful enough to appreciate it anyway. I can perceive whether they take a breath before they speak (to give them time to collect their thoughts) or whether they’re bursting with something they can’t wait to share with me.

It’s just weird to find people who are paying attention to the Exact. Same. Things. in me. It’s somewhat disconcerting, of course — I’m so conscious of everything that I perceive to be *wrong* with me that I am fundamentally terrified that others are going to observe me and see the very things I abhor when I look in the mirror every day. But maybe they, like me, are looking to find the beauty that lies within … which, I am realizing that hides within everyone, if only we care enough and try hard enough to discover it. And maybe I have to acknowledge what’s inside of me before I am comfortable with others seeing — and possibly even enjoying — me for all that I am instead of for what little I give them to go on.

From “Please Hear What I am Not Saying”:

“You’ve got to hold out your hand
Even when that’s the last thing I seem to want.
Only you can wipe away from my eyes
The blank stare of the breathing dead.
Only you can call me into aliveness.
Each time you’re kind, and gentle, and encouraging,
Each time you try to understand because you really care,
My heart begins to grow wings.”

On iTunes: Melissa Ferrick, “To Let You See Me”

One Lonely Response to To let you see me

  1. A.McSholty :

    I sometimes gaze past the person I’m talking to when I’m recounting a story, but that’s usually because I’m engaged in my head with the visuals of the story so that I tell every detail just right. I also have a habit, when I’m in a public place, of constantly scanning my surrounds because I’m so caught up in people watching. I think I’m just wired that way.