2011-06-24

An inventory of Folks That Care

Or rather, an Explanation of Why They Care Only in Theory

As per IfByYes's suggestion, I have been trying to put together a list of people that cares about me. I am not going to post that effort here. I couldn't finish it. The list was populated by people I care for who are no longer part of my life.

Instead, here is a summary: I have family and friends who would be upset if I, say, died, but with whom I have no actual ongoing relationships. I regularly communicate with about five people over Skype and IM, and like everyone else I have sporadic contact with a large of number of people, i. e., I comment and like people's posts on Facebook. I don't physically hang out with anyone. Work is the only place where I meet people face to face. My family, and many of my (old, established) friends live very far away. I have had a hard time forming lasting bonds in this area despite living here for ten years.

You See, I am not Very Nice

You know those people that are all-suffering but never complain and are fun and selfless and have time and energy to make everyone else feel happy? That's not me. Know those women that walk as if they own the world, laughing and tossing their hair? That's not me either. I am also not, nor have I ever been, one of those people that gets invited to parties. If I am invited I usually end up not going (the build-up leads to such an angst-fest that I accidentally sleep through the party.)

Under the right circumstances -- one on one with someone I like and feel safe with -- I can be cheerful, funny and a delight to be around. Usually, I am not and conversation is one long failure in humor:
  • I take what's said seriously, 
  • I don't laugh at jokes I don't think are funny, 
  • I tend to correct people when I think they're wrong, and demand proof when they say stuff I don't believe or find questionable,
  • I am easily offended by statements I experience as sexist, racist or just generally stupid and/or narrow-minded,
  • It's very hard for me to talk with people if there is no rapport, if they don't understand what I am saying, or my jokes, or that I am joking,
  • I am judgmental, dismissive, and haughty.
I am self-centered (because I live in my head and I find my thoughts and emotions interesting):
  • I tend to talk exclusively about myself,
  • I am prone to inappropriate disclosure,
  • I have to work very hard on not interrupting other people when they speak,
  • asking questions doesn't come naturally to me, so when I finally remember they come out in a clearly contrived flood.
I don't like groups: they don't lend themselves to the kind of emotionally and intellectually intense communication that interests me. I am left to cracking jokes for my attention-fix and I don't deliver well (the sentence structures are too complicated and I have word amnesia, so they're riddled with long, odd pauses.)

I get tense and awkward when people are affectionate toward me: I have learned how to deal with the hugging without becoming hostile and angrily declaring that I find all this overtly expressed friendship stupid, but when exposed to something unexpected, like a friend who tells me she loves me (in a friendly way), I react gracelessly. In this case I went completely silent and stiff, then mumbled something about being emotionally unable to deal with stuff like that and ran away. When people like me or seem drawn to me for no apparent reason I withdraw. I can't help but think there is something wrong with them and that if there isn't they'll wise up soon enough.

I am proprietary:
  • I get jealous when my friends have other friends,
  • I feel abandoned if I experience that my friends prefer their other friends,
  • I feel betrayed when I am not included in confidences,
  • I try to monopolize people's attention and I get upset when it fails.
No, I am not a child, I realize and accept that people have others in their lives, however; these feelings are there and they are hard to hide. I often choose not to interact with people when I know it'll end here.

I drink like a sponge to get past my hang-ups: usually, I am very happy in this state -- Mike, Ted, and Frank have in fact encouraged me to drink because they like this persona better -- I am at ease with myself and others; I laugh easily, make many jokes, become very impulsive, and I acquire a thong of admirers (whose subsequent texts and phone calls and emails I'll ignore). There is no "enough" though, with the alcohol, that and the fact that alcohol has a strong depressing effect on me means that the backlash from drinking far outweighs any momentary happiness.

I find it hard to maintain friendships: if they become less intense, I become less interested and I neglect them; if they don't become less intense they'll become conflict-prone as my sense of proprietaryness or my pride is insulted. Mike, Sergey and Ted have slipped away, Frank was dramatically shooed away. There have been others (indeed, there have been women*), but I have eventually alienated them all with my idiosynchronicities.

I am exclusive: as chronicled in this blog, I tend to focus all my energies on one person and neglect everyone else. That means that:
  • that person becomes more important to me than I am to him or her (and I resent that),
  • everything that person says and does (and doesn't) becomes unreasonably inflated,
  • I am left utterly alone if I loose that person.

Yes, I have Tried to Change my Ways

Frank once told me if you understand what causes a behavior you will have fixed it. I disagreed, but he was very attached to this popular and magical notion. I know what causes me to behave this way: 
  • As a child I tried an increasingly crazy set of behaviors to get attention from my parents, which my mother curbed as "just wanting attention." I was the subject of many, very loud and very vile arguments between my parents. My father was neglecting my brothers and favoring me, according to my mother, and my father eventually mended his ways by ignoring me. 
  • In school I was bullied relentlessly because I am albino and I wore very heavy, dark, thick glasses and was afraid of flying things (like balls, making sports one long humiliation), and reacted to teasing by getting visibly upset and crying. 
  • Perhaps I am also innately more sensitive and less able to deal with being hurt -- like Lineham suggests about people suffering from Borderline -- because, as they do love to say on SVU, not all people who were bullied turn into murderers. 
Understanding these things hasn't helped me (by Frank's reasoning this means that I, in fact, do not understand - magic is awesome that way.) Instead I remain:
  • short tempered, 
  • stubborn, 
  • judgmental, 
  • insecure, 
  • suspicious,
  • pathologically unable to get past misunderstandings,
  • poor a dealing with actual and perceived criticism,
  • always on the lookout for signs of disrespect.
I struggle so hard with the people in my life because people who like me (and I like in return), who accept that I am difficult, and still find that I am worth it, are so exceedingly rare. I try to be grateful; I bought, and even read, a self-help book about forgiveness. But I am not suited for the count-your-blessings approach to life. Letting go, or leaving things alone, makes me feel like I am doing violence to myself, especially if it's a one-sided thing (which it usually is because I am the only one upset). I flatter, placate, and apologize, to insinuate myself and then I feel humiliated. I get increasingly resentful and then I rage.

I have tried to expose myself to more and new people: I have signed up for classes, gone to meet-ups, done bike races, gone to AA. I met a number of people who I really liked while in the hospital even, but these connections don't last.

Yes, There are People who Care About me

In conclusion: yes, there are people who care about me, but my active social circle is very small. I understand that I cause this but I don't have the motivation and tools to fix it. It feels like I have been down this road so many times, and it just led nowhere. Chances are it'll remain a dead end.

A note on intention: Sergey likes to call me passive aggressive, especially when I start a sentence with "What I think about this obviously doesn't matter."** I realize that this means that he has incorporated the literal definition of passive aggressiveness, but that he unable to ascertain the presentation: ie, the tone of my voice, and also, more damningly, he disregards the content of the rest of the sentence. Likewise, I think it's easy to read this post as a lament of my life, a critique of people and a mea culpa, but the intent is simply to describe. I know that it's easier to accept a description when it's either positive or neutral, but try, this is how it is.

* Yes, I have made women friends too, but mentioning them explicitly would require history and explanations of what went wrong.

** Actually, the degree to which he likes to pursue my supposed passive aggressiveness is one of the reasons I am avoiding him. It doesn't matter if I understand, or think I understand, his autistic outlook when he repeatedly accuses me of this and then refuses to accept my explanations. I just get upset.

(So, you see, Frank may have been a mixed bag, but he liked me, there was common ground with him sometimes. It is very, very hard to accept that I have lost him. There is no one to take his place.)

4 comments:

  1. Re: the small social circle - the thing you need to ask yourself is - does this really bother you?

    Not everyone needs a massive social network. If you prefer to be a one-person-at-a-time individual, THAT'S OK.

    If you don't like socializing en masse, don't get down on yourself for not doing it.

    If I haven't already recommended "Why Love Matters", I am doing it again here.

    You don't seem to me like a bad person, or a mean person, or a selfish person. You seem like a hurt person. You have not had the sort of unconditional love in your life that everyone needs to feel whole, and you are damaged by that. So you go through life constantly trying to get your needs met. That's all.

    ReplyDelete
  2. KurzweilAI26/6/11 03:58

    Does religiously reading your blog count as "caring"? This and your last introspective post are impressively--almost clinically--accurate and breathtakingly well-written. Execution is always the hard part but awareness of the problem is a great beginning. I agree with ifbyes. Not everyone needs to rock a 5 gazillion strong friends list. 5 is a nice round, manageable number. The important thing is to be at peace with oneself?

    ReplyDelete
  3. @ifbyyes & @KurzweilAI, thank you.

    No, arguably there is nothing wrong with a small social circle. Indeed, I have always been one of those people who smugly claims to value quality over quantity. However, it would be nice if that was a choice rather than just how the chips fell. In fact, I have always wanted to be one of those popular pricks.

    Also, none of my current IM regulars fall in the category of close. Which leaves me with my therapist as my closest friend. Not ideal.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes, reading counts as caring. It's better, in a way, it's one of those truly priceless gifts.

    ReplyDelete