To All the Circus Freaks (a love letter)

Okay, y’all. I have a confession.

The Circus is hard for me.

(Which, out of context, is a sentence I never thought I’d say. But then again, I married a guy named “Bonesaw.” So I guess all bets are off at this point.)

Anyway, let me explain.

I’m a true Gemini. I have two distinct “selves” who are pretty much constantly jockeying for position in my head and my heart. I’m always working to find balance between them. Both are sincere, and both are genuinely me. But they don’t always get along. It’s a daily struggle.

I love people. I love hugs, and big smiles, and hearing about what makes everyone different and interesting and complex. I don’t like small talk – I want to know you if I’m gonna know you. And I want you to know me, so I sometimes over-share. I love conversation and real talk and connection. I enjoy the spotlight; I tend to talk too much and too loud; I always have an opinion. I think I probably come across as confident and outgoing (even if, on the inside, that isn’t always how I feel).

But this comes at a cost to my other self. While some people draw energy from others, I feel drained by a crowd. Noise and mess and chaos make me uncomfortable. I feel scattered and overwhelmed by too much activity and too many tasks. Disorder, blurred boundaries, and unclear expectations freak me out. I use up my reserves in my more celebratory, demonstrative state. All of the being on takes a lot out of me, consuming much of my already limited head-space.

Now, it isn’t that I don’t enjoy it in the moment. I truly do. I actually think this is one of the reasons I went into teaching. I love performing, engaging, discussing. I generally feel all the emotions in the room – are my kids energized or somber? Is this one having a hard day? Is that one is distracted or embarrassed or sad? My friend Jenna reminds me that “caring is my super power” (because oh, I care so very much). But even as I savor and enjoy the activity and fun, sometimes [often] I find myself dramatically depleted by it.

So I’ve learned that I need to consciously, purposefully feed the other twin. I need quiet alone time, where no one is asking anything of me. And as a middle school teacher, I’ve learned that this is something I need every day if I want to be my best self. Sometimes, if I decline an invitation or I’m flustered by a neighbor who drops by unexpectedly, Bonesaw will say, “But it’s so-and-so! You LOVE so-and-so!” And I have to remind him that it isn’t about the person. It’s about me. And in fact, when it’s someone I really adore, it’s sometimes even harder for me to step away and take care of myself. Because I want to see her! Because I want to have a beer with him! Because I want to make that person feel welcomed and valued and appreciated! Because the very last thing that I want to do is miss out on an opportunity to build a connection or strengthen a relationship; the last thing I want is for someone to feel rejected or hurt by me; the last thing I want is to appear rude or insensitive or selfish. So I find myself putting others ahead of myself … And then eventually I start to crack. And the introverted, rattled, low-energy twin emerges in a big (and not entirely likeable) way.

This is one of the reasons you’ll rarely see me at a merch table or a check-in booth. Because I need to stay ahead of these moments of collapse. Because when I get “flooded” (as my counselor puts it), I know that I need a break. And I need it SOON. When all of the humanity and the feelings and the hugs and the smiles become overpowering, I need to step away and catch my breath. I need to check in with myself in a soft, peaceful place. Turn off my brain, quiet the voices in my head. (And that just isn’t possible if I’m responsible for slinging headbands.)

The high level of activity at the HQ can sometimes trigger a desire to escape. Sometimes, when there’s nowhere to run, I can feel my heart start to race and my head begin to spin. And those are the times when I’m exhausted…When one twin wants to fight the other. When my dual selves suddenly find themselves at war. (Which leads me to more mind-numbing anxiety and worry, which just drains my resources that much more.)

Sometimes I think I’d like to retreat from society altogether. Go full-on hermit, living in a cabin in the woods with an unlimited supply of aged gouda, Harry Potter fanfiction, cider donuts, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer episodes. (I mean, doesn’t that sound effing AMAZING?!)

But …

Then I’d miss out on all the incredible beauty.

I wouldn’t get to hear the drop in “Black is Back,” when I almost always dance a little too hard and fall into someone. I wouldn’t get a big hug from a drunk fairy selling jewelry (I’m talking to you, Becca Honeyman). I wouldn’t get a surprise kiss on the shoulder from Mari Morningstar in the middle of the show. I wouldn’t have a badass wood bar top made by T-Money’s talented hands, or guitar string earrings from Emily. I wouldn’t know Ashe Biles (missed you at the Circus, girl!) or Sasa Frye (when’s that baby coming?!), or Andrew Hartnett or Rob Linder and his band of merry men. I wouldn’t get to marvel at artwork by Jessica and Sean, or see Twinky-P’s little boy grow up, or wax philosophical with Sean Tovson. I wouldn’t get flagged down by the Radkes (of the famous RADKE PARTIES) or do shots with Caren and Anika and Rusmir during the Smell and the Other Senses after-party show. I wouldn’t have had Kama bartending at my wedding, or Nicole to talk with about the X-Files. I wouldn’t have had the honor of officiating Marisa and Casey’s wedding.

I wouldn’t know all of the amazing people who I couldn’t even begin to mention here.

So sure, the activity is hard for me. The constant on-ness is draining, and something I work hard to manage. Having my safe haven at the HQ turned into Circus Central can be … a lot.

But at the intersection of my two selves, somewhere in the crosshairs of activity and quiet, chaos and order, messiness and structure, there is so much magic. Between the music and the art, the dirty martinis and the IPAs, the carnival games and the dancing, the late nights on the loco bus and the early(ish) morning yoga, there’s connection. And because I have these two selves, I choose to live in those crosshairs. For me, it’s never either/or. It’s always both/and. I can absolutely, completely, deeply love the Circus (and especially all of the Circus Freaks!) at the same time that I need to emotionally prepare for it and take care of myself throughout. I can dance and drink and eat and socialize AND stay tuned into what I need each day and each moment, so that I can continue to enjoy it and be present with the friends (not to mention my husband).

Because, ah yes. My hubsaw.

I know it’s strange, but one of the greatest gifts that y’all give me is validation. When you love someone so so much, it’s so much fucking FUN (sorry for the cursing, Momsaw!) to know that others see what you see. When my husband performs, I get to celebrate him with all of you. I get to marvel and think, “He’s incredible!” and see the same thought in all of your eyes. I get to watch you all show him (and Smell and Hoag and Weber … and Twinky-P and Sunny!) that love over and over again, all the time, in great big gestures. I know that y’all appreciate and rejoice in Bonesaw’s talent, his hard work, his integrity, and his kindness. And so do I! I love all of those things about him, too! And if that’s what it means to share him, I’m happy to make space at the table.

So yeah, the Circus can be hard. So can teaching middle schoolers all day, every day, for that matter. (Which, it turns out, is not all that different from attending the Circus…)

But I digress.

I choose you Circus Freaks and Fansaws. I choose Bonesaw (and Hoag and Weber and Smell!). I choose to be Wifesaw, and to walk this path rather than one that dead-ends at an isolated cabin in the woods. I’d rather eat my fancy cheese and watch my Buffy episodes with with all of you anyway. Sure, life is more complicated with a crowd … but love is so much stronger when it’s shared.

Photo Credit: Rusmir Music

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