I was a fairly introverted kid growing up, awkwardly nerdy before it became cool. A label that has gotten away from my over the decades since now it implies some sort of video game proficiency that I do not possess. But as a kid, I wasn’t coordinated or athletic, so I didn’t really fit in. I was studious and bookish, too…imagine how that helped isolate me from the cool kids – even amongst my siblings, who were all athletic.
But then came junior high and high school where the pool of potential friends opens up a lot more as several feeder schools spill the freaks, geeks, cool kids and jocks into one place. The quiet kids find themselves drawn to each other as they naturally collect on the fringe of what’s happening and bonds are forged. There’s not just a social security in numbers, also an increased visibility and you gain access and availability – even if it’s only occasional – to other social groups and cliques.
For someone who was studious and observant of the people around him, it was a rich learning environment, allowing me to note how people behave and also become a confidant to them with access to ask questions that they would probably never answer if asked by their peer group…but people trusted me and talked to me.
Discovered that they needed to talk, really talk to other people beyond the safe, superficial conversations that tend to exist with the cliques.
I know, you’re all still stuck on me ever have been a quiet social fringe dweller.
Well, while I was providing my socially teaching friends with a safe confidant, they were providing me the opportunity to finally let out the stifled gregarious monster that lived inside of me and runs free amongst the population today.
Sure, there were a lot of unsuccessful attempts to steal the spotlight, but…I’m a student. I learned from the things I did that resulted in my banishment to the fringy hinterlands and refined my approach until it blended with almost every social environment.
I got to the point where I was frequently told that I had the gift of gab.
Sasha frequently complained that I was “always on”. He was right. I was.
Maybe I was making up for lost time. Compensating. I don’t know.
Nowadays, many times I just don’t give a fuck what someone’s opinion is of me. I’m comfortable with who I am and what I have to offer others and really – no, really! – try to approach others with a respectful attitude that still allows me to present an open snapshot of who I truly am as an individual. If they don’t like it…there’s other people in the world. Lots of them. I’m not going to play a character in someone else’s reality, I just try to be respectful of the individuals I encounter.
Oh, and somewhere along the way, this nerd developed a real backbone. I have zero problem telling someone directly and respectfully that their behaviors fall short of my expectations while letting them know what those expectations are.
People don’t really always appreciate that about me.
The other thing I don’t really have a problem doing is sharing my opinion with my friends. I think it proves that I’ve listened to what they said and am actively participating in whatever conversation we’re having and care about our relationship and their well-being.
No surprise that sometimes this involves telling people things that they maybe would rather not want to hear. I’ll also slap a label on behaviors, too. Directly to the person or conversationally with mutual acquaintances, but nothing I probably wouldn’t say to them directly as long as I felt safe and secure in the relationship I had with that person. I mean, sometimes don’t feel secure enough with someone to safely share my thoughts with them.
In one such case, I shared with a friend that I thought their boyfriend was kind of psychotic and had a drinking and drug (marijuana) dependency.
Well, go figure I wouldn’t share those last two observations with someone who I though suffered untreated from the first –
Go ahead and play that last line back a few times until it reads right. I confused myself writing it.
– but, somehow the boyfriend found out. He made a few stabs at trying to fool me around to his delusion of reality: buying me drinks, being overtly social with me, getting me gifts…at the end of the day, he was more comfortable just going full Glenn Close on me and his boyfriend.
You’ve gotta appreciate the lengths someone will go to in order to maintain a good downward spiral.
But on his centrifugal exit from my life, he hurled what I think he considered an insult my way. He aggressively suggested that I “hang a shingle out” so that I could help more people with the psychiatric assistance I had offered him, saying I was such a great doctor.
I don’t think he genuinely meant that.
What was weird was that that was the second time I’d been referred to as a doctor within a six month period.
Of course, I checked myself and tried to ensure that my perception of my respectfulness was accurate. My interpretation was the situations where an observation went sideways was almost always a matter of another person not wanting to accept accountability or acknowledge the observation as valid.
The gamut, these ran. Sometimes that would be telling someone that their being consistently late was disrespectful of my time and that they needed to be where they said they were gonna be when they committed to being there or I wasn’t going to hang out with them anymore. In the extreme it looked like me telling a beloved friend that their boyfriend was a chemically dependent psychotic.
The other person who called me a doctor was The Broken Poet. I always admired the strength he had when it came to quitting drugs cold turkey. It reminded me of my grandpa, who just decided to quit smoking one day. But that’s a strength that I’m not used to seeing in the fresher – or even my own – generations. I know that I don’t have it. I also respected the fact that he’d survived the situations he described to me about his youth. I commented that he probably had at least a mild PTSD from a specific situation with the guy he dated before me.
Again, always gentle and respectful. I cared about him, why would I approach this conversation in any other way? By and large, that’s the way the observations were received – as supportive statements from someone that cared about his well-being. He was getting professional help, off and on. But that kind of devolved once I supportively offered that maybe these things weren’t going to go away with the help of the therapist he was seeing.
A) It was off and on therapy, not consistent and only 30 minute sessions once a month. Not frequent enough to be beneficial in my opinion and experience.
B) He wasn’t challenged with anything to take away from the sessions to work on, at least from what he shared with me. He always relayed that the doctor had told him that he was doing what he should be doing and to keep it up. What the fuck kind of bullshit therapy is that?
Anyway, I suggested he see someone else, if only for a different perspective or second opinion, and he pretty much suggested I do it since I was such a good doctor.
I don’t think he meant that sincerely.
Besides, I don’t try and heal myself. I just try to be true, realistic and accountable to myself…but I also check in professionally for a couple of months every five years or so. It’s good. Sometimes just the act of meeting a new therapist and letting them do what they need to do to get to know me as a client provided me with insights to myself that are new and thought provoking or eye-opening.
And then there are my trusted friends and family. I try to be pretty open with them about things that wear me down emotionally.
Naturally, after those two bitchy assessments so close together, I checked myself into The Silver Fox Clinic for a check up. He mentioned that I was too hard on people. That comment was made specifically about my struggle with a guy I’d been on a few dates with, but he offered a few other examples from my anecdotal history.
I countered with”People aren’t hard enough on themselves” and offered up my somewhat permissive yet also brutal self assessments as evidence.
He agreed that I was too hard on myself as well, but that didn’t mean that others weren’t necessarily too easy with their accountability to others.
We respectfully tabled the discussion and allowed ourselves to disagree with each other. Over the coming weeks and months, we would come back to the conversation situationally as we had “a-ha moments” about the other’s opinion.
I think we ended up meeting in the middle with a respect for each other’s perspective.
But people totally aren’t hard enough on themselves.
Just look at divorced Christians. Or Republicans that complain about the Trump candidacy.
Yeah, I’m the crazy one.