I’ve always believed that people are fundamentally separate. I envision us as tiny pilots in our own skulls, desperately slamming buttons and pulling levers to make our bodies walk and talk and touch. I try to tell people about the fact that I live in my head. Before I can say “and I think you do, too,” they start giving advice on how to “get out” and “live.” I don’t know how to talk about it without someone hearing “please help me” instead. I don’t know why it sounds like an insult to be in your head. I love my head. It’s where my brain is.
That’s the nature of the problem. I can understand a thought – maybe even a complex one about the way people interact with the world – but I can’t wrap my tongue around it. I can’t get my eyebrows to look thoughtful instead of miserable. I can’t shrug with ambivalence instead of surrender. My skull’s a big place, and I can’t find the right buttons.
I try to keep a smirk on one side of my face. I just leave it out there so no one asks questions. No one bothers me if I look just a little happy, but people always worry when I seem sad, which is apparently every expression I have other than happy. They worry more when they ask how I am and I say I’m fine. I worry about their worry – what are they noticing about me that I’m not? Once someone asks if I’m OK, nothing I say seems to make them stop worrying. I just have to look happy to stay happy, because otherwise people assume I’m sad which makes me sad.
So I try to get away from the pressure to look like I feel how I feel, or like I’m doing what I’m doing. When I get away from people, I can watch a movie without leaning forward and thoughtfully stroking my beard. I can listen to music without nodding along to the beat. I can leave my brows knit in thought without anyone asking if my stomach hurts. I can experience bliss and hate and loss and love without having to contort my face to prove I’m feeling anything at all. I’m not forced to turn my emotions into a show.
I wish it didn’t have to be forced. I wish I could explain myself, show myself, effortlessly. That’s the advice I always get from well-meaning friends – to just be natural, be myself, be spontaneous, on and on and on. But people seem to understand me better when I slather it on, when I put up thick walls of playacting and gesticulation. I only get my point across when I stop being me, and start playing myself on TV.