Naked & Afraid – a most appropriate metaphor for my life. Also, perhaps, the most appropriately named show in the history of television.
Have you seen the show (on Discovery)? The first of the “naked” rage, it came before Buying Naked, Dating Naked, etc. On Naked & Afraid, a pair of strangers, one male and one female, must learn to survive for 21 days with no food, no water, no tools, and no clothes in a remote location. Any place with extreme temperatures, dirty water, scarce food, huge bug populations, venomous snakes, deadly crocodiles, and high risk of severe illness or injury, or even death, is a possibility. It makes the whole Survivor situation look like it’s going on in a 5-star hotel. And half the contestants lack social skills, almost die, or both, so it stays interesting.
So, yes, contestants are literally naked. And they are afraid. What do they receive if they actually survive 21 days (they can tap out)? A sense of accomplishment.
Contestants must have so many fears. Like, will I find food? Or will I starve to death? How will I find clean water? Will I experience a third-degree sunburn? Or will I develop hypothermia? Will I die of dysentery or malaria? Will a crocodile eat me as I wade through deep, murky waters on my way to the rescue point? What will this stranger think of my naked body? What if she thinks my dong is small? Will it be awkward to sleep naked next to this stranger? Answer – yes. What if a colony of giant red fire ants attacks my genitals?
The show’s addicting – I promise you’d like it.
I’m Naked & Afraid too, though mostly in the comfort of my living room. But, sometimes, it seems, in my mind, I’m a contestant on the show, only without the giant red fire ants attacking my genitals. These Naked & Afraid feelings are partially self-inflicted, compounded by my blog, but they began well before my first post on October 1, 2015.
I recently spoke with an older couple who’d experienced a tragedy involving one of their children – a tragedy dissimilar to Matthew dying at birth, but a tragedy nonetheless. For many years, they hid the tragedy from some family and most friends. It helped them to share the details of the tragedy purely on their terms.
During our conversation, I felt jealousy over not being able to hide my tragedy. It’s not that I want to hide Matthew from the world, quite the contrary actually (I’m sharing him on my blog). It’s just that there isn’t one person I knew as of July 13, 2015 from whom I even CAN hide anything, really.
I was hugely pregnant, and then I wasn’t. Everyone received the email explaining Matthew died.
Henry from IT – yep, he knows my dreams and how they were crushed. He knows my family plans and how they didn’t go as expected. And he knows all my deepest fears – because it doesn’t take an effing diabolical super-genius to figure out what those fears might be. And there are so many fears.
When Henry from IT sees me, he knows. He, and everyone, knows far more about me than they otherwise would have – far more than I ever would have voluntarily shared.
And that’s uncomfortable for me – that girl who once deleted her Facebook account over “privacy concerns” (yeah, I know – LAME).
I hate to imply I believe others are thinking about me so much (hello, narcissist), but sometimes I think maybe they are – based on personal questions they ask me. Randoms take the visible nature of my tragedy as an invitation to interrogate me regarding if we’ll try to have more children, when we’ll have more children, whether we’re terrified to have more children, or if we’ve considered the adoption route instead. Or they ask my friends, who then inform me people ask these questions about me.
Again, uncomfortable for me – the girl who didn’t appreciate her in laws’ questions on these topics BEFORE tragedy struck.
I actually appreciate most questions are well-intentioned. But I still can’t help but feel as though everyone, including Henry from IT, knows far too much about me.
Most filter what they tell the world. They choose whether to share details of life’s most altering events, and they choose with whom to share said details. They choose whether to verbalize their deepest fears to loose acquaintances. And if they choose not to verbalize said deepest fears, they’ll likely never have loose acquaintances awkwardly verbalize them anyway.
All these decisions were made for me though – everything’s advertised. I’m on display, each and every day (like Melissa Gorga from Real Housewives of New Jersey liked to say in that song she produced during her brief and pathetic recording career). It’s like my protective cloak has dropped. Or maybe I’m wearing a see through raincoat. And I have no clothing on underneath – I’m Naked & Afraid.
So, since I’m completely rational all the time, I started this blog, where I’d bare my soul on the internet. “But,” you’re asking, “Couldn’t this compound your Naked & Afraid feelings?” Yes – yes it could. But I like to write, and these days, I do whatever I wanna do… gosssssh… (said in Napoleon Dynamite voice).
In the beginning, I only shared my blog with select family members and friends, and a bunch of strangers. It was like a luxury condo pocket listing on Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles – exclusivity was key. Upon sharing the link, I’d threaten to strangle those who shared it with others I knew in real life (they could share with strangers though) – so it’d never leave me Naked & Afraid.
But I quickly became Naked & Afraid anyway. Here’s how it happened…
Those with whom I shared gave positive feedback. But what else in the actual eff would they do? What asshole would tell me, a bereaved mother, my blog sucked?! And no blogs suck – they’re all their own special little snowflakes… Or are they?
But, regardless, the positive feedback gave me a sense of confidence. So I slowly started sharing my blog with others, one at a time, until I’d shared it with TONS of people. By tons, I mean MAYBE like eight. NO FEAR.
One of the “MAYBE like eight” was a sweet, beautiful friend – an artist. She thanked me for sharing and explained how my blog was like her art – on display for everyone to judge while she sits there, vulnerable.
Damn it – just when I’d forgotten that…
But by that time, enough people had shared it with others that my privacy ship basically sailed off into the sunset. So I became brave and shared my real life first name, and my picture. And I reconciled some awkward realizations – like Mark’s conservative family members might realize I cuss on a semi-frequent basis… And, I’m not really that sorry about it.
Still, I never shared my blog on social media or anything…
But then one day, my blog was shared on Facebook and Instagram… Surprisingly, I was thrilled, grateful, and so touched people read Matthew’s story – the mere thought basically kept me alive for another few days.
Though, I quickly realized I no longer knew who was reading this. And then I stressed pondering how I could best make my blog appeal to a wide audience, because it’d be awesome if the WORLD read Matthew’s story (yes, I’m getting ahead of myself…).
However, I eventually chilled out and realized I’d continue to write for myself, and for Matthew, and because grief semi-deactivated my left brain, while simultaneously activating my right brain (to the point where I’d rather take up poetry than build complex spreadsheets).
So now days I bounce between two poles (like I’m bi-polar) between being Mary Katherine Gallagher from SNL OMG-nervous (like sticking my hands under my sweating armpits and smelling them), and being completely STOKED that there might be more than eight people reading this. Most the time I’m STOKED. 🙂
I also came to realize even if someone judges my deepest feelings (whether it be Henry from IT or a stranger from El Salvador), it wouldn’t be the worst thing that ever happened to me – losing Matthew was the worst.
Good or bad, Matthew’s death stripped me of my ability to give a shit about a lot of things I now deem trivial. So I’ll continue to write authentically. If it brings me some peace and impacts even a few people, that’d be a great way to honor Matthew’s memory.
I’d venture to guess, because of the nature of my tragedy and the fact that I’m baring my soul on the internet, I’ll have these Naked & Afraid feelings for a long time. There’s no tap-out option. There’s no 21-day expiration date on my nudity, or my fear. I’m going to have to learn to live with these feelings… That’s not easy for one who once valued her privacy, but there’s no turning back now… I’ve already stripped down. And I almost wouldn’t want it any other way. Things have to be different now. Because Matthew changed me forever.