Essays

A public life

A few years ago, I told my therapist that this was my approach to life:

I keep my public life private, my private life intimate,
and my intimate life non-existent.

At the time, while I saw her reaction – and if you’re even slightly empathetic, you could imagine that it wasn’t a positive one, it was legitimately sad and pained – I didn’t get it.

(Let’s just say that if you could fail therapy, I definitely failed that first stint.)

Some time after that, late in 2015, I had written a piece where I declared that I very much wanted to live a “public life.” This was not in the sense of being a celebrity, of having cameras follow me about and becoming a public figure, but something far simpler:

  1. I wanted to hold someone’s hand (I didn’t know it at the time).
  2. I wanted to be out and about and not have to wonder who would call one of my siblings or my parents (this sounds irrational, but it’s not).
  3. I wanted to take pictures and not manage my privacy settings.
  4. I wanted to accept events on Facebook and not care about who saw.
  5. I wanted to be able to introduce someone that I liked, cared about, loved, just as that (and not as some ambiguous person or diminution).

Many people in this world take this for granted. I never have. For many, many years, I got very good at convincing myself that I didn’t like holding hands, that I didn’t like taking pictures, that I didn’t care about so many, many things.

When I said that thing to my therapist, I was dead serious.  It was the truth. For when you tell yourself something often enough, well, it becomes true. You forget that at one point you had to teach it to yourself; you forget that at one point that something happened and this was your response.

Until, one day, when you’re really tired, and the world has stopped feeling right, the sky is collapsing on you, and it has all just become too much to manage (did I slip, did I say something I shouldn’t have, who did I tell this to, what’s my excuse today for going, what’s my excuse today for leaving, why can’t I just have some peace and quiet, it’s them not me…), you get confronted by the real truth:

I want to live my life: public, private, and intimate.
Just as they are. Just as they were meant to be.

And now you are stuck. Because to lift the curtain of ‘private’ into the ‘public’ space where it belongs, means you need to lift the veil of the ‘intimate’ into the ‘private’ and that implies you must have an intimate life, which fundamentally is knowledge of yourself.

However, you have spent so many years burying that, that you will now spend many months, at least, unburying it, digging up mud and dirt and heavy stones, unearthing, disinterring an interior life, of your interests, values, needs, memories and thoughts, wild and untamed, fresh and terrifying.

It will be terrifying, trust me: it’s been moldering under there for awhile.

But, this morbid disinterment of a living body will shift, quite quickly, into exhilaration and joy, a journey full of amazing things, the opening up of your own cabinets of wonder, your own buried treasures that have just been waiting, patiently, for you to find them.

You will pull out this doodad and that whatsit, and marvel that you had forgotten about that cherished couplet of poetry, or that favorite song, or that moment when you first dived into the water, or the feeling you got from a first crush–all of it will crash in, you will find yourself smiling at the sun in the sky or dancing across your living room, giddy and silly and alive.

I say you, and I mean me, and when I talk about me, I know that my experience is not unfamiliar, is not unknown, because too many of us have been playing at half-lives, have been playing between the stages of public, private, and intimate, and losing that rigged game.

So, let’s not lose it anymore, yes? Because our lives are not games. There are actual games out there; go play those, go play them with the people that you like, or you love, or you are in the process of figuring it out.

Go live out loud. Go live a public life. Just go live.

I am.

 

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