Thursday, November 27, 2014

Who do you want to be?

This is a post I've wanted to get out for a while, however I fear it won't capture all I wish to say, it's been a hard subject for me and I don't quite know why.

I don't feel like I fit in, this isn't the reality of my situation, just my twisted perception of reality. This lead me to question why I feel like I HAVE to fit in, which in turn asked a bigger question than "How do I fit in?" it is "Who do I want to be?" Because, how can I know where to fit in, if I don't know who I fit in with?

Despite appearances, I don't know how to fit in, but I kinda know how to be myself, and as I write this I ask myself "Do I know how to be the BEST I can be?" and the answer is: "Not yet." So, how do I find out how to be the best of myself?

Well... I've had this quote in my head for months, ever since I heard it and it's been festering in my mind and it's perfect for helping me figure out who I am.

"It's hard to talk about the importance of an imaginary hero, but heroes are important. Heroes tell us something about ourselves. History books tell us who we used to be, documentaries tell us who we are now, but heroes tell us who we want to be... And a lot of our heroes depress me.

But when they made this particular hero they didn't give him a gun they gave him a screwdriver to fix things. They didn't give him a tank or a warship or an x wing fighter, they gave him a call box from which you can call for help. And they didn't give him a superpower or pointy ears or a heat ray they gave him an extra heart. They gave him two hearts.

And that's an extraordinary thing, there will never come a time when we don't need a hero like The Doctor."

This is absolute genius because it is absolutely true in my mind, our heroes influence us, they define us, my heroes are not the conventional heroes I was ever expected to aspire to. Most of my heroes are either long dead or are fictional.

So, in no particular order, here are three of my heroes:

Mad cap engineer who developed alternating current, radio, radar and so much more. When Westinghouse (the guy who paid royalties to Tesla) almost went bankrupt Tesla famously tore up the contract and told Westinghouse to keep using his inventions, making him not just an amazingly accomplished scientist, but also one of the nicest guys ever.

Another creative genius, but his vision was to entertain the world and teach us that we are actually not much different from each other, no really, watch Fraggle Rock, it's all about being tolerant and learning how to live with each other. He brought joy to millions and he also advanced modern puppets so far and his work lead the way for some amazing developments on screen.

I can only sum the nature of this hero with this quote:

The Doctor: "What's the point of having two hearts if you can't be forgiving once in a while?"

And a transcript from the episode "Dark Water".

Clara: "You're going to help me?"

The Doctor: "Well, why wouldn't I help you?"

Clara: "Cos of what I just did! I..."

The Doctor: "You betrayed me. You betrayed my trust. You betrayed our friendship. You betrayed everything I ever stood for. YOU LET ME DOWN!"

Clara: "Then why are you helping me?"

The Doctor: "Why?"

Slight pause.

The Doctor: "Do you think I care for you so little that betraying me would make a difference?"

When I combine these characters and historical figures I get an idea of who I am and who it is I aspire to be. Examining the people I look up to, the first two real heroes are misunderstood creative geniuses, now, I'm not claiming that I am, I'm just saying I aspire to be creative and smart, I'm not satisfied with the way things are and want to change that which is in my power to do so.

When I look into fiction and look at the totally unrealistic possibilities, I don't want to be super strong, or a mind reader, what connected with me more than Wolverine or SpiderMan ever could, was one man, angry, but so massively full of compassion that he forgave his friend instantly.

That is what I aspire to, to forgive so easily and so freely. That takes some courage, and that demonstrates such extraordinary humanity. I don't know if I'll ever react like that, but I'd certainly WANT to be able to react like that.

The remarkable thing was that when I learned who I wanted to be, I stopped caring about how to fit in. I became far more consumed with how to be the best of who I am. I am seeing the dynamic of the relationships I have change and become and that's interesting because as I become more of the person I want to be, the more fulfilling the nature of the relationships I have with the people that are in my life.

So, heroes help us learn about who we aspire to be, perhaps this is why Christ came and gave us an example. First Peter 2:21-25 (Cos you know, the Message is a bit weird with verses):

This is the kind of life you've been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also how to do it, step-by-step.

Maybe we should use this example first and foremost, before we look to humans and imaginary time travelling aliens to inspire us. Perhaps we needed to have an example to look up to and to get our inspiration from.

Anyone with me?

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The attitude of isolation (Part 4): Welcome to the masquerade...

Before I start my friend Rebekah wrote a blog post and I read it the eve of posting this and I think it's awesome and you should so totally read it! It also borders on what I want to talk about here, to a degree anyway. She talks about loneliness and how we hide and I'm guilty of hiding myself, it's time to stop...

I have wrote up a few of my experiences and what I've learned from them, but unless you see me frequently you will have no idea who I am. How rude of me to not introduce myself!

I'm Neil, I'm a nerd. I'm (mostly) left handed, and have a proven INTJ personality type. I'm kinda English, kinda Scottish and kinda Russian. I like badgers, soup and heavy metal music.

See, you're getting to know me already.

Except you aren't, it's just information.

I'm in total control of the information I give out, and as such, the information was specially crafted to be just enough to inform you and make you feel like I was being open and honest, but it just was not quite enough to actually give you the ability to make any firm conclusions about me.

I'm quite skilled in manipulation like that. I swear I only use my powers for good, well, if not good, certainly not evil! Well... Not until "the machine" is finished anyway...

See, I did it again, I crafted (I won't say funny though) a-designed-to-be-amusing little comment intended to put up a barrier between us to stop you getting too close by making you feel like you are.

The reality is I wear a mask and it's like one of those mirror/window things you see in police shows, very much like one in fact, let me explain.

These devices are not what they appear, the magic of glass on one side a mirror on the other. Except it's not, it's just glass, regular two way glass. The trick is one room is brightly lit while the other is in darkness. The light in the brightly lit room reflects off the bright white walls and reflects off the glass causing a mirror effect. You see, if you turned the light on in the dark room that "mirror" would very quickly reveal the illuminated darkness and the suspect can see who is identifying them.

My mask isn't a mask, it's just a piece of glass, the outside shines bright and I keep the inside in darkness so that no one can see into me.

When you are developing as a young person, you need to stretch and grow into who you are. I didn't have that luxury. I had to retreat into a dark little corner of myself, put up the glass and let others reflection of themselves be what they thought I was.

It worked... Too well.

There was a fundamental issue with this, it assumed that people on the other side of the glass were a threat to me. For a time this was certainly true, but it isn't any more, or at least I'm statistically less likely to find someone actively out to try and hurt me these days. Yet the glass remained in place. It was safe, comfortable, even. The thing is, while I could now see wonderful people and situations on the other side of my glass, I couldn't interact with it and they had no idea who or what was on my side of the glass.

I had two things I needed to do, I had to light up my darkness and break down my glass, not exactly an easy thing to do. After all, this is a coping mechanism I've had for years, so long in fact I can't remember not having it.

From my point of view illuminating the darkness is the easiest element and the place to start. I begun to do this by looking through into what felt like another world, one I could see, but not feel, a world that I wanted to be a part of and revealing my presence seemed like a good way to introduce myself. 

So I begun to let myself be known and I found out that the more I revealed, the more people seemed to like me. For example it has been pointed out to be that I have a very dry tone/sense of sarcasm and a flair for being overly dramatic, especially when I re-tell the stories that happened to me. Observational evidence (and outright statements by others) affirm that this combination seems to generally be regarded as "amusing".

So under the surface I appear to have a sense of humour, one that is seemingly socially acceptable, but rare enough that it has some punch. I didn't actually realise any of this until I let myself be known and opened up to other people. 

I had a choice, listen to the voice in my head, the one that says I'm not worth knowing or that others are only being polite or I can listen to my friends who feedback and contradict what I think about myself.

I could pick many examples where this has been true over and over, but I don't yet feel comfortable doing so. I'm still a work in progress, I hope you understand.

The fact of the matter is though as I have begun to open up and show myself to others I am learning that the more I open up the more I feel safe without having to hide in my darkness.

And now that I'm comfortable with being in the light I have to then attempt the harder part. Fully and unreservedly engaging with the wider world. It's an ongoing learning experience, but I'm slowly learning what I need to do...

... And it's much better on the other side of the glass.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

We interrupt your scheduled blog to bring you this public service message: Some choices suck...

You will have to forgive me this time around, I'm a little raw. I've had to go through with something I didn't want to do, yet I had to.

You may have heard me gloss over something I didn't want to do, well, this was it.

I had to hurt someone.

I've been dating a girl for a while and she's the most undeserving of the pain I had to inflict. If in anyway I could have spared her, I would have.

I couldn't.

I've been agonising over how things didn't feel right and how I was feeling miserable, opting to sacrifice myself rather than hurt another. I'd begun loosing sleep, having horrific nightmares when I did sleep. I'd feel fatigued and restless all the time...

To say I wasn't doing good was an understatement.

I had been trying to find meaning to life, a way to make things OK again, I abandoned personal projects to make time for the relationship, it was never enough.

I tried to pretend, to convince myself that I'd feel better soon, I didn't.

I wrestled with feeling like crap, felt like I was lying on a daily basis and I just couldn't do it anymore.

I just ended it this week.

It hurt, a lot. I imagine it her hurt more.

I didn't fall out of love or stop caring, it just wasn't right and I needed to end it before any further pain was caused. I don't like causing pain, and I take it hard if I am left with no choice. I felt weak, unable to go through with it.

I've been there, I've been rejected and cast aside, I know from the darkest deepest depths of my heart the sheer agony it is to have someone whom you care for reject you.

It wrenches my own heart to think that I've done that to someone else.

Some choices suck, there's no good or bad choice, just the only choice and it's bad, but it's worse if you refuse to make it.

This is one of those numb moments where I just have to trust in God that I've done the right thing. It feels like I have, but I still feel bad.

This is definitely a Romans 8:28 moment:

"And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."

I dunno how it's going to be worked to the good, I guess I just have to trust that it is.

At the end of the day I think Hebrews 11:1 sums it up nicely.

"Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."

I don't see how this will work to the good, but I hope for it and if I have faith for that then I can be confident in the knowledge that it will.

Some choices suck, but we just have to make them anyway and let God do the rest. He has to, because I don't want anyone to hurt for any longer than they have to...

This is the challenging this of attempting to live an open and transparent life, something significant happens and I can't quite focus on what I wanted to, don't worry normal services will resume next time.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The attitude of loneliness (Part 3): I'm such a burden, you're better off without me.

This series was originally a two part series, but I think there's more to be said, I might not be able to figure out enough in my usual two week window to coherently author a whole post, so like last time I might need the occasional change but I'm learning that I'm not alone, there's others like me.

Who struggle and try not to let it show.

Who stumble and hope nobody noticed.

Who hurt almost daily and pretend it's OK.

This is for you, as much as it is for me, if you don't understand what this is like, maybe this blog post might help enlighten you.

"You don't know what I've been through, if you did, you wouldn't be talking to me. I'm broken and not worth fixing and if you tried I'd bring you down."

This is how it is sometimes, for some of us at least. 

It sucks, because those two sentences are life sentences. Everything that can hold a mind prisoner can be contained in those words. A mind prison is the most effective prison in the world, it requires very little work to build, simply words, events can build one too, but words are enough. I have, at some point or another said them to someone, or acted as if I had said them.

I'm ashamed of many of the things that have happened to me, some were my fault, some weren't. 

Somehow though, I rationalised that because stuff kept coming my way I accepted it as the norm, perhaps I even deserved it. It's wrong, but it's so easy to believe it.

I was set on fire: Not my fault.

I was beaten up regularly because I didn't fit in: Not my fault.

I was assaulted at uni by a guy on PCP: Not. My. Fault.

I believed it was though and this is how it begins.

Stuff happens, we all react in our own way, but I adopted the identity that was pushed upon me. 

This was a negative identity, one I imagine most people would dislike if they had seen my past. I assumed (was almost afriad) others would agree with what my past and my mind prison stated rather than who I am.

I'm sorry, I truly am, I struggle with this. I struggle with accepting I am not the words that were spoken about me. I sometimes feel smaller than my past, I sometimes wake up thinking that the people in my life somehow disapprove of me because of my past, not approve of me for who I am.

I really am sorry for feeling like this some days.

This conflict between current self and past self caused cognitive dissonance. It felt like my brain was burning and my heart was breaking all at once. It felt like I was loosing my mind.

It created brokenness, in myself, in relationships, in opportunities...

I struggled with this, I occasionally attempted to open up but sooner or later I get hurt again and I retreated, hiding my face, my feelings and my interests. 

Sometimes I was betrayed by those I sought comfort in and I hurt, but I rationalised it, my past piped up, reminded me that I'm not worth it. It wasn't their fault, it was mine, I relied on them too much, I pushed them away. Either by being too open or too closed, I could argue it either way.

It causes me to reach the next step, I was broken, but worse, I believed not worth fixing, I had my reasons for this. My friends wouldn't have left, that relationship wouldn't have ended, etc. I sank further and further down.

Eventually I meet new people because that just happens in life and I had so much stuff that I felt I was a burden to anyone who might seek to get to know me, because my past interfered and trapped me in the never ending cycle of not knowing how or when to open up in a healthy manner (if at all).

So I lied.

"Yeah, I'm ok."

But, I keep believing what my past defined me as, so I remained cut off from some pretty amazing things.

There's was a way out, I had to learn to recognise when it was my time to change (and I did have to change), it's not something anyone could do for me.

My problem was another attitude: "This is my pain, you can't have it!"

I didn't want to let go of it, because I'd lived with it so long, I didn't know how to live without it, on days when I felt numb, I could trawl the depths of myself and find pain, I'd feel like crap, but that was something.

The fact is, you can't just extract someone's pain, you're left with a void, a great big emptiness where once an identity was.

It needs to be replaced, maybe all at once, maybe a bit at a time, again, everyone is different. This is the hardest part, because it's almost impossible to imagine anything beyond what there is, survival is the only priority, if there's any priorities at all.

I learned that the only way to do this was to change who it is that speaks over you.

2 Corinthians 5:17 states: "So then if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has passed away, look, what is new has come."

God has authority over my past, it is gone, but, it explicitly states that something new is put in its place.

When I changed the author of my identity I changed the nature of my identity and when I did that, I started to see things differently, little victories here and there, slowly adding up til the battles become sure victories.

I'd like to say I'm over it, I'm not, we are all works in progress after all. I am just thankful that I have more days defined the way God sees me than the way I saw myself.

Til next time.

Of sheep and psalms.

I want to do some bible study... Of sorts. I'm not an expert, but a long time ago I tried to understand a passage using my own frame of reference and I thought I'd share it.

I want to explore other things to include in my blog and this is one of the things I have in mind.

The passage I want to study is Psalm 23, now the Psalms are quite artsy and use a lot of metaphors, some of which the 21st century world in which I inhabit might not make a lot of sense anymore. So I decided to attempt to understand the metaphor and just post what I had.

I broke the passage into six logical sections and study them piece by piece, so with nothing more ado here's my humble interpretation.

Psalm 23 (English Standard Version) reads as follows:

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters and he restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

Section 1:

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want."

OK, so I'm not a sheep, but it's all about historical context, you see before CCTV, ABSOs and the mass culling of country critters someone had to keep watch over the sheep personally, a Shepard.

They lived outside with the animals, they would have honked worse than a bevy of swans! You think some people on the bus smell bad? Imagine an adolescent male who lives outside.

In a field.

With animals.

And regularly engages in mortal combat with apex predators for a living.

Trust me, you've got it easy.

Sheep were their life, you don't take on big beasties if you're not invested in what it is you're responsible for.

In short, a Shepherd loved the sheep.

This is saying that God is basically our bad-ass beast slaying guardian that has our needs covered.

I like to read it as follows:

"With God as my provider I have everything I need."

Section 2:

"He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside still waters and he restores my soul."

So, I'm supposed to be a sheep and what do sheep like, other than sheep nuts? Well, grass and water I suppose!

And because I'm a sheep (in the metaphor), I guess really green grass and a nice calm lake to drink from would be a pretty sweet deal actually.

It basically means that through God I've got all the things I could ever need, and I'm able to rest, relax and feel restored, I kinda read it this way.

"He brings me to a prosperous place where I will be refreshed."

Section 3:

"He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake."

Righteousness is a tricky one, it's one of those words I can use in context but could I define it? Well, I looked it up and it means that ones actions are just or right. So, God leads (or gently guides me) down right and just paths, but why?

This is where the second part comes in, if there's a for, then it's an implied answer to a why, so why does God do this? Well, for his name's sake, again, this was another thing that sounded fluffy and artsy and hard for me to understand, until I read it put this way: For his 'reputations' sake.

So I read the section this way:
"He guides the direction of my life towards goodness and justice because he is true to his word."

Section 4:

"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

That's some heavy stuff, but, sometimes life is.

I think the first part is rather self explanatory, up to the rod and staff bit, what the heck are rods and staffs?

Well, it keeps making references to sheep and shepherds, so I figured they were tools of the trade and I looked them up. A shepherd didn't have much in the way of possessions and could only take what he could carry, these two things were the two things he'd rely on to keep the sheep, but what did they do?

A rod was a handmade weapon by the shepherd himself, it had a clubbed end and the shepherd would use it to defend the sheep from predators.

A staff was different, it's not a walking aid, as it might sound, it's closer to a crook (that thing Bo-Peep carries in Toy Story). It was another long stick with a curled end, if a sheep was wandering off in the wrong direction and shepherd would hook the staff around the sheep and yank it back into walking in the right direction.

So, basically the two tools a shepherd had in his possession at all times were a stick to defend the sheep and a staff to herd the sheep in the correct direction.

And so the passage according to Neil continues to read as such:

"Even though the direction may go through a dark place, I have nothing to fear because I am never alone, I can rest easy because he knows, protects and guides me."

Section 5:

"You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows."

The first element to this is again, a bit arty in the language but basically it meant to have a meal served in your honour with all the people who hate you invited as guests. That's pretty audacious, only madness or sheer confidence does that. 

It gets bolder though!

To anoint someone with oil means to show great favour, or setting aside for a special purpose. At a meal full of people who hate you and to have you selected and proclaimed to be set aside for greater things, to be blessed. These 'guests' must be grinding their teeth so hard they're almost down to sawdust in their mouths.

And yet, there's more!

We are then blessed so much that we can't keep it to ourselves. At this meal full of people who have it in for you, to be set aside for a greater thing than those there and to be blessed so much you are overflowing and presumably blessing these people who hate you, they must be so confused!

So, to modernise this a little bit:

"He will honour me in the worst of times and bless me in front of those who would do me harm, more than I can contain, so that I will overflow and bless everyone I meet."

Section 6:

"Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever."

I thought I had this tied down, but then I looked deeper into this and looked up 'mercy' because, it does have a few different possible meanings depending on the context and what I found was fascinating!

1) Mercy, from the French to mean 'price paid'.
2) Compassionate treatment.
3) Something to be thankful for.

So, all my life, I have my life paid for, I am treated compassionately and I am thankful for that! 

We know that our lives have been redeemed, that is, we've been bought back, price paid: John 3:16.

We know that we have a compassionate God: Jeremiah 29:11.

I'm certainly thankful for that!

My final interpretation comes in this form:

"My life has been bought back, I am thankful because God is compassionate and will never stop loving or caring for me, forever more will I be in his presence."

In full:

"With God as my provider I have everything I need.

He brings me to a prosperous place where I will be refreshed.

He guides the direction of my life towards goodness and justice because he is true to his word.

Even though the direction may go through a dark place, I have nothing to fear because I am never alone, I can rest easy because he knows, protects and guides me.

He will honour me in the worst of times and bless me in front of those who would do me harm, more than I can contain, so that I will overflow and bless everyone I meet.

My life has been bought back, I am thankful because God is compassionate and will never stop loving or caring for me, forever more will I be in his presence."

That concludes the first time I've ever revealed my own personal study of the bible, if you liked it and want to hear more, let me know, feedback is always welcome.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The attitude of loneliness (Part 2): I don't fit in, so I won't even try to.

This is part two of a series I started called "The Attitude Of Isolation", I previously wrote about an entitled attitude "People don't make an effort to get to know me", I'll be following this up with a second attitude "I don't fit in, so I won't even try".

Yeah, it's gonna be a long one, best make it a venti!

I'm a nerd.

I know, I know, it's hard to believe, but I am.

In college, I was the only one seemingly fascinated by what I was being taught, in a class full of nerds, I was to those nerds what nerds are to regular people.

University was a very similar experience, I thought I'd escaped the usual high school cliques and banal conversation that was basically its own pidgin English of sports, dull pop culture references and the obsession over who had achieved the most admirable feat regarding alcohol/women/money/whatever.

There were some guys in particular I didn't enjoy spending time with, we didn't have a witty term at the time, but I understand we now call those people "brogrammers". The stereotypical 'bro' who chest bumps and "woos" while clenching fists when an indeterminate team score a goal or point, or whatever it is in the sport that's on the tiny bar TV.

Disclaimer: Not all men are Bros and not all Bros are men.

I was invited out a few times and discovered the opposite to the "brogrammer" the self proclaimed "alpha geek", someone I later discovered achieved this title by learning the dungeons and dragons rulebook backwards, yet after four years had not successfully transitioned into his second year. I'm still not clear how that merit awarded him the title he held...

Everywhere there was an event I might have wanted to go to, the alpha nerd was there, everyone knew him, he was ubiquitous. The mind boggling thing was, most people just accepted this mentality of there being an "alpha nerd" and they'd have to fall into line, and they did! 

It really was like a wolf pack with him snapping at everyone else's necks if something happened in the wider nerd subculture he didn't like. 

Social life became a frustrating exercise of trying to avoid speaking to this guy because if you had a real need to discuss some uni work with someone on the course, he'd sooner or later hijack the conversation and talk about vampire the masquerade for half and hour and invite the person you were talking to away to meet someone new.

I never got the chance to get to know even those that looked like I might have wanted to get to know. I wasn't in the inner circle of the alpha nerd and all those I did share some interests were more concerned with fitting in and being someone else's minion than getting to know anyone outside the circle.

This had a long term effect on me. I gave up, I stopped trying to fit in. I closed myself off and in my final year I barely left the house. I poured myself into study to the point of sickness and that was the worst thing I could have done.

I thought I was protecting myself. In reality I was only teaching myself to not get involved in things I might want to.

I'd already decide before I had went somewhere that I wasn't going to fit in and wasn't going to have fun. So, having assessed that I wasn't going to have fun, was going to be on my own and would feel awkward all evening, I could do that from the comfort of my own home without needing to put shoes on.

The most dangerous part of this attitude is that it creates a prison in your mind and it'll trick you, it'll give you reasons to not do things, reasons to hide away and disengage.

I found ways to justify myself, well reasoned and perfectly logical arguments to others about why I "can't make it" when in reality I just didn't feel like there was a place for me at any given event.

When I see people retreat and close themselves off, I feel a great sense of empathy and if I feel like I want to connect with those people. I understand, I might not know the story, but I understand the feelings.

I always operated by giving to other people but I never allowed others to influence me. It was rather selfish of me and wasn't very healthy. It's taken me the best part of two weeks to get to this tiny little revelation into words and that is:

If I want to fit in around people, I have to take the initiative and create a place in my life for people to fit in.

I really can't place enough emphasis on that statement, so I'll say it again.

If you want to fit in, create room for people in your own life to do life with you and see what happens!

Proverbs 18:1 (English Standard Version) reads:

"Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire, he breaks out against all sound judgement."

Well... That's pretty black and white in regards to the matter, it's not easy, in fact it's downright challenging, pretty much like everything in life, but it does show that everything I'm having to learn the hard way is pointing me in the right direction.

Once again I hope that this makes sense and it if not then opps, better luck next time.

This stuff is hard to pour through so I'm going to take the next blog off from this series but I'll be coming back to it, with part three: "I'm a burden, you don't want to know me."

Monday, September 29, 2014

The attitude of loneliness (Part 1): People don't make an effort to know me.

So, I'm not sure where my first post came from, it was a bundle of raw energy and I'm not entirely sure how to follow it up.

I've got a bunch of things I feel like I could talk about and my mind is a whirling vortex of entropy so it's hard to pick the better parts, but there was one subject that I kept coming back to. I've tried in multiple different ways to write about and I wrote myself into a corner, trying, I guess, to be smarter and more eloquent than I am.

So screw it, here's my disorganized thoughts on something.

I've felt alone most of my life, I've never felt that I quite fit in quite anywhere, various reasons really, but I found that as a result I became reluctant to let anyone into my life.

There's a differece between feeling alone and being alone and I felt alone. Part of me feeling this way was what happened, the rest was my reaction to it and I discovered that at a given moment I could have two attitudes. Not always at the same time, but sometimes.

The first is the title of this post: I felt that people didn't make enough of an effort to get to know me.

I grew up in a small rural community, the only publicly acknowledged Christian in a school where being different got you bullied, I was also into science and technology, so I was an even bigger target.

To survive, I avoided people, I'd hide away in the library, in corners of the school yard where no one ventured. 

If I was found I would be picked up (I was the smallest and the lightest guy in my year) and presented as a punch bag for other kids in school, my arms pinned behind my back and hoisted into the air, it was a spectacle, sometimes I ran and got away, sometimes I was horribly uncoordinated and would collapse in a tangle of my own feet... I'd just have dirt kicked in my face.

One time a student made an improvised flame thrower from a fire lighter and a can of deodorant and pointed it in my general direction. This particular student was two, possibly three years below me.

I avoided everyone. People I didn't know were a threat until proven otherwise. I didn't go out, didn't have much in the way of extracurricular activities. A church youth group on a Friday night and even then there were cliques and I didn't really establish myself such that when I left, no one bothered to find out where I'd gone.

I was lonely. I ached in my bones in a way I didn't think possible. I also learned to accept I was a loner, I took that word and made myself an archetypical example of it.

It became who I was, it had helped me survive quite a lot of things, it had also let me escape a great many social events I just didn't want to attend.

Being a loner became useful, it became me.

I had begun to develop an attitude that I'd use to justify my loneliness, and that's a pretty messed up place to be in, to be able to ache in your bones for social bonds, but being able to convince yourself that you're justified in not having it.

I had a joke in university with my house mate that the reason I didn't go out in groups that contained clique's was that they were what we called "'so, anyway' people", thus named because after you'd spoken to them, they'd turn to their friend and continue their conversation like you weren't there with that very sentence.

"So, anyway... What was I saying?"

I started to resent groups of people I might otherwise have associated with. I had no desire to break into a clique, I felt no will or compulsion to prove myself. If they weren't prepared to accept me, I wasn't prepared to be around them.

This attitude is in itself not nessesarily bad, it is what logically followed that was.

As I had to be outside due to lectures and having to shop and such, I found that I'd frequently be asked to join in activities to make up numbers.

"Hey, we're off to play soccer and need a goalie, you're up!" Someone might say as they threw goal keeper gloves at me.

"I think not, find yourself someone else that actually enjoys sports." I would reply as I wouldn't bother to catch the gloves.

The thing I find frustrating, esspecially in stereotypical male subculture is the assumption of shared interests. I don't like sports, I don't think that I have ever liked sports and I think I'd rather fill in a tax return than play football (and I HATE having to fill in tax returns). 

I grew to resent being invited to things. When I suggested going to a pub quiz for a quiet drink no one would join me. Yet, I would be accused of being anti-social and generally not much fun for declining invites to night clubs (yet more tax returns). 

If I wanted to go to a gig, my choice of artist would be derided but a pub crawl til 3am was considered a better use of the time.

I wanted to know why no one would join me in things I enjoyed. Why did I have to compromise and skip the events I wanted to go to on order to be considered fun? So I didn't go. I developed an entitled attitude that if it's not something I wanted to do, I wouldn't go, it wasn't fair that I was friends enough to be included in their events, but none of them would join me in my events.

I questioned why people would bother to invite me to things without first knowing my preferences and interests. It really begun to feel like people weren't interested in me, they didn't make an effort to get to know me and that royally sucked.

This was a social stand off and I could stand there for as long as it took.

And to paraphrase Newton, in a vacuum motion can neither begin nor end.

There was certainly a vast vacuum between me and other people. If they weren't making an effort and I wasn't making an effort, well, I was always going to be on my own. So how was I going to succeed in getting to a point where I could have many friends and have a social circle?

I've had to position myself to be able to make people want to get to know me. In retrospect it's obvious that if you walk around with a demeanour of "leave me alone" most people are gonna leave you alone.

I have to present an open and friendly face that engages and makes people want to get to know me. Walking around talking the moral high ground of getting to know a person and rubbing their noses in the fact that they don't know you isn't nice.

There's also the fact that if I was living life through a filter bubble of "this is my experience and you must keep this in mind at all times" how could I keep that up for long? I mean really. 

There are some dudes who have known nothing but sports, clubbing and a junior sales position role that's going nowhere. Where do I get off expecting them to understand my science and programming background when basic algebra is but a distant high school memory?

I can't, we would both have to try to find some sort of commonality. No, not all people will make the effort, does that justify being a social hermit crab? Of course not.

It's only yourself that you'll hurt after all, so why do it?

I had the wrong attitude.

People don't make an effort, guess what? Some people don't, but others do and while I was walking around with an inflexible and uncompromising mentality I was just going to be driving people away.

What it ultimately comes down to is Luke 6:31 (The Message):

"Here is a simple rule of thumb for behaviour: Ask yourself, what do you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!"

That's challenging, I mean we all know this passage, and on face value I find that we just take it to mean that we shouldn't be horrible to others.

It means so much more.

In this one particular example (I'm pretty sure I can and probably will find more) I wanted friends, acceptance, etc I have to accept others.

I want my viewpoints, interests, emotions, all that jazz to be recognised as valid and I can't be accepted. At least not until I accept everyone else I find it hard to connect with.

I've had to loose my entitled attitude, there's a lot I had to let go and surrender, because it simply isn't how I want to be treated.

Now... This has taken quite some time to prepare, I'm not entirely sure how much, if any sense it makes. So I've written what I can, it makes sense to me, I just hope it makes sense to someone else.

I want to continue with this and discus the second attitude I've experienced, you know, when I can organise my thoughts!

Update: Part 2 continues with:
The attitude of isolation (part 2): I don't fit in, so I won't try

Saturday, September 6, 2014[0];

I've meant to post this for a while and I've delayed, then meandered and finally procrastinated for a bit, and that's because I don't want to tell you what I need to, nothing against you, I'm sure you're nice and don't worry I will tell you, I'm just quite an introverted, introspective and insular individual. I'm not used to saying how I feel, I didn't realise I had the right to say I wasn't doing OK...

Have you ever looked at anyone else and thought that they've got their crap together and you just wish things in your life could be together like they have it? I know I do. In my mind I imagine basically everyone has it all figured out and has no trouble navigating life.

Thing is, that's a lie. A pretty massive one, you see, we all look at others and see how they have things figured out and how we wish we could just have what they have.

That's wrong. It frightens me that there's people who wish they knew what I knew, could do what I do. I wish that they had better role models. If I dumped the contents of my mind into someone else's it'd drive them mad, mostly because to get to where I have, I feel like I've gone mad myself.

I don't have it together, I pretend to, because, lets face it we all do, it's what any civilized society does, but I don't.

If you've ever felt this way, you are not alone.

I want those words to sink in, so I'll repeat it, with emphasis.

You are not alone.

You aren't, because, I'm not and, if for a moment you do feel that you are, you need to read the following words.

You are not alone.

I don't know your situation, I can't even begin to pretend to.  Perhaps, however, you would like to know mine and maybe you might see that we're not different.

I hope so, if the lessons I have had to learn will, in any way, spare you the pain, the anguish, the sleepless nights and the vacant un-lived days. Then, what I have experienced, will be proudly worn like a medal.

Because you are worth it.

I don't know you, but you are worth it.

Every one is worth something, and if no one has ever told you that you matter, you do. If someone has ever told you that you don't. They are wrong. You do.

I am Neil Munro and (if my friends are to be believed) I am sometimes a genius and the rest of the time a raving madman (this latter one I imagine you will think is more appropriate).  I am a your guide on an tour through my mind, life and emotions. I know I'm not the only one out there that feels like a lost little child in a big scary world, so if my experiences can help but one person, then it'll be worth it.

So, please keep your arms and feet inside the vehicle at all times, fasten your safety belt and please no flash photography...

... Seriously, there be dragons and it's mating season, you have been warned.