Though I had deliberated between wearing an opaque veil versus a see-through one (Chabad custom is an opaque one), when chuppah time came, I was enormously grateful for my choice to go invisible.
There, in my own little world, I was able to come face to face with my emotions.
And I was terrified .
There wasn’t a specific thought terrifying me, I was excited to marry my husband and had no qualms about our decision. Nevertheless, my entire body pulsated with an overwhelming sense of fear.
No one had prepared me for the possibility that I might feel this way. I mean, this day is hailed, at least by secular standards, as the happiest day of your life.
And I didn’t want to be there.
As we reached the chuppah, I rocked back and forth, conveniently appearing to be shuckeling in fervent prayer, but much more so compulsively moving in an attempt to soothe myself.
I prayed to Gd for help, and in some sort of possibly mystical experience that could have just as likely been the visual product of my eyes squeezed shut so tightly, I saw a blue and yellow image within my mind. A blue and yellow blob of light that I focused my energy on.
The festivities continued around me. Men came and went, blessed and laughed, sang and chanted. We drank, the cup was broken, and my veil was removed.
As the hundreds of guests caught sight of me, they shouted, whopped and hollered, joyously congratulating me and my new husband.
It was in that moment that I had to make a decision.
I realized with horror that my emotions wanted to have an all-out freakout. A shrink in the corner, grab a close friend, cry my eyes out and recover type of freakout. From this terrible feeling coursing through my veins, hijacking my body.
Oh no. This, I knew, would not do. It would create such a mess. I couldn’t .
And so, without a word to anyone, I reached down into myself and drew out my master alternate plan.
The one I relied on whenever negative feelings got to be too much. I would act.
I would be cheerful and exuberant and I would distance myself from my inner self. I would do it for everyone. It was my gift to my guests, my sacrifice, to take care of them so they wouldn’t stand around uncomfortable, trying to support little, strange, unbalanced, afraid, me.
I would put on the best acting performance of my life.
I split my mouth into an exuberant grin, put on my “this is hilariously amazing!” voice, and prepared to dance like a maniac.
No one would ever know.
And no one ever did .
I had spent years prior to this particular performance practicing by pulling out a rosier, more cheerful face to put on when negative feelings hit and paralyzed me.
Still, for years afterwards, that night confused me. Something about it felt wrong.
I assured myself that different people respond differently to intense situations and just laughed off the experience, thanking Gd for giving me the strength to pull through.
I understand that night a little better now, as I undergo a new quest.
A quest to remain myself when struck by negative feelings.
That night, at my wedding, I was overcome with my own needs versus everyone else’s. Between pleasing others and taking care of myself. I was overwhelmed by the sheer intensity of a huge conglomerate of emotions, not all of them positive, and couldn’t find a home for them within my skin and soul. My walls broke down. They weren’t build to last.
Somehow that yellow blue light found me and pulled me through. Gave me the strength to find a mask to protect myself that night.
In truth, I can be a people-pleaser. Not that I care what people think, not really, not when I’m feeling good. When I’m feeling full, solid, and energetic, I can hold my own. I can deal with the outside world and I can glow brightly. I can be sharp, engaging, creative, alternative, and positively illuminating.
But when my balloon starts to deflate, when I encounter confusion, anger, or hurt and wrestle with it, not knowing how to process it in the presence of others, my inner functioning begins to break down.
Or when I sense the other person I’m relating to is deflated, or his behavior makes me uncomfortable, I reach a tense bypass.
In the discomfort, I stretch myself, and in the stretching, I often leave part of myself behind. I care more about the other person’s feelings and thoughts than my own. A part of me tries to enter the other persons’ head and emotions, shifting their perception favorably towards me, instead of remaining within my own emotional and psychological space. And this lack of inner boundaries makes it that my own negative feelings can’t find a place to rest.
Usually either my feelings are shoved aside until I can deal with them in a moment of creativity and solitude, or they escape, unruly, untamed, dismantling my sense of control.
l could continue on as I have been. It’s a fairly functional system. But I want to change.
I want to find that space within myself .
I don’t want to need to have physical walls in order to create psychological ones.
I don’t want to spend my life adjusting too much to other people’s moods and minds . I want to breathe my own breath, and think my own thoughts.
I know it will take a long time . Because it’s been many many years of correlating negative feelings of anxiety with a coverup .
But this life expects way too much of us to have time to juggle everyone else’s stuff.
Now is the time. Step by step. Day by day.
To find my own rightful plot of land in this world. Owning emotions. Nurturing emotions. Being truthful and honest. Recognizing each time I reach out instead of breathing in.
I know it’s inevitable, that people get social anxiety and act weird, but I have high hopes for myself. I have hope that I can get more of the energizing juice I crave out of social interactions without feeling so depleted because I abandoned myself in the process.
Maybe I’ll seem weird. Maybe that’s ok. Maybe I’m just a weirdo.
If I can embrace myself and be comfortable in silence, in the projection of myself into the vast emptiness of space between us, maybe many others will also find that comforting and refreshing. Maybe it will even be fun.
Maybe I won’t have to wait until I’m older to be uproariously myself .
Maybe I can make space for myself and you, the entirety of us, the dance of us, now .