The hardest person to get to know, is the one who looks back at you in the mirror every morning.
We stand and stare, with a toothbrush or a hairbrush in hand, and it feels almost impossible to interpret what flashes across our own features or what the knotted feeling is, that just won’t go away.
It must be like this, because if we knew, then we’d know how to tell our brain to stop thinking this, or our tummy to stop doing that.
We’d know the switches and the buttons of the mind and the heart, and we’d be able to navigate the control panel of our twisted insides.
We’d be able to untangle our thoughts and explain them like they do in the movies and on TV, with immediacy and poignancy.
But the distance between our eyes and the deep pool of our minds, can sometimes seem almost infinite.
And in the darkness, it feels like the most important bits are right at the bottom. Inaccessible to us without the time and patience to untangle the tangles that life does not afford us.
At least not without having to swim through layers and layers of the knotted weeds of the superficial and the conventional, the self-doubt and the fear.
We don’t take the journey, because perhaps we are also scared to know, in case that looks means we are not being who are supposed to be. In case it that feeling is a reminder of traumas that we buried long ago. In case of what others might think. In case of secrets that we dare not admit to ourselves.
Instead, we take a breath, and become the version of ourselves that we are expected to be.
We conform. We laugh, and then wonder why we’re doing it. We say yes when we mean no, we say no when we mean yes. We skate along the surface.
It is no surprise then, that the big relationships in life are hard.
The ones where we don’t feel OK just going along with things. The ones where the connection goes beyond the reciprocal polite transaction of blah.
Because the reality of these relationships is that they are between two strangers, who barely know themselves, trying to get to know each other.
To try and be the right person for each other. To try and swim in each other’s depths, when we don’t even know our own.
To try and be the right version of us.
But here are some of the secrets.
This is what everyone feels.
We are not alone.
They are thinking the same.
And we should talk about it.
Because what you are really thinking, is probably right. The thing that springs to mind at 5am, if you dwelt with it awhile, is probably the thing.
The way you should be that hits you sideways on your drive into work or in the bath, if you let it wash over you for a moment, is probably the way you should be.
We know ourselves better than we think. We sometimes just don’t listen to the deepest voice.
Instead we listen to the noisy, inelegant and strung out version of ourselves that protects you from the pressure of society. The voice that tries to prevent you making the hard choices even if they should not be made hard.
The one that tries to keep you safe from heartbreak, despite your heart already being broken.
The one that says — nope.
It is easier just to be like everyone else. Is it better to disappear into a crowd. It is safer to take the option everyone else wants you to. It is easier to make the excuse that gives you the upside, that allows you to take the easier path.
But confronting the whispered version of you, and the version of us that you try to ignore, might just be the bravest and healthiest thing we can do to ourselves.
Not because you should change, or that you should tak a harder path, because sometimes that might not be the right thing to do.
But because it allows you to choose.
Confronting the deepest of our own realities means you can make a choice, and know it is a choice.
It means you can tell the story of you, that can be your part of the us. You can know how you can give your best self, or a part of yourself to every relationship, and why you need to do it.
You can also know the bits of you that you might want to give, but that you can’t.
It means you can gather the strength to break the pattern that is breaking you, and ask those around you to help build another and to be part of that new pattern.
And this is the other part of the secret.
Because understanding the version of you that you need to be, does not always make a good version of us, could also be the bravest thing you could say to yourself. Saying it out loud is then the kindest thing you can admit to someone else.
It means there may not always be a happy ending. There is not always an agreed path. The answer is not always the one you want to hear.
But that does not mean you should ignore it.
Because as you meet those other strangers, who connect to you in a way that no-one else does, then it is likely you will discover versions of you that you did not know were there.
You will likely discover parts of you that you are not supposed to see, or not supposed to feel.
Embrace it, confront it, but do not be ashamed of it of avoid it. Walk away from it if you must, because that is OK too.
In the end perhaps it is also about boundaries. About picking a version of you, and a version of us that you can handle, is simply setting out a set of boundaries.
Keeping them firm, and defending them vigorously. Not pretending you can be something, when all the time your insides are in torture, screaming unheard at you to be something else.
Saying: this is how I can be.
I can be like this together, or we can be like this apart.
Maybe you were not meant to be the version of us that you want. You need to understand that.
Life is short, there are choices to make. For you, for us.
But never for others.
And you should never, ever, compromise your heart.