As a child, I was a bit on the histrionic scale of expression. I had a flair for the dramatic and experienced every emotion with the intensity of a hungry child eating his favourite food. I felt I had to labour through every grade on the scale of feelings out of fear that I would die, not having eaten everything one’s life has to offer. I remember spending hours out of my early teens lying on my back with earphones on, digesting the full range of musical tastes in our family’s CD collection. From Roger Whitaker to Cat Stevens to Tracy Chapman the Beatles, Bach and Chopin. Everything larger than life, always louder than necessary. All these emotions were relayed to my somewhat unwilling family as I insisted on serenading them while standing on top of the dinner table. My mother complained about my seclusion as much as she did about my socialising
I think. A lot. If I have time, I think too much and become depressed. Sometimes I get anxious if I don’t have enough time to think. It is a precarious thing to manage. I have been tested on a near 50/50 on the intro-extroversion scale and have since realised that balance is key to how I manage my inner world. This is kind of an identity post. If you could have guessed so far. These last few months have been a whirlwind of change and adaption. Since my brother’s wedding in Spain, which was precluded by all the visa arrangements, life has just never stopped to breathe. In the last 5 months I have gone from single thirty something to dreamy girlfriend to aunty-babysitter to new sister-in-law to new sister to production manager to volunteer to fiance to event manager to limbo person to marketer to student editor with a house-move and a job change in between. A lot has happened. A lot of info that needs to be processed and finally, when I come to terms with all of the really great things that have happened, I need to start preparing myself to be a wife, a home maker and hopefully a mother.
A wise Egyptian psychologist once told me (and I think Dr Malek will forgive my paraphrasing) that while psychology tries to understand the human condition by dealing with personality (the expression of ourselves) theological counselling seeks to deal with the person behind the masks of personality. It struck a chord with me this past year. I am not sure that I am the personality I was when I was little and innocent and fearless (I’m certainly not fearless anymore) but I realised these last few days that I needed time to process where I’m at, and figure out which hat I’m wearing at the moment.
I don’t think I am the most easily offended person, and I’d like to believe that I take dealing with offence swiftly, quite seriously. I am too analytical to believe that an initial emotional response to something can be taken at face value, and I make a habit of carefully thinking through responses before communicating, even to unjustified actions, with respect and consideration. The last week, however I have been a mess of emotions. Even the slightest comment or joke from my fiance would cause me to dump all my emotional resources out on the table. In an attempt to quickly sort through the appropriate thoughts and emotions to match them to the situation just caused me to dissociate and shut down. Our busy year-end schedule didn’t help, and with our move we really wanted to spend time with our Stellenbosch friends as much as possible. So, when I woke up on Monday morning like I’d been hit by the Shinkanzen, it became clear that I really needed some down time. I needed to be the only person in the room to do nothing but lie on my bed listening to the Debussy’s Children’s Corner and imagine the goings-on of a family that occasionally chase loose pages in the wind. To do nothing but enjoy the ears and imagination God gave me. I know it sounds frivolous and ungrown-up, but perhaps, before I can embrace the responsibilities of being wife and mother, I need to remember who I am behind the mask. Just a fallible girl who dreams and listens in pictures and who needs God.
I am not magically fixed because I took a bubble bath by myself. I still wonder what my loved-ones see in me. I still feel like an immaculate fraud that pulls off such a good confidence trick that people have such lovely things to say about me. The time off gave me the chance to remember what I love about them and what it feels like to see Olivia’s half-toothed smile, to hug my dad’s full belly, the beauty of his pregnant wife swelling with life (even while she’s feeling sick), the joy of secretly delivering tea and croissants for my “Liefde” on our “alone day”, the beauty and blessing of enjoying the full kaleidoscope of life for real even when it’s intense, and unpredictable, but this time with a dreamt soundtrack in the place of self-doubting noise.