After Sasha left me, I indulged a pretty fast and hard spiral.
A pity party.
Key word: party
But as I emerged from that boozy security blanket, I realized that I was more self-aware of my specific personality. I wasn’t looking at other people and how they behaved around me in order to decide how I felt about myself as much as I was actually paying attention to my own actions to assess my current moods and mental state of well-being.
Sasha had provided me with – and still graciously does – some feedback about me as a person. My neighbors, friends and colleagues were also giving me varying levels of supportive and constructive statements to digest.
And I did, for once.
I was in a place where ego was a fairly endangered entity. Nowhere to go but up, as they say. Asking myself why I drank or cried myself to sleep over the absence of a relationship that I knew was a bad long term fit for me – and him. The answer wasn’t just the same as what motivated me to stay in the relationship in the first place – fear of being alone – but it was similar.
Fear of being alone.
See the difference?
It’s one thing to be lonely, but not alone, in a relationship. You still have friends and family to take the edge off of the loneliness, and Sasha and I had fun. Frequently. It’s just the personality differences between us kept piling up, making the barrier between us larger and larger, creating more of a sense of isolation in the relationship.
Vicious cycle, anyone?
So, I did nothing to get out of the relationship, because at least I could say that I was in on – which is a very effective defense against appearing to be alone, making it easy to ignore that fear.
Unlike him. Which, as I mentioned, I think was a fairly brave – if not entirely well-executed – action on his part.
There I was, no longer lonely in a relationship, but suddenly facing my fear of being alone from a different perspective: without the security of a de facto boyfriend. Faced with the ugly reality that maybe no one would want me.
That fear of being alone is rather more daunting.
I started paying attention to what people were saying to me about my favorite topic: ME. The good and the bad.
I turned it over in my mind. Studied myself, albeit somewhat drunkenly. Learned who I was. What I did. How I engaged those around me. What my personality triggers were.
I’m not just jacking off here, either. I was pretty harsh on me, my favorite person. Of course, being me, I had to put my Xtopher spin on this process. I didn’t want it to sound as dry and boring and pretentious as what you just read.
I short handed it to challenging myself to know my shit.
Basically, knowing your shit is what behaviors of yours makes your people lose theirs, even though they love you. Was I aware that it was happening in the moment? It made me capable of being a better person as a friend and hopefully a better family member…although, if it weren’t for my hermitly inclined grandfather or estranged younger brother I know that I would definitely be the outlying member of my family. You know, because I live in the city instead of 30 miles outside of it.
As an added benefit, knowing my shit made me a happier person, too. I knew myself well enough to know what behaviors I expected from people who called themselves my friends. I understood better that everyone is somewhere different in their journeys to this place that I was arriving at in my life and learned to respect and appreciate that – even if other people were traveling that same path as I without even being aware of it.
It helped me become more respectful of others.
In a totally Xtopher manner, of course. Otherwise, what’s the point?
I was also probably the beginning of what I called my grumpy old man-ness or what Portlandia calls Early Onset Grumpiness.
But all that really is to me is a fun way of saying that I’m gonna shoot straight and respectfully in just about any situation.
I’m not grumpy when you make plans with me at 4:00 and then when I check in 90 minutes beforehand to make sure we’re still on track, you tell me that 6:00 is going to work better.
I’m not grumpy when I ask when you planned to let me know that.
I’m not grumpy when you don’t have an answer to that simple question.
Hell, I’m not even grumpy when you blame me for misunderstanding what our agreement was on timing.
I’m not grumpy when I reiterate that you were the one changing the timing and I only learned of it because I bothered to check in.
If you don’t see the problem there or – more likely – refuse to acknowledge it…I’m still not grumpy, even though you’re going to put it off on my bad attitude versus taking accountability for your own shortfall in considering how your actions affect others.
No…I’m not grumpy. Why? Because I know now that you’re going to waste my time, if only by not respecting it. Sitting at home alone with my Netflix or a book is a better use of my time than trying to spend it with someone who doesn’t know their shit well enough to respectfully manage their flakiness.
But that’s kind of the core of flakiness, I suppose.
That’s the boring analytical side of me learning my shit.
Who wants to think about that crap.
How about the fun part of it? The Chrisisms of knowing your shit…
The fun part of knowing your shit is understanding what makes you unique. When I started thinking about those unique qualities in me, I really started to enjoy being with myself. And guess what? There went that fear of being alone.
It’s like it lost all of its power, just because I got to the point where I appreciated and accepted all of those things that my mom and grandma and friends supportively told me, the things that I had carelessly brushed off in my earlier misery.
I was awesome.
I was better off without him if he wasn’t right for me.
There was someone better suited to me out there.
I wouldn’t be alone forever.
I embraced them…put them out on display where everyone could see them, like people in the south do with their crazy family members instead of locking them away in the attic. These were the things that I wanted my friends and any future boyfriend to really appreciate about me. Many of them were the things about me that made Sasha crazy. It didn’t make either of us bad people, it just made us ill-suited to a relationship with one another.
Great, just what this world needed: and enlightened and self-aware Xtopher.
So, what are those quirks? The things that make it worth clearing those low hurdles to demonstrate that you respect me as a person and getting to spend time in my orbit?
My quirks…let’s go ahead and start with the absolutely crazy Chris crap and work toward the slightly more reasonable, shall we?
Sharks. I’m afraid of them. Nothing special there. However, I’m not afraid in situationally appropriate circumstances. Sure, if my cruise ship capsizes in the South Pacific, maybe that’s appropriate. If I’m surfing or SCUBA diving in Austrailia, where Great Whites are more abundant, sure…it’s a reasonable apprehension.
But this is me we’re talking about. I go kayaking in the Columbia River and I’m afraid of shark attack. I tell myself that sharks get confused and have swum into fresh water rivers before, although usually not leaving the blended brackish water near the mouth of said river. Still, it could happen. What likely really isn’t going to happen is a shark attack in a swimming pool, hot tub or bathtub…yet, for the merest of moments, I can get caught off guard by that crazy-assed fear of shark attack if I close my eyes and let my mind drift.
So much for relaxing.
While we’re on crazy fears, the older I get the more fearful I become of flying. The one class that I absolutely struggled in during college – and barely passed – was Statistics & Probabilities. I mention that embarrassing fact only because it demonstrates how I could fail to understand the inherent safety of flying and instead choose to think that every time I fly without incident, it becomes less likely that future flights will not be as successful.
It – as well as random financial obstacles – have kept me US bound for the last decade. I am planning to change that. Perhaps.
Another of my weird little pecadillos is germs – don’t get me wrong, I’m no Purell carrying Niles Crane type. I think germs are inherently good for us and make us stronger. I’m more perturbed by the gross and overt germs. Dog slobber, anyone? Taking that a trail of tears further, people’s shoes – specifically the bottoms of said footwear. Think of what people put the bottoms of their shoes through: sidewalks, where people spit – or, living downtown, pee – on them; dogs definitely pee and sometimes poop on them – because the world is their toilet; car grease and exhaust settles onto the ground when it rains; woo girls throw up on them…shoes come into direct or indirect contact with all of these things. Think of when the last time you washed the bottoms of your shoes was. Then think of the last time you put your shod feet up on the furniture or crossed your legs so that the sole of your she was resting on your pant leg. And now the last time you wiped your hands on your pant leg? Ever thought about what happened between that casual swipe of your pant leg and the next time you touched your hand to your face? Well, I think about that type of crap. I watch it happening around me…and through no small amount of focus, usually succeed in suppressing my horrified expression when I see someone wipe their hand on their pants and then touch their face or pick up food.
Don’t even get me started on people who don’t cover their sneezes or who sneeze into their hands. Those people are going straight to hell. Not that hell actually exists, it’s just a figurative condemnation for the people that will be responsible for starting and perpetuating a global pandemic through their casually poor hygiene.
While it sounds crazy and disgusting on the surface, witnessing a backlit and unshielded sneeze or cough can be a traumatizing experience. Humans have quite a splash zone when it comes to sneezing and coughing. We are quite disgusting.
I like to pee sitting down. What? I’m dissatisfied with my stream, and I’m tall. Not a great combination. And the older I get, the worse my vision gets…it’s fraught with the potential for disaster. But, every now and again, like when I’m at someone else’s house and feeling passive aggressive, I’ll risk it.
Ok, now for a truly unique one, anyone know what misophonia is?
Go ahead and google it.
Yeah…that’s me. I’ve passed on dining out with people simply to avoid putting myself in a situation where I get mad at them for feeding themselves.
So, here I am. Enlightened and entertained.
Still single, but not worried.
So, what to do with myself and my new found confident individualism?
Proselytize, of course.
When The Silver Fox and Casey Adler’s relationship ended, I was fortunate enough to be there to help my friend cope with his sudden and surprising transition to singledom. It was the least I could do, given all the support he has provided me during our friendship.
I made those same supportive comments that everyone always makes, steering clear of the indictments of his now ex-boyfriend that can easily bite someone in the ass upon reconciliation. Nonetheless, knowing the comments I made were nothing but platitudes and that my presence was the only thing I could really offer my friend.
Or was it…
After an appropriate length of time, I asked if he was planning to get back out there and throw himself into the dating pool again. It had been almost three months.
He answered in the affirmative, so I replied, “Ok, then. You’re ready.” and asked him to consider the things that made him unique and quirky.
“I don’t have any quirks, I’m normal!”
I nodded supportively, but I think that I was smirking and that he could also see the whites of my eyes all the way around the irises.
“What? I don’t.” he maintained.
I shared mine with him, or a sampling of them and he agreed that I was crazy.
But I just let it lie, knowing the process. The seed was planted. True to his ADHD self, once he stopped focusing on it, some candidates for Silver Fox Quirkiness rose to the surface of his consciousness.
And the texts started rolling in.
“So, do you mean like when I straighten crooked pictures in other people’s homes?”
That definitely excited him. A quirk of his very own. “What else?”, I ask.
“Nothing…isn’t one enough?”
Then he pops another one out. Excitedly followed by another. Then another.
I was happy for him to realize that these things existed in his personality. These things that made him unique. I pointed out how excited he was to be discovering them about himself and told him that these were the things that would either make someone love him or not be able to stand him. Knowing this shit about himself was key to really finding the right person for him…he needed to source that guy that was as enthusiastic about his “crazy” as he just got while realizing his quirks.
Just my advice, but I’ll tell you this – I’ve enjoyed the ups and downs of my life a lot more since embracing my little fragments of crazy. Reflecting on them and really becoming aware of these – and others, trust me – things that might affect someone else negatively about me has helped me to manage my relationships over the ensuing years as well as avoid some situations that just weren’t worth the effort. And I say “fragments of crazy” knowing that some of those fragments could likely sink the Titanic.