When I was a kid, I would watch and read celebrity interviews with obession. The impossible questions, followed by the ready answer. As an audience member, I was held captive by their words, the seriousness of their sharing. I marveled at the gravity of their experiences. Naturally, I began to mimic my way through imagined interviews. Usually conducted by Oprah Winfrey. The confidence behind their brand of living was something I craved and wanted to emulate. I familiarized myself with key phrases like ‘I have no regrets’ or ‘Pain made me stronger’ and rehearsed them in earnest.
At 34, I still talk to myself like I’m being asked important questions; like my answers matter to a room full of strangers. It’s a delicious self-indulgent feeling, and I admit that I have these conversations on my dog walks, in my car, or in the bathroom mirror, mugging my way through the thoughts. If I can’t talk it out, I have to write it out.
Over the years, this interview enactment has morphed into a way for me to process my life. Even though it comes from me, the voice being interviewed is an omniscient one that casts an intelligent, high status light on my issues. And thank god I have one voice in my head that takes my shit so seriously. So seriously that she has no shame answering the darkest questions, is willing to give eloquence to my confusion about life, my fears about motherhood, my female wickedness and stand behind them publicly – whether through words or the right tonal inflection. All my private interviews are televised, obviously. All my writing is written with the intention of going viral. If there is an absence of audience, the process does not work.
This need to share, to fumble for the ball in front of a hungry stadium is something that has made me quietly uncomfortable. Why the audience? What void do I have that is so vast it requires strangers to feel validated? Validation – my most elusive lover. Sexy as shit. Toxic as fuck. Validation – that evil sin that keeps me from colouring outside the lines. Validation makes me feel fickle, immature, superficial, and yet, and yet! I pine for it with a gross suffering.
Then: https://tryingtobegood.com/yoga/its-okay-to-want-to-be-seen/ followed by 3 distinct emotions: 1) Intense self- forgiveness 2) Instantaneous compassion for all those professional sharers 3) Overwhelming gratefulness for the internet.
I felt like I had been pardoned for a gruesome crime. I felt like I had found water in the dessert. Sooooooooo….yeah. I have a need to be seen. I have a need to be deeply seen – almost to the point of insatiability. My guilt at needing this is paralyzingly real and therefore I tend to let the world off the hook. I spin in circles waiting to be witnessed, terrified that I have a need that must, it must come from outside myself. It has to come from you. From that group. From them. Otherwise I live in solidarity confinement.
When I don’t let this confident voice sift through the tough issues in order to one day drop it in the middle of an unsuspecting crowd, I suffocate. I bury myself alive with the weight of my toddler emotions, my hair trigger sensitivities. I slyly coax myself further out into deep water and then belly laugh at my own drowning. Conversely, if I’m not ready to write it out, not ready to be interviewed, it means whatever the topic, it’s too soon. There must be confusion or angst around it and I have to wait patiently. I have to wait for that inner voice to develop enough confidence that there is no more shame.
Finally, I am standing safely ashore. Check check, I say into the mic.
O.W. So, tell me: After all the ups and downs, after everything you’ve been through, and know you’re going to face, do you have any regrets?
M.W. Oprah, get a grip. I have no regrets.