So, on the outside, I am cool as a cucumber. I am calm like the perfect sunset over a peaceful ocean. I am confident like a … well, like a really confident person. To look at me, most people would think, “Wow, that gal has it all together.” People who don’t know me, that is. People who get to know me — even just a little bit — quickly discover the sad truth I keep hidden from the world at large.
Underneath this wonderfully serene exterior, I am one hot mess.
It’s all right, I can admit it. After living for so many years with the suspicion that my inner life was a bigger mess than anyone could possibly imagine, it’s almost a relief to type it out loud. It might be a mess, but it’s my mess. I’m strong enough to own it.
The funny thing about my “hot mess” is that, for many, many years, I was able to hide it from myself. I smiled and nodded along, feeling like I was sailing through life with no problems at all. No sweat, I used to think to myself. I’ve got this. I can do this with my eyes closed. Until, suddenly, one day … I couldn’t. You see, my eyes were closed, which meant I slammed up into the wall of truth that was looming in front of me the whole time.
These days, I know it’s bad for me to ignore my feelings and thoughts. I might try to hide them from myself, but, inevitably, they will come back to bite me in the hoo-hah. I might not feel particularly stressed or anxious, but those feelings are there — lurking beneath the surface and just waiting for a chance to photo-bomb my dreams.
This is just what happened last night. I had the dreaded “stress dream”. For some reason, my stress dreams almost always revolve around school and test situations. And they always leave me feeling a little bit breathless when I wake up in the morning, the dream so vivid in my imagination that I have to remind myself I am not in school any longer so there’s nothing to fear.
So … my crazy dream last night. I found out I had to take a test. I can’t remember what it was for, but I vividly remember the teacher giving this test was Mrs. Miner, one of my strictest high school teachers. Which was strange, because I was clearly in college in my dream. I was supposed to go buy a blue book for the test, and I was on my way to do this when I ran into my mother. She was standing on the corner two streets away from my apartment, because, apparently, she had nothing better to do than stand around and wait for me to walk by. My mom wanted to go shopping, so I told her she could come along with me. But I told her I had to buy a blue book, because I had a test. I was already worried about this test, because I hadn’t studied for it at all. I didn’t even know I was enrolled in the class! But, there you have it: there was a test, so I would have to buck up and do my best. My mom didn’t want to go buy a blue book. She told me that was boring, and she wanted to go shopping for clothes. I needed “something pretty” to wear because all of my clothes were unattractive. I told her no. I needed a blue book, and I didn’t want any new clothes. I particularly didn’t want new clothes that she was going to pick out for me. She completely ignored me, and I ended up spending the entire afternoon following behind her from one store to the next, trying on clothing I didn’t want and didn’t like. Each time I would try to sneak away to buy my blue book, she would catch me. I was trapped.
Before I knew it, the entire day was gone, and I had to go to class to take my test. But guess what? All the stores selling blue books were closed! There was no way I could find a blue book, and I just knew Mrs. Miner wouldn’t let me into class for the test without one — not that I even should have been in class, anyhow, since I didn’t remember registering for it.
But, anyhow … I raced back to class and darted in just as Mrs. Miner was closing and locking the doors. I have no idea why we were all locked in, but no one thought to ask about it. Mrs. Miner was like that: you just nodded and stepped smartly along without bothering her for the details. She gave me “the look”. You know, the one that said she knew I didn’t have a blue book or even a pen. She was right. I slumped to my desk and sat down, certain I wouldn’t be able to avert tragedy this time.
I looked up, and my first high school boyfriend was sitting across from me. When Mrs. Miner wasn’t looking, I asked him if he would loan me some paper and a pen. He said yes, and handed over a marker and one (ONE!!) sheet of paper. When I asked for another sheet of paper, he shrugged and told me I should have brought a blue book with me. I wanted to yell at him, but the test was starting. I heard the timer ding, and someone passed the test paper back to me. There was only one question on the test. It was something about the meaning of life and how we connect to others, and we were supposed to write a ten page essay on it.
Ten pages! I only had one piece of paper and a lousy marker! How was I ever going to pull this off? I decided that, if I could write really, really small, I could fit all the words in on the front and back of my paper. And so, that’s what I did. I thought it was all going pretty well, but Mrs. Miner caught me. She sent me out into the hall to finish the test, because I only had one piece of paper instead of a blue book. Needless to say, she didn’t offer me any more paper. Or a real pen. Or even the little-bitty nubbin of a pencil that should have been thrown out already but wasn’t.
Even worse, I had to carry my desk outside — all by myself. It was heavy! I sat down in the hall — with Mrs. Miner watching me — and proceeded to write my essay in little, teeny-tiny writing. I have no idea why, since Mrs. Miner had already told me she wouldn’t grade it. But, whatever … it’s a dream. Dreams are weird. Once I had filled in the whole front of my paper, I turned it over to find the marker had bled through. The entire back-side of my paper was a huge, black blotch of ink! Dismayed, I turned back to the front side to find … you guessed it! A huge, black blotch of ink, instead of the words I had so carefully crammed onto the page.
I thought all was lost, until it started to rain. My paper melted away in front of me, before Mrs. Miner could see what a mess I had made of it all. She didn’t want to stand out in the rain, so she told me I would have to do a make-up test later.
As I waited for my heart to stop pounding, I said a little prayer of thanksgiving that I wasn’t in school any longer. And felt really grateful that I can, sometimes, keep my inner “hot mess” hidden from the world.
If they only knew …