Being who I am

Monday, 20 February 2017 02:08 pm
carose59: the rose behind the fence (rose is a rose is a rose)
[personal profile] carose59
You Must Learn From The Mistakes Of Others. You Can't Possibly Live Long Enough To Make Them All Yourself.*

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I always got the message I was too emotional.

It was a mixed message because in my family crying was considered a legitimate hobby. My mother and I would listen to Puff, the Magic Dragon and cry. It was a thing you did.

But there were also times when I would be told if I didn't stop crying, I had to go to my room. The only way I could force myself to stop crying was to hold my breath—and sometimes that wasn't acceptable behavior either. Since these were times I was crying because my mother was angry at me, being sent to my room was even more upsetting; I just wanted her to like me again and her response was to send me away. (Did she know this? Did I tell her? I don't know.)

My father just withdrew when I cried because it made no sense to him. Our relationship didn't find firm footing until I was in my thirties and he yelled at me for something that was in no way my fault. It was where the cold air ducts are in my house. His father and brother built the house before I was even born. My response was to yell back that maybe he should have said something to them at the time, something I couldn't have done, what with not having been born yet! He was fine with being yelled at, whereas me crying panicked him. After that we yelled at each other.

Anyway, I got the message early from a lot of people that stoicism was the usually the best behavior. Never let anybody see how you really feel because if you do they will mock you, punish you, or withdraw from you. That's probably part of how I learned to be funny, because making people laugh is a pleasant distancing thing. Humor is one step removed.

I'm actually going somewhere with this. I want to write about The Andy Griffith Show, but so many people feel the need to tell me I'm too analytical, I wanted to explain first why I'm so analytical.

I think some of it is the kind of mind I have. Also, I like winning arguments, and if you stay reasonable, you have a better shot at it. And then there's the too-emotional thing. Fixing a problem requires understanding it, so I started early trying to understand why certain things upset me. And a lot of things upset me. I watched a lot of TV as a kid, and a lot of TV upset me. The Andy Griffith Show upset me. Eventually, I figured out why.

My constant analysis of things annoyed Pat—it seems to annoy everyone—but I think one of our deepest connections was that, while it annoyed her, she still agreed with my analyses of things. We had very much the same outlook on how people should treat their loved ones, for example, and while she instinctively knew that she hated All in the Family for the way Archie treated his family, I could put it into words, and she did like that, and the fact that we felt the same way about it mattered.

People tell me, "It's just a TV show, it's not important, why are you wasting your time?"

Well, first off, it is important. TV shapes how we think and that is not unimportant.

Second, I'm trying less to understand the show than to understand myself, and that is definitely not unimportant.

And third, I enjoy it. Yes, I get annoyed, but it's like working a puzzle. Anyone who has ever worked any kind of puzzle for pleasure has, at one time, been annoyed by it: a crossword clue they can't figure out, a piece that just doesn't fit anywhere—anything. Annoyance can be fun. When I express this to people, the usual response is to try and "fix" the "problem." Except there is no problem. (And I've only just realized this as I was writing this, which is one reason I write.)

Another thing about annoyance is, it's good for depressives. Depression seems to make me, at least, feel antagonistic towards the world. If I'm down and you tell me a joke, I might laugh politely but there will be a part of me resisting your attempt to "cheer me up." It won't lift my mood.

But annoyance, like anger, can raise my energy level, and when you're depressed, anything that does that is good.

Anyway, be prepared. Tomorrow, and possibly the next day, I'll be writing about The Andy Griffith Show.


*Sam Levenson

July 2017

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