The summer after I finished the fourth grade, I spent a week at YMCA summer camp. I got to my cabin and put my duffel bag on my bunk and looked around.
There wasn’t even one familiar face among the other campers. On a whim, I decided I would be someone different. That someone different was named Lizzie.
Lizzie was very different from Adrienne. Where Adrienne scanned the lunchroom, hoping to find a friendly (or at least not hostile) face, Lizzie was in high demand. “Lizzie, come over here!” “No, Lizzie, come sit with us!”
A boy named David developed a crush on Lizzie, and he didn’t try to keep it a secret. She was picked first when it was time to choose teams. During the Friday evening, end-of-camp party, almost every boy in camp asked her to dance.
I felt like a fraud.
I was not, in fact, a fraud. I didn’t make up stories about my life; I was only myself, renamed. There was some kind of magic in that, though even from the perspective of 30 years I can’t put my finger on exactly what that magic was.
Whatever the magic was, I felt like a faker. Life at home, where the other kids largely ignored me (or, if they noticed me, it was only to hurt me, either through cruelty or carelessness) seemed like the real world. That unkind treatment was what I thought I deserved.
I never thought, “Hey, maybe the people at home are full of shit! Is it possible that I’m interesting and fun and even attractive? Could it be that these people are right and those people are wrong?”
Nope. Instead, I thought, “If the people at camp knew the real me, knew Adrienne instead of Lizzie, they’d hate me, too.”
It seems that not a whole lot has changed in 30 years.
This…thing happened to me last year.
I don’t know exactly when. Somewhere, between last spring (when my blog started to get more than a tiny smattering of readers) and last fall, I lost track of what I’m doing here.
I started to be concerned with my online image. I tried to create a wonderful person instead of looking for the wonderfulness that’s already in me.
I don’t think I’m wonderful. Hell, I don’t even consider myself marginally adequate. Thousands of hours of therapy have taught me a few things, among them this: low self-esteem is something of which to be ashamed, and therefore hidden. How do you heal a thing that you’re consumed with hiding, avoiding, and ignoring?
I’m ashamed of my shame. It’s like the emotional equivalent of a fun house mirror.
Even now, I’m thinking, “I better damn well erase that last bit because people will think I’m feeling sorry for myself.” In my constantly self-accusatory world view, there is no greater sin than self pity.
I started to feel like my online-self was the grown-up Lizzie, and lovely as that is, it’s hollow.
I wanted to be as fierce as this blogger and as funny as that one. I wanted to tell sweet stories the way she does and have an uplifting affect on others like him.
I wanted the world to love me, but I felt pathetic for wanting that. I’ve never told a lie here, but I’ve tried hard to say what I think I should say, to avoid expressing the dark and ugly feelings that I fear will drive you away.
I’ve been crippled by my shame. Being loved as Lizzie isn’t entirely satisfying, but it’s preferable to being despised as Adrienne.
And I do assume that you will despise me if you know the truth.
Not bits and pieces of the truth, but the whole thing.
Not edited to hide the feelings that are shameful, but raw, with the guts exposed.
Much about my life has been ugly, and much of that ugliness has been, at least partly, of my own making. I tried to paint it some other way so that only the shiny side of my penny would show.
During my long blogging hiatus I considered abandoning blogging altogether. I love this blog; I love writing here, but I was exhausted from constantly second-guessing myself, trying to create Lizzie instead of being Adrienne.
Ironically, by considering quitting blogging because I feared I was being inauthentic, I nearly gave up the only thing in my life that is fully, uniquely mine.
Such a tangled and twisting strand.
At the end of December, I finally remembered why I wanted to write a blog in the first place: the writing is for finding the truth and the blog is the place for telling it.
Somewhere along the way, I lost track of that and made it so much less.
This is where I’m supposed to say, “I have a new commitment to my truth! I won’t ever lose track again!”
But I probably will. Lose track, I mean. I’d like to think that I’ll write my way through my next depression and to hell with the people who say I’m being too negative, or I’m feeling sorry for myself, or I’m tiresome with my navel contemplation. And who knows? I might be able to do that.
Or I might not. For now, though, I remember the purpose of this thing.
I don’t call it No Points for Style for nothing.