Sure, you might try to guess...
Well-groomed. Neatly dressed. Got her act together, you reckon.
His image is important to him. The right smile. The right nod of the head. All diplomatic. Must be a corporate figure. Comfortable lifestyle.
But you don't see the terror of yet another biopsy. Another diagnosis. The CT scan. The MRI. The fear of losing a part of the body in order to save the life. The dread of going through another dialysis. The pain, constant. unrelenting. The wish for it to ease up, just for one night? Sickness has no respect for people. Disease does not choose who to declare war on.
Simple. Nothing fancy. No make-up. Same tee-shirts. Same hairstyle since 13 years old. I don't have time for frivolities. I'm holding up, that's good enough, isn't it? At least I'm reliable. Life has to go on. I'm just a regular guy. Take me as I am, you say?
But I'm angry with you. With the world. With life. With God, even. It's unfair. Why should I have to have so much dished out to me! Why should I be the one to be given so much to bear? Why do I get the lousy deal? Why do I get shelved, snubbed, ignored, deleted like a statistic? What is there in my future? Tomorrow will be the same!
I'm creative. I'm interesting. I'm unique. I stand out in the crowd. I won't be run-of-the-mill. I love being me? Is that what you're looking at? Is that what I'm portraying?
But the panic when ideas don't run overwhelms. Others rising around me. The feeling of redundancy. The dreadful thought of being labelled a has-been. A once-upon-a-time. I am obsolete!
I'm solid. Disciplined. You can lean on me. But at my time. Don't mess about with me. I know what I want. I know where I'm going. Everything has a place and everything in its place.
But the shame, oh the shame of a wayward child. The slap in the face because of the spouse turned 'player'. The knowing looks of relatives. The odd but merely nosey call from someone who's never called before. The louder than necessary laugh at my effort to joke.
I'm down-to-earth. I think of the future. I've got it in the plans. No need to overspend now. Live within my means. Pragmatism is my second name. My time will come. For now, I'm taking each day as it comes.
But it takes just one blow to destroy my plans. Just one quake to crumble my world. Just one harsh conflict to make me want to abandon ship.
I'm just little-ol' me. Humble-ol'-me. Don't-want-you-looking-at-me me. That's-just-the-way I-am me. I'll-venture-out of-my-way-once-in-a-while, but-I'll-quickly-be-back-to-my-safe-space me.
Oh, but the coldness of loneliness. Winter all year round. Singing the blues but who's there to hear?
Listen up. Nobody's gonna tell me what to do. I do as I please. I dress as I please. I go against the grain of everything normal. A rebel if that's what you wanna think. Ear-rings and studs here. Make that ear-ring. A tattoo there. Yes, there. I didn't ask you to like it. I didn't ask you to like it there. I didn't ask you to look there.
Who gives you the right to judge me? Were you there when I was manhandled? When my innocence was destroyed, my vulnerability crushed? Can you hear me still screaming inside?
me? are you looking at me? i'm sweet. and considerate. and romantic. i notice the details. i'll make your house homey. there'll be warm meals ready for you. i'll love you through thick and thin. you won't be neglected. you can count on me. won't you love me? what'll it take for you to love me? wait. what'll it take for you to even notice me?
I've made it. I'm part of the in crowd. I'm cool. I'm happening. I won't be left behind. I refuse to be a nerd. A geek.
But would you know I am in debt? Can you see my books not balancing? Can you see me sleepless in the nights desperately thinking of ways out? Can you feel the walls closing in and the difficulty to breathe? The despair?
You pass me by at the work place and I greet you as usual. Morning!
You meet me after some time has passed. Look at you! You look the same! Your hair!
Wow, you've lost weight! I love your shoes!
You meet me at the gym. At church. At college. At the airport. At the mall. How are you? Long.time.no.see.must.catch.
So I've set up fences to keep you away. Even pretty ones hoping maybe you won't see.
I'm growing thorns briars thistles anything so that maybe you'll find me obnoxious enough to not come near.
I've set up a gate even. But I don't see the futility of it myself.
I've withdrawn, don't you know?
I need space between us, don't you see?
I'm deliberately being cold and hard-hearted.
But you still see the light inside.
You still choose to look for me.
You choose to sit with me.
Have a cuppa.
Listen with your heart.
Feel with me.
Messes up your schedule.
Startles you with intricate details you don't want to know.
You might need to come again.
You might have to have your hands get dirty.
You might be stretched.
My burdens you might have to bear.
My heartache you might have to carry with you.
You might feel spent.
And worse, you might get bitten.
But you do it anyway. Why?
Maybe because I-you-he-she-any-every one has worth? Maybe because no one should ever be counted as a write-off?
Wish I could always remember this.
All pictures taken on a short trip to South Island, New Zealand (April 2011).
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