Standard party conversation, or perhaps late night talks under the stars, or stoned moments of clarity: if you could download any skill like they do in the Matrix, what would it be?
Some people need time to think. They either haven’t thought of their answer before or perhaps they’re searching for the answer that will make them seem the most… intellectual? Or the most virtuous? Or just the most. These people eventually come up with answers like “infinite patience” or “the answer to ending world hunger.” Which makes them sound much more like a contestant in a Beauty Pageant than having their desired effect.
Other people have quick answers. And I would be of the that category: Guitar.
“But Rebecca, guitar is something you could pick up and learn at any time.” And to that I would say, you are right. But then I would present to you my 15 year-old acoustic guitar that I have had re-strung 3 times by three different men, all of whom I had a crush on. I would follow it up by saying when I was 16 I took a few lessons, and then again when I was 25. And every year it appears on my list of new years resolutions and vision boards acting as a regular reminder that I have been failing at this goal for fifteen years.
Like I said, you’re right, I could learn guitar. But then I’d have to learn guitar. And I don’t want to learn guitar. I want to be able to play guitar. I want to go over to a girl’s apartment for the first time, see a guitar that happens to belong to her roommate, pick it up and play a few chords. She’d melt. I’d shrug and put the guitar down. Fire would ensue. And I don’t mean to say I’d like to be able to play guitar so I can get some, although yes. What I mean is that I want to be able to play guitar for the social benefits. Music is universal. Tell me you’ve never been envious of the person with the guitar around the campfire? If you haven’t then it’s because you were THAT person. Heeding requests and controlling the vibe of the evening, all eyes on you waiting to fulfill their individual musical desires. I wonder how that feels? Is it a partnership? Are you every bit as focused on the people listening as they are on you?
To the people concerned about what their answer says about their character, I feel you. Not being consumed by what others think of me is a day to day struggle. Let it be known that I don’t judge you. So when you say, “I’d want to download the ability to perform any surgery so that I could heal the world” the most you’ll get from me is a knowing smile.
Then I’d follow that up with, “I’ve been thinking about learning the guitar, any chance you know how to play?”
According to google dictionary, of which I am not sponsored, to gaslight is to, “manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity.” Up until a week ago, I was not familiar with this term though it was an experience with which I was all too familiar.
My ex was a master of manipulation. It would start off by me making some completely reasonable statement like, “I’m just going to go relax in a bath.” Next it would become unfair of me to have alone time when there was nowhere he could go to get away from me. I’d offer options, “go for a walk, go to the gym, have a bath of your own” to which I would be told that I’m not understanding his point. Am I crazy? His point was that he had nowhere to go to be alone, wasn’t it? He then clarified that he didn’t want to go for a walk, the gym isn’t relaxing for him, and he didn’t like taking baths. Okay…? I wasn’t sure how to solve his problem because I couldn’t find what the problem was anymore. That’s when he would let it come out, “the problem is that you shouldn’t have to need alone time.” But everyone needs time alone. He would counter by saying that he didn’t need time away from me. But WAIT! That’s not what I was saying, I wasn’t saying “I need time away from you specifically, I was saying I need time to myself.” Then all of a sudden, I was told I was being selfish. And I’d struggle to find anything that proved otherwise. I would stand there in a moment of confusion as the reality of who I had believed myself to be my whole life was being dismantled. Then after a long moment of silence, “you can come with me?” Posed as a question because I was grasping at straws to figure out what he wanted. I’m not selfish and I wanted him to know he was loved. He’d run over and kiss me. Ten minutes later I’d find myself in a cramped bath that was anything but relaxing, telling the man squished up against me “I love you” while the woman in my head screamed and banged against the walls of my skull for someone to save her.
When he wasn’t in the mood for a bath, he’d come in and sit on the toilet while I took one. And if it wasn’t the bath, then it was drinks with coworkers, which then morphed into drinks with friends, which eventually became doing anything at all without him. In hindsight it is so easy to see that what he was doing was wrong. But in the moment, all you can do against the psychological attacks on your character is come to the conclusion that this is what compromise looks like. That is until the day you look in the mirror and all the changes he skillfully forced upon you don’t look like compromise, but actually look like abuse.
I was lucky enough to get out of that relationship, made possible in part by two friends who could hear the screams from inside my skull. If not for them, I would not have found the courage to stand up for myself. If not for them, all understanding of who I am and what makes me unique would be long gone. And here’s the hardest truth: if not for them, I don’t know if I’d still be alive.