the new and swollen parts

there comes a moment in most relationships i’ve had, friend, lover, confidant, acquaintance, when the discussion turns to personality types. we seem in constant need to label ourselves, to find ways to make sense of our predilections by assigning a word to why we do what we do. i’m fascinated by this phenomenon. so, i’m fascinated by “personality tests.” i’ve taken several through the years, and they’ve brought some insight. but i don’t rely upon them to make my decisions, or excuse my actions, or judge those of others.

there also comes a moment of shock when they learn that i’m an introvert. i mean, really, really an introvert. because, in a normal day, i’m rarely not smiling. or cracking a joke. or going out of my way to start a discussion with someone, whether they’re known to me or not. but i’ve had people vociferously deny my introversion, which amuses me greatly. they insist that i’m an extrovert, give me numerous examples, are staunch in their belief that i have no problem putting myself on display.

but social situations exhaust me. i’m horrible at small talk, i have difficulty remembering names, and sometimes, rarely, but it happens, when the number of people or amount of noise in a crowded room reaches critical mass, i have a panic attack. i’ve gotten better through the years of dealing with this, but the fear lingers. given a choice, i will always turn inside.

so i don’t give myself that choice. i’m an introvert, but i’m also very willful. sometimes, this asserts itself in stubbornness. i’ll dig in my heels, lower my head, and refuse to move, whether it’s in my best interest or not. the other side of this currency, however, means that i’m incredibly loyal. it’s nearly impossible to shake me, once i make up my mind to stick by you. believe me. some have tried. but i’m a taurus, born in the year of the ox. i’m a double bull, with all that entails.

and i genuinely like interacting with people. everyone i meet knows something i don’t. i view the world as my mobile library, where i get to check out people’s brains for minutes, weeks, years at a time. and learn. about what they know, about who they are, and what their experiences have taught them. i imagine sometimes a little scribe in my head, furiously taking notes, learning from them, in subtle, varied ways, making a checklist on how to be a real person. how to live.

because that’s what it’s felt like, for most of my life. that i wasn’t real. wasn’t really living. i seemed to be lacking some indefinable something that others had. a confidence. a conviction of my own being. i’ve spent years, decades searching for that elusive ingredient, that one last thing that, once stirred into the mixing bowl, would make me rise.

aristophanes spoke of people as halved, desiring always to find and merge with the one who would complete us. that there is someone, one person, out in the world, that once found finally makes us whole. quartered, i’ve simply been looking for the other half of myself. this past christmas, this new year, i determined that i would find my missing part, once and for all. i didn’t want to, couldn’t live any longer as a less than partial person.

so i threw it all away. all my rules. all the restrictions that had kept me safe. held the fear at bay. i unceremoniously booted myself into the world, defenseless, and started exploring with abandon. nothing was taboo. i attacked, ferociously, those things that had kept me from knowing what my limits were, and the further i’ve pushed myself, the more i’ve realized that i am practically limitless.

i’ve done some things in the past month that i never would have imagined myself doing, that i’d be capable of. that i even knew existed. perhaps the most shocking thing is that i haven’t been shocked. by myself, or my actions. i’ve been reveling. the scribe in my head has been worked to exhaustion, but now by cataloging the seeming infinite reaches of myself. checking things off that list, compiled for years, finally getting down to the business of living.

and i’ve been sharing it, for the most part. another restraint flung down, broken. because i am as private as i am introverted. the two don’t always go together, but within me, they are solidly locked. so the act of including others in my journey has been terrifying, and wonderful, and necessary for this path i find myself on. some things are too personal for mass consumption, however. some things have lived solely within myself, between my brain and my heart, between my legs, between the spaces in my soul. filling them. creating a cache of conviction. finally. finding myself rising. making myself whole.

a month gone, and i look around me, within me. and i see it all, i’ve spoken of it before, the mess, the mistakes. i take stock of the glorious awful crying joyful place i find myself. i look myself in the eye, and i see.

i’m exhausted.

i’m bruised.

my soul is sore.

and i’m beginning to recognize the signs.

i’m filling up too fast. i’m reaching an inner critical mass that threatens to eclipse the past month of explosions, to bury all i’ve gained under an avalanche of immovable rubble. a collapse that would tempt me, again, this time, to turn irrevocably inside.

it’s an attrition that i cannot afford. a reduction that i’m not willing to accept.

so, now, comes a time of rest. a time of adjusting to my newly swollen parts, my freshly stretched being, until i feel i’m no longer in danger of pulling myself apart. until i know that any future explosions will only make me rise, instead of crumble. until my limits are once again dissolved into distance.

i dig in my heels.

i lower my head.

i wait.

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