Saturday, December 26, 2015

Misunderstood: In Defense of Myself

Every child, every teenager, goes through that: Nobody gets me phase.  Right?  I'm not fond of absolutes, so saying every is a toss-up to me, but I think that in general, that statement is pretty true.  Adults tend to laugh because "they've been there", of course the kid "is being dramatic", and "will be okay".

I've heard all of this so often throughout my life; it's no wonder I believed it.  Growing up, I felt like a stranger to everyone I interacted with.  As a child, I just wanted to be an adult, and wasn't afraid to tell anyone.  I generally didn't relate to other kids around me very well.  Sure, I made friends, but more often than not, I found myself explaining to them my thoughts and feeling; having to justify my view.  No, I'm not mad you went off campus for lunch without me when I had to make-up a test.  But, yes, I am hurt that you didn't tell me that you went, when I would normally have been invited..  The fine line, that fine distinction, I had trouble articulating as a kid/teenager.

Or, I would foul a pass in a volleyball game and the coach would tell me what to do better and I would respond with "I know".  It wasn't the most conducive or coachable response; I understand that now.  However, the coach's response of: "then why didn't you do it in the first place?"  always frustrated me.  I could never explain that I knew the theory of how to do it correctly, but just hadn't been able to get my muscles to do what I wanted.

In college I had this problem with Riley a lot, but rarely with other people.  I missed my high school friends and I hated being misunderstood, so my solution was generally to just avoid befriending people.  It's funny, in high school, I didn't start actually making friends until right before I transferred at the end of my sophomore year, when I know longer had anything left to lose.  Similarly, I didn't make friends until my senior year of college, when it didn't really matter if I was going to be misunderstood so I took more chances.  The pain of people just not getting me has been with me most of my life.

So when I moved in with my high school friends, the only people I feel like ever understood me up to that point in my life, I hoped it would go well.  It ultimately didn't and I feel for very much the same reasons as usual.  I had the opposite schedule of everyone, so I could rarely go to events.  When people would schedule events but not invite me/tell me about them and then I found after the fact, I would get upset.  More than once I came home unexpectedly early for some reason and found an empty apartment, not because they didn't want me at the event but because they knew I was busy.  My frustration stemmed not from the fact that they didn't plan events that I could go to (basically an impossibility) but from the fact that they didn't tell me about events that I couldn't go to.  And it reached the point where they stopped telling me about events entirely because they were afraid I would be mad I wasn't invited (again, not why I was upset in the first place); this logic always seemed circuitous to me.

When we lived in the apartment together, we had a dinner schedule and people signed up to take days.  But, when I was in tech and someone chose not to make dinner that night and I got home expecting dinner, I got angry.  I wasn't angry that there wasn't food.  I wasn't angry because I was hungry.  I was angry that they hadn't texted me and told me there was no dinner.  Not having food at home was a solvable problem, but I hadn't been given the opportunity to solve the problem because of lack of communication.  For me, it's always been those fine distinctions that people just don't seem to get about me.

I am constantly seen as being angry.  When I got left in a subway station in New York alone, when I finally caught up to my friends, I was told that I was having a tantrum and over-reacting.  My fear and hurt and anger at the situation was completely glossed over.  And even if I was over-reacting (which I'm not convinced I was), my emotions were declared invalid.  More often than not, people withheld information from me "because they were scared I'd be angry", which of course only upset me more.  I couldn't convince them that if they'd only given me the information up-front, I wouldn't have been angry at all.  So in that situation with my apartment, like my relationship with my family, I gained a reputation for be angry.  People began to treat me like I was always going to lash out at them and so it became increasingly difficult not to do something.  It's not to say that I don't have a temper.  I undoubtedly do.  I would also say that it is now firmly in hand though.

And my complex and guilt about anger now is almost crippling.  It's new baggage that I'm beginning to work through, with some success, I'd say.  But the first time I got truly angry with Wendell I just hugged myself and sobbed so hard I shook and felt like I would tear myself to pieces, trying to withhold my anger, to feel some other way entirely.  When I could finally speak, I stated my case in clipped tones and I apologized for being angry.  And Wendell complemented me on how well I had expressed myself (once I could speak again).  I was so shocked I stopped crying and couldn't only stare at him.  There has been one or two times where we've gotten angry at each other unjustly, but most of the time, I will explain while I'm mad and generally Wendell will say: you're right.  And I'll apologize for being angry and he'll say something like: no, you get to be angry when I do something that stupid.  I'm still shocked every time it happens.  And even when I am justifiably angry (which apparently is more of the time than I realized (?), I get near crippling anxiety.

The other reputation I seem to constantly get throughout my life is that I'm stubborn.  And like my reputation for being angry, it's not completely unjustified.  I was incredibly stubborn as a child.  If my parents told me to do something, I frequently wouldn't just because they had told me to.  But like with the anger, I've gotten better at choosing my battlefield.  I've frequently taken to saying (these days): "that's not a hill I'm going to die on".  But people still call me stubborn, because when someone does something I truly believe is wrong (morally/procedurally/legally/etc), then I am going to say something.  And if someone presents pressing evidence that I'm wrong, then I am going to concede.  I generally even try to say the words: "I was wrong" because someone, it's frequently just important for people to hear those specific words.

I said them to my mother the other day about something inconsequential and she joked that she need a tape recorder to record them because they shocked her so much.  And I turned to Wendell and told her that I say them all the time when I actually am wrong and he immediately and vehemently backed me up.  There's a fine line between being stubborn for the sake of pride and being stubborn because what's right needs to be stood up for and I'm trying hard to find it.

But that's the problem.  I'm changing constantly.  I've changed hugely and while my stubbornness and temper are things that will always be there, they're things I try to use and not let rule me now.  People aren't seeing the changes in me though.  They think they know me, when they either never did or no longer do.  And it is so frustrating and hurtful to me, because I am striving every day to be a better person.

So having Wendell just get me is the most incredible thing I could ever ask for.  To start explaining my motives and have him say "I know..." and then finish my explanation for me, demonstrating that he does know exactly how I'm feeling; that he exactly understands my motivations.  I don't constantly have to justify myself to him.  He's never assuming the worst of me.  The other night we fought (we do fight, but they've always been minor thus far) because I criticized a fix he'd made a work. While my criticisms were valid, he was hurt.  And his point that he hadn't had time to fine-tune his fix, in my opinion, made my criticisms unnecessarily cruel.  When I tried to apologize, he wasn't ready to hear me yet, and rebuffed me, so we both ended up feeling hurt.  By the end of the show though, we had talked through all of this to the point of understanding each other and ended the fight with thanking each other for being understanding.

That's a new situation for me.  It's an incredible situation for me.  I hate fighting with him and thankfully it's rare.  But I am so happy that thus far we've been able to talk through things not only civilly but to the point where we gain new insight into each other.

Maybe all I've ever needed was a single person to actually get me.  I'm not sure, but I'm more at peace with this than I really ever have been.

Though that statement isn't entirely fair.  Janey gets me and really always have and she's always been a wonderful supportive friend.  She's just in the middle of two groups of people that she understands both of but whom don't understand each other.

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