Monday, May 27, 2013

The Idiot In(tro)verted

Videos of myself and my sister at a very young age might surprise some folks. When we were between 3 and 5 years old or thereabouts, my sister was a ham, jumping up and down in front of the camera and yelling, "Look at me!" I was less concerned, almost oblivious. I was just wandering around in the background doing my own thing, very much in my head. As I got older I eventually started to become a ham, and a big one. Unlike my sister whose passion was performance, I was just positively and pathetically desperate for attention. My sister was far smarter about it than me. She went through school quietly, worked quietly, kept mostly to herself, but shined out onstage. Her outlet for her inner ham was always through a forum where people went specifically looking for it. I acted out anywhere and everywhere. On and off stage I demanded attention. I would usurp conversations, talk for way too long about anything that interested me in classes (sometimes to my benefit, sometimes not), dressed in a way that drew both positive and negative attention, and was never one to be quiet about my opinions on masturbatory forums like Myspace and later Facebook. I still have a hard time staying silent, even as I've come to learn that my life would be so much easier if I shut my fucking mouth 99% of the time. You see, I really want the rest of the human race to just shut up about everything too, and now I finally realize that perhaps the problem here is not that the world is stupid; It's that I keep choosing to get involved with it.

When I was very young, I was introverted with a rather serious disposition, always wanted to do everything myself, and yet I was extremely affectionate to the few who I wanted around. When I became a teenager I fell prey to that most irritating of human instincts in us all and consequently sought to find my pack. I never found that pack. I looked for my pack until my mid-twenties, when I finally gave up. My whole life I've been taught one thing relatively constantly: no one wants me. Not the real me. Human nature may make most of us sick for the company of others, but when you're a freak like me, you don't easily find these so-called "like-minded" people everyone talks about. But the hunger for love and attention remained. I could go into the myriad psychological reasons why I'm so pathetically desperate for affection and love, and they're damn good reasons, but that's not really what I'm writing this post about. I'm writing this post simply about my reversion to introversion.

I was discussing this with an acquaintance of mine recently, and it took me quite awhile to explain to him why I don't believe my introversion is a fault. It's just who I am. My biggest flaw has not been my own nature, but rather fighting against that nature. I put myself out into the world, tried to please everyone and be helpful, and all it did was exhaust me and teach me that most humans are ungrateful and not worth my time and psychological energy. Both physically and mentally, I simply have a very limited supply of energy, more limited than your average person. And this in part leads to a lot of depression and defeatism, although those qualities came about of their accord as well. Depression and defeatism are traits that have passed down through my family for many generations (the depression is a genetically inheritable trait, and the defeatism is just a lucky expression of it amongst the brilliant and artistic minds in my family who never managed to do anything with their talents to make themselves happy). The first time this really hit me was my junior year of high school. Before the first semester was even over I had a mental breakdown and decided I needed time away from school. Luckily my parents were understanding enough, and I was given a semester to just hide in my cave, go out when I wanted, and attend school only one day a week through independent studies. I still went and helped with the drama department's play (Technically I was not allowed to be there, but I was always so involved with theatre that they let me help out without the administration knowing), but the fact of matter is that I went out when I chose to, and retreated when I needed to. And by the beginning of my senior year I was ready to face the crowds again. That following year was the least pressuring and most enjoyable of my high school career. I needed that 9 month recharge between Junior and Senior year, and it did me a lot of good.

There is blog by a woman named Christine Miserandino who suffers from chronic illness. In her blog she discusses what she calls "Spoon Theory," and although her illness is physical, it applies perfectly to those of us with social anxiety, depression, and introverted tendencies. To boil it down - people with chronic illnesses (including mental disorders like depression), have only so much energy to get them through the day, and they have to strategize to make it through. And, in a lot of ways, the same is true of introverts. (See her blog here: http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/wpress/articles/written-by-christine/the-spoon-theory/)

Now, I don't want you get the wrong impression that I'm somehow saying that introverts suffer from a mental disorder. No, introversion is a personality type. I just happen to be lucky enough to be an introvert who suffers from depression and social anxiety on top of it. Socializing is not the Devil to an introvert, but it does exhaust them more than it does extroverts. I love socializing. I need to be around people to feel sane. But I can only do it for so long before I need to get away again to recharge. So many people infiltrating my "bubble" for so long taxes my nervous system. The only way I was able to do it for extended periods of time when I was younger was to drink my way through it. I drank in order to feel like I was a "normal" human, without all my quirks and inhibitions, and interact with people in some "normal" setting and manner.

Unless you are like me, you have no fucking clue what it's like to have people constantly asking you if there's something wrong because you aren't taking part in the group activities. No, there's nothing wrong, I'm just not comfortable with it. They think you are broken because you don't like to do what "normal" people do. Even people I've called my best friends still don't understand after nearly two decades why I don't enjoy the social activities they enjoy. Simple answer is: I just don't, ok? And that's not going to change now. I wanted to feel normal when I was younger. I wanted so badly to enjoy the things that the average person enjoys. So I drank to ease the discomfort. But I drank so much that eventually it started to harm me and I had to stop before it led me to harm others. I no longer have the magic elixir that makes me feel like I'm one of the crowd. So what does that leave me with? Oh, sweet Christ, with the fog cleared that I means I have to deal with me... ME... the person I really am... without all the filters! Shit.

Lo and behold I discovered something: I really just want to be left alone. I don't mean that I literally want to be alone. No, I like being with people. And it hurts when I don't hear from my friends for long periods of time. Like they think I don't care about them because I need some time alone. But I want to be able to enjoy things my way. I've always hated being interrogated, and the problem is that even when people ask me very simple questions, seeking information that I did not offer myself in the first place, I feel like I'm being interrogated (The exception being in a dating or romantic type situation, since that's kind of inevitable when you're getting to know someone). I hate it when people ask me personal questions, yet I'm very open and honest about my personal life (as you can probably tell from this blog). But I like to offer the information when and how I please. That's part of being an introvert: I will invite you into my bubble and you will feel very welcome, but if you try to infiltrate it without the green light, I will either recoil and hide or lash out.

In the past when I imagined someday being a rock star, or a priest, or a teacher (all of which I still think in many ways I'd like to do in some capacity), these very public and socially involved positions, I always yet pictured a safe place to withdraw at the end of it, my "cave," where everything is quiet, away from the crowds, away from the noise. The kicker is that the cave is a lonely place when you're the only one in it. And I've managed to have my cave in one way or another my whole life. But I'm always alone in it. You see, just because introverts get exhausted by too much socialization, it doesn't actually mean we're anti-social. Again, it just comes down to energy. Some people have it, other people don't. Introverts don't. Not without hooking up to the power station for extended periods of time before we can go back out onto the road. My point in saying that is to illustrate that despite my reclusiveness and despite how much more reclusive I've become over the last few years, I still ache for love and closeness.

All it really comes down to is that I'm a lonely person, constantly misunderstood, and I just can't escape that feeling (And believe me, I'm 29 years old now, I'm sick of sounding like a whiny goth teen, but that teen has never gone away, and nothing I've ever done has pacified him. Guess I'd better learn to live with it). I want someone to invite into my bubble and to share my cave with. My recent struggles within myself have made me realize the full weight of this undeniable fact: I am really sick of people, the human race, crowds, the mobs and their pitchforks, but I can't escape my biological and psychological need for their presence. So why fight it? Since I'm so sick of dealing with people, I'll just pull back and stop trying to get involved. I don't need to talk to people, I don't need to please people, I don't need to help them in ways that draw attention to myself. I don't owe anyone an answer, and I don't owe anyone an explanation. If I'm fortunate, I can go the back way. That is, to become financially successful enough that I can simply support causes I believe in quietly through anonymous donations. I don't have to rant pointlessly upon deaf ears and blind eyes on superfluous virtual cesspools like Facebook to make people believe in the causes I support or agree with me about anything. I've never changed anyone's mind. So I'm done trying. What do I care if you're my ideological enemy? You likely always have been and I just wasn't aware of it until the internet gave you a sense of self-importance that organic society never did. It certainly gave me delusions that I'd be able to change the world. Well, I'm done trying to change the world. All it's ever done in return is change me for the worse.

I still love religion, and I love turning over theology in my head, but I'm done taking part in your pathetic little arguments about the gods or lack thereof. My relationship with my god is now my business and no one else's. Oh, I'll still write all my thoughts down, and maybe someday I'll have the audacity to publish them in some sort of compilation, but the genius of that route is that in order to argue with me in a manner that will grab respectable attention (mine or anyone else's), those opposed to me will have to basically construct a compilation, treatise, or book of their own in response. And a thirty second slam on Facebook or Twitter won't hold much weight against it. My friends used to come to me when they had spiritual dilemmas. Well, most of us have grown up and are no longer asking the same questions. Or I don't give them the answers they want, so they dismiss me. My education and I have become superfluous to anyone except me and that to which I pray. I had the realization that I was offering advice to people who weren't asking for it, and I hate it when people do that to me. Why waste the energy?

You win, humankind. You've beat me into submission. But before you hoist yourself onto the gold-medal platform, you should know that all you've really done is remind me who I actually am -  quiet, serious, private, and in need of a much more intimate acceptance. All my life I've been scrambling for understanding because I've never felt loved. And I think after 29 years on this earth without ever knowing what it's really like to be in love, I've got good reasons to be aching for it. But I'm done over compensating by seeking out the acceptance of thousands or millions of buffoons who can't seem to comprehend their place in this universe; apes who think they're better than every other species of ape and are yet more violent, vile, and fickle than any animal I've ever come across. Yet I'm one of you, and so if I do not recognize the beauty, passion, and poetry of your design, then I can certainly not excuse nor justify my own existence. To have some semblance of peace with myself, I must accept my nature as just one of seven billion naked apes haphazardly clawing for a reason to be, a reason to live, a reason to die, any reason at all. The gods blessed and cursed us with the knowledge of our own mortality, and it made us crazy. For better or worse we cannot escape this knowledge, and so we cannot escape the big question. Even to decide there is no answer is an answer in and of itself (so we'll have none of you arrogant nihilists claiming superiority as though you did not require a philosophical or religious placation of your own innate weaknesses, thank you very much).

I crave a quiet life, both externally and internally. I'm attempting to set up a business for which I can work mainly from home and come and go as I please, deal with crowds when and how I please, and have quiet when I please. But with that I hope (as much as I hate that word) to find someone who can "be quiet" with me. Your friends and your family are people that you tend to have more verbal relationships with. Granted our nearest and dearest tend to have the ability to know some things here and there without the need of verbalization or vocalization, but what I'm talking about is physical communication and connection, the kind of thoughts and feelings that you can't express in words, but only in silence with your body, be it through gesture, facial expression, or touch. Of course many of you will read what I just wrote and say, "Ah jeez, guy just needs to get laid." And yes, while the mere physical acts themselves are undeniably a large part of what I'm craving, they are hardly the entirety of it. Just fucking someone for the sake of a shared (or not) orgasm is just super if that's what you're into and what you're after, but there's far more to physical relationships than sex. Intimacy, trust, acceptance, comfort, those bizarre phenomena that when combined together tend to create that possibly mythical ideal we've all heard of - love - yes, those (alongside the orgasms of course) are what I'm really after in that person who shares my bubble and shares my cave. And I think the mere fact that I'm a cave dweller has certainly frightened a great many of them off, thinking that I'm going to try to make a recluse of them as well. Hardly. In fact, it's great to have someone who's more outgoing in a relationship of two, providing that they don't always try to yank the troglodyte out into the wicked world. ("Day star, oh so bright, aaahhhhh the pain!!!")

But now I'm just dwelling on the downside of solitude. In all truth, I've come to accept a good deal of that loneliness. I've realized that most of my friends and family, even some very close to me, do not now nor have they ever understood me. And that's okay. I'm tired of seeking that understanding and acceptance from the whole goddamned world. As painful as it is to be ignored, I don't really need a pack. I've given myself the delusional sense of belonging by delving into my Russian heritage and saying, "Ah hah! There's a people to whom I actually belong!" despite having never been to the country, and having only learned the basics of the language thus far.

But a smaller pack, a family unit of some kind, is still an important attribute of the life I seek to create for myself, and the need is both biological and emotional. Now of course I can blame genes and Mother Nature all I want, but nevertheless I cannot escape the simple fact that I just simply want to know what it's like to be loved, accepted, and to love and accept. Obviously I want that, or in my newfound introversion I wouldn't have bothered to write and publish this wretched diatribe. As I said, I don't really give a shit what any of you think about pretty much anything anymore - but I care what that one potential mate thinks, and for better or worse, I have to continue to put myself out there and throw myself onto the mercy of the most cruel Fates and their games. And it may come to naught. But what are ya gonna do? I'm an animal and to attempt to live against my instincts is the stupidest war I've ever fought, and after decades of trying to change who I am, I'm declaring peace and granting amnesty for all the traits I used to hate. I am me, I'm the recluse, I'm the introvert, I'm the goofball, I'm the nervous fuck-up, I'm the artist, I'm the child, I'm the beast, I'm the fighter, I'm the curmudgeon, and maybe someday I'll be the lover and the father too (the latter two feel more like the real me than half of the rest, but I've never had the bloody chance to express them). I'm all those things, all those animals, all those creatures, and if you don't like them, then you're welcome to never speak to me again. I wish none of you ill. Quite the opposite, actually. I wish people could more easily find their smiles, and Lord knows I've had a hell of a hard time finding mine. But you are so horrible to each other and so many of you seem to really get off on making life more difficult for others. Well, I'm not going to let the weight of anyone's stupidity or malice pull the corners of mouth down anymore.

"When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me..." And well, dear ol' Paul, that was just about the stupidest thing I ever did. That child knew what he wanted, and he never suffered the fools. So I'm putting him back in the driver's seat. I'd tell ya'll to buckle up, but very few of you are going to be invited.