What’s my line

“And sometimes, when I did a really good job of pretending, I even fooled myself.”

―Ruta Sepetys

All around the world, people are busy doing things.

Sleeping, eating, working, walking, maybe petting a dog.

Cooking a meal or sitting in the sun.

Having a conversation or staring at the wall in silence.

Feeling good or feeling bad.

Some people are rolling around naked with other people — but they may not be feeling good. They may be feeling bad. We don’t know.

Some people are reviewing hefty bank accounts, a long list of assets, good investments, rich opportunities — but are they feeling good or bad? We don’t know.

Some people are showing up for their dream job and feeling like it isn’t a dream.

Some other people are doing whatever work they could find. Maybe they feel grateful, or maybe they feel awful. We don’t know.

We don’t know because we’re all such good actors, such good pretenders. We have a picture in our heads of how we are supposed to feel in any given situation. And we act it out, so well, so automatically, that we hardly even know we’re acting.

If you do anything long enough you start to get used to it. And once you get used to it, it feels normal. Natural. Right.

And then doing something different—feeling what we truly feel, rather than acting as if we feel—is what becomes terrifying, unnatural, and disorienting.

Maybe shock, that disconnected state of being, that emotional/mental pause, happens because we find ourselves in a situation we haven’t ever imagined. It’s not in the plot notes. There’s no script.

So we stutter and halt, internally and externally, grasping for a line, a cue.

What am I supposed to feel in this moment?

We’re so afraid of feeling what we actually feel—rather than following a script of what we think we’re supposed to feel—that we go into shock. Rather than feel our actual feelings, and act from them, we initiate a shut-down sequence.

Sure, part of that experience—being in shock, disconnected—is to allow us to cope, to survive trauma, to deal with the emotions and repercussions little by little.

But I think a big part of it is to allow us distance, to give us time, a reprieve, so we can scramble around in our memories and come up with a script to follow. We crave the cues. We’re so used to acting that not-acting is far too immediate and vulnerable. We just don’t know what to do with ourselves.