Expressing myself

Most weeks I catch up with someone for coffee or a light lunch, a woman. There’s nothing between us and I’m not in the least interested in her in that way, but I like and appreciate her. She has a kind heart and an interesting mind and she’s someone I can speak to.

I can’t remember how it came up but she said something that took me aback. I fumbled a little in response before replying thoughtfully. All the while I feel as if something in me is plummeting. You know that feeling, an emotional falling away. Still, my words were crisp and I went back to work.

At work I realised I felt hurt by her comments. Basically, though not in those words, she called me an unfeeling brute. I knew I wasn’t, but I wondered if that’s how I seemed to the world? In speaking to her I tried to be reasonable about it, as if her opinion was valid, but back at my desk I felt betrayed. It seemed particularly cruel in light of everything I’ve tried to do this year, opening it out, letting it go, which she has been witness to and recipient of. It’s a process but I’m trying, but it felt a kick in the guts.

She sensed she had overstepped the line and sent me a text. I was a good man she said, compassionate and interesting, and even admitted I have feelings too – I’m just not expressive. I didn’t respond, and later in the evening she called me. It’s all good, I told her.

It wasn’t though. I felt vulnerable and I realised how very fragile I have become. It was unfamiliar, but not necessarily a bad thing, and this journey I’m on lends itself to that.

Of course I told her none of that, which supports her contention perhaps except that I choose who to share my things with. I am of phlegmatic temperament, but the people closest to me get the real deal. I’m pretty open with her, but I’m careful not to be too candid or indeed, too expressive, because I don’t want her getting the wrong idea. On reflection I think this is what may have prompted her comment. Quite deliberately I told her how I hoped finally to begin dating again. I suspect she harbours feelings for me but we’ve never had that relationship and fact is we never will. I wanted to tell her that obliquely, as a friend sharing news, but it might have pricked at her and that I understand.

I don’t feel it so keenly today myself, but things are different. I really don’t know how others see me, but it’s probably in a variety of ways. To some I probably aloof, but they don’t know me and that’s fine – one of them recently came to work as my offsider and the reality of me has been a pleasant revelation to him. To others I think, and hope, that I’m friendly and kind, the guy who they can crack a joke with. I manage a bunch of people and all of them enjoy it, I think.

I wondered at the anomalies last night as I lay in bed. I’m pretty breezy with the people who know me. For 10 minutes yesterday I flirted and teased three women together upstairs and they loved it. Nothing in it – one of them is heavily pregnant, and it’s fun and easy. It’s easy for me too. It comes naturally and I enjoy it. But then I get called unexpressive. What does this mean? Who am I really?

But…I don’t know. I don’t know what more I can do. I’ve opened up. I’ve told my stories, not to everyone, but to many. I’m trying to be more transparent but it’s a learning experience, trial and error. That’s why I felt so betrayed. I’m doing my best.

I’m going to sit on this because I can’t do more than that, but deep in my heart I’m wondering if I need to wrap things up. If others see me in that way – and I don’t know if they do – I wonder if it’s because I can’t commit to an outcome? Maybe I just need to put myself out there, cast myself to the winds and see what comes of it.

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