hide and seek

In ALL, INTROSPECTION by Stephanie Klein36 Comments

When we’re missing, people look for us.  It’s the entire philosophy behind playing it cool.  When someone is gone, we imagine the best for them, and the worst for us.  Oftentimes, our imaginations are crueler than reality.  We’ll whine to our friends, using words like “depressed” and “miss” interchanged with “sooooo much!”  Then they’ll sling an “if it’s meant to be” your way because that’s what friends do… remind us that life exists beyond our own tortured selves. 

“Meant to be” lets us be lazy; it eases anxiety because we stop fearing regrets.  We stop believing we had ownership; we could have done something to change the outcome.  It’s lazier than a man who sits to pee.

You have to live life with unanswered questions; there isn’t always a why.  People pant rectangular sentences, rounding them off with “there’s a reason for everything.”  Doors slam; windows open suddenly, and “meant to be” flies in and sticks like marmalade on the sill of your life.  Advisers chant it flippantly, as if speaking of a break-up or a lay-off.  They don’t attempt the clichés in the face of a child who suffered, fighting cancer, only to die.  People want to wrap lessons around things and tie them with ribbons of hope.  "It will make you stronger."  Do you honestly believe that child died to teach you a lesson?  We tell ourselves things, convince ourselves, to make sense of the senseless.  We feel better when we have concrete answers to grip, even if they’re the "wrong" ones.  They’re ours, something to hold onto, like a ledge.

I’d rather be single than in the type of relationship where I’m home alone, looking at the clock, glancing at the phone, wondering where he is and imagining the worst.  I hate that I’m her, that inane girl pacing near a phone, completely unglued.  I despise who I become when I’m in relationships; it’s why I sabotage them.  When I’m faced with his distance, aloof behavior and unresponsiveness to my expressed needs, I don’t chase him.  I sprint from “us” like an animal just released from a trap.  At the first hint of being rejected, I amputate my feelings with the tourniquet I made from the sleeve I wear my heart on.  If I kill it, I’ll do it humanely, before the enemy has his chance.  I know the why; it’s not unanswered, but it’s still a ledge I use to help myself up. 

I hate my insecurity more than the taste of fennel or the smell of canned tuna.  I despise my stomach for tightening with the mere mention of the phrase “bachelor party.”  I become sick over “take some space.”  I abhor that I become the lightest sleeper, turning, hoping the buzz of the television is the buzz of my vibrating cell phone… that the steps in the hallway are his, not the neighbor upstairs.  I hate that I awake too early, stricken with anxiety; worried he won’t choose me when it’s hard.

I worried the man who kissed I love yous into my mouth wouldn’t mean it when it mattered.  He believed it when it was easy and convenient, when I was smooth and pretty, in silk and air conditioning.  But he wouldn’t mean it if it meant taking sides, giving things up, being selfless.  Sacrifice.  He wouldn’t mean it when he was drunk with his “she’s just a friend now,” when it meant my career, when it meant less money, less freedom, less choice.

In being burned, I learned to hate the faith I’ve had in words, in promises, when he’s said it with tears in his eyes, staring at me in the middle of the night.  I flinch now when someone makes me believe because believing makes me vulnerable, open to blessings and bashings.  So now, I ignore the words and promises, knowing what we choose to do with our time and lives is all that matters.  Tell me one thing and show me another, and I’ll show you the door. 

I’m embarrassed by how controlling I was, how I punished his behavior by becoming aloof.  I’m terrified I haven’t changed because the feelings, their intensity, are just the same, repeating in me now, pathological synapses all because of some romantic spark.  He stayed out late without me, by choice.  And I said it was fine, sent a text wishing him goodnight.  “Have fun” I threw in without ever meaning it.  I’m selfish, and love should be selfless.  It’s hard to love anyone when you’re even the slightest bit insecure.  I’ll always be the slightest bit insecure.  I don’t know how to talk myself out of it.

I narrow my eyes into a ferocious stare, hating that my first instinct is to punish instead of understand, to blame instead of listen.  I’m on the offensive, holding a weapon made of galvanized fear.  “Oh, I didn’t think you’d want to go because you were out so late.  I was sure you’d be too tired, so I asked a girlfriend to go.”  If I were really mad, a guy would go in his place.  There.  Take that.  Passive aggressive this.  It’s a weapon I’m frightened to relinquish, but by keeping it, I can be assured it’s only target will be me.

When the instinct seems strongest, I shut my big analytical trap.  That’s the difference, now.  The desire to execute my passive aggressive behavior is very real, but by not honoring that instinct, I’m changing outcomes.  I’m helping to provide a situation where my partner won’t end up hiding things of which he knows I will disprove.  He won’t worry that he’ll be punished, and therefore, maybe he’ll be honest.

It’s no small task for me.  It’s much easier to be alone.  But that’s avoidance, and avoidance is psych 102.  So I’ll continue feeling the ache and worry, but I’ll wade through it without acting on impulse.  I won’t persecute.  Instead, I’ll know that this change I’m trying to own is "meant to be."  I’m open, full of hope, taking in a deep breath, and exhaling slowly, letting the worry melt off my neck.  It’s more than a start.  It’s an answer.


  1. Love is the ultimate act of selfishness. To love someone selflessly you would have no regard for how their presence improves the quality of your own life. It would be an act of pity and contempt to love someone selflessly. Why apologize for your feelings when they are what make you such a fascinating writer? If everyone had the courage to analyize themselves so thoroughly, we would be a lot better off.

  2. Thanks for this post. Its one of my favorite writings I have read of yours. I suggest including this post in your list of "Must Reads".

  3. Haven't you heard that old saying "Laugh like you've never cried, love like you've never been hurt and dance like nobody's watching"? It's how you get the most out of life. Everyone gets hurt, but… "tough times don't last…tough people do"…

  4. Secret weapon (leads immediately to disarmament):

    Don't sit alone with those fears and not-so-random insecurities; share them with the one you love. Maybe s/he'll understand, and maybe s/he won't, but if s/he doesn't, that's a pretty significant indication that s/he's not the one.

    I expect of my love/mate/partner/(fiancee) (and I give to her) absolute free-rein in telling one another about ghosts and demons, because it's a lot harder to avoid touching nerves if you don't know they're there, and it's impossible to reassure someone when you don't know what's eating them.

    If you don't mean to give your love reason to be insecure, then you can always give reassurance that they've misunderstood a situation, and/or that you'll avoid touching that nerve in the future.

  5. And I stopped listening to the strategically placed voice mails left on my home phone while my cell phone remain silent so that any live conversation is postponed until “he is READY” to deal with it. Maybe it is not that he does not love or is being selfish, maybe he just exists in every current moment (why I think I should feel little better). For that moment, he ranks his trip to gym, or a drink with that woman he call buddy higher than a moment with me, because I am always around, asking to meet, imagining, reading too much into non-existent signs (Starting from when this is getting heavier and he is tired). Marginal utility of everything around him is deemed equal, conveniently, so that in that make believe equilibrium, it is justified for him to not sacrificing one thing over another, me over others. For each moment I am spending wondering about what we have between us, I am over-drafting my bank of dignity and self respect and putting it in a bottomless bag of love that I am dying to hang on to, scared to lose, and unable to leave behind. But in the world of love by the selfish and the weak-hearted, we will only be truly missed when we are gone, not being there when in demand, do not want to stay, never around, cool and aloof enough to rather be so-called friends who open to occasional fuck but nothing more. Children should be told when growing up that good thing will not wait forever. Enjoy them fully when you see them, or they will be gone in a blink of eyes, or maybe a little longer.

    I always enjoyed your writing. But this one just totally did it for me.

  6. I also loved this post.

    I will now show you my two favorite lines:

    "I’d rather be single than in the type of relationship where I’m home alone, looking at the clock, glancing at the phone, wondering where he is and imagining the worst." I like this one because it's so true for me and for people everywhere, men and women, because we all deal with this sometimes.

    "It’s lazier than a man who sits to pee." This line just made me crack up.

    Fabulous post today. I'll agree – it is certainly a must read.

  7. Wonderfully written Stepahnie! And you hit the target on the head. I think many, many women AND men find themselves reacting out of mistrust, and guarding their hearts this way.

    LOVED this post!

  8. This is the lesson I have yet to learn. I have been that gnarled soul, staring at a quiet phone, alone in a big empty house, all dressed up and waiting. I have acted on impulse and played tit-for-tat. I have smiled and kept my cool about things that hurt me, only to secretly make a list later, of all the things that he has done to wound me. It's so not healthy. I'm out of that place now. I'm looking forward to new practices, clean slates and a mix of honesty, maturity and security. Those last three are the hardest to muster.

    Loved this post, girl!

  9. That's a great attitude to have about it. Now when you're ready, go hammer this mother out in the real world.

  10. God. It's so pretty, just put out there like that. But maybe it's just me it never works for. I begin a day, a week, a night with him with all these reserves, this determination to be a secure, nonflinchy version of me – and it works. But then the cell phone comes out, and there's a message from a number I don't know (if he lets me close enough to see the screen), or there's a "Be right back, baby," and I'm a mess.

  11. Dear Stephanie,

    Brutally honest and a very sharp analysis expressed in a clear narrative. Bravo. I think the essence remains that everyone has insecurities, about themselves, about their relationships, and about their partners. These insecurities are all intertwined with their respective securities to form You, or Me, or Anyone. It can for a large part define how a person views themselves and their lives. Everyone dies but not everybody lives and its the same with relationships. Yes you will have insecurities, yes there will be tough times, but either you choose to believe again or you can just get on with being a miserable, cynical, nearly dead person. How poetic.

  12. That was amazing…simply amazing. You put it perfectly. I have never read anything that moved me this much. Brilliant…simply brilliant! Thank you.

  13. That was amazing…simply amazing. You put it perfectly. I have never read anything that moved me this much. Brilliant…simply brilliant! Thank you.

  14. As a 20-plus-year husband, I have made my share of mistakes. I've fallen back on "But we just don't think the same…Our brains are wired differently" applying it to love, children, life. "Let it go at that."

    I could easily say "I must be doing something right" to be married for all these years, but I've known that there's always something more I can do.

    Your posts give me added insight into what's important to a woman (this post more than most)…her needs, desires and insecurities. My first visit to your site on Monday prompted me to pick up flowers for my three daughters and my wife…Thanks! I'm starting to see just how much more I can do…

  15. Last night I was out driving
    Coming home at the end of the working day
    I was riding alone through the drizzling rain
    On a deserted stretch of a county two-lane
    When I came upon a wreck on the highway

    There was blood and glass all over
    And there was nobody there but me
    As the rain tumbled down hard and cold
    I seen a young man lying by the side of the road
    He cried Mister, won't you help me please

    An ambulance finally came and took him to Riverside
    I watched as they drove him away
    And I thought of a girlfriend or a young wife
    And a state trooper knocking in the middle of the night
    To say your baby died in a wreck on the highway

    Sometimes I sit up in the darkness
    And I watch my baby as she sleeps
    Then I climb in bed and I hold her tight
    I just lay there awake in the middle of the night
    Thinking 'bout the wreck on the highway

    -Bruce Springsteen

  16. I agree that this is one of your best posts. So much there, so well put.

  17. Wow, do you pay these sycophants? What tediously self-absorbed writing. "At the first hint of being rejected, I amputate my feelings with the tourniquet I made from the sleeve I wear my heart on." Can you really type that with a straight face??
    Keep up the good work – I like to visit here to get a laugh, not usually moved to post…

  18. Wow, do you pay these sycophants? What tediously self-absorbed writing. "At the first hint of being rejected, I amputate my feelings with the tourniquet I made from the sleeve I wear my heart on." Can you really type that with a straight face??
    Keep up the good work – I like to visit here to get a laugh, not usually moved to post…

  19. on the subject of a lesson being learnt from everything – same with religion. religion brings acceptance and a meaning for everything. i.e. no one argues because they feel there's a reason/some good to come at the end. bullshit.

    class of a line: lazier than a man who sits to pee.

  20. Thank you for your blog, not just the post. Your writing helped me leave, helped me do what I needed to. You articulate things I cannot, to myself. If you're ever out and about, taking on Manhattan, and a tall woman you don't know smiles at you for no reason, it's just a small 'thank you' for helping me see what I could not without your words.

  21. I've read for a while, never posted before. Great, open, honest post. We have all felt this way, but never put it out there. Outstanding!

  22. Stephanie, you seem to be a lovely person in general, I have been reading your blog for about 2 months. thanks for turning me on to Chris D's site. But, I must go now. Your rambling about "poor me and my insecurities that I hate" have worn me out. If you dont like your insecurities, read a self help book and CHANGE for crying out loud. Writing about it doesn't seem to be fixing it, it's just winnning you sympathy from strangers. My married head just isn't in the same place as yours (thankfully) so I will be bidding farewell to your blog. Good luck and when you are filthy rich from book sales, don't blow it – invest it in real estate!

    PS: your eyebrows are cool and you are a good photog. – props.

  23. My solution until very recently was to act like a guy. This worked in that I hurt a lot of feelings, had a lot of "fun", and didn't get my feelings hurt at all. I stayed in the "now" and was conveniently awful at keeping my cell phone charged. It is like overriding a bad sound with your own louder bad sound. But what I ended up losing was a lot of time. Now I am with someone so great that I don't want to fuck things up with my pettiness. It's hard. Good luck!

  24. Love is hard. You're obviously a great-looking, smart, funny, talented gal. Keep your standards up, keep your pretty chin up, keep taking photos, keep your attitude up. You'll get through the angst of being in your 20s, and if you keep your wits, you'll find what you want eventually, whether it's a mate, children, a great job, a great life.

    But don't post photos of you dressed slinkily in heavy makeup with a glass of champagne in your hand, and expect some knight in white shining armor to sashay right up to you. That's a very intimidating image, and although I'm not averse to having a good time, I would have never dared to go up and talk to someone like you. Had I, when I was young and beautiful and talented, you would have liked me, but the nice guys are sort of not looking for that image. It's not that they're looking for a Betty necessarily, but they're thinking more long-term than that.

    BTW, children are completely wonderful…

  25. You are my hero. This was the first blog entry I read of yours and I've come back to it time and again. Linked to it, sent it to my friends, read it again to myself at night when I wonder how love could find me in my mid-20s and then disappear and now seem like something that only happens to other people. Reading your work feels like allowing myself the wonder of wishing on stars again.

  26. Thank yo Stephanie for sharing your gift with us. Please do not stop. Once again, I feel as though you have put into words all of the feelings that I cannot. I will be sharing this particular piece with my boyfriend and hope it helps him understand MY insecurities.

  27. I've been in that same place more times than I care to count. I can sometimes feel my insecurities suffocating me, and the only way for me to breathe is to suffocate him with them. I hate the fact that I do it, but I often feel powerless to stop it. I don't want to be "that girl," but it seems the harder I fall, the more like her I am.

  28. All I have to say is… Holy shit! These are my thoughts EVERY day… you just word them better than I do. It's so good to know someone feels (or felt, I guess it's an older post) the same way.
    I love the internet.

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