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Saturday, November 02, 2002
When you buy a new curb-side trash can, how do you throw away the old one?
Check this out. (Thanks to Lyriel* for the link.)
When I was a little kid, I used to order slices of pepperoni pizza and proceed to pull the pepperoni off. When someone asked why I didn't just order cheese pizza, I remember my aunt having to explain to them that I was just saving the pepperoni for last. "He's a weird kid."
Do you ever talk to friends from the past and learn things that you really wish you'd known then? Why do we all keep secrets from each other until they're old and stale, and then finally let go of them, like posting the answers to a test once the last one has been turned in? Oops, sorry, you failed, but here's what you should have known...
Today I was talking to a friend about someone. He was telling me the same things about her, and about himself, that I'd myself once told her directly, the things I'm not supposed to say because they're too honest, too revealing of our own secret inner natures and of the universal delusions we all help to maintain, each of us wishing to portray ourselves as something better, or loathing to be the bearers of bad news, or simply not wishing to give our hand away in this game no one admits to playing.
I encouraged him to tell her, to break another chip in that shell of virtual reality that surrounds her, that surrounds us all. But would she hear it? I don't know--most people choose the blue pill*, don't they.
All through my younger years and into college, I could never understand why I got such cold indifference from everyone -- was I not able, honest, kind, knowledgeable, skillful, or creative enough to meet their invisible standards? So I just felt worthless, stupid, unworthy. Toward the very end of my college years, I was riding in a car with a friend and I told him this, that I felt this way, and he stopped and stared at me for a moment and finally said "Wow. I always thought you were really amazing, but I specifically made a point of never telling you that 'cause I figured you must get that all the time." It was a bit of a pivotal moment for me, to see that the world could be so upside down from what I had always assumed. Why did it take eighteen years for someone to say this one thing to me? (And it's not about mere words, of course, but about what people communicate in their actions, and interactions.)
Just the other day at UCSD I ran into another friend from my college years who took one look at my long hair and mini skateboard and said "you're always trying to be different, aren't you." I returned the best belly-laugh an ectomorph can manage and filled her in on my socially disconnected background* by the end of which she looked stunned and informed me it was just the opposite of what she'd imagined. My college buddy Dave fit her picture better--raised in the same house his whole life, surrounded by people who accepted him no matter who he was just because they'd known him forever, struggling to establish his separate identity by being different. [It used to drive him nuts that I always wanted to work with him on creative projects; he told me flat out one day he wanted to do things by himself so there would be no mistake that they were his creations. I just wanted to make cool stuff; never gave a thought to who would get the credit.] Strange how we can go on for years with such misconceptions about and by people we see every day (back then).
I recently heard from another friend of years back. In discussing our past, she revealed: "I found an entry in a (pen and paper) diary which I had kept from back in those days, and I had written things about you in it. :-) Once when I was going back over my old diaries, I realized that I had cared for you, and I remember you thinking I was seeming uninterested, but I realized afterwards that I had not been expressing myself to you (shy!). :-o"
"But here's what you should have known..."
Still it is so hard to update my model, to infer the truth behind the veil based on what I should know by now. I still error in assuming too much honesty, too much directness, that whatever I need to know about myself and about others, good or bad, people will simply tell me. I know this isn't how the world works; but I only know this consciously, not intuitively.
Still I suspect I will forever myself endeavor to err on the side of honesty and directness. Life is too short to be putting the pieces together long after it matters. And it's not enough just to take the red pill--you've got to hand them out, too.
And whether through some sorry set of coincidences, or some context I unknowingly created, a common theme in my case is that everybody has had their unstated reasons for keeping some minimum distance from me, not one common reason but many different ones to keep me guessing; and so often they later prove mere misconceptions; but hidden assumptions are rarely corrected. Lately I feel that if people value me at all, it is in the abstract, as if they value the idea of me, but not the actual me. I do wonder if keeping a journal doesn't just make this worse, by making this separation easy, offering people what is, perhaps, their ideal relationship with me--Simon as a fictional character in some evolving semi-interactive work of fiction. Am I a holodeck character? Hey, that would explain so much...
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