Monday, March 15, 2010

On Reaching Out To People...

I have exceptional hearing.  I hear EVERYTHING - and that certainly isn't limited to things that I want to hear, it also includes the annoying, the random, the personal and the things I'd rather not know.  It's probably the reason that I have a problem with repetitive noises, loud TV, talk radio and big crowds.  It's also the reason I've been privy to more than one explanation of myself that wasn't intended for my ears. 

"Don't worry, that's just Kay."

"No, it's not that she doesn't like you, it's that she doesn't like anyone."

"Sometimes she says the most ridiculous things..."

The most succinct rendition I ever heard was this - sensational.  My written word isn't much different from my spoken word and when I came into work this morning wearing a turtleneck that I was fairly sure was going to drive me into a panic attack because it manages to be both grabby at the wrists and grabby around my throat - the two things I hate most in clothing - I announced to a friend of mine that I wore a turtleneck and I was fairly sure I was going to die.  A few weeks ago, someone asked me what I was going to do as I aged and my arthritis got worse and I told them I was banking on a cure - either that or I would pick up a handgun and a tarp. 

If you combine my black Irish blood, my personal history and my penchant for comedians, it's easy to figure out why I always go for the overblown and hilarious, so when I say things like "Dude, friends are way too much work - they just die on you," people think I'm being cute.  With the exception of an addenda ("they just die on you or make you wish they were dead") I'm not being cute.  That is, in fact, one of the most sincere things I've ever said to another human being. 

It's hard for me to look back on a time in recalled history where I can say I had an easy time reaching out to people.  As a child in a tiny private school where anything you did, said, thought or heard was known by the entire school in a matter of minutes - a place where all the kids were smart but none of them were quite brilliant either, where I was still set apart from the rest - it was impossible to trust anyone because people you'd known for your entire life would turn on you in an instant because they were kids and that's what kids do.  I stepped out of that environment into the rest of the world and things didn't improve.  There were more people, which meant there were more people to choose from, but it didn't do much for my confidence in humanity when I finally found people that understood - people that got me - and they started dropping like flies to suicides and overdoses - let alone that I hadn't yet hit my teen years.

When you cut to the end of the story, what I'm left with are a handful of people who proved to not only be decent human beings but trustworthy ones at that.  It's funny because, of all the many men I've befriended over the years, I had to send Chris a message today (because I believe in the power of positive reinforcement) when I realized he was the only one I could count as more than an acquaintance who never tried to sleep with me. (His response was that, when I knew him, he was a fairly shy guy ;)  I think that's meant to intimate that, if offered the same opportunity a few years later, things might have gone differently.)

The people I've loved - the people I've trusted - have betrayed me on the most base levels.  I think it is that way with people - the more you love them, the harder you lean on them, the deeper they have an opportunity to cut you.

For most people, they'll tell you that the internet has made the world a lot smaller - made it a lot easier to reach out to people that have the same interests and to find support in numbers.  For me, the internet has always made the world bigger.  I can tell the internet anything and, provided I'm careful about where and how I put it out onto the internet, no one ever needs to know it was me.  There's anonymity, but there is also something deeply personal about it - there are so many things it's easier to put into written words than spoken ones - there are things you can tell someone in text that you could never say to the same person.  The internet doesn't care if, when closing a file I never should have opened in the first place, I remark to the room at large "Well, that still bleeds."

Reaching out across the void that is the internet, I've managed to stumble over people - real human people who know, who understand, who get it and who've been there.  The funny thing is, that was never what I was looking to find. 

At twenty-four, I've learned to wear my scars with some sense of sick pleasure.  (Yes, I've been there.  Yes, I've done that so you'll have to excuse me if I don't want to sit here and explain it to you.)  If someone asks directly, or if someone needs to hear it, I'm to the point where I can tell them what happened in a distantly amused kind of way and not really connect with any of the stories.  They're my life.  They're my past.  They happened and I can't avoid them but I'm still the person who told could barely breathe the words to her best friend.  Worse yet, I'm the person who did tell her best friend and spent the next two years paying for that choice.  I'm fairly sure I'll never stop paying for the next time I made that mistake.

Over the years, I've gotten more choosy.  Open though I may be, the things that are still raw - the things that still bleed - I can't bring myself to discuss with even those people who I'm closest to.  (This, by the way, is why Freud feared the Irish.) 

They say that people who have been victimized, who've been abused or betrayed or taken advantage of, can smell their kind a mile away.  I don't know if that's necessarily true, but I know that I've always had a bit of a sixth sense for the damaged.  I can tell you what happened and when and how bad it was after spending fifteen minutes with someone, so I'm seldom surprised when someone offers up a theoretical revelation about themselves but I never stop finding it amazing how easy it can be to distill ones fears and regrets into a few words and say them to someone who doesn't need it explained to them.  I seldom seek out people who can offer understanding, mostly because I've found that the more information you give someone, the more power they have over you, but when pushed to the point of confronting some demon, its comforting to know that the internet brought me the people, or kept me in range of the people, who have the capacity to be the most understanding.

Now, years later and light a few dozen confessions, there is no single thing more terrifying than removing the barrier - taking the internet out of the equation.  When Chris comes back home to visit, I avoid him like the plague - not in spite of but rather because he is one of my favorite people in the universe.  On the one hand, there's relief in knowing that after seven years of friendship, I'll finally be able to give Linda that hug I know she's needed on more than one occasion or share that drink we've often waxed philosophical about until three in the morning, but there's fear there too because I'm not sure how I'll make it through any of it without bursting into tears.

1 comment:

  1. "Open though I may be, the things that are still raw - the things that still bleed - I can't bring myself to discuss with even those people who I'm closest to. (This, by the way, is why Freud feared the Irish.)" Totally describes me. Maybe it's an Irish thing.