hello, self-loathing my old friend–a reflection on past mistakes, the conflicting desires of being known and being safe, and (somehow) Gospel parallels in my latest musical obsession

Please tell me I’m not the only one who occasionally fantasizes about erasing their own timeline. Really, wouldn’t the world be better without the long trail of my various offenses and misdemeanors against thoughtful society? That time I expressed a foolish opinion in front of all my classmates, or said something hurtful to my sister about her new hairstyle without even realizing it, or raged on social media about topics that no one will even remember in another half-a-decade. I wonder sometimes about how my childhood BFF is doing, if she ever recovered from all the times my insensitivity made her run off sobbing. It’s the main thing that stops me from trying to reconnect with her now, although it’s been around ten years since the last time we talked–what if she still hates me for that time I told her only babies were scared of worms? how many therapy sessions did it take her to recover from the years we were friends?

Frustration with myself is nothing new. I’ve learned by now that anytime I let myself sit still for too long, my brain is more than willing to take me on a tour of all the awkward and uncomfortable things I’ve said and done over the past few weeks. “Step right up, here’s your compulsory ticket to the Past Regret Express! You can’t say no, not when I, your wonderful Obsessive Brain, have spent so much time compiling this lovely tour of every embarrassing and offensive thing you’ve ever said and done–and quite a few you only thought about; can’t forget those! You didn’t really think you’d get off the hook for only considering telling your mom that you hated her spaghetti, did you?

You wouldn’t think this tour would last very long, given the amount of time I spend at home lately, but the tally my brain manages to compile always surprises and depresses me. And just when I’d thought I was growing out of my Acute Foot-in-Mouth Syndrome… Then after reviewing each of these moments at length, we take an even farther reach into my past, and start replaying all the other episodes that make me desperately wish I had my own personal time-traveling to appear at certain moments and forcibly hold my tongue for me. My brain is like a rabid fangirl, rewatching these scenes over and over in Ultra Vivid HD With High Contrast, Crystal Clear Sound, and Instant Slo-Mo Replay for all the best moments of humiliation, squealing with excitement and needlessly pointing out the moment before I opened my mouth and everything went wrong.

It’s not like I don’t already worry enough about the impression I make on people, from strangers to internet acquaintances to my family. I don’t want to hurt people. I don’t want to seem silly or air-headed or flighty. My dad has described me as “giddy” at times, but I think that’s as much my outward response to my inner tendency towards cynicism as anything. One of my greatest fears is being inconsequential, the person with big ideas that everyone smiles and nods at and feigns interest in, then “God bless her“s with a look of longsuffering pity once she’s gone. “She doesn’t mean any harm, the poor soul. She can’t help it, just smile and humor her, she’s just different.

I think it’s the curse of being so full of ideas that just force themselves right out one way or another. There are so many thoughts buzzing around in my head all the time, and I’ve been gifted the inclination and ability open my mouth and express them, usually in a louder-than-necessary tone and often with an amount of words that is far beyond excessive.

My social media semi-break lately has been good for clearing my head and settling my stomach (take note, dear friends: if you feel your insides in a constant state of turmoil, it may not be what you ate or the creeping doom of your own impending judgment, but too many hours spent reading political arguments between strangers on the internet), but it’s not helped much with my fantasies about completely erasing myself from the world. Sometimes it just seems like it would be so freeing and secure and safe to delete all traces of myself. What if I delete all my social media, wipe my blogs, legally change my name, and start wearing dramatic makeup and a pink wig? No one will know me, past victims and their lawyers will be unable to find me, and the idea becomes more appealing all the time.

Sometimes I wonder if it would just be better to never leave the house again. Then I’d never have to worry about hurting anyone’s feelings, doing anything to make myself look like a fool, or even projecting a bad image to others of my faith for my often short-sighted and ill-advised choices and views. It’s so easy to begin believing that the world would be a better place without me persecuting everyone from my latest soapbox; at the very least, it couldn’t possibly be a worse place.

(Here’s where I have to assure anyone who may be getting concerned by where this post is going that I’m not considering self-harm or any truly drastic actions–I’m just prone to intense moments of melodrama, and I’m attempting to have some fun with it here. There’s a reason I’ve always related intensely with Jo March and why my lovely mother often compared me to Anne Shirley when I was a wee lass. The drama has waned a bit with age, but at times like now, it comes rushing back in full force.)

But while the security of anonymity and invisibility seems incredibly attractive at times… I know I’d never be able to do it. I’ve talked about it at length with my sister, who can go days on end with barely a word of her personal thoughts, and sees vulnerability as an open invitation for exploitation. To be honest, I can’t fully disagree with her… but I want so badly to be known. I want to have community. I love exchanging ideas with others who have similar passions, or even starkly different ones.

There’s something so heartachingly-wonderful in the idea that I could open myself up to someone, show them all the flaws and mistakes and the parts I despise, and they would still look at me evenly in acceptance. I guess that’s the beauty of the Gospel, in the end–how someone looks on the darkness and brokenness of humanity, and still loves it. And instead of being repelled by our annoying tendencies like rebellion and idolatry and frequent delusions of self-sufficiency, this person reaches out and wants so deeply to bring us closer to himself.

A friend recently introduced me to the Broadway musical, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. Spoiler alert: I’m pretty obsessed with it right now. I have legitimately lost track of how many times I’ve listened to the whole soundtrack by this point, and I’m ok with that. I’ll probably listen to it again this afternoon. But one part of the story that has struck me so deeply as I’ve immersed myself in the musical and the novel it’s based on (that would be the infamously l o n g War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, if anyone’s wondering) is the last scene between the two characters whose names feature in the title.

*Spoilers for the musical and for the novel after this point*

The story follows the downfall of the young, naïve, and self-control-deficient Natasha, and the mid-life crisis of the well-meaning-but-often-taken-advantage-of Pierre. In the end, Natasha is broken, a shell of her former vibrant, hope-filled self, grieving her bad decisions and convinced that she’s forfeited her claim to happiness and goodness in life despite the many years lying open before her. Pierre, who has also spent most of the musical wallowing in angst over his own wasted potential, reaches out to her in an attempt to convince her of her worth. In the only spoken line of dialogue throughout the entire performance, Pierre proclaims that if it were in his power to do so, he would instantly ask for her hand despite her recent bad decisions including an entanglement with a local scoundrel and leading to her former fiancé’s rejection of her.

I find something so powerfully reflective of the Gospel in that scene–despite Pierre’s own bad choices and fallibility, he shines as a Christ-figure in that moment as he declares and affirms the worth of Natasha, and professes that despite her fallen state, he would be proud to have her by his side.

I would want you. I would want you in spite of your childish mistakes. I would want you in spite of everything you’ve willfully, consciously done wrong. It’s something we all deeply wish to be affirmed, and some of us need it more than others. It’s the reason why I won’t, in the end, change my name, move to a remote mountain-side cave, and throw my phone in a lake so I can’t do anymore damage in the form of texts that I really should’ve thought through a little longer before pushing “‘send”. I have to have others around me, to remind me of my worth, to hold me back from making truly horrible choices, to pick me up and keep telling me, “I still want to be close to you” despite the times I may have accidentally offended them or shown myself to be so much less than I wish I was.

I’ve just realized that there’s a great point to be made about the purifying and essential fire of humility in all of this, but as I’m running dangerously close to two-thousand words already, I’m not going to chase that rabbit right now. I will recommend Andrew Peterson’s book Adorning the Dark for lots of really good and (for me at least) deeply relatable thoughts about humility, though, because he has a lot to say about it and his own testimony of humility is an inspiration to me.

I hope someone enjoyed this exaggerated outpouring of my recent inner turmoil. Maybe you found it relatable, or just pitiable. Hopefully you at least got a laugh or a musical recommendation from it. I really have to start blogging more, even if that alone is a pretty good practice in humility because I have to continually apologize for my characteristic tendencies towards procrastination and horrible judge of timing. (Also, here’s a fun tip: you can tell how much time I’ve spent in the house lately by the verbosity and pretentiousness of my speaking and writing. I’m in hermit mode for some reason right now, probably due to the ~drama~ going on in the world at large, but I think I’m going to have to find a way to get around other humans a little more if I want to keep my subscribers and my immediate family’s good will.)

I make no promises for when you will see me here (or on Twitter, for that matter) again. Maybe I’ll have a new Queue post published someday.

Until then, stay safe and well, know the door to my email inbox is always wide open if you’re in need of someone to chat with, and maybe try out Great Comet so you too can be deeply confused by Josh Groban’s presence in a musical and enchanted by the angelic beauty of Denée Benton’s voice. (Seriously I’m not sure why the women hasn’t yet been cast as a Disney Princess… or maybe I should say, that we know of… *squints eyes keenly in the direction of Disney*).

✨ Shay

7 thoughts on “hello, self-loathing my old friend–a reflection on past mistakes, the conflicting desires of being known and being safe, and (somehow) Gospel parallels in my latest musical obsession

  1. Oh wow ok I relate so much to everything you talked about. Moving like I’ve been lately is great bc I have some of that anonymity and the chance to start anew, but ohhhhhhh goodness the mental replays of all the awkward and ill-advised things I’ve said and done never stops. Kudos to you for being confident enough to openly talk about it like this. (And I do not mind your verbosity, considering that I’ve been reading Les Mis… nothing will ever be as bad as Waterloo XD)

    AAAAAH NPATGCO1812!!! (Good grief even the abbreviation is l o n g) That comparison is so beautiful, and I feel like that line being the only spoken word in the entire show casts even more poignancy on it. Maybe it’s a rabbit trail but while I’m thinking about it, I feel like I should mention that in the Brick, a *Certain Character* (I’ll give you one guess XP) makes a little philosophical ramble about the Comet of 1811-1812 and it hits me right in the heart because it’s so thematically similar to some things in the musical and particularly the penultimate title song. I’ll try and find the quote and send it to you at some point. :)))))

    <3<3<3

    Liked by 1 person

    • Moving always opens the door to sort of “remake” oneself to some degree, and it IS nice to get that opportunity to re-evaluate how you’re presenting yourself to other people… but I’ve found that sometimes when my family has moved and I’ve tried to “be a new person” in the new place we live, I end up in an even deeper crisis because I feel like I’m faking and being someone I’m really not. I guess there’s a balance there between being the kind of person you want to be and staying true to the kind of person you *are*.

      Basically everything about that musical is long and overly complicated 😂 Personally, I LOVE the way music is used as a symbol for the frivolity and fakery of much of Moscow society in Great Comet, and how Pierre’s spoken line at the end represents his “breaking free” of all that.

      I’m glad you enjoyed this blog post!! Thanks for leaving a comment!! ☺

      Like

  2. I am a massive musical theatre fan, who is obsessed with Les Mis.

    Whenever I read books or see musicals, they feel like an escape.

    I know what story Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet are based off of- War and Piece. I actually own that book- just never thought about it reading it- didn’t like Anna Karenina

    Liked by 1 person

    • Les Mis was the first musical I ever got into!! I’m not, as a general rule, a huge theatre junky… for some reason I never got as into them as a lot of my friends did. But I became absolutely obsessed with Les Mis a few years ago, and I still love it. 😁

      I’ve not yet tried reading Anna Karenina, but I’d like to try it at some point! I’m only halfway through War and Peace right now, and I might not end up liking how it all ends, but so far, I’ve enjoyed it a lot. The writing style is surprisingly pleasant and easy to get through for a book of its age and length.

      Thanks for reading this post and leaving a comment!! 😊

      Like

      • I had to give the film of Les Mis a 2nd chance before falling in love with the musical. The rest is history- that is after March 2013.

        Didn’t even like Anna Karenina that much

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I hate my mistakes, particularly if the consequences affect other people. So yeah, I can sympathize.

    Okay, but your remarks about the Past Regret Express are hilarious turns of phrases! Good way to lighten the situation with a bit of humor. 🙂

    Oh, yes, not wanting to hurt people! I’m also scared of scaring someone off with my strong opinions and passionate interests.

    “I think it’s the curse of being so full of ideas that just force themselves right out one way or another.” YES. YES, you hit the nail on the head. Also with the dilemma of being exploited once you’re vulnerable but also wanting to be known. I really relate to that. I’ve also had to remind myself that God didn’t create humans to be alone and isolated. We all need each other, and your conclusions to this topic are SUCH a good reminder!

    Also, the rambling of the post suits the topic–but it didn’t feel disjointed at all. There’s a rawness and realness to your thoughts.

    And how did I not know that Josh Groban was a singer in Great Comet!?!?!?!?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m going to preface this response with a sincere apology for the fact that it’s taken me four months to catch up on my blog comments. I mean that’s just embarrassing. I’m so so sorry.

      That said, thank you for leaving a comment! I’m really glad you enjoyed this post and you found something relatable in all my rambles! I did strive for a balance of realness and humour in this one, and I’m glad you were entertained while finding something to relate to in it. 🙂

      And yes!!! Great Comet is a gem and Josh Groban being in it is at first one of the most bizarre, and then later one of the best, things about it!! X’D

      Like

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