Writing is supposedly helpful. Journaling, people say. Review progress. I remember pulling out old diaries from years ago and seeing the disturbing trend that I was always so lost, so confused, so searching for what the hell was wrong with me.
Well, okay. I am understanding more these days the answer to that last question. Let’s see what I can say about it…
I was born as a singularity. Not only an only child, but an only child of an only child, and one who I believe had grown up with her own traumatic abuse, though she always claimed to have a happy childhood. As an only child she was forced to become a single mom soon after I was born. She had no idea how to do this. No one does. So I learned one huge thing very early on: over-engage with the ONE person who is there; she holds the key to survival. It was like a childhood devoted to learning how to be codependent.
On top of this, she moved us constantly. Ithaca, Cambridge, Belmont, Marion, Narberth, Needham… I dropped out of Needham High and moved in with dad, who though he moved to Needham, I found a school in Watertown. Meanwhile I spent most summers of my adolescence in Athens. So in addition to being an only child in a dyad, I learned that ALL people are transient, do not age, abandon soon after developing some connection.
So okay. None of this is exactly news to me. I never learned to share/compete with siblings. Never got to see the up-close-and-personal view of girls from the inside view of sisters. Never got to have an older protector or be the big brother. Never had to sit and listen to someone else at the dinner table, witness their trials and tribulations to differentiate myself. I never witnessed parents fighting, or kissing, or talking about grown-up things while I played on the floor.
But beyond this, I did not learn how to be in groups. It kills me. I am always trying to get into one-on-one dynamics, because I can do this. I can give my full attention. People *like* this. Initially. For one thing, it stands in contrast to their common experience (I imagine) of most people giving a fragment of their attention, balanced against everyone else. Most people (it seems) are intuitively aware that whatever they say to another person, they are in some part saying to the whole social network. They understand that gossip and hearsay and friends vetting each other in so many ways means nothing is said privately, ultimately. They understand that you cannot be a chameleon and adapt to the current setting, that you need to have a consistent identity.
Or maybe they don’t. But I am the opposite of these things. I always imagine private thoughts are private, just between you and me. I don’t think that hard about maintaining a coherent identity; I’m fluid. I accept radically different realities *as if* I am just at home with them. Then, when in group settings, I am forced to reconcile these fluid selves, I am stumped. Frozen. Paralyzed by inhibition. Who’s side am I on? Where am I in the pecking order? How do I balance cooperation and compassionate vibes with the inherent competition and dominance games that are ever-present?
This is much more severe than I seem able to articulate. I feel crippled by not knowing how to have a facade for the public, for the group. Living in hostels is showing me something about this. I am afraid to shower, afraid to come down to eat meals when I want to be alone. I feel stupid in my clothes, in my skin. I don’t know how to be socially on all the time. Even as I can excel in a social group when I am on.
I need such absurd amounts of alone down time that I am effectively too expensive a human being. Or I need a big house. But economically as I slide into … poverty? Not quite right. But I am increasingly forced into company of many people, cannot be alone. Young people, transient people, poor people..
My high IQ is a side effect of overusing my brain to know things, to have encyclopedic knowledge, factual, operational, but not social. I see how the average 20 year-old has copious *intuitive* intelligence about navigating social dynamics that for me require conscious intent. Maybe I’m being too hard on myself.
I feel like I do not know how to be. Why is clothing so fucking challenging? Why has it always been? How is it that even jeans and T-shirts are somehow tricky for me to get right? How does even the dumbest unemployed drunk seem to manage to have nice sharp clean clothes on every day? Why do I find it so hard to organize, to plan?
Why am I so alone? Do I do everything wrong in social dynamics? Why do so many people seem to like me when I’m on? When I give them attention? Why can I not find balance in all of it?
I hate this existence. I desperately want friends who are there, a network, peers, a community, family, an identity, a role, a self. I was me but now he’s gone..