Stubborn Not Strong

Through the mirror Nicola looked into Angie’s eyes. “You know, you’re very strong,” Nicola said.

“Thank you.”

“That’s no compliment. It’s your weakness. If you weren’t so strong you wouldn’t have to take it and so you wouldn’t.”

That’s not from the book I am reading now, but I believe from the one I read before it. There were many little lines and moments in it which captured my attention, and this was one.

I wouldn’t consider myself strong by any stretch – not by any measure, either. Not physically, emotionally, mentally…any of the “ally’s”, really. (See what I did there?)

But I have still had moments in life wherein I’ve wished I was just a little more fragile – just enough so that I could break and whatever broke me could become someone else’s problem to deal with. Or no one’s. Just so long as it would no longer have to be mine.

I think in my case it’s more a combination of stubborness mixed with an almost overwhelming fear of embarrassing myself. I don’t like making a scene, or drawing attention to myself. Most of my reactions to things and situations happen on the inside, and I keep them as hidden from the public eye as possible. I may jump a bit when something startles me, but I don’t scream and carry on. I’ve actually been trying to force myself to admit when something scared me, rather than focus on hiding it. Keeping myself closed off is the product of decades of practice, and so now it is a very difficult habit to break.

It’s hard to learn to express things when you’ve spent so long doing the opposite.

On the other hand, though, appearing to not have a reaction sometimes still comes in handy. Bit of a catch-22, now, I guess.

I’m super easy to take advantage of, too, because I never cause a stink or stand up for myself. I don’t return things to where I purchased them. I don’t send food back to the kitchen. I don’t rasie my voice when someone’s being an asshat on the subway.

I just take it.

Not because I am particularly strong, but because of some backwards fear of how I feel if I do things any other way. So in that much, at least, the strong and I have something in common.

We all feel like we have to take it.

Cost

I saw a thing in an advice column yesterday. Well, I saw the title of the letter, rather than the letter itself. There’s only so much I can read over other people’s shoulders, after all. Anyway, it said something like, “What do I say when people ask how much my engagement ring cost?”

And I was, like, “Is that a thing?! Asking people how much their engagement ring cost?”

Like how does that conversation even go?

OMG congratuLAtions!!! Such a beautiful ring? How much did s/he spend on it?! I think mine was around blah-be-dee-bloo, if I recall!”

Is it customary to supply a gift receipt for the ring when you propose? Only not even a gift receipt, but one with the price on it so that the object of your forever love knows exactly how much you love her, right down to the penny? Isn’t such a ring supposed to be considered a gift anymore? I never would have thought to ask someone how much their ring cost, let alone assume they would even know. I had no idea that was a thing.

Maybe I should start asking, if it’s rude not to. Like – how much did yours cost? I don’t have any so I can’t compare. Well…there was one…but I’m pretty sure he stole it, so…let’s call that “on sale”.

As for how to answer it, I’m assuming straight up honesty isn’t as fun as guessing games. Like, estimate how much the ring the person asking you is wearing cost, and then go higher with your response, so you and your fiance/e look like better people or more in love or whatever.

People are weird.  Life is a gift – can I get a receipt with that?

I think I’ve gotten so used to holding back that now I am not sure I’ll be able to open up when I’m supposed to again. I might have to re-learn how to do it, so I don’t waste my money and my therapist’s time too much. It’s actually become habitual now, just keeping things to myself. I’m constantly re-writing my public image, so to speak, carefully choosing what to reveal and how much or little of it I can get away with. I don’t even really put much thought into it anymore. I’ve caught myself actually sifting through thoughts to consider saying if there is a lull in conversation and I can’t just listen and respond. But that technique won’t fly in therapy, so I have to figure out how to break myself of the habit – preferably before I go in – so that I can get the most out of the session. I think that’ll actually make it easier to sift through whatever’s left, once the overwhelming stuff has been released and isn’t building up inside me anymore.

It occurred to me this morning that you can’t lose or miss what you never had, yet it can still hurt, and often quite a lot. You can lie awake at night wondering why it hurts at all, let alone so much. And why it feels so sad to not have had something to lose; why you can mourn something that never was.

I think it’s because what was actually lost was far more important, yet also far more elusive. It’s the realization that it was never there to begin with – that it wasn’t real – that does it, you see.

That realization is the death of the one thing which was there before, and has now been lost.

It’s the loss of plans and dreams and maybes and of having something extra to look forward to each day and even though there’s still plenty of all of that, part of it is gone and that’s the part you now grieve.

It’s the loss of hope.

Resenting Reality

I have these notions in my head of what home is to me, and friendship, and good relationships. Among other things. Just ideas as to what I look for in my journey through life.

I keep getting glimpses of them – enough to make me think my sense of things could be possible for me, rather than something I just got from television while growing up – but my inability to manifest any of them in reality is frustrating, and causes me to doubt those possibilities, after all.

I’m torn now between wondering if I should settle for something more viable in my real life, rather than struggling for the notion, and ultimately being disappointed when it’s not how I think it should be. How I want it to be.

Do I strive to create the home I desire? Or the friendship I long for? Or the relationship I envision? Or do I accept each for whatever it already is, and if I fit into it at all, be grateful for that much. But if not, move on until I fit somewhere else better?

I’m so angry at myself for so many things, but I’m not sure how many of them I can change – how much -I- can change, since none of us has control over anything but ourselves at most, anyway. There’s nothing wrong with striving to be better, to be constantly learning and growing and evolving. There’s nothing wrong with not fitting anywhere. It can be lonely sometimes, of course, but not as much as being surrounded by vague or non-connections entirely. Lonely in a crowd. My inability to open up, or my disinterest in doing so minus with a few select people?

I don’t know.

I need to learn to speak better, especially in front of a camera.

Can a private vlog be far behind?

Writing Prompts – Day 1 of 12

Day 1:  Breaking Up With Writer’s Block

It’s time for you and Writer’s Block to part ways. Write a letter breaking up with Writer’s

Block, starting out with, “Dear Writer’s Block, it’s not you, it’s me …”

 

Dear Writer’s Block,

It’s not you, it’s me. I feel like I’ve never really been with you, anyway. Not really. Bumps in the road, maybe, here and there, but never really blocked. Not in terms of writing, at least. In most other facets of my life, most definitely.

So maybe I should break up with you there, too.  Break up with blockage in general.

The thing is, I’ve never really been one to break up with anyone. And while I communicate much better when I can take time to write things down, it’s not something I imagine I’d ever do via a letter. In person seems the better way – the more mature way – to treat someone you supposedly once loved. Or at least liked enough to want to be with in some form of relationship or other.

I’ve always been the one reacting to being broken up with, so I don’t really have any experience on this whole side of things.

I guess there’s a first time for everything, though, right? So maybe I should say to you what I would want said to me, if the shoe were on the other foot, and if you were breaking up with me, instead. Not that I ever want to be broken up with, but still. There’s no need to be cruel about it. Still, I am sorry that you’re getting my experimental first try at being the breaker-upper. I know how much it sucks, and yet I’m doing it, anyway.

So let’s see…I guess, first of all, Writer’s Block, we’re really not very good for each other. I can’t give you what you need, and you can’t give me what I need. That’s probably why I’ve never really been with you to begin with – I don’t think either of us ever really committed to being together, you know? It’s definitely worth trying for, and fighting for, but at some point, we both just have to realize that it’s just not working. And trying to force something that doesn’t work always ends up making things worse.

Maybe there is no second of all, actually. Maybe that’s enough. It’s not working, and nothing either of us could do or change would be able to make it work between us. I feel like it’s best for both of us if we move on, but I also don’t want to make decisions for you. I do, however, have to do what’s best for me.

And this is it.

Take care, Writer’s Block. Almost knowing you even a little bit changed me for the better, so thank you for that. Going our separate ways now will make things better still – for me, and I hope someday you realize, for you, too.

Sue

Alone Not Lonely

I read a post this morning online about women alone, as compared to men, in our society. It was interesting, and while some of it I’m not sure I agree with, the majority of it I found quite relatable.

I should probably include a link to the post, in case you want to see what I’m talking about. You can read it here, if you like.

So, there’s some discussion about how men are essentially allowed to be alone – we call them bachelors and they have their bachelor pads and man-caves and the like. There isn’t really a word for women who are alone – at least none that have positive connotations. Spinster, witch, crazy cat lady – it’s treated as an unnatural state for women to be in. Normal women are in relationships and surrounded by family and friends most of the time. It’s what we all aspire to, whether that’s because we were raised to, or society impresses that upon us, or whatever. Women can only lead happy, complete and fulfilled lives if there are other people around, whereas men can either let themselves get “tied down”, or hang out by themselves and enjoy their bachelorhood. They can choose, and both options are seen as perfectly acceptable. Women…not nearly so much.

Which I can kind of see, I guess. I hadn’t really thought about it – perhaps because I never really felt like I fell very squarely into either category, as far as general society is concerned. I think, to me, it’s more been the impression that preferring to spend time alone is often viewed as selfish, or antisocial, or the result of some sort of psychosis. Or some/all of the above. It feels, to me, as though it’s perceived with disdain in some regards. As a child, getting sent to one’s room is meant as a punishment, but I liked being in my room. I’d read, nap, write, play alone with Star Wars action figures, colour, listen to music – tons of things. I had a good imagination, and was very good at entertaining myself. Punishment for me would be to be forced to go outside and play. But technically I enjoyed that, too, so I guess it’d be more like, “go outside and find some friends to play with!”

Noooooo…..

The horror.

I think I’ve mentionned before that I would be an excellent shut-in type personality, if I could work from home. I would probably only leave to walk the dog. And now that I live with a dog again, I don’t really want to spend much time NOT living with a dog, so hopefully I will always be surrounded by animals and unconditional love. And we would go for walks together, because that requires very little effort on my part to be enjoyable for him. I pretty much just have to show up, and Brody is happy. He doesn’t even care what mood I am in – he’s just glad I’m there and that we’re outside together. I never have to, as the article thingy says, “arrange my face in a way that someone else would understand”. That goes for time spent in the company of animals, and time spent in the company of no one. Both are rather liberating, and I enjoy lots of either when I come across it.

But is that selfish? It’s antisocial, I guess, though I would also argue that it’s an excellent way to recharge my batteries so that I have the capacity to be more social as occasion warrants. Being “on” all the time takes a toll, after all. It certainly feels selfish, the idea of telling someone I’d rather be alone than hang out with them. So I try not to do that very often, because I don’t like feeling as though I’m not taking another’s needs into account in favour of catering to my own. Which I’m told would be a totally healthy thing to do, but it doesn’t feel good, so I don’t do it if I can help it!

The flip side, of course, is that I am also painfully aware of my inability to be a good friend or partner to anyone. So much time spent alone means that spending time with anyone else, or a group of anyone elses, is a huge thing for me. It’s stressful, and exhausting and taxing and frightening and overwhelming – along with all the good things it can also be, like fun, hilarious, emotionally-uplifting, creative…time with people you care about is priceless, really. It can take a load off, carry you forward, pick you up, and also recharge your batteries, just in a different way.

For me, so much time alone means that I get all that in theory, but have had very little practice, and am constantly noticing when I screw up, but haven’t quite figured out how to fix it when I do. Sometimes it’s a little like navigating a mine field, in a way. Like, do people actually want to hear what another person thinks? Or would they rather be listened to without judgement? It may seem like that depends on the person, but it also depends on the mood the person is in at that moment. And I’m terrible at picking up cues. Terrible.

I used to joke that I never knew if someone was flirting with me, which is true, but it’s also true for, like, everything. Realizing too late when I’ve pissed someone off, or hurt someone, or just misunderstood something and made another person feel un-heard or under-valued or un-loved. It’s like what’s happening in my mind is either way slow or way off whatever’s happening for the other person, and by the time I figure out what was going on for them, the damage is already done.

I feel like I’m behind and playing catch-up almost all the time. Like everyone else made the jump and I’m still back near the start, only just now realizing that everyone but me has already moved on.

That makes me not easy to be with. I don’t know if I am easy to talk to as a friend – I assume that also depends on the person and the mood and the situation. But I know it’s not as fulfilling as it could be, were I better at it. I’m definitely not an easy person to be in a romantic relationship with. Sometimes I feel like I should apologize to everyone who’s ever dated me, though logically I know that’s ridiculous and that no one is perfect. I do wonder if knowing how much I struggled, and that I did so because I wanted to be with them, would make any difference, though. Sometimes.

I guess the fact that I find it hard to communicate with others, while often preferring my own company to that of other people, makes me at least lazy – if not completely selfish – when I opt to be alone. It’s just easier. But also enjoyable, and rejuvenating in its own way. So there’s that.

And when I do choose to inhabit space and time with other people, it’s because I really want to. Not because I am desperate for companionship, or that I need to be in a relationship in order to feel fulfilled, or that I’m afraid to be alone, or any of the other assumptions that can be made. It’s because I want to be with that person or those people at that time. I love my alone time, I love not having roommates, I love not having to arrange my face. Being around other people means I have to give those things up, and even though I do my best, I know it’s not always what is needed or even wanted by said others.

When I choose to sacrifice those things I love and hang out with other people instead, there are various reasons for doing so. Some aren’t even that flattering or well-intentioned to mention.

Sometimes, though, I forego those things I love simply because I love you more.

Communication and Juggling

I started making a few notes for the two writing projects I am most excited about last night before bed. It was late, of course, because I had to see how the Raptors game turned out! And I was super tired as it was, but wanted to get a couple of things down so I wouldn’t forget them once real life started back up again this morning.

Even as I made my notes, though, I could already feel myself talking myself out of trying to work on either one. The spec script for the old TV series I love was the first to back away, followed closely by the screenplay for my first novel. I could sense how much work either one would take just to do at all, let alone do well, and as tired as I was/am, I’m not sure I have the energy I’d need to bother. My mind was still asking questions and coming up with answers, but my excitement was already waning. Part of me wondered if it was really just that I was so tired, but another part of me knew the problem had more to it than that.

I’m just not good at communicating.

I have always been more of a writer than a speaker. I’m aware that, when I talk, I either can’t get my point across at all, or I take forever to get around to it. I never liked speaking as a kid, and I guess I still don’t, but now it’s more because I am just so painfully certain I am not being understood. Or I’m boring. Or I have nothing useful to say so I babble. Or I struggle to sort out what I should say versus what should be held back. I always think about it before I say it out loud, and when I then screw that up, I wonder how I managed to suck so much that I couldn’t have anticipated such suckage.

Writing has always been easier in a way, because even though I can’t write as fast as my brain processes things, I can at least go back and correct something, or read over it again to ensure it makes some kind of sense, prior to sharing it. I mean, there are reasons why this is a blog and not a vlog, you know? Still, I am also painfully aware that even all of that preparation for thought-sharing doesn’t make much difference when I can’t string together the words I need to in order for another individual to absorb and understand whatever it is I’ve written. And when I share it and get any kind of feedback, it usually lets me know that I was not successful in expressing myself with the written word, either.

I mean, there are some things – I think I do slightly better with one-on-one conversations, because when the person is right in front of me, I can gauge whether or not we are understanding one another by how the conversation goes. I can take my time, and alter my wording to say the same thing a different way. My therapist usually repeats back to me what she’s heard, but in her own words, so that we can both check to make sure we are on the same page before we move on. I don’t really expect conversations with others to go that way, of course – therapy is pretty one-sided, after all – but you can still tell if the basics are being received on both sides of the conversation.

Adding even one more person to the scenario, though, increases the chances that I won’t feel understood. It’s hard enough checking in with one person to see if we are still connecting, let alone two or more. Everyone’s focus is split that much more when more voices and minds are included, too.

Which makes trying to get something across via a blog kind of difficult, too, really, because I can’t even look a reader in the face to see if what I’m saying is being received the way I want it to be. I mean, I know it’s never exactly as I intend, because we all come from different places with different experiences under our belts. But it’s very one-sided, as well, in that you put something out there, and either get no feedback, or feedback that let’s you know your efforts didn’t work. Sometimes you spark a longer conversation, which helps, but essentially, it’s just throwing things at a wall to see what sticks, and whether it does or doesn’t, you only find out after the fact. You’ve already posted it, so if it’s misunderstood or misinterpreted, it’s already done, and can’t really be redone with any sort of effectiveness. You can go back and say, “I meant blah dee bloo” but it’s ridiculous to think you can have one-on-one written comments with everyone who read the initial post. You have to accept that putting something out into the world in writing does not in any way guarantee that everyone – or anyone – will understand what you were trying to say. It’s just not possible.

Same with writing in general. Like, I think a couple of people have read my short film script, but I haven’t requested any feedback, and for the most part, the whole thing exists in my head. I guarantee that no one who has read it can see it the way I do, because there’s much more in my head than was written down, and I don’t have the words to make that all apparent. I felt a visual medium would be a better way for me to communicate, and while it’s early yet, it may well be better, but that doesn’t make it great. It doesn’t mean I’m even capable of being an effective communicator; not to my own satisfaction, at least.

Which is also part of the problem, I’m sure. If I don’t really feel like I am being heard or understood, I get frustrated, and end up closing myself off all the more. I live inside my head, and when I occasionally try to communicate and fail, back in I go. Maybe practice makes perfect, so this blog might help, and writing might help, and talking might help. It might not, but it can’t hurt to try.

Okay, it can hurt to try, and often does hurt to try, but there’s no real point in not trying. Because as frustrating as it is when other people don’t quite get what I’m trying to say, I recognize that the issue is really just with me. The frustration is with myself, really, and I definitely can’t expect to be more effective at communicating by not communicating, so I write to be less frustrated with myself in general.

Still, I already have a lot on my plate, and I am not sure adding two more is a great idea.

Maybe one more, though. I may yet focus on the screenplay adaptation of my novel and see if I can get around to giving those characters a better story than the one they currently have. Not that anyone else needs to think it’s better, but I definitely want to. It’s still on my mind all these years later, so at some point I do need to address it.

The spec script would maybe be fun to write and post online as I do so – it could be kind of a cool exercise. No idea when I’d have the time, but you never know. I’ve never really gotten a lot of feedback while writing. It’s usually after the fact. It might be interesting to see what would happen if people were weighing in throughout the whole first draft process. It might make it feel less like it exists solely in my own head, at least. I don’t know. We’ll see.

When you’re already juggling a billion things, does one more really make much of a difference?

Introversion

I am an introvert, just like pretty much everyone else is, to some degree.  The difference with me is that I learned to hide it pretty well.  I mean, some people always knew I was shy – they just never know how much.  Some would say I’m not really shy or introverted at all.  They would jut be wrong.  Some even now already want to argue the veracity of my claim.  It’s an argument that you just can’t win.

I’ve gotten too good at hiding.

I learned how to not drawn attention to myself – negative nor positive – and then I learned how to control the amount of attention I do receive.  Because as soon as someone notices you trying to dissolve into the woodwork, they pounce.  I’ve seen it happen over and over to other unfortunate souls.  No one wants to be called out on their hiding spot, let alone the fact that they are hiding at all.

So I learned to hide in plain sight.  I learned to guard the things that matter most to me – the things that make me who I am – while revealing just enough to keep pouncer-types off my scent.  I taught myself to not react, or to control the reaction.  I don’t volunteer any more information than necessary.  And all that’s necessary is whatever it takes to not get called out.

Which is actually not much at all, especially these days.  In today’s society, it’s easier than ever to exist almost entirely inside of one’s head.  The Internet in particular is an introvert’s greatest dream; a playground wherein you can be anyone you want to be, and when you tire of one persona, it’s super simple to switch to the next.  Everything exists at the surface level, and it’s not difficult at all to appear as though you are revealing something that resides below the surface, while not really revealing anything at all.

Guys, I really like bears.  And beers.

See?  I’ve put it in writing, so it must be true.  And whether it is or isn’t doesn’t matter, because the statements themselves are superficial.  There’s no depth, so they can be taken at face value or left behind.  True success is in the possibility that it might make you respond with your opinion of bears and beers.  Then I can avoid talking about myself completely.

Usually I don’t even voice an opinion unless I know what those around me already think about the subject.  Though, to be fair, I also don’t often form opinions until having more information.  Not hard and set ones, at least.  My opinions are often fluid.  I’ve become less absolutes and more gray area as I get older.

The things that matter most are closely guarded secrets.  As are the ones you share with me, in point of fact.  Sometimes it’s frustrating to not really be seen nor valued for any real quality about myself, but I’m not sure anyone else is that different.

We all like staying inside, to some extent.

A fri nod asked yesterday what else was going on with my life, beyond what I share online.  I had no answer to that, and shrugged it off.  Not because there was nothing to say, but because I’ve become so accustomed to only talking about whichever carefully chosen items I’ve shared on the interwebs that it never really occurred to me to have an answer ready should someone happen to ask for more.  Most people don’t ask for more.  We all exist inside our minds, and it can be pretty exhausting.  Having to dig deeper into our own psyche, let alone someone else’s, is more effort than most of us want to put in!