The astonishing thing about confessing to weakness is that it brings a renewed wash of strength. I still don’t really know how this happens.
I’m always banging on about human frailty, but the irrational voices that shout in my head tell me that I must not admit my own. Rationally, I know that all humans are flawed and frail, having midnight terrors and cracked plate three in the morning dark nights of the soul. Every one of my heroines and heroes has flaws. Of course they do, because they are human.
Yet that stupid shouty voice says: don’t tell them. Don’t say it out loud. Don’t startle the horses, don’t bore people to weeping, don’t make them lose the will to live. It’s so boring, say the shouty voices, who have always had too much gin. Sing another song, boys, says the voice that has been listening to Leonard Cohen; this one has grown old and bitter.
So even though I know it is irrational, I think: give them the good stuff. Plaster a smile on your face, pretend that you can do everything yourself, stuff down those doubts and fears and black presentiments of doom and do your bloody tap dance. You are not here to bore people to death with your crappy moments and your hopeless moments and your moments of utter failure. Throw your arms in the air and sing a show tune.
Yet every time I drive those irrational, garrulous voices from the room (usually by telling them there is another bottle next door) and look the hard truth straight in the whites of its eyes and admit it, I feel not only as if I have put my burden down, but as if I can stand up straight and carry on. People do not, as the shouty voices insist, run screaming from the room. They smile a little ruefully, and sigh a little regretfully, and nod their heads a little thoughtfully, and say the magic words. They don’t say: it will all be fine, or snap out of it, or of course you will find a way. They say: me too.
And then one is not a random individual, but part of the collective. Humans, like horses, are herd animals. Even someone as far along the introversion spectrum as I needs the power and reassurance of the group. No man is an island; nor no woman either.
I hit the wall. I felt the terrible, snapping jaws of despair. I thought, for a moment, that I could not see a way through. I went into a defensive crouch. I hoped nobody would notice. And then I said the thing and the good humans said me too and then I rallied. I did not do this alone. Kind strangers said kind things and close friends gave words of wisdom and sweetness. I love to be alone. I crave solitude like a drunk craves whisky. But I must not fall into category error, my bête noire. Just because I like to be alone, that does not mean I have to do everything alone. Sometimes, I can hold out my hand and ask for help.
And you, the group, were magnificent. I feel humbled and thankful.