Rose Keating’s weekly column as published in the Waterford News & Star’s Well! magazine
DO you think you have to understand something to love it?
Sometimes, I like to fool myself into believing I’m a big, strong adult. A confident, well-adjusted woman who has grown out of her teenage anxieties, her pubescent insecurities. Look at me, world, I’ve experienced at least mild character development as an individual. Who’d a thunk it?
But, there is one awful, typical teenage mind frame I have yet to shake off. One childish, despairing desire I can’t seem to shed.
I wish so very much to be understood. I want to be known and comprehended, completely and utterly.
Because what more horrific fear does the hormonal teenage mind face more than the fact that no one really understands them? The frustration of no one getting you? At least, that was the type of angst filled teenager I was.
It would appear that as much as I would like to believe I have matured, this is one thing I have not matured past. This is one aspect of my teenage years that I can’t let go.
‘She is filled with a generosity that comes from instinct. I’m trying to teach myself softness, but to mum, it comes as easy as a heartbeat.’
I don’t think I simply want to be known by someone; I think that I am deeply, deeply afraid of the possibility that there is no one out there in the world who will ever truly be able to understand me. To never really be known; can you imagine anything more lonely?
The thing is though, while I have not managed to throw off this teenage fear, the fear itself has grown since my more tender years. Expanded, evolved. I no longer just fear not being known myself; I am now beginning to face a mutation of this worry.
I now face the fear that no one, absolutely no human living on this earth, can ever really, truly know another human being in their entirety.
None of us are completely honest with each other. It’s impossible to be. And even if we were, how could we ever put into words so much of what we feel, what we think?
I am meant to be a writer – words are meant to be my job. Yet, I know no matter how hard I try, I would never be able to find the words to explain to a person exactly what it has felt like to have lived a life as Rose Helen Keating.
I will never have the words to tell someone how it felt to feel wind on my skin, standing on a curb alone at night in a new country for the first time. I will never have the words to tell them how it felt when I found my kitten squashed to death by the dog on my sixteenth birthday, smashed against the living room floor. I will never have the words to tell another person how it felt, how it feels, to be young and dumb and dizzy with the terror and excitement of everything beginning.
Life is weird and awful and beautiful and I don’t think I would ever be able to find the words to explain how it feels to have lived as Rose Keating to another person. And, I imagine, not many people will be able to sum up their own selfhood either.
We don’t have the words to allow ourselves to be understood completely, if we could even stand the pain of that honesty.
And we’re not mind readers, so that option’s out the window.
I’ve found dating has become excruciating because of this. I’ll sit there at whatever coffeeshop we’ve gone to, facing the other person. We’ll chat, both nervous, both eager, both giddy with terror and hope. I’ll be awkward and my tongue will feel so clumsy, but my brain will flood gold with adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin; all the lovely, tasty chemicals that send us head over heels.
And then he’ll say: I don’t like cats. Or: I don’t read female authors. Or: I don’t like horror movies. Or: I don’t think Trump’s that bad.
And I will ask: Why don’t you? And he’ll say: Because I just don’t.
I’ll look at him, and he’ll look at me, and I’ll think: I don’t get you. I’ll think: I don’t think I’ll ever get you. I don’t think I’m going to be able to understand you, and I don’t think you’ll ever really be able to understand me.
And then I’ll think: Would I be a bad person if I faked an emergency phone call so I can leave early?
But, a counterpoint: I don’t really understand my mum. She is so very different to me.
I’m a person who is naturally a little vicious. I’m harsh and cold and a lot of the time, I’m not as ashamed of that as I should be.
But mum? Mum is naturally kind. She is filled with a generosity that comes from instinct. I’m trying to teach myself softness, but to mum, it comes as easy as a heartbeat. We have different instincts, and I think in a lot of ways, we can’t ever really understand each other because of that.
But my mum is one of my best friends. I can tell her anything. I trust her and I love her. And I hope, as her ONLY daughter, she loves me too.
This year, I saw lightning for the first time. I was up on the seventh floor in my bedroom. I had this massive window that spanned the entire length of the room, and I left it wide open. Drops of rain hitting my cheeks, air hot and humid and tense.
And then, light. The whitest light in the world, exploding out in the dark. The brightest shock you can think of. Lighting looks like how laughter feels after you’ve been alone for too long.
Reader, I have no idea how lighting works. But I know it was beautiful. I know I loved it, completely and utterly.
I’m hoping that maybe, just maybe, humans might be a bit like lightning too.