Sometimes I’m so awkward that it feels like I’m sliced in half, watching the most ungraceful part of myself stumble through a situation as if she’s blind-folded and drunk. You can’t see it on my face, but my insides twist and contort like the summer camp lanyards I could never get quite right. In these moments, I could be the face of “shitting myself,” if only I didn’t tense up to the point of full-body constipation—the result of which is only heightened awkwardness, an onslaught of robotic movements so painful I often black out as they happen.
And once I come to, reviewing the last however-many-seconds in my brain, my self-talk enters truly combative territory as I war against myself with questions re: what in the actual fuck I was just doing? It is not uncommon to find words like worthless, pathetic, and shitty-to-the-core flung around my poor, eternally-challenged brain. And as the inner-abuse builds—a crescendo sure to frighten any therapist—I am always torn between laughing and sobbing uncontrollably, often wondering if, perhaps, a union of the two is what’s required.
Given that these slip-ups happen only in the presence of others, however, I tend to protect whatever dirty scraps are left of my reputation by stuffing such responses deep down inside, where they fester, sending up a stinky whiff every now and then to keep me humble. Don’t let this good hair day or that surprisingly stable handshake mislead you, they cackle, you are resigned to the purgatory of your own awkward self until the day you die.
I’m learning, with time, that trying to shut them out is a futile pursuit—instead welcoming them, as I am right now, to sit at the table, daring them, even, to dance on it if they’d like. Because, frankly, it is difficult to chew around certain parts of myself in search of only the tastiest, well-seasoned bits. Such attempts leave a large chunk of me rotting, neglected for shitting on social cues and lacking a certain dexterity. I was never very good at ballet.
But I can really fuck up an interpretative dance when I want to, melding some poorly-executed hip-hop steps with the full-body shakes of anxiety. In fact, it is the only dance I really enjoy—one that encourages all my mistakes and not-quite-rights and why-in-god’s-name-did-you-do-that’s to come forth and, well, not prosper, but become a little more palatable. And this dance always reminds me that I can’t mindful-eat my way to self-acceptance—I have to swallow myself whole.