Paper Dolls

By Kat, published with permission.  Original blog posted here in 2015.

I’ve grown familiar with these boundaries, to keep me safe, to keep me separate, to keep me — me. As I find or rather become myself — to create a space that’s mine, in the midst of an impending invasion.

It’s coming; I can feel it — in this tension rising in my chest, keeping me low. You are too close — and so I hide. I suppose that’s what it is — or run, fast and furiously far away — from you, to me. To avoid your strangling grasp.

To become myself — apart from you. I remain in this newly found space that is mine — it is a quiet I’ve never known.

To this unfamiliar calm — what is this — to the safety of routine, away from you. To this unfamiliar space — a newness — a new hope — a change and with it, a becoming of self — a me I’m finding. Not so much discovering, but finding a her who’s always been here —

Cowering, hiding between the cracks — in the little light — where hope lies too. We’re here together, she and I. In this reassuring tone I’ve never known well. In this recreated, collaged space — so is she.

Calm, reassuring in the midst of fears is me — a distant being, a place to run — far away and then to return. She lies to me of an okay I’ve barely known. I don’t believe her — this distant me. But here she is with
A calm I’ve never known.

This is real; you are real. Here in this place, fitting, belonging, writing distant songs of self acceptance. I don’t believe you yet. This land of 1s and 2s on the scale — a lower grade way of being, experiencing an overwhelming world.

But she is okay — sometimes unbelievably so, but not yet, she said — we sit here together in the waiting space — she and I — cutout selves before us. Scraps of paper beneath us. So many forms before this one and more to come, she reassured.

Not done yet, but this is a remarkable space you’re in. Practicing to be proud. Proud by practicing. Labeling yourself in stickers and bows. Reveling in the glitter of self. An art project, this becoming, being oneself, sustaining oneself — but not alone —

In a wearily cobbled together network of
Retweets and favorites
Texts and not-so-subtle requests for assistance.
Learning to ask, not hint.
To let others feel needed — this is new.
To take herself off the shelf
After gathering dust.

This newness. This form is exhilarating, as fingers dance and tap. As toes hop and dance. As you care just a little less. People like me can thrive. Let me show you, she said. And she stood on the side of her feet before excitedly jargoning along —
Explaning, over-explaining, talking until the room cannot contain her words.

But then it expanded — and with it, her form as she continued to become herself. An imagination of stability and wobblyness. As an acceptance of self followed between the hops and claps — the merely being
Completely and utterly
Until there were no more boundaries between the self she knew and portrayed. She was finally a character of herself — fully her — being, thriving in between known and unknown. Shaking off this shame of being real.

Living here in a place where she both fits and belongs. Expanding the entryways and halls, breaking windows and doors — tearing open the broken places; places we are learning to fit, finding and making our fit. Here. Together. In these familiar spaces — with people like us.

Tangled. Tangling. Being with one another what we wish we’d known. Shaking off shame as we no longer fear its existence. This is us. This is hope. We are proud people at last — name badges of who we’ve always known we are across our chests.

Caretaking for one another. Making space, growing into ourselves — in both known and unknown forms. Letting go of the she’s we never were. Of the forms we never were. Could never fit. Forgiving ourselves for that misplaced sense of guilt. Not mine. As the shames dropped to the ground. We picked up pride instead as we continue practicing being ourselves.


In the moments that remain for those we’ve found and lost. Coming to recognize the selves we’re becoming.

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