Being who I am

Monday, 20 February 2017 02:08 pm
carose59: the rose behind the fence (rose is a rose is a rose)
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
carose59: the rose behind the fence (rose is a rose is a rose)
Sometimes That Happens To You--You Think About the Wrong Thing, So You Won't Have To Think About the Right Thing.*

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When it comes right down to it, when the entire world is falling apart and there is no reason left to go on living because it all hurts too much and there is no one left who cares, there is still one thing I can count on: my addiction to stories.

Not writing them. Reading them, or listening to them, or watching them on TV, or even going out of the house and paying to watch them in a movie theatre. Stories are the road out of my head, out of my life. It doesn't matter where they take me, as long as I don't bring back anything awful with me. (This is the reason I'm careful-ish about the scary stuff I subject myself to. Fear is fine, but I do not want to be grossed out to where the pictures or words in my head come back to keep me up night, or make me sick. It's happened before, and those images are still with me. I keep them back behind a lot of other things. I try to pretend they don't exist.)

Reading is a wonderful addiction. Not only do you get to get out of your own awful self, but you get points for it. People who disdain your addiction are the ones who are ridiculed by polite society, which is pretty cool.

Every time something falls apart, I find a story to escape into. The year Pat died, it was The Manchurian Candidate (followed closely by Panic Room, and Law and Order, which I watched compulsively). The stories themselves aren't comforting, but they're like big, fast boats that sailed quickly from the awfulness of real life to someplace compelling, someplace with other things to think about. Part of the key to denial is distraction; you have to keep looking away from what you're not looking at, you have to keep looking at other stuff, concentrating on it.

The summer Pat died, I listened to all the Spenser novels, in order. I also listened to all the Nero Wolfe books I could get on audio. I spent more time with Michael Prichard (who reads all the Nero Wolfe books, and a lot of the Spensers) than I did with everyone else I know put together. It was so incredibly comforting.

I still have the warmest memories of a book called The Stone Carnation. I was thirteen when I read it, and Michelle had stopped speaking to me again and I was bereft. And then I had this place to go, this escape that was mine alone; I was in a book. I was gone.

They called my grandmother Danny Dreamer (after a cartoon character) because she daydreamed so much. My mother's been telling me about all the stories that go on in her head, and my father used to talk about how, when he wasn't actually reading the book he was reading, he was thinking about the plot and the characters, and what might happen next. I've watched my uncle walk into a room, his eyes scanning for something to read, and the second he's sitting down, the book or newspaper or magazine is open and he's reading. Escape. Who wouldn't fly out the window, if they could?

Well, nobody in my family, that's for sure.

*Lauren Slater
carose59: FHK (feed them on your dreams)
They Paved Paradise and Put Up a Parking Lot*

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When I got home from work today, I found that my father had torn up a bunch of my morning-glories.

It didn't surprise me any; he does this all the time, and the fact that it always upsets me never makes any difference. I go over and tell my mother and watch the family dynamics play out. I wish things were different. I wish my father understood me better. I know he loves me, but he has no empathy.

And my mother is so connected to me, I'm so connected to her, sometimes it's like we breathe the same breath. It's comforting and smothering at the same time. If she were different, if she held me tighter, I wouldn't've survived.

Who knows what'll be dead when I come home tomorrow. If my father had his way, there'd be nothing but brick and stone and gravel everywhere, asphalt and cement.

Later that same entry . . . .

The thing is--it's always the thing is. The thing is, I understand that my father doesn't get it. No reason he should. What I don't understand is why he has to get it. That's the truth about my connection to my mother: she doesn't really understand me that well, not in the details. She understands me in the intensity, in the emotion, in the passion. The particulars of what I'm passionate about aren't the issue; they don't matter. She brings it down to the essentials: this is a thing you love, and that's enough. She respects my passion, and the choices it leads to.

I think it's a laissez faire kind of love; not hate the sin but love the sinner, but love the sinner and understand the sin. You're a responsible adult until you've proved otherwise. So I struggle to understand my father killing my flowers (and doing nothing to the thistles I've complained about more than once), struggle to believe he really loves me.

*Big Yellow Taxi, Joni Mitchell

July 2017

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