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April 14, 2014

Lisa Madras: My life isn’t simple — but today, it’s an open book

NEW CASTLE — What is your cosmic elevator pitch?

I found this question today and wanted to throw it out there for a couple of reasons. Let me start by clarifying that I'm not asking what you do for a living, or how many kids you have, or even what you might write about yourself for an online dating profile. I'm talking about YOU — uncensored, un-retouched, exposed to the bone YOU.  

Who ARE you?

I'd been having one of my typical banter-fests with my best friend last week, where she tells me the only thing that will ever make her happy is finding a man, and I try to convince her that she's making her own life miserable. Rose and I have been having the same argument for about three years, and if you want the perfect example of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, we're it.

But anyhow, in the course of this recent conversation, I tell Rose that she really needs to cultivate her own happiness by doing the things she loves, and that by doing so, love will come to her in its own time, when she is her happiest and most complete self. And what happened next took me completely by surprise, and left me dismayed at what a terrible friend I must be: I realized that I have no idea who my best friend really is.

Sure, we spend hours shopping, and eating, and talking, and laughing so hard that we can't breathe; and I know that Rose is an artist, but (awful, terrible, no-good friend that I am) I have never once asked Rose what her passion is, or dug deep enough to unearth the things at the core of Rose that makes her who she is.

And it's odd, because I love learning everything there is to know about the people around me. I honestly think that what happened with Rose was that we hit it off so perfectly, we felt from day one like we'd known each other forever, and so we skipped right over the getting-to-know-each-other part and went straight to being best friends. And I'm such an unstoppable force (as I mentioned before) that I do have a tendency to consume any relationship that I'm in. (Even an immovable object like Rose.)

And that, my friends, is the second reason I found this question so intriguing. In discovering that I knew so little about Rose, I also realized how little I know about myself. Until 30 seconds ago, when my fingers tapped out the words on my computer, I had no idea how dominating I am. And if I had realized it, I sure wouldn't have admitted it.  

We all have a picture of ourselves that we paint for the rest of the world. Sometimes that picture is so vivid and realistic that we forget it's just a picture.  I want my friends to believe that I'm strong, and capable, and full of great advice, and so that's how I portray myself. But Rose doesn't care who knows that she has moments of weakness, or that she's in love with the idea of love, or that she falls apart sometimes. The only pictures she paints are the ones she actually paints — with a brush and an easel.  

I thought that Rose was a mystery, but it turns out she's simply exactly what's standing in front of you when she's there. If she was asked for her cosmic elevator pitch, she's probably tell you that she loves shopping and eating and painting and laughing so hard she can't breathe. I envy that honesty, although I'm sure there are still a few things beneath the surface that I'll enjoy digging out. And if I'm going to go around finding out every else's cosmic elevator pitch, I'm going to have to be honest with myself about some of my own.

So in the spirit of things (and to get myself AND you to the level of truth that people like Rose embody every day) I'm going to throw down the defenses for a brief moment and tell you a little about the me that I keep hidden from the rest of the world. I hope you do the same, if not with somebody else, at least with yourself. Trading your reality for a role can be a lonely place, and like it or not, there will come a time when you have no choice but to remove the mask. (And what better time than now? I was going to go for 10, but this blog is getting pretty long, so let's shoot for five instead.)

1. I was painfully shy as a child. When I left home for college, I made a conscious decision to become outgoing and lively. I did that, very successfully, but I'm still the shy person inside, and have to fight that every minute of every day. I'm so good at my act that people laugh at me when I try to tell them the truth.

2. I hate commercialism and capitalism, but my favorite pastime is shopping. This discrepancy makes me feel like a fraud.

3. I love my children so much that it takes my breath away every time I think about. You'd think that would make me a better mother, but it actually makes me a weaker one.

4. I'm infamously known to be a man-hater. Mostly because I go around saying, "I hate men." But the truth is, I love men. I love the way they smell, the way they walk, they way they talk. I love businessmen and cowboys and guys with grease under their fingernails. I don't hate them at all —  I'm scared to death of them because I've been hurt so badly by all of the men I've have experience with.

4B. I'm am perfectly capable and confident in my abilities as a single woman and mother. I don't NEED a man, and that's the truth. But it breaks my heart every single day that my children don't have a father, and that I don't have a best friend to come home to at the end of the day.

5. I get very tired of constantly trying to make myself a better person. I have hundreds of self-help books, I study psychoanalysis and practice meditation, and keep self-discovery journals, and counsel my friends, but for once — just once — I want life to be nothing more than simple. (But hey, if life was simple, I wouldn't have anything to blog about, would I?)


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