Think about something you absolutely don't want people to know about you - something about your character, your desires and wants.
Now consider the possibility that everyone already knows it.
Within the first five minutes of conversation most people can see through us and intuit things we don't know about ourselves. It's almost certain that the things you're ashamed about yourself are things your friends already know. So act with that knowledge. Learn self-deprecating humour. Learn to live with your vulnerabilities in the open.
So today I had a conversation with a friend and we spoke about pain and suffering. But I'm not wise. I'm not very smart. What am I then?
I try to joke about the things I hate most about myself, because I know - even though I always used to hope otherwise - that these ugly sides of me are apparent. I've been called out on them before. I've read the looks before.
Sometimes, though, it gets too painful to joke about. Sometimes I wish very much that I were different, but I'm afraid if I take that step the ground will fall out under my feet.
There's a fire in the middle of the room, its flickering light barely touching the encroaching gloom. The darkness is almost tangible, a black fog that slaps off the tendrils of flame.
Near the fire, occasionally visible is a pair of hands. They're clasped together, the arms and body shrouded in darkness. A pair of feet bundled in thick woollen socks. On the opposite side of the fire, a black snout. Two tiny raccoon paws. The sound of breathing, long and deep. Occasionally the raccoon snuffles.
The room is cold and the fire is dying by the minute. Outside snow falls silently, piling up to the windows. It is the coldest winter in many years, and the coldest night of the winter.
I don't think I was put in this world to make my parents sad. But it seems like I can't be who I am without being a constant disappointment.
I don't do the things I do out of spite. I'm not trying to defy you, I'm just trying to be authentic. I've always asked myself: "Who am I? Where am I going? What do I want?" I've made a lot of mistakes, trying to believe that what I want is what the people I love want of me, but it's not the case.
I've said it before and I'll say it the last time: I'm sorry I can't be who you wanted me to be.
I wish you had a better imagination, that could accept different variations of 'a good daughter'. I'm sorry, too, that you can't.
I wish I could bring myself to slowly talk things through and make things right, but I never had much courage, and now I don't have much love left.
I am not your counsellor. I am not your doll and not your puppet. I am not an object. I'm good at bending myself to appease others and for the sake of harmony, up till a point where I lose sight of who I am.
So what I guess I can do in small steps (since most of the time 'we are the cause of our sufferings'):
- learn to say no. Start saying no.
- look for a place.
- stand on my own two feet.
The raccoon scampered up the tree onto the branch, chasing the purple butterfly, determined to touch it with his nose. His paw slipped on a patch of moss and he twisted in the air, trying to catch hold of the branch. Tiny claws sliced the air, missing the branch by millimetres and he fell.
The tiny black and white ball of fluff whuffed as it landed in the arms of a boy. The raccoon's eyes were squinted shut, its tail shivering. A few seconds passed and neither made a move.
"Hey," the boy said, "You okay?"
Still shivering, the raccoon opened its eyes and glanced quickly side to side. Nose twitching, it leapt up, first at the boy's shirt, and then the other direction, landing nimbly on the leaves.
"Not going to thank me?" The boy called out as the raccoon dashed into the bushes, tail bobbing wildly. The leaves of the undergrowth trembled. A pair of gleaming black eyes peeked out from the shadows. The boy laughed. "Don't chase flitterbugs up trees next time."