Poem: I Shake

I shake when I meet someone new,

but I know they cannot see the tremor

because I have learned to hide it so

well sometimes I even fool myself

into thinking that I’m not constantly

worrying about what it is that this

new person is thinking about me.

 

I learned to hide the fear, the anxiety

I had that the people that I liked

would fail to like me in return, that

the people who I met would find me

wanting in a way I wouldn’t understand,

a way I wouldn’t be able to fix because

the trouble would have to be with me.

 

I learned to view the people who didn’t

like me the way I liked them, the ones

who found no worth in me – I learned

to see them as the ones to turn to, the

ones to ask about the problems with me

so that I could fix myself as if I were a

broken tool in need of serious repair.

 

I don’t remember when I started to see

myself as a broken object, a tool that

had no function except that function

the people around me gave me, as if

I was nothing more than the item they

could use to assuage their own fears.

 

I don’t remember when I shook that,

when I started to view myself as human,

as a person, worthy of care and respect

in return for being human, being here,

but somewhere along the way I stopped

viewing myself as a tool for others to use

to vent their own anger, their own tears.

 

I shake when I meet someone new because

I am asking myself what I should expect –

will this new person treat me like a tool

or will they treat me like a human, and

what is it I need to do to make sure they

don’t mistake me for the former –

 

And I shake because I know I act against

the grain, I know I make people shy away

because I don’t fit into their definitions of

normal, and I worry that I’m going to have

to defend myself against an onslaught of

disapproval, of distaste, of disdain.

 

I hear others talk about how they act against

society because they don’t care what others

think about them, and inside, I am squirming

because I do care; I care so much it hurts, and

I don’t go against the grain because it’s expected –

it’s part of who I am, woven into the very fabric

of the person I have become, and I won’t reject

any of the experiences that have come to define me.

 

I can face rejection, I can face hatred, and I can

face it when the new people I meet decide that

I am not worth their time, not worth their respect

because they learn something about me they

don’t like. But facing it doesn’t mean it doesn’t

hurt, doesn’t cut to the bone, doesn’t make me

want to scream and cry and rage until I’m hoarse.

 

I shake when I meet someone new because

I know the odds are stacked against me – I know

that there are so many parts of me that society

rejects out of hand, but I don’t hate the people

who hate me for what they do not understand.

It hurts me, cuts me deeply, but I feel sorrow far

more often than I feel anger or betrayal.

 

Because I love to meet new people, to learn their stories,

to hear their tales and try to understand their lives

from the perspectives in which those lives were lived.

There are so many people, so many lives, so many paths

that are so similar and yet so different, and there is such a

myriad of human experience it steals my breath away.

 

Yet, I shake when I meet new people, and it may be

that I will always shake – out of fear of being judged

yet again, out of excitement at the prospect of meeting

a new friend – and I will always care too much.

That’s part of who I am, who I have become, and

I can accept who I am, even as my voice trembles

and my body shivers as I greet someone new –

I will always speak my truth, even if I shake.

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