Sunday, April 1, 2012

It's just me.

All week I've been having dreams on a recurring theme: I've lost my wallet, along with all my I.D.  As I search for it in subway stations or piles of trash, I fret over how much hassle it will be to re-create my identity.

Deep down, things have been shifting.  The movement is slow but sure, like the creep of continental plates.  You can't see the movement with your naked eye, but, over the years, it'll push up a mountain range.

When I started high school, I was quiet and shy.  While other kids were making friends with their new classmates, I sat very still, not sure if I should hope that someone would speak to me or hope to be left alone.

Eventually some kids did speak to me, and I made friends.  Some of them were good kids who I'm friends with to this day.  One of them was a troublemaker: Elizabeth.

Elizabeth had had a rough life.  Her folks were divorced, and they were crappy parents.  Her mother would specifically tell Elizabeth not to bother her for a while when she hooked up with a new boyfriend.  She was simply not welcome in her mother's home a lot of the time.  Her father, whom she lived with, was bonkers.  There was a lot of crazy, enraged shouting when things got going at that house.

On top of it all, Elizabeth was a cancer survivor.  She had a glass eye, having lost the original to cancer.

In many ways, she was a bad influence.  She encouraged me to lie to my parents, telling them that we were at her house watching cartoons.  In fact, we went to the Eaton Centre mall by ourselves so that she could teach me how to shoplift.  (I did steal, although not more than half-a-dozen times all told.  I was a smart enough kid to realize that the consequences of being caught weren't worth the risk.)

Elizabeth messed up my head in lots of subtly manipulative ways.  But I did get one gift from her that served me well for 25 years.  She taught me how to be funny, turning bad situations into opportunities for wry and ironic comedy.  She was as jaded at 14 as any full-grown adult.

Sometimes it's healthy to laugh at our troubles.  Life is plenty ridiculous, no doubt.  Sometimes it's better to laugh than to cry, for a change.  However, eventually I started laughing when I should have been crying.  Sometimes I couldn't get past the ludicrousness to actually feel the beating heart of my life.  This ability to turn tragedy into comedy turned into a defence against feeling the impact of truly sorrowful events.

I got to the point where sometimes I hated the feeling of a wry smile twisting my lips.  There was too much bitterness in my laughter.  I couldn't stop hiding from my heart, and the hearts of my friends.

Thanks be to God, that is finally changing.  As I approach my 40th birthday, I am ready and able to emerge from behind that shield of snark.  It's just me, sometimes sad, sometimes pensive, sometimes playful, and sometimes with a smile of  genuine, unadulterated joy.

It's a big change.  Ironic humour has been a major part of my public identity.  I'm certainly not leaving it behind entirely, but it's slipping into a less important role.  I'm not sure exactly who I am without that snarky edge, but we're all about to find out.


Lynn said...

It's true that so many people end up making us the person we become. Great self insight there.

I have a friend named Elizabeth who is annoying on so many levels. :) I have cut her loose as much as I can. Interesting - your reference to that other Elizabeth immediately brought her to mind.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

Good for you. Sometimes all you have is laughter though, even in the worst of times.

Jenski said...

Elizabeth sounds like she had quite the big personality. My humor has often erred on the side of inappropriate, and therefore I end up not very funny at work (because I avoid making jokes). Irony has its place in funny, non-snarky humor though. Hope exploring and expressing all of you is more and more rewarding.

Jameil said...

At least you know who you want to be and you're breaking free! I wonder where Elizabeth is now.

LL Cool Joe said...

I'm always at my funniest when I'm totally depressed and down. If I write a funny blog post it probably means my real life sucks.

We all use mechanisms to keep us functioning, and it's interesting that you used humour. Perhaps it was a crutch you don't need anymore.

wigsf3 said...

It's great that you can still laugh, even at your advanced age.

Granny Annie said...

Easy on Elizabeths please. That's my first name:) Of course I was a trouble maker...I was the preacher's kid. It was my job. LOL

You sound so good and I have no doubt your 40s forward are going to be spectacular.

Sparkling Red said...

Lynn: The flip side of that is how much we (often unknowingly) influence those around us in meaningful and lasting ways.

Ron: True dat. I'm certainly not planning on giving up my sense of humour, that's for sure.

Jenski: Thanks! Irony has its place. It's just not a good place to be all the time.

Jameil: I wonder that too. :-)

LL Cool Joe: Yup, that's pretty common. Many if not most comedians are miserable and tortured people. "Tears of the clowns" and all that. Hey, at least being funny is better than getting addicted to booze or drugs.

wigsf: Isn't it amazing? I'm surprised it's still physically possible for me to laugh, seeing as I am so prehistorically ancient.

Granny Annie: Of COURSE you were a troublemaker! Wait, what's this past tense all about? I'm betting you're still a troublemaker. ;-)

Tracy Makara said...

Wow Spark! What a deep post...and fantastic. It's great that you are breaking through and working your way to being fully yourself. Been working on this a lot myself in the past few years. Must be something about turning 40 eh? ;) Seems to have been a magic number for me. Can't wait to see more of your journey into who you are becoming!

DarcsFalcon said...

*hugs* I have a feeling that the Spark on this side will still be as thoughtful and sensitive as before, only more able to express that. :) You're going to be great hon, and what a wonderful job of blooming you're doing!

G. B. Miller said...

You should always be careful about tweaking a well known part of your personality/character, because the last thing you want to do is to alienate family and friends with your new persona.

However, kudos just the same for approaching the big 4 0 like any other number.

DarcKnyt said...

We have so much in common, you and I. And I've had my own share of Elizabethan influences (see what I did there?). What I really like, though, is how you recognize the edge and how it got there, can pinpoint the time and the reason.

Good stuff, well told. I'm looking forward to meeting you again. ;)

Sparkling Red said...

Tracy: I've heard many times that 40 is the age of spiritual maturity. I'm looking forward to finding out for myself. :-)

DarcsFalcon: Thanks! I feel liberated as I emerge from behind my defenses.

GB Miller: I don't think my friends and family will mind the change. If they have a problem with it they can talk about it with me.

DarcKnyt: Thanks! I find that my writing voice has been gradually changing in the last few weeks. That's why I've been doing so many photo posts; I just wasn't sure how to handle the change.