Knowing That You Know

I’ve been on this weird journey of learning how to interact with others on a meaningful level.

At first, I thought it was a problem of not knowing how to trust people.Which wasn’t wrong,since the reason I’ve never really had close relationships with people outside my family is because from a young age I didn’t trust humans to be genuine enough to be bothered with. The vast majority of people are busy putting on masks, worn with the simple goal of not feeling silly for being naked in a world full of masqueraders.

Being open and honest about your thoughts and feelings in this world is like being caught with your pants down. 

“GASP. You actually say what you think and express genuine committed emotion for others? What do you think this is?! A burlesque show?”

In reality everyone is jealous of anyone who dares exist in such a way. They wish they would be so bold. Absolutely long for a moment in which they could shed the mask and feel the sunshine of an honest existence on their pallid faces. But they’re too busy protecting themselves from pain, and as long as they do, they will never feel such warmth. Just like in the business world, opportunities are created and not found in the realm of love and relationship. As long as you’re unwilling to risk harm to yourself, chances are, you will only receive as much shadowed, flimsy and lukewarm affection as you give.

There are instances in which one is blessed to receive the open devotion of another without even trying. For example with a parent, or as is depicted over and over again in romance or the very rare friendship-focused films. And so a lot of people choose to wait around for such miracles in which they won’t have to take off their mask to get what they want. Or at least get to wait until it’s safe to take the risk.

Myself included. 

I was really good at the intellectual side of honest living.

After becoming very quickly emotionally jaded, I decided I couldn’t stand myself if I were to transform into a completely tepid person, the very thing I held most contempt and anger for in the world, so I devised a plan in which I would be truthful but safe. I donned a Phantom of the Opera half-disguise, if you will. I’d unleash my logical and intellectual honesty on the world, while still shielding my fragile emotions. 

Those I would hide away. After all, only a fool would remove their beating heart from the safety of the rib cage in a world swarming with vultures. Sure, there are a few idiots wandering around willing to trade pieces. It was not an impossibility to find someone as equally as daring, but why risk it? I’d be more likely to have the life clawed from my bloody hand.

I lived like that for a long time. Miserable, but safe. 

But because I still had half my face revealed, I’d damned myself to a lonely, bitter life. I’d never find comfort in the massive groupthink that poses as genuinely thoughtful expression, or the sweet nothings of a mutually agreed upon lukewarm love arrangement.

It was only because I was blessed enough to have run into one of those gems walking around disguised as idiots, that I pulled myself out of the muck of such a dour life. It took an egregious amount of time, but I learned that it was worth trusting people, even if it doomed you to a lot of pain over your lifetime. 

So it wasn’t untrue. Part of the problem was my trust in others.

But even after getting over that hump, there was still a lot wrong. It wasn’t enough. Even though I had made a decision to start trusting people again, even when no tangible reason for trust is presented, I was still having a lot of trouble putting that into practice and connecting. 

Why was it I still found myself hesitating even though I had made a serious decision to open my heart again?

It took a long time to realize, but it was because I still didn’t trust myself. If just a moment ago in the timeline of my life I had been so steeped in bad decisions to close off my heart, what made me think I was pure enough or had the strength enough to become a person worthy of trust myself? Just like that? Was my decision really enough? Was all it took just a stable resolve?

I’m great at stability. Once I commit to something you can count on it, so I kept telling myself over and over that it was enough. But deep down, I still felt disgusting. Icky. Absolutely unworthy of returning to the loving and open state of being we’re all born in.

I felt unregenerate.

So although my resolve was perhaps admirable, and even solid enough to swear by, I was still crippled by the guilt of my past life. And this manifested itself as hesitation. Even though I was completely willing to share any and all, I felt like I shouldn’t. Not in fear of getting hurt, but in fear of being sniffed out as unsure of myself emotionally. 

I didn’t trust myself to know how to love, even if I knew for sure who I loved. I hadn’t walked the road of emotionality in a long time. Whether it was people I cared for deeply or people I’d just met that I knew were in need of some love, it was extremely difficult for me to wrap my head around what love looked like.

No, that’s not true.

It wasn’t that I didn’t know what it looked like. I knew very well. I just didn’t know if mine was enough, if it would measure up. I still felt tainted. 

These days I’ve reached a point where I know. I know that I know it’s enough. Or at the very least I’ll die trying, and that’ll just have to be enough because there won’t be anything else left to give and that’s all I can do. I’ve finally gotten enough out of my head to take better action, to start banishing the hesitation.

I’m still not that great at it though.

I’m still figuring out how to love people. Especially those who start out as strangers who I have to let in while still maintaining boundaries. I think that’s what I’m worst at going about at this point. Half of the reason is just because I’m a crappy conversationalist. I’m still not that out of my head, so I miss opportunities, with strangers and loved ones alike. Although I’m perceptive in some ways, I’m still pretty dense in a lot of ways.

But I’m working on it.

And out of this will come more stories of my cringe-worthy social existence,

so lucky you.

~LDA

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My Quiet Life of Desperation

Sometimes I question whether I’m missing some piece of mental machinery every human is supposed to have.  Some essential brain cog of empathy or social deftness that would enable me to understand other people’s actions, or more importantly, my own.

 

It’s like this.  I’m confronted with a situation any ordinary person would see as easy to deal with and my mind runs a million miles a minute trying to put the pieces of this great social puzzle together in order to come up with the appropriate response.  My heart’s tearing me one way, telling me to run, run as fast I can, and my mind’s gently coaxing me in the opposite direction saying I should stay and fight the panic.

 

“We can do this,” my brain whispers.  “It’s just a couple variables plugged into some great social algorithm we have yet to discover.  Just crack the code, crack the code…”

 

I want to choose to fight, but more often than not it’s flight that I choose after a couple of feeble jabs.

 

It’s not that I’m some big social pariah or even that one could tell I’m having a hard time dealing with the occasional social situation, but it’s clear as day to me of course.  I’ll feel like I’m in an episode of Spongebob Squarepants where the driver’s ed. teacher, Mrs. Puff, tries to teach Spongebob to drive through a simple obstacle course.  There’s always someone in my brain screaming “Floor it! FLOOR it!”  

 

It’s frustrating.

 

Luckily my socio-emotional car wrecks don’t end in any physical casualties that heal by the very next t.v. episode.  But I still have to deal with emotional wreckage.

 

No.

I’m being dramatic. 

 

Wreckage is too strong a word for it.  It’s not as if I slap people and insult their mothers every time I feel socially gangly and awkward. 

 

I might just give a one word response to an essay-like question or offer a cold one-handed wave rather than a warm two-armed hug.  Just little things.  But these little things can make a big difference when it comes to relationships, and I feel at a loss when I have to deal with the after-effects with no sane explanation for my actions.

 

I mean, what do I say?

 

“Sorry, I was having a mini-emotional breakdown, but I’m better now.  We still good?”

 

Maybe I’m still just being dramatic and even the average ‘Normal Guy’ has these breaks in reason, but I wouldn’t know.  I’ve never considered myself “normal.” 

 

~LDA

An Entity with Hands

A while ago I meandered into one of my favorite Italian restaurants to pick up an eggplant Parmesan sub I’d ordered over the phone.

I’d hustled in, looking down, already searching for my wallet in the bottomless pit that is my backpack, when an unexpectedly friendly greeting reached my ears.

“Welcome!”

Not a “Welcome, how may I take your order?” or a “Hi, would you like to try our new Stromboli?” But a genuine hello that resonated with agreeableness. 

I actually had to look up from my rummaging to greet the person at the counter correctly.

“Uh, thanks.”  I was quite taken aback.

Usually it was routine to mutter a barely intelligible “Hey, here for pick up,” but this time it seemed that I would actually have to muster up some semblance of congeniality.

(Spoiler: I suck at unexpected human interaction.)

“Hello, how are you doing today?” the twenty something year-old behind the counter asked me smiling.  Again, with the authenticity dripping from his voice.  His face made it seem like he actually expected a genuine reply.  Not a dismissive “Good, I’m here to pick up my sub,” but an actual description of my state of well being. 

Whoa.  This guy’s almost making me believe he really cares even though I don’t know him from Adam, I thought to myself.  Is this a trick?  Did someone tell him how inept I am at social interaction so he could see for himself or something? 

I squinted my eyes,

“Uh, goo~d,” I said, drawing the word out as I looked around for hidden cameras.

“Great to hear!  What can I do for you today?” he replied still smiling.

The rest of the exchange was fairly normal after that but I was struck by how sad it was that I was so shocked by someone taking the time to look me in the eye when they spoke.  So much of the service industry is so mechanic and geared toward efficiency that genuine social interaction surprised me more than it should have.  It seriously confused me that had I chosen to actually give him a couple details about my day, I’m almost positive he would have engaged me in real conversation.

How sad is that? 

I’m so used to the go-go-go nature of life that the fact that a cashier didn’t only view me as an entity with hands who happened to hold a credit card, was nearly Earth shattering.  In that moment, I almost preferred he view me as a number, just customer number 486, rather than an actual person.  It made me uncomfortable that I was expected to rouse myself out of my habitual stupor to interact with the world in front of me.

This hits me as a tragedy.

We so often wander around zombie-like in our predetermined routine that we’re startled and almost troubled when a drop of humanity ripples the still pool of everyday life.

After that encounter with the peppy cashier and realizing how ashamed I was at having turned into a walking dead, I try to stir myself out of my own daze by trying to startle others with unexpected interaction.

You know, just little things.

Beating the door greeter to a friendly hello.  Asking a waiter how their day is going.  These small plot twists go a long way.

I find these simple things help make at least a little piece of the world a little more awake. 

Have you ever had an encounter that made you suddenly realize something was wrong with how you were viewing the world?  Feel free to tell me in the comments.  🙂

~LDA