The Art of Asking (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help)

“You can fix almost anything by authentically communicating.”
Backstory time:
Most of this (very brand new to me) experiment has been a way to fix Something that is Broken. Written words are what I’m good at; certainly moreso than human interaction. I get so nervous about what everyone THINKS of me. All the time. I haven’t a clue where this neurosis started but it often sends me spiraling into the land of self-doubt. I’m slowly learning that this is not an uncommon occurrence. I’ve just finished reading Amanda Palmer‘s “The Art of Asking.” The points that hit home keep wracking up, but the theme that’s worked it way into my soul, that I keep referring to in conversation is
feeling “real.” And, in turn, allowed to ask. That we are (I am) allowed and justified in asking for what we truly need.
“You always were selfish, little miss attention-getter. You’ve never thought about anybody but yourself.”
When I was a kid, I was exuberant. A chatterbox. Annoying as fuck to some, most assuredly, but I was blissfully unaware because I was too busy being ME. There is a moment I can point to where that started to decelerate and being me started to hurt. I couldn’t have been more than 7. I told a friend something I believed to be true and she told me I was bragging. I’d never heard that word. She explained in a very authoritative, grown-up voice that bragging was making up stories to make yourself feel more interesting. I felt absolutely shattered. I was made up. I wasn’t really interesting, I was a faker of some kind.
And yes, I can look at this now and think it was a passing comment and who gives a fuck. It was over 20 years ago. But so much of my heart broke then it’s difficult to dust off and move on. Then again I’ve been known to tear up at heart-warming advertisements, so maybe I’m a softie (and that’s allowed).
I think the most painful bit about not feeling real is that, hand-in-hand, it came with the belief that asking for what I wanted was selfish and totally unjustified, undeserved. I could pluck out so many memories in which this was silently reinforced. Suffice it to say, I felt that I was special, different somehow when I was young, and then choo-choo, here come countless stops on the train to correct that. You’re just like everyone else. Why do you have to act so weird and different?
This is still a sore spot. I’m inching towards 30. My graduating class just had its 10 year reunion. I made a wish list on Amazon for family gift-giving convenience and my mother made fun of some jewelry I picked out. And there I am, a kid again, not allowed to ask for what I want. Family can be the most qualified and well-equipped to cut you to the core – sometimes by talking or not talking.
To travel back to the point, The Thing I broke, I did by talking. I’ve been living with being that family member who cuts, however well-intentioned at the time. But I’m not being allowed to fix it directly and maybe it won’t ever mend. At this point it’s out of my hands, making me feel frenzied and out of control. The theory goes all Muppets fall into one of two categories: order & chaos. Order is the straight man in the comedy routine, stalwart, rule-oriented. Chaos is energy, joy, blithe ignorance or willful disregard of the rules. I am an Order Muppet (who stares longingly at the seemingly happier Chaos crowd) for days, so feeling this out of control sucks. It SUCKS. That’s the risk you take interacting with the other Muppets (read: humans). You can ask for what you need. The answer may be no. You can ask to rebuild the burned bridge and your offer could be declined. Then? I guess all that’s left to move on is to communicate authentically – with yourself.
“A farmer is sitting on his porch in a chair, hanging out. A friend walks up to the porch to say hello, and hears an awful yelping, squealing sound coming from inside the house. “What’s that terrifyin’ sound?” asks the friend. “It’s my dog,” said the farmer. “He’s sittin’ on a nail.” “Why doesn’t he just sit up and get off it?” asks the friend. The farmer deliberates on this and replies: “Doesn’t hurt enough yet.” “
It would be easy to express regret – there are many days that I do. But then it also brought me here. It made me hurt enough to move off the nail and start working on rebuilding my own bridge. Because I also have days where, despite any mistakes, missteps or regrets, I am reassured by the universe that I have a place and it’s right where I’m at: a moving target that stays glued to my feet. Getting up off the nail, having felt pain that finally hurt enough to get me moving again, it made me WRITE again. And sing. And play my guitar. I had stopped all of those things. I had been so depressed and self-loathing that my favorite things felt like a childish, selfish waste of time because who was I to think I was good enough to try? But now I know it’s allowed. Right or wrong, my words are valid because I’m a human emoter. I’m REAL. And of course, because love is real, too, there’s always the hope that nothing’s ever lost forever. Maybe The Thing will heal and I’ll get back my long lost sister.
“Let’s go to Vegas
Let’s get a karaoke back room
I’ll never find it
I wanna shout into the vacuum:
That nothing’s ever lost forever
It’s just caught inside the cushions of your couch
And when you find it
You’ll have such a nice surprise
Nothing’s ever lost forever
It’s just hiding in the recess of your mind
And when you need it
It will come to you at night
Oh!” –Lost
So. No lyrics from me with this one, but I’ll leave you with the words that give me a giant hug of ‘everything’s going to be ok, you’re ok and you’re ALLOWED’ and hope it helps you, too. Read Amanda’s book. Learn to take the donuts.
“So play your favorite cover songs, especially if the words are wrong!
‘Cause even if your grades are bad, it doesn’t mean you’re failing!
Do your homework with a fork!
And eat your Froot Loops in the dark!
And bring your flask of Jack to work!
And play your ukelele!” – The Ukulele Anthem
**Bold indicates quotes/excerpts from The Book (buy it somewhere. trust me).

The World at Night

Dreams seems to exist in their own world for most, but for me it’s difficult to separate them from reality. I dream in 100% living, vivid color. Until I was about 20ish I didn’t realize that this wasn’t the norm. I read somewhere once that the average person reported dreaming in grey scale or muted colors. But in talking to most of my friends (and I keep some odd but beautiful company), they were color-dreamers, too. I wonder how far back these studies go. I have a bizarre theory that this has to do with television, which began in black & white and has now moved on to color and HD, etc., etc. I’d be very curious to study the average dreaming habits of each century’s population since human existence. I could see if my flimsy theory holds true.
Dreams have been the most consistent ‘church’ for me; the closest I’ve come to any significant spiritual experience. I might be too rigid to let those experiences happen in my waking life, I don’t know. I remember in a college philosophy class the professor mentioned that some Buddhist monks denied themselves comfortable sleep. In our assigned response I wrote about how foreign it seemed to deny yourself what was, to me, the only source of purely distilled soul-glimpsing.
There have been times things I’ve dreamed happened, actually happened. Maybe my gift of analysis allowed me to mentally prepare for the most likely outcome. Or maybe I just got lucky. I don’t have a ready explanation. And I’ve been made real by the fact that others saw this as a prophetic gift. But, and I’m sure I’m not alone in this, there are moments and interactions that rip the rug out from under you and make it very difficult to trust that anything about you is real. I’ve had to struggle with a few crises of faith in myself – the latest one has been the most difficult because I did it to myself. I dreamed something so real it couldn’t have been a mistake. Except when I shared it, it ruined a significant friendship for me.
Maybe a muse can’t be a friend, too.
The Lyrics
Take one more stone from this foundation
And say our dreams have no significance
All these nights I’ve been alone in my own head
Not touching the future or foreseeing consequence
All these years I’ve held them in such reverance
Because when I tried to recreate the scene
Your reaction seemed equal and opposite
So if I can’t trust what’s in my own head
Does this make me a prophet apologist
Or simply an obstinate optimist
When your dreams are as clear as memories
Can’t you see
It’s easy to mistake them for reality
And if I still ache for you when I wake
It’s not fake
Maybe I’m a flake but cut me a break
Looks like I wished this
A case of one-sidedness
And I never saw it coming
When you’re in sight
It’s fight or flight
So I’ll spend my time with the world at night
Take one more stone from this foundation
And say I am blinded by decades past
Every moment of us that’s etched in my head
Tattooed on my skin, from first to last
Is not enough to make me sorry that I asked
I ripped myself open, I sewed myself shut
I can keep it together when you’re not around
Though every night when it’s time to rest my head
We’ve time traveled once more to this ghost town
And though it seems we’ve torched these walls down
When your dreams are as clear as memories
Can’t you see
It’s easy to mistake them for reality
And if I still ache for you when I wake
It’s not fake
Maybe I’m a snake but cut me a break
Looks like I wished this
A case of one-sidedness
And I never saw it coming
When you’re in sight
It’s fight or flight
So I’ll spend my time with the world at night