Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I was talking to a friend the other night who has just been through a traumatic experience, one that made her feel afraid to be alone, unsafe in her own home and uncomfortable with her thoughts. I guess most people probably go through this kind of trouble a few times in their lives. Some go through it over and over. Others seem to live their whole lives in a state like the one my friend found herself in.

Then there are the people who never seem to freak out, no matter what. I bet there are far more people like that than I've ever imagined there were, and I'm guessing that that's because they keep quiet about their problems. Maybe they don't even construe them as "problems" so much as "situations" or even "facts." Things happen. It's true.

I interact with the world around me in a particular way which is very consistent. I observe things carefully, especially interactions between people, and most especially interactions between other people and me. I do a lot of pushing and pulling in the course of my daily life. I push away the vast majority of people and things that surround me, and pull on a very few people very hard.

I do my best to control the ways in which I interact with particular friends. There's a woman in my section whom I really like a lot. Last semester, we walked over to get coffee together before Torts a few times, and I enjoyed chatting with her then. I always say hi to her when we pass each other in the hallway. From my interactions with her, you'd think we were barely acquainted. The truth is, I feel a genuine connection with this woman. There have been moments in our conversations when I've thought, I really want this person as a friend. But for some reason, I never think to call her and make plans, or even seek her out to eat lunch with. I have friends who fill those niches for me. I don't shift people's roles in my life unless something forces me to do so.

There are areas of the law school where I don't go. I don't have any good reason for avoiding those places except that I always have. I've never once studied in the library or in the Fishbowl. I don't like walking down to the parking lot past the JAG school, even though I've been told it's the shorter route, because that's not the route I took to get there at the beginning of the year. I don't even like adding new people to my AIM buddy list. It unnerves me to see a new name on there, messing up the order of my list, to which I've gotten so accustomed. And there are people on there I know I'll never initiate conversations with, but I don't remove them because their names belong there.

It's not just about what comes into my life, either: I want to control what I transmit, as well. I guess most people care about the images others have of them, so it's nothing special about me that I try to show people certain aspects of my personality and hide others. Still, I don't like what it does to me or my relationships with my friends. I feel like I've invested all this energy into projecting a version of myself who is infinitely strong, self-sufficient, patient and emotionally stable. When I have to let someone see that I don't always have those attributes, I feel like I've let that person down. That person thought he or she had a friend who was just terrific in these ways, and the truth is, I'm not so terrific. What a letdown the real me must be. How badly I've disappointed my friend.

I'm sick of this battle, and it's a losing one anyway. Nobody really has those illusions about me, and anyone who did would probably resent me for being inhuman. It's a lie I tell myself more effectively than I tell it to other people, and the person I'm letting down so severely is nobody but me.

It's exhausting, this constant pushing and pulling, this continuous effort to control my life so tightly, clinging to routines I don't even enjoy and passing up opportunities I wish I could take. It's human nature to be insecure, I'm told, but I'm not sure I believe that. Competitive, sure. Guarded, cautious, jealous, I believe. But insecure? Isn't my insecurity really just the fear that everyone is better than I am, or rather, that somebody is better than I am? And then, isn't it really just a perverse form of arrogance?

Here are some things about me I am afraid to admit. I get lonely easily. I don't work as hard as I should because I always want to reserve the ability to work harder in case my current efforts don't produce a product that meets my standards. I apologize to and thank people excessively because I want, but am never quite able to accept, their forgiveness for having imposed on them. I want people to see me as the kind of person I would want for a friend: wise, loving, socially appropriate, quick-witted, generous. But a lot of the time I am none of those things. Oh, and honest. I do my best, but sometimes even I lie, and not always about the most innocuous things, either.

The thing is, I confess these things to myself all the time, and every time I say to myself that I'm going to change them. But I'm not going to change them. I am not, ever, no matter what, going to be all of that good stuff all of the time. There are always going to be people who don't like me or who are indifferent to me, and some of them are going to be people whom I like very much. These aren't things I can fix. They're life. They're how things work, not just for me, but for everybody.

The other day I was behind a car whose license plate read JSTLTGO.

Just let go.

The things I've been clinging to aren't any good anyway.


Blogger common_sense said...

A very strong post. I don't think there is anyone who deals with all of their problems as just facts. Everyone has something that will deeply unsettle them, even if they haven't run into it yet. I've known guys who don't even flinch when they get shot at, but who can't function in certain day to day situations. I used to consider myself as incredibly stable until some things really freaked me out this year; things that should not have bothered me at all, and if you had asked about them in a hypothetical manner, I would have laughed. We all have our shells, or masks, or whatever term you want to apply. Some people don't even realize they use them. But we do. Its expected, and I don't think people are surprised when they realize the person they are interacting with isn't the real you. In fact, some people get greatly unsettled when you see past their shell to the real them. As far as the insecure thing goes, people have been surprised when I tell them that I am deeply insecure. Most people are at some level. Objectively, I may not have a reason to be, but to me, I have all the reason in the world. So yes, I would say everyone is insecure, and its not a bad trait, as long as it doesn't cripple you.

4/27/07, 9:15 PM  

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