dig up your flaws

I'm deeply obsessed with this song, "Flaws" by Bastille right now. The lyrics resonate strongly with me.

You have always worn your flaws upon your sleeveAnd I have always buried them deep beneath the groundDig them up; let's finish what we've started. Dig them up, so nothing's left untouched

I have the temperament of my grandfather, and my father. I loved my grandfather fiercely but with some trepidation. He loved people, loved talking to people. My grandfather was charismatic, but short-tempered, a man with high expectations and steadfast beliefs in family, in working with one's hands. He believed everyone had a part to play and each one was of equal importance.  But he wasn't an easy man to know. I often watched him in fascination of how people treated him, gently, with a kind of reverence.   He was a consummate storyteller, collector of mechanical objects, anything with a motor with which he could tinker. He often worked late in the night hunched over a car engine, an old fan, a lawn mower part. Our family joke was that everything my grandfather asked you to do was going to take "just one minute." One summer I helped him organize his nails, bolts, washers, and screws into mason jars. It was unbearably hot in his work shed off the carport. My grandmother kept us in iced tea and cookies, but I think she was checking on the two of us to be sure we hadn't infuriated one another beyond repair. A small fan whirred, blowing the stuffy air around the close space. While we worked and sweat soaked my shirt, my grandfather told me stories about my father as a boy and I momentarily forgot the Alabama humidity, enamored instead with my grandfather's recollections. Sometimes he slipped into his own stories, of walking creek beds looking for frogs, teasing his brother about his drawings, the two of them picking blackberries from the vine for my Granny's pies. He never backed down from what he thought was right, even if it wasn't popular and while he always seemed strong and tough to me, he had an enormous heart and would often take on others' well-being like a project. He cared immensely for people, even those he didn't know well. He was opinionated, deliberate, stubborn. He filled the house with his voice, his singing, cheering on baseball teams. He never did anything half-way and always had a project to work on.

Like my grandfather, I can be quick to anger, self-righteous indignation, annoyance. I feel deeply and simultaneously. I can go from angry to calm in a matter of seconds. I process emotions quickly, move through them like a bulldozer. And in doing so, I often bulldoze everyone in my wake, giving little thought to what they might feel as I dump emotions in their face.

I wear my flaws on my sleeve, my heart, my emotions.

I've never been good at hiding how I feel. When I don't want to do something (but know I should be selfless and do it anyway) it shows, which takes away from the act of going along with something I'm not jazzed about; if I don't like food someone has prepared it's hard for me to be polite because my initial feelings are all over me. As much as I've tried to learn to filter my thoughts, I can't change how they flash across my face, my eyes, my mouth. I've always known I was easy to read, terrible at cards, at bluffing, at lying, at keeping quiet.

I marvel at those who are hard to read, better able to allow their emotions to lay under the surface rather than erupting like tidal waves. M is like this. She doesn't instantly run through a gamut of emotions or if she does, it doesn't show. I often tease her that she is a mystery to me because I don't know her thoughts. She reminds me not everything needs to be spoken aloud.

All of your flaws and all of my flaws, When they have been exhumed We'll see that we need them to be who we are Without them we'd be doomed

Whether we bury our flaws or keep them at our surface, they shape who we are, how we think, and how we interact with others.

For years, I wore my flaws like a shield, a warning: danger ahead. When, in my twenties, on a date, someone told me I was too intense, they needed easy, light, carefree, I held that comment like a badge. I relished in my darkness, convinced people couldn't handle me at my worst. I tested people in my life, pushed them to see how much raw emotion they could handle. I was often an open nerve, waiting to be wounded. Rarely taken by surprise at others' cruelty, or their walking away. "See," I would say to my friends when a relationship or fling ended, "I knew they couldn't handle it." I think I wanted people to see me, to know what they were in for, but at the same time those flaws were like porcupine quills protecting my soft interior, the marshmallow in me, the one that cries at bank commercials, that wants so badly to be understood, to hold hands, to be comforted.

And then I moved away from the only place I'd ever called home, away from my roots, from the troubled girl I'd once been. And I thought I needed to change everything, to stop being so angry, so self-focused, so intense. I had trouble reconciling my reckless twenties, the fervor, the fear, the passion, the girl with muchness and bravado with the person I wanted to become. I fell hopelessly, quickly, and unwittingly in love. I spent a lot of time conflicted, refusing to see how I could embrace these versions of myself with all their flaws.

This is something I've written about before, themes I keep returning to again and again as I question and work through and write about the things that make us:

I tell my students that analysis is about taking something apart, examining its individual pieces in order to better understand how it works. That’s certainly been true of my own indulgent analysis. I’m in search of how I work, what makes me, why I respond the way I do, in order to deepen myself, to break myself more widely open, and be more porous to the world.

I want to be open but not in a defensive or challenging way. Instead I want to fully explore, fully engage other people, their stories and experiences.

My flaws are still on my sleeve, but I no longer need to use them as a weapon.