On being your own "yes" man

Dear Hannah,

When I was young I was terrified that people could read my mind.  Nobody had ever taken the time to tell me that 70% of all communication is non-verbal, and when people started reacting to how I was feeling I began to get panicked.  This was because I knew in my mind what they felt with their senses.  Only I knew with certainty what was hinted by my little behaviors; that the sea of feelings and desires and judgments and realizations bubbling and boiling and sometimes spilling beyond my consciousness were being made known by my hands and my eyes and the way I would hold my head.  But they could guess at it -- it was their business to guess at it -- it was their interest to guess at it; and this idea that the secret side of me could be made public without my consent led me to wonder if I was a psychic.  I believe this is what they refer to as "anxiety."

Smoking pot didn't help, and when the inner monologue became louder because of pot I became more reclusive in terror.  This ruined several parties when I thought I had said things I didn't intend on saying, and that the words I had said meant things I didn't intend them to mean -- but which I had thought.  In truth the inner side of us is more than personal.  It's a secret that our survival demands that we keep.  It has all kinds of suggestions we wouldn't choose because it gives us all the options so we can make a choice.  Some of them are dark and horrific*.  Some of them are dangerous.  Most of them are stupid and many of them are rude.  All of them, being rooted in us and by us and for us, are at the bottom of the matter selfish.  People say gay people are closeted, but gays are full of it because all of us are closeted.  99 plus percent of all our sexual desires are closeted and some of us have claimed a monopoly on the closet.  And this closet, it turns out, is our friend.  Only an idiot would claim it to himself and make it an enemy.

Not only would it be impossible to spill the contents of this incredibly profuse wardrobe of ideas, but it would be unhelpful.  Nobody needs to know every time you want to punch Johnny in the eye, and nobody needs to know every time you want to tear Suzie's underwear off with your teeth.  The fact that we feel these things is enough of a burden for ourselves and leads many of even the best-behaved of us to cry about our "sin nature."  The covetous mind.  The lustful heart.  The hateful soul.  All of these thought crimes weighing on us, making us feel ugly and adulterous and devilish; all hidden unless we give them away; all hinted at by the look in our eyes and the shape of our mouths; all spilling involuntarily at times and other times purposely, and when we're good at our game suppressed by art and sheer willpower**.

This has led me to wonder exactly what people mean when they say we should be "yes men" to ourselves. Yes to what exactly?  To the things we have chosen to say "no" to?  To the inexpressible and inexhaustible volcano of desire lurking behind our concealing expressions?  I'm already a no man and I'm glad of it.  I've said no to an infinity of things so I can be something, and something better than the infinity at that.  I'm already married to the self that I've made; spurning all my other possibilities; loving one beyond all others; an expression of a side of myself so lopsided that I reflect a mere point in an infinity of other possible beings.  Which other me should I be?  The side I wouldn't have chosen?  No -- I accept that most of me is hidden and I keep it that way, and I accept responsibility alone for the part of me that isn't.

Your father,

*The really dark suggestions are amplified by our fear or loathing of them.  A running away from this side only causes us to dwell on it.  You can never forget something you're running from, and it wasn't until I accepted the darker parts of myself that I was able to minimize them.  Meditation and positive thinking and Jesus didn't help.  Shaking hands with the Devil did.  Ignoring him as an ineradicable and natural part of yourself will do what the socially-acceptable parts of your soul can only attempt.

**The general wisdom is that men should be good at hiding their pain, but this isn't enough.  A man must know how to express joy on command.  A case in point.

Few people are aware of the pain I'm in daily.  This back of mine, crooked in a couple of ways that has led me to the doctor three times a week for a year and a half, leaves me so hurt that moving becomes miserable and I can't sneeze or lay down at the end of the day without wincing.  It often feels like I have a knife in it.  Sometimes it's even hard to breathe.

Expressing this daily does me no good.  People hate to see pain.  If they see it in your eyes they think something's wrong; and if they can't tell what's wrong they assume something is wrong between the two of you.  They read your unhappiness and assume you're unhappy with them.  Your "being unhappy with them" leads them to being unhappy with you.  And so what I do is to hide that I'm in pain.  Half the day my smile is a smile of defiance.  I choose to love the people I deal with because I want them to love me.  You can't do this by expressing how you feel.  You have to express what you want them to feel.  A man knows this and sticks with it.  He controls the mood because he's in control.  He chooses what he'll be and then lets the others believe it.

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