Yes, it's as if you’ve been doing this mad juggling act for years and no one seems to care. Worse yet, they've grown to expect it.
Women often juggle in order to feel needed or fit in. They juggle for survival. I read once where dogs are generally friendly because they have to be, in order to be assimilated into a pack. Dogs have been faking it, in a sense. Women and dogs, desperately putting on a show so the pack won’t turn on them or leave them behind.
What if you let the pack turn on you?
What if you turned on them instead?
What if you chose to stay behind?
What if you stopped being so damned...concerned?
It's not easy when you let the balls drop. Suddenly you are alone. A sterile, eerie quiet settles in. But you suspected that would happen, didn't you? It's been there all the time anyway. The phone stops ringing and conversations are quickly replaced with dull, silent exchanges. You begin to talk to yourself and masturbate more because at least there’s some natural give and take there.
You feel yourself slowly becoming invisible. Can you handle that? Can you stop your act and see where you really stand, even if it's in the middle of nowhere?
As a bored social experiment, I stopped saying hello. I stopped making phone calls. I stopped being so polite. I stopped trying. Anyone who didn’t reach out or initiate became suddenly suspect and expendable.
My brother, whom I live with, was the first to go. Since I usually greet him with a polite “good morning” every day, it felt surprisingly easy to stop. Since then, not one word has been exchanged between us. Oh well. One less ball to juggle.
My neighbor was an easy second. She doesn’t like me and I don' like her. I used to say hello to her just to be civil. Now we say nothing and I like it. Another ball dropped, easy.
Her 10-year old son always looks like a deer in the headlights when he sees me, as if I’m a crazy unicorn or something. I usually smile and wave and he runs away. Well, truth be told, that routine is getting old. Now when he stares at me blankly, I just give him the finger. (Really, I just ignore him but sometimes I want to give him the finger.)
Romantically, it was a harder sacrifice. Keeping the connections going with a few lingering old flames offers up moments of delight, sweetness and romance...but it inevitably exhausts your self-esteem. You know you're doing all the work. You keep waiting for the day it will be more balanced. That you'll juggle together. But maybe they just don't have the balls.
Or maybe we’re secretly self-centered – giving to others so we can “get what we deserve in return, dammit." When we don't, bitterness and disappointment seep in. Someone else let the ball drop and we're quietly pissed.
Perhaps we’re just good people who assume the world will be equally good and kind to us in return. We’re earnest but exhausted performers, wondering when the next act will begin so we can take a much-needed break.
When they go out to eat, they still split the bill, even after all the meals she’s prepared for him. When I ask Sylvia why she hangs in there, she says, “I think he’s really misunderstood. He's interesting. I get him.” I want to dump my cheap Chardonnay over her seemingly selfless head. Decades have gone by based on this delusion. (Trust me, he’s about as interesting as dried mud.)
She’s been juggling for so long, her body is slightly contorted and she looks old beyond her years. Whenever I see her, I consider her an anti-hero of sorts. She’s everything I don’t want to be. She will juggle for nothing until the bitter end.
If she stopped doing for him, nothing would happen. He would not call, he would not care. He’d only miss the free meals and passionless sex. She, on the other hand, would be painfully aware of the crushing emptiness. The spotlight would be on her, still, alone but finally free.
Then again, the loneliness might be too much for her to bear. But isn't it there anyway?
Deciphering someone’s actions or words is another form of juggling. Interpreting. Processing. Figuring out. Trying, trying, trying to understand. Is that relaxing? Rewarding? Is any of that the equivalent of good sex and intimacy? No, its exhausting, outwardly-focused mind play that you become addicted to and demoralized by.
I don't want to be a circus act performing for a sleeping audience. So I’m letting the balls drop around me, one by one. I'm walking off the stage and out the back door and standing alone in the sunlight. If I disappear that’s alright, I guess...I don't know. I've never let myself disappear before.
I'm just letting the balls drop. If they bounce back, fine. If they bounce away, better yet.