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Do not compose yourself

Composing anything about myself is harder every year, now that I care less about being composed.

Not-caring, losing the dogged self-consciousness lingering endlessly from the teenage years, is perilously close to freedom. But, as in any good story, the road to freedom is paved with many obstacles and exciting quests, and one of those quests is Do Not Compose Yourself.

This means not holding in the errant word or the spontaneous deed or the moment on leaving when you fall upon the step; or even the moment coming in when you ignore the humans because you like the dog better.

Do not be someone else, because to compose yourself means to create something new, to arrange the muted and unmuted parts into a creature made, considered, worked out by a hand quivering above the page.

Be the same old music. Fall over the step without fear - you are good at falling and mostly catch yourself on the way down. Say hello to the dog first, he is the most pleased to see you and it's a mutual love.

Do forget and eat the whole plate of biscuits, dunk them too long and spontaneously slurp a drink which now has biscuit in the bottom of it.

Arrange other people's cushions, they should thank you for it. Of course the picture should be straight, and if it will not hang straight, don't hesitate to explain why this happens. (Do not offer to re-hang it because you are probably just getting carried along with yourself, and remember the biscuit).

Most of all, enjoy being un-composed: laugh, make jokes, appreciate the jokes of others even if you have to explain to them why it doesn't make sense. Have a good time, see the other side, don't hold it in and don't be worried.

I'm not quite there yet. I need to lose that last bit of composing, the self-conscious urge to be alone and quiet and unobserved, even when I'm out in the world.

Unfortunately, not composing myself includes letting go of some of the ways I use to fit in, to seem like everyone else. How can I let them go after all this effort and methodical study? Won't I just fall apart in front of everybody? What would they see?

Something else that comes with time is the understanding that most of you does show through, no matter how much effort or study you do. You can act your socks off (if you can bear wearing them) and people still know!

This is where we come to a side quest: people might know you are different but not want to see it for themselves. It means when you throw off your composure and stretch in your new-found freedom, there will be some who want you to put it back on again.

It's not that they don't see the real you, shining like silver on the bottom of the stream. They see it, and are fine with it -

as long as you don't reach in to pluck it out, risking your safety in the shallow water, risking wet hands and arms at least. And who knows what is on that silver? It probably isn't even silver, it'll be some nasty piece of something that should be left just where it is.

They will want you to put it back where you found it - throw it back in then! Get rid of it and go dry your wet arms and hands and your face, look at your face!

...and there you are, with sunlight glinting off the silver, harsh enough that your eyes screw up, acclimatising yourself to the reflection of light on this piece of you, your face speckled with tiny drops like fresh-water tears on your cheeks.

Once you start not composing yourself, it's hard to stop. And there is no putting it back.


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