I was planning on writing about something completely different this week. I was actually halfway done with my column when something happened.
I received an email.
It was from a woman named Emily, and in the subject line it read,
“I think I knew your mother.”
Now, I have plenty of moms that claim me as their son who played a large part in helping raise me. It’s pretty awesome actually.
But Emily said she knew Joyce.
She wanted to know if I happened to be her son.
She wanted to tell me how my mom changed her life.
Every so often, moments of self-evaluation occur for me. They always happen right at the perfect moment. Usually it’s during the times when things are going great and I feel like I have it all together. When I feel like my house is pretty clean.
What the heck is that smell?
Like the Batman signal calling a savior to assist with the problem, a light is shined on the dirty laundry that I’ve hidden in my closet and forgotten all about.
And conviction speaks loudly to me, saying,
“Silly Goose! Baron, don’t be gross, clean that up. You know better than that. Come on.”
Just like the voice of a mother disciplining her son out of love.
I remember my mom used to say, “silly goose.”
Then, embarrassed that I’ve allowed the smelly pile of filthy clothes to secretly accumulate, I begin to clean.
I have always hated cleaning. I despise it. Especially dirty dishes, but I like a clean house. I guess that in itself is symbolic of why dirty piles of hidden things accumulate in my life.
Honestly a large part of me hates these moments. And even more so, I hate sharing them.
It’s not easy.
It’s strange that the things I talk about with no one, not even myself;
I end up sharing with everyone.
And even more strange is that typically the first time I put my thoughts into words they are in the form of a blog post or column for all to read. And the most ironic thing of all is that I learn the most from the things that I write.
Writing is my therapy, and many times it takes me reading my own words to listen to anyone. Sometimes the stories I tell impact me the most.
I need it.
So now it’s time to clean. Time to strip down and share some things about me that I’ve only said to a handful of people …
Mainly because when I put these feelings or lack thereof into words, they even make me cringe. Because I know they are absolutely true, and absolutely messed up, and the worst part of all is that I don’t care.
Well…. until recently, but we will get to that later.
This is my dirty laundry.
And it smells really bad.
I lack empathy, and grace is often non-existent on my list of character traits.
I feel that loved ones will always care about me more than I care about them. I can walk away from any relationship and not feel bad.
My friend Cecily always jokes and says that I have a heart of stone. I just laugh, but it is impossible for me to ever disagree.
I store feelings, emotions, and relationships in carefully stacked and neatly organized boxes, ready for deletion when they become what I view as no longer beneficial or can be categorized as baggage.
I don’t have one relationship that I feel is not expendable to a point. Some of you who know me are reading this and might be thinking,
“Well obviously he doesn’t mean me. Baron likes me! We’re friends. I’m not one of the expendable ones.”
No. You are.
You are expendable. You can be deleted.
And yeah that’s messed up. I know that, and I hate it. But I don’t care really.
And yeah, that’s even more messed up. And with everything I don’t have, I wish I cared more.
But I don’t.
This is the smell that has my house foul. This is my pile of filth.
I view people as beneficial or non-beneficial. And non-beneficial individuals, I view as baggage. Simply dead weight that will only hold me back. So I keep them at a distance and, if needed, delete the little box in which they are stored.
And just like that.
I call this “Giving ‘em the axe.”
It’s actually been a very useful skill at times. It’s allowed me to surround myself with only people that are beneficial to my goals.
Like trimming the fat.
I know this isn’t a good thing. I know it’s selfish. But I haven’t really cared. It’s been a formula and way of operating that largely has allowed me to succeed in life.
Deep down I really don’t care if people’s feelings are hurt by me. I don’t care if I offend them. I don’t care about their problems, unless I can help fix them. I don’t care about their opinions.
And I wish I cared more.
But I don’t.
When people who care about me tell me that they miss me, I either simply say, “Thank you,” or I work up the power to lie and tell them that I miss them too. Because that’s the normal thing to say right? I think so.
But truthfully I don’t.
I simply don’t miss things.
And very rarely do I miss people.
I don’t even know how to explain that, other than the fact that I am so selfishly focused on my own life that I don’t let thoughts of others’ absence occupy my thoughts.
The only person I can truly say I consistently miss is Joyce Batch, my mom.
So yeah, for those of you who read that and thought, “But Baron said he missed me before.”
I’m sorry. I lied. That’s the truth.
To counteract and balance the knowledge that the way I operate is not ok, I’ve developed a brutal honesty when dealing with people. I do my best not ever to lie, even at the destruction of someone’s emotions. This allows me to be ok with who I am and how I operate, while at the same time giving individuals fair warning that they will always end up being emotionally hurt more than I ever will. It’s almost like a courtesy warning.
Like caution tape.
In my mind I feel like it makes it a little bit ok if I don’t lie when asked by others if I miss them. But what I’ve learned is that people aren’t very welcoming to the truth when it deals in matters like this, because most people handle emotions emotionally.
Because that’s normal I think.
But I can only process them logically most of the time, so this always becomes an issue, resulting in unwanted baggage that is not mine.
And this results in deletion.
For everything I have an exit strategy.
Gosh that sounds awful. I hate it. But I don’t care.
This is the reason I suck at relationships. Because deep down they are never as important to me as they are to the other person. This is the reason I have very few close friends, because the ones I do have must believe that all of what I have explained is true, and then be ok with it …
Even though it’s really messed up and selfish of me.
That’s why I believe I have the best friends in the world. Because deep down I know I am the worst.
And yet they stick around.
Honestly lately, I’ve actually desired the feeling of absence, or the true feeling of missing someone or something. I’ve wished that I had something worth not walking away from, even though that thing isn’t necessarily beneficial, and could possibly classify as baggage.
Just something that on its own is worth it, even if logically it is not.
Something worth not deleting.
Something that is not stored in a box and stacked neatly, with a tag on it that indicates whether it’s beneficial or not.
Something or someone that I trust enough to allow to roam free uncontained.
I’d really like to ditch my exit strategy that I keep for everything and everyone.
But the truth is, I can’t do any of that right now.
Because I have to do my laundry first.
And yeah I know, that’s all messed up. It was hard for me to read these words as soon as I typed them. But my fingers keep moving.
I’ve known it for a long time. I know it needs to be fixed.
Largely, it’s one of the reasons I’m happier when I’m single and most peaceful when I am alone. It’s one of the reasons I am an introvert and enjoy my own company so much. Because when I’m by myself I don’t have to worry about someone else being baggage.
It is the reason I love to write and paint, because both of those things are not constrained to a box.
Those are the things that have escaped.
They are the only things that roam free.
And both are their own exit strategy. They are my therapy.
I need them.
They are the few ways that I have ever shown my true feelings and emotions, and the way I am most honest with others and myself.
They are what my soul looks like. And reassurance at times that it is alive and well, when sometimes I become doubtful.
The reason this all needs to be addressed is this.
I will simply end up being unhappy when it’s all said and done.
I’m not unhappy right now, but it will happen.
I will be successfully unhappy and alone, surrounded by neatly arranged stacks of boxes.
And I don’t want that.
The issue has been the willingness to acknowledge any of this as a problem, because it has helped me survive up until this point.
And just like that, right when I think I have my house in order; I get an awful whiff of my hidden filth.
Fifteen years ago my mom sent me a message. It was carried with care by a special messenger for over a decade, and delivered with perfect timing.
Her name is Emily.
And she knew Joyce.
And Joyce changed her life.
Come back next week to read how.