Monday, November 26, 2007

Must be the Tryptophan...

This holiday season has, once again, snuck up on me. I spent Thanksgiving Day itself by myself, reading, thinking, mowing the lawn, cleaning the house, watching movies and TV. My family decided to have our celebration on Saturday, so my sister and her family could visit her husband’s family on The Day, and I didn’t mind having Turkey Day all to myself. The weather was gorgeous and sunny, and my lawn, finally green after the October rains, needed a haircut badly.

I spent the other days of the long weekend with friends and family, and (gasp!) cooking, which is never my first choice of activities. I woke up late (for me) each day, leisurely made myself coffee and breakfast, read my books, basked in the sun at the kitchen table, listened to music, talked to my cat. Through the weekend, I noticed my moods ebbing and flowing, from irritation to profound peace. I got bored. I got happy. I got annoyed. I felt like fleeing, and I felt a sense of togetherness and love. What an exhausting mishmash.

Most importantly, I noticed how seriously ambivalent I am about my human relationships, and how genuinely happy I am, at times, by myself. It troubles me, that friends’ phone calls and invitations so often feel like an imposition, even though I know they aren’t meant that way. And that this has been true for as long as I can remember.

I’ve spent a lot of time in my life thinking about why this might be. Is it my feeling of insecurity about my own “okayness”? Is it my lifelong shyness coming out in a new way? Is it fear? Is it depression? And what can I do about it? But this weekend, and for the last month or two, I’ve stopped asking why. I suspect it’s a little bit of everything, but figuring out a reason has stopped being important to me. It’s just how I am.

I care about my friends and family, and I enjoy their company. I usually look forward to getting together with them. But when it comes down to it, other people confuse me. I don’t know how to respond to them. I’m sensitive to their judgments of me – either explicit or implied – and I get resentful when they judge me. I don’t understand their needs or how to meet them without sacrificing my own, though I do try. I don’t understand why they impose their baggage on me. Other people are a mystery to me, at times fascinating, and at times horrifying. I know I’m one of them, I just don’t always understand them.

At one point this weekend, I reflected on the statement that “Everybody likes to feel needed” and I realized: I don’t. I like to feel wanted, but I don’t like to feel needed, at least not for any length of time past the immediate crisis. When I feel like someone needs me (as in: “You’re the only one who can provide this for me”), it makes me want to escape, like I’m being entangled in a sticky web. That can’t be normal, can it? Other people seem to thrive on being needed. It’s why people get married and have kids, and become psychologists and doctors. But I can’t stand being needed, the same way I hate being needy, and though I think I’m pretty good at being there for people in crisis, most neediness just makes me want to run for the hills.

So, this long weekend, I just watched it all. My feeling of being suspended in some kind of honey-colored fog in a world I don’t understand, where my house is my refuge but also sometimes a prison. I watched my reactions when friends called, sometimes wanting to talk, more often not. I watched my self-talk, as I, sometimes literally, tried to decipher my own reactions and to understand theirs, but still often struggling with the feeling that I just didn’t “get it.” I watched myself feeling by turns anxious and curious about a new friendship developing, wanting to run but doing everything I could to make myself stay and face it.

I wonder if other people feel this way: confused often, resentful sometimes, with a small but powerful underground flow of fear and anxiety bubbling away sight unseen, yet still often confident and aware, and yes, even sometimes content. It’s exhausting and I’m not sure there’s a point to it all (much like this post), but it’s something that’s been stewing in my head for awhile. Maybe a lifetime. How to get along in a world I largely don’t understand, with people who by turns delight me and frustrate me, wondering all the time if I’m doing the right thing, and if someday there will turn out to have been a reason for it all.

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