"I've never gotten used to it, I've just learned to turn it off."—Dylan
My friend J has become a pseudo older brother figure to me, recently. He’s always saying I’ve got to go easier on myself, not fret so much, not invest so much in other people. He’s right. Certainly my friends who aren’t so sensitive to the actions and emotions of others seem happier, well adjusted, and basically calm. How did they get this way? And why aren’t I like them?
Sometimes it helps to know I’m not the only one. My best friend D and I are basically the same person—I think we must’ve come from the same pod. D is the only other person I know whose emotional structure resembles mine. Just the other night, we were talking on the phone about how people seem to tread so carefully in friendships—only meeting once or twice a month for coffee, divulging as little as possible about their personal struggles. Maybe all the emotional stuff is just too dirty for some people to get into—or maybe they’re simply too self-involved to endear themselves to someone else on such an intimate level. D and I’s friendship began in the eighth grade and we’re still going strong. I think we’ve remained close because neither of us is afraid to be vulnerable in front of the other. We’re not afraid to say, “things are really bad and I feel like they may never get better.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not Conor Oberst, thrashing my emotions around like a zombie in search of blood. I have Oberstian moments, but most of the time I’m more of Joni Mitchell—who once said she was a “bundle of exposed nerves, totally transparently vulnerable.” She said there was a moment in her life when she would just cry if someone showed her any affection: love, friendship, anything. She just broke down. And that’s when she wrote Blue, which is one of the most beautiful albums ever recorded. This brings me to my next question, which is, to be a successful artist doesn’t one have to be a bit exposed, a bit manic . . . a bit insane? I think so.
I thought I was in love once. Maybe I was. I was so desperate to get that level of intimacy into my life, with someone I could trust and be vulnerable with. I suppose it’s all about the struggle for “real” experiences—my real self is someone who’s incredibly sensitive and emotional. I wanted a friend and a lover, people who could accept that. I suppose I’m lucky to have found one of the two. Still, I don’t understand when and how everyone got so drained, so isolated, and so uncomfortable. Are we afraid we might actually let someone get under our skin? I have, and I survived (just barely).
Would it be so terrible?