A while ago I wrote an article for The Fangirl Initiative about sitcom workouts. I have since stopped writing for the site and have figured out how to optimize printing options, so I’m re-posting the graphics here so that I can put them on Pinterest and actually make these accessible to people. (more…)
B is for balance.
Where exactly is the line between neediness and engagement? The chasm of awkwardness between “hey, I’m really glad we’re friends” and “I hide outside your window while you sleep”? Why is it that I freeze up every time I think of telling my friends that I love them while I can compliment strangers like it’s nobody’s business? When did caring start equating to fear?
It’s not like I have some history of people leaving me that could explain a fear of intimacy, of relationships. I have a family that loves me, incredibly awesome friends, and very solid amount of wonderful acquaintances, none of whom have stabbed me in the back or abandoned me or anything of the sort. I’m just constantly worried that everything I say will be taken the wrong way.
I once didn’t text a friend of mine “hey I haven’t seen you in a while” because I was afraid that one of her grandparents had died and my text would bring up painful memories leading to her hate me by association. I don’t even know if she talks to her grandparents. I in fact know absolutely nothing about her grandparents. But that fear was still there. I’m always afraid that something will be misconstrued. Take, for example, the sentence, “I miss you.” I miss a lot of people, frequently, and yet I don’t say it nearly as often as I could because there are so many different ways it could be taken. It could be taken as “I love you and want to spend every hour of the day with you and am sad that we don’t and did I mention I love you?” It could be taken as “I find it hard to exist without you and the fact that you’re not in my life incapacitates me.” It could be taken as a lie: “psh, she doesn’t even know me.” Or, even worse, it could be evidence of a one-sided relationship: “it’s so cute that she thinks she knows me *chuckle chuckle* let’s see how long I can string her along.” Even as I type these I see how irrational they are, how incredibly unlikely someone is to think any of these things. And yet somehow I’m always worried that I’ll scare someone away.
Are people really that much of flight risks? Do they really scare that easy? I’d like to think that I read people fairly well. I’ve been told this on multiple occasions (usually in some version of “you seem to know me well”); it’s a facet of my personality type (INTJs are terrible at relating to people, but we pick up facial cues and subtle body language almost as if by magic). And yet all of this goes out the window when I suddenly care about someone. Don’t get me wrong, I can still read them. I still have a fairly good idea of what they’re thinking at any given time and how they’ll react to certain things–better, even, perhaps, because of the amount of time we’ve spent together. But for some reason, even if there is absolutely no evidence for it, I think that they’ll run away the first time I show that I care.
Take, for example, my best friend. We’ve known each other for thirteen years now and have been friends for about ten of those years. And yet I still worry that when I text her something mundane about my day or something I found entertaining that it will be the metaphorical straw on the metaphorical camel and she will suddenly stop tolerating me and we won’t be friends anymore. This is irrational. There are no other words for it. Yet it still occasionally crosses my mind. Less, now that we’ve had conversations about it and she frequently reassures me that she enjoys hearing about my life and spending time with me. But for people that aren’t her, well, it’s hard.
It takes me, on average, three years to become comfortable with a person or a place. (Which, for this whole college thing, really sucks.) But even when I’m comfortable with a person, I will rarely initiate something. I will go along with anything they say and assume less often that they’re simply tolerating me, but I won’t initiate compliments or hanging out or even sometimes conversations, lest they think I’m presuming too much. I want to, but I won’t. Luckily (in a broad sense of the term), there are only about five people outside of my family that it would seriously wound me if they suddenly stopped talking to me forever. I would miss everyone else, but I would get over it, probably fairly quickly. The thing that I’ve never quite been able to articulate about this is that the fact that a person isn’t part of the five doesn’t diminish how much I care for them. It doesn’t make sense, I know.
If I care for a person, I care entirely. I don’t really have the middle setting that some people do of “we’re friends but I don’t care what you do.” I don’t call those people friends. But occasionally my heart or soul or something other than the dominant logical part of my brain will pick people and eagerly cement them in so that removing them would be seriously detrimental to my health. (I picture something that’s sort of a cross between the blobby memory workers in that Inside Out movie and the Looney Tunes’ Tasmanian Devil with bricks and a cement scraper and a manic smile.) Sometimes time will chip away the cement, but not usually. Usually it happens and I freeze, incapable of moving forward but even more incapable of letting them go.
B is for belief.
I’m trying to believe in the power of love and affection. I’m trying to believe that when a person actively hangs out with me it’s because they want to and not because I’m their last choice or they’re simply tolerating me because they feel bad. I’m trying to believe that other people give me the same benefit of the doubt that I give them. I’m trying to believe that people love me by looking at their actions and not worrying about verbal affirmation. I’m trying to find the balance between coming off as needy and coming off as engaging. I’m trying to find the balance of how much I should actually worry about this. I’m trying not to lie to myself about anything. But it’s hard. It’s so incredibly hard.
I’ve decided to do an A-Z blogging challenge, because apparently I can’t keep anything up unless I’m competing. Even if it’s with myself, though that’s not quite as compelling as beating other people. So, I suppose, without any further ado, here goes:
A is for Adams.
Specifically, Douglas Adams. This wonderful man is quite possibly my favorite writer. He writes like I think: philosophical, theological, mathematical nonsense. If I were a book, I think I would be Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. I’m not sure why; I just identified with the writing style and the story and I felt the details in my soul. He and C.S. Lewis are my main inspirations when I write. I mean just listen to some of these quotes:
“Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.”
“He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it.”
“For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.”
“The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”
“The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.”
“The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it which the merely improbable lacks.”
This last quote has become sort of an impromptu life motto for me. Which brings us to my next point.
A is for ambitious.
Not ambition, ambitious. There’s a difference, and not just in the part of speech. Ambition is something that is admired in a person. “Oh,” you say, “that person has such great ambitions. She’s going great places in life.” Ambitious, on the other hand, is what you say when someone attempts something stupid and seemingly impossible. “You’re going to what?” you ask. “Climb the Empire State Building with a paper clip and some twine? That’s ambitious.” Waggle your eyebrows and scoff.
I, unfortunately, tend to be habitually ambitious. What’s the fun in doing something easy? For that matter, what’s the fun in doing something merely improbable? As Walt Disney said, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” So, my goal for this year isn’t to graduate, it’s to write and edit an entire novel. My goal isn’t to make the most of the last year I have with friends, it’s to find a date to the infinite number of weddings I’ll be attending next summer. Someone who’s going to be in town who I can stand (and who can stand me) long enough to do this. Of course I want to do the other things too, but they’re easy. I don’t want to say I’m taking them for granted, because that will give you the wrong idea, but they’re things I trust myself to do without trying.
I like challenges. I like beating challenges. I like puzzling things out. I like winning. I’ve always had the habit of biting off more than I could chew, and then choking myself trying to get it down. I always do, though, so I suppose I’ve cultivated this ambitious streak. It’s fun to watch people’s faces, the ones who said “Seriously?”, the ones who said “Well that’s ambitious.”, the ones who scoffed.
The problem, as usual, comes in somewhere about the place people start peeking their heads and egos and emotions in. People have caught on to my attempting the impossible and winning. They’ve started to root for me. They’ve started believing in me. And now, if I fail, they know. I’ve disappointed them. Not in any tangible way that they’d ever tell me, or even think it of me. But somewhere deep down I am no longer the person who beats impossible odds and attempts things that only a crazy person would only to come out both not crazy and having completed it. I’m the person who tried the impossible, and like any other human, failed it. But that’s another closed bag for another, more melancholy, day.
“A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.”
Here’s to foolishness in the eyes of everyone except those few noble souls who have peeked their heads in and somehow labeled themselves “friends.” And here’s to continuing ingenuity because of them.