I like being alone by myself but not alone with myself. The opportunity to read undisturbed for hours is one I’ll snatch in a heartbeat. Watching a movie alone, going shopping alone, cooking alone, these are all activities which I willingly embrace. However, even the idea of walking to the bus without music or a book fills me with dread. Ten excruciating minutes with no distractions. Ten minutes alone with my thoughts. Ten minutes where I wish the earth would adjust its rules of physics for me alone so that I could arrive at my destination that much faster. Ten minutes in which I have absolutely nothing to say to myself.
Have you ever tried to have a conversation with yourself directly? For me, it produces nothing but boredom, loneliness, and at its worst—immutable and immovable shame, anger, or sadness. There is nothing you can say to yourself that is funny, amusing, surprising, or able to elicit any other positive emotion. You know all that you know, making it a struggle to even come up with a topic to begin the conversation with yourself. There’s no safety net of small talk or fake interest, and it’s hard to be deep with yourself on a whim. So, when your mind isn’t unalterably blank and drowning in boredom, it is particular to a few choice subjects: your most recent embarrassment, your biggest impending failure, your latest sadness-inducing memory, or your newest and biggest pet peeve. You relive them over and over and over in those ten minutes of walking, in the twenty minutes it takes you to fall asleep (sometimes stretching into an hour after the fifth time you see yourself utter that embarrassing phrase in your minds eye), or in the fifteen minutes it takes for the bus to come.
Have you ever tried to argue with yourself? I have concluded that it is impossible, yet I continue to try whenever the occasion presents itself. Sometimes, I use my arguments to justify my actions, and sometimes I use it to attempt to take the sharp edge off my anxiety, shame, or guilt that linger as a byproduct of my “conversations.” In my mind, there is no better debator than I. My points are eloquent, well-reasoned and hold up perfectly when questioned. They follow unwavering logic and are supported by solid facts. I now have 23 years of anecdotal evidence that says that human emotion never responds to rationality.
“Everybody but you will forget this by the end of the day.”
“Seriously? You never remember anybody else’s embarrassing moments, so why dwell on your own?”
“It already happened. It’s done. Decided. There is literally nothing you can do about it, and picking your nails into a bloody mess over it won’t change the past.”
“She didn’t do it on purpose. She isn’t actively trying to annoy you, so give it a rest.”
“If you don’t stop worrying about this, you won’t fall asleep, and then you’ll be more tired, more anxious, and tomorrow will be worse.”
“Yes, I know you want him, but you can’t have him. It’s a well-established fact. Get over it.”
“You did the best that you could. Nobody was hurt by it”
“Think about something else…like…picture yourself lying on a beach with a book. There, that’s better, you’re all happy and warm and—hang on, there’s something nagging at the back of my brain. What was I supposed to remember? Oh DAMMIT!! There goes the galloping heartbeat again.”
Ok, so maybe they aren’t so eloquent, and maybe more than a few of them are trite reassurances, but at least they make sense.
To have a proper argument with yourself, naturally you must split yourself into two or more voices. For me, the first voice is the only one with dialogue. It is the calm, collected, and completely rational being—which is why it must use words. No perfectly logical thought can be expressed wordlessly. My other voice is not a voice—it is a Feeling. Whenever Rational Thought puts forth an argument, Feeling responds with something from its bottomless repertoire. There might be a swooping sensation somewhere in the region of the lower intestine; a wave of anxiety that bathes the brain in worry; or a tsunami of terror that collects in a yawning pit of doom in the stomach; a fire of anger that burns its way through the veins; a twinge in the chest that sets the heart jackhammering; a suffocating blanket of longing that forces itself through every pore of the body, that burns worse and lingers longer than anger; a simple pressure in the back of the throat that builds in intensity until it finally releases in the form of tears dripping silently from the eyes.
Without a single word, Feeling beats out Rational Thought every time. Even wordless, there’s no mistaking the meaning.
“Wow, I can’t believe how much you read!” people will say to me.
Don’t get me wrong–I LOVE to read–but sometimes, it’s part of an elaborate game of hide and seek with myself. As soon as the book is over, the real action begins.
“Oh no!” Rational thought screams, as Feeling grasps me tightly and triumphantly by the throat.