I’m not entirely a nice person. I’m not terrible, or very wicked, but I’m definitely leaning toward the unpleasant.
All in my head, of course. I’m not going to go about willy-nilly making trouble, am I? No! –I couldn’t. I was brought up to stand up for myself, but be respectful. Tell the truth, but don’t hurt people’s feelings unnecessarily. Don’t be a tattle-tale, but don’t permit wrongdoing. In other words, I was cultivated to be of two minds about nearly everything (like I imagine most of us were done). Adding to that a childhood-long exposure to church, and a deeply ingrained fear of God, and you’ve got someone whose moral compass should point due north in all things.
(There’s the rub.)
I’m selfish. I’m self-satisfied. I’m preachy. (I’m also a coward, with no willpower or gumption of my own. Not unless I get a fire under me and I stumble out blindly into things, hoping for the best.) Half the time, maybe more, I do what’s right because that’s what everyone expects. It’s what I’m allowed to do. That includes not doing all the things I have the urge to do, simply because people I care about would get hurt, and it’s simply not worth their pain to have some fun of my own. Whether it’s quitting my job and doing something I like, or…other things. (Hey, I’m married, not dead.)
I feel like I’m betraying something of myself–that the girl who grew up being tenderhearted, bookish, and quiet is disappointed. I feel I should be better than I am, that I’ve become base and useless, fouled by choices I’ve made. I regret so many things, and I try to console myself by saying, “Those choices, good or ill, put me on the path that led to where I am now, and where I am now is pretty good.” Still, the words are a little empty. Mistakes made nearly half my life ago still eat at me, still drive me to be nice. I’m trying so desperately hard to make up for all the bad, that I feel like I’m half-hiding from the world.
And then I think…and I know…that if I were to walk out my door and be the me that I am now, it would be a dark and ugly thing. The only other option is the me that’s still in there, pushed aside, decades old and as silly and childish as she ever was–the one that wears funny hats and recites Shakespeare in Walmart, whose voice lapses into different accents and cadences when she reads aloud or talks about certain things, the one who dances in the house only when she’s alone or with her kids (never with her husband around), who quit singing because a friend said she shouldn’t sing, and her husband said it wasn’t so good, and now only ever does it when…well, when she’s alone or with her kids. The one that is more at home in Fantasyland than she ever could be at a club. The one who wanted–wants–to be Belle so much it hurts. She’s still a girl, with a great, wide future and the security of her imagination to keep her company. But she’s been locked away so very long, and it hurts to come out and see what’s changed, to know that future isn’t so wide or great, anymore, and her imagination isn’t what it once was…so she goes back to her room, with it’s colored glass windows and bookshelves to the ceiling, and she imagines herself a painter, or an actress, or a girl on the street bumping into her Prince Charming. In there, in that secret place in my heart, she can live forever as she was, and be happy.
So I’ll keep on stuffing the ugliness down and try being a good girl, because there’s no choice, really, between being good and kind to others or doing what satisfies me right now. I have to do what’s best, and what’s right. Perhaps, in time, I’ll be free enough to wear funny hats and recite Shakespeare in Walmart, and laugh in the faces of those who gawp at me, and tell them–as politely as possible, of course–that if they don’t like it, they can all go hang.