I think sometimes that I will never outgrow this problem.
When I was in grade school and even in high school, I thought the idea of “knowing who you are” or “finding yourself” was stupid because, I reasoned, you are who you are, and that was so absurdly obvious to me that for a long time, I left it at that.
Later, when I was in college and people were still going on about how I was going to be able to “discover myself” and “find my path” and all sorts of stupid phrases they use on you at that stage, it occurred to me that maybe it was a semantics problem. Knowing who you are is relatively easy, being defined by relationships and professions and groups you associate yourself with, but knowing what you are like–that is far harder, as none of us is able to observe ourselves objectively. Classifying yourself by relationships or group associations reveals precious little about your character…like stating that an object is a ball. Is it a Ping-Pong or a bowling ball?
I think that the courses I took in classical literature stuck with me in a way other than what our professor intended (since, you know…I somehow took all of these classes from the same person), but at least I can have the satisfaction of knowing that going to college changed my way of thinking.
There were two ideas we kept going back to and that entrenched themselves in my imagination, and which I blame for the majority of this post’s contents.
First, there was the idea that I will never truly know any person. As much as I may love them and be accustomed to them and interact with them, I will never know them. The ineffable thing that gives them all their attitudes and habits and thoughts and a thousand other details will always hover just beyond my own soul’s reaching fingertips. There will always be this so-small gap that keeps me seperate from all other souls. (How’s that for a shove right into the cosmic well of loneliness?)
And if that was not awful enough to contemplate, then we have also the idea that in order to understand anything, I should first understand myself and my own nature. Not who I am, but what I am like.
What a terrible idea.
Despite said terribleness, I was fascinated by it and have ever since been attempting to understand myself and determine just wtf I am really doing at any given moment…and I have found myself to be full of so many layers of denial, and a certain relentless subterfuge that, at times, I still cannot say with certainty what I am doing. (Which I view as important because the question of what I am like is better answered by my actions and the intention behind them than by anything else.)
I find more and more that when things want to direct my attention to these issues of my self (often without my knowledge…or at least without my conscience acknowledgement), they have very particular ways of getting me to look. Ridiculous ways. Ways that, I understand, were designed specifically because I would take notice. I believe such a thing is happening to me again, although this time I cannot understand what its purpose might be.
One of the ways I attempted to understand myself was by paying closer attention to associations that others made with regard to me. Despite what I do think or have thought about myself, there will always be another me that is seen by people who know me, and because of the problem of the gap between our souls, the me that everyone else sees is, in a sense, more me than the me I think I am. It made sense to try and get a picture of the small parts of my soul that are exposed or that are being projected by my actions, since it is the only me anyone else can claim to know. (Understand, with most of the people I know, I need not take into account anything I’ve ever written here, as they have not read it. To have read my writing would definitely augment an individual’s perception of me, but because reading is a solitary activity and not like a conversation, any resonance or soul-contact that might ever happen through reading will be known only to the reader, and not to me.)
But…I have not always (or often, even) enjoyed the way people have depicted me, or the things that they have associated with me. More often than not, I am disturbed by others’ depictions of me because they inevitably seem to consist of exaggerations about my bad qualities. This one that is bothering me right now is unsettling because I thought that over the past four and a half years I had moved past this specific problem regarding my nature and the way I convey myself. Apparently I was wrong.
Going back again to the subject of speech patterns–which I mentioned in a few recent posts–it is mostly due to my fascination with words that I even stumbled back onto this problem, and that makes me a little sad…that my playing word games would come back at me in a negative way, but what can one do?
I’ve never been able to help myself in that respect…often I latch onto characters in books specifically because of the words they use. The action of a story is important to me, but it is always the words of a particular character that determine how deeply I am able to care about the overall story.
I have never experienced this attachment to words when I watch television or movies, but on occasion I have had this happen with the sounds of certain voices (my best explanation for why I have such a fabulous false British accent). My current annoyance is, I think, the only time I have ever been interested in the actual words used by a non-book character. I cannot even lay the blame on the actor, since I have seen this character played by more than one person…but what happened is that I got interested in this character’s tendency to use formal grammar in conversation. I have been interested before in that sort of thing, since I had also done things like that in projects for my radio classes…we were always urged to speak conversationally, but one of my main problems in speaking is going too quickly (S sounds get hard for me if I go too fast) and not breathing enough…so, as an experiment, I had done things like removing contractions and changing up my sentence structures to break up words and slow myself down. I never got to the point where talking like Yoda I was, but as a result of associating with Star Trek fans, I have been a little taken with the way the Spock character’s lines are written. (To be fair, other characters in the series have something similar going on, but when other people are pointing it out to me–and the associations others make is what I was originally talking about–they always refer to Spock.)
It’s fascinating (and the bane of my existence), the way words and delivery can be completely opposite each other. I used to mess about and read our radio station announcements in different voices, or read segments of my term papers out loud, just to hear how jarring it could be if I used the wrong voice…but in this case, I think that the punctuation is dictating the delivery in a way I had not noticed before even though I had done it in my classes.
If you try and remove the contractions when you speak, you’ll see what I’m talking about. I mean, read that line to yourself with and without them:
You’ll see what I’m talking about.
You will see what I am talking about.
Saying the words separately gives your own, unaltered voice a different tone. And if you do it consistently, it changes your speech patterns in a way I have not thought about since I was in high school and read the play Pygmalion: speaking English formally makes one sound foreign, in a sense, because we are so unused to speaking that way.
So, while I’m not a huge fan of the show (even though my Jester is…and apparently a much greater percentage of my coworkers than I would have suspected), I am interested in the way the Spock character speaks. But, because of this character, all the things I have written in this post so far have come together for me in a way I am not okay with.
See, in watching some of the movies and old shows with Jester, Spock’s speech habits reminded me of those experiments I had done for my audio recording and radio classes, and I got to thinking that maybe I should try something like that again, because any time I have done a speech experiment where I have to focus so much on my words, I feel different. Take my British accent, for instance. I feel more theatrical when I talk that way, probably because I do it for the sake of entertaining, even if we are talking about something very dull. (I feel snobbier, too, although I’m not sure of a reason unless I have an underlying belief that British people are snobby. :P)
After some consideration, I decided that since I am determined to avoid being medicated in order to remain at my current job, maybe I should figure out some little things I could do at work to help myself feel more calm. I decided I would try and dispense with word contractions for a while again, and be a little more formal in conversations at work since I am pretty sure the majority of my stress comes from the sense of being rushed. So, if I could do some little things that, while not actually slowing me down, give me the illusion of going a touch slower, maybe I would not feel as rushed and therefore, not as stressed.
At any rate, it was worth trying.
So I started on it, and assumed I would be the only one who really noticed–but you know what they say about assuming.
I think that as of now, nine or ten people at work have told me (or had conversations about me that I later heard about) that I am like a female Spock. I assumed it was because of the alteration to my speech pattern, but when I said this to our one server who has actually been referring to me as Spock now and then, he thought about it, and told me that he hoped I would not be offended, “but it’s actually kind of because you strike me as emotionless. Not all the time, because you get angry and I can tell then, but other than that you seem pretty unemotional”.
I ventured to ask one or two of the other supervisors because they know me a little better than most of the staff, and they confirmed having similar views of me…but I don’t understand how this can even be possible. I work so hard to act like I am excited and act cheerful at work in hopes that it will catch on and other employees will do likewise…and I thought it was working. How could I be doing that in the exaggerated way I have adopted just because it makes employees smile a little, and still fail almost entirely to convey emotions aside from anger or irritation? How?
But…this is not a new thing for me. Unfortunately. Not at work, and definitely not in the rest of my life. Some examples:
– Brandi confessed recently that when she and I first started working together, I was so unresponsive to her attempts to make conversation about anything other than the actual work we were doing, that she texted other managers and asked them if I always acted that way.
– At my last review, one of the top things John commended me for was for being so calm and “not wearing my heart on my sleeve like the rest of the management team”
– True story: my ex fiancé and I had a conversation a few months before he dumped me where he also used the character Spock to segue into telling me he wished I had actual emotions like a normal girl so that he would be able to understand what was wrong with me…I don’t recall how exactly I responded, but that was when my Wolf persona was beginning to form. I like to think this picture depicts how I felt:
And so I feel a certain animosity towards a certain character in an unnamed sci-fi show who I am frequently and unfairly getting compared with.
On the other hand…it is slightly amusing to know that people have apparently always been thinking of me in this way, and to know that half the time, I have a fanged monster pacing around my insides. But mostly I want to bang my head on something and know how it can be that these people that I thought perhaps I had gotten to know a little bit after working with them for at least a year still fail so completely at knowing anything at all about me. (But hey, my ex had FIVE years to understand me and was not able to.)
Is that impulse to reach out and strive to touch other souls simply not present in other people? My Wolf would utterly reject that notion. As often as he hates and despises other human beings, we are very attached to the idea that everyone is a lost soul, striving to reach out and touch something.
Maybe they succeed more than I do because they are not holding back for fear that nobody wants this soul-to-soul contact, and maybe that is the fundamental difference between them and myself.
Maybe that is my real problem. I always hold something back.
I want so much to believe that other people can care about me, but I do not believe it. So I try and connect…but ultimately, I hesitate or I stop myself at a certain point and hope that something will happen and I will know that they also want to connect…and then nothing happens. And for the most part, I stop there because I do not want to hope for something that I cannot make happen. And the sad part is that it isn’t just with people that I get that way…it’s everything.
When I was in junior high, I started a game with myself to try and keep from getting lonely when I had no friends, or upset or angry when other kids would pick on me. I would draw or think about a song or stare at an object in the room so that my focus was somewhere else, and my goal when I did this was to focus on whatever the thing was until I did not feel. Not an emotional numbness, since that implies stupor…nor apathy, because I was not attempting to disinterest myself…my goal was just to not feel any particular way about whatever was upsetting me.
Did I win at this game? Absolutely not! Very often I still felt everything just as strongly as if I were not daring myself not to. But I did get very good at not giving away a lot about how I felt, and because I was still playing this game up through the end of my high school years, I think I unwittingly ruined my ability to express myself normally. I lost some of my natural spontaneity by continually forcing myself to conceal what I was feeling.
I can be expressive. It’s just that I have to make it a conscious effort more often than most people seem to. (I allow I don’t know for sure: maybe lots of people have done this to themselves, and I only think their expressiveness is natural.) And then when I was in college, I realised I could no longer keep up with doing that because–as much as I loathed having to admit it because it seemed so cliché–I was spending so much energy on attempting to conceal an ever-more-steadily-burning anger at my father, and an equally intense feeling regarding a friend of mine that I felt like it was killing me.
It still strikes me as ludicrous, how I used to get annoyed about people asking me all the time how I was or if I was okay because I was so inexpressive, and then, when it really was so bad that I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep it together nobody ever asked me. Not once. Not anyone.
I can only assume that either everyone stopped caring, or that I just got so good at being inexpressive that I never gave myself away even when I wanted to. Either thought is terrifying, but at that point was when I started trying to force myself to be normal again. And all that anger evolved into my Wolf persona. And all the rest of that intense feeling regarding my friend (which I am still unsure how to categorise) got displaced into forging a better friendship with someone we knew mutually and with whom I could talk about what was going on.
I guess I am unhappy about having this brought up again because it is the worst thing I have ever done to myself, and I did not even know that it was something I would regret later on–it was just a way I found to handle what was happening to me. Like changing my speech to try and calm myself.
I probably wouldn’t be bothered by it that much, but in the past fortnight I have had conversations with Jester and with John where my reservations are damaging me in very real ways. I have a lot of work left to do so that I can function in a way others can connect with. And I need to stop having enemies who are fictional characters, because you cannot punch fiction in the face.
In the mean time though…I’ll make the best of it and use this as another way to amuse people at the theatre.
I arrive at work.
Tyler: Fuuuuucccck! Why’d you have to come in? Now everything about my day is ruined.
Me: Hello, Tyler. If I felt sorry, I assure you I would apologise for ruining your day.
Abbie walks in and sees me.
Abbie: Oh my gosh! I’m so glad you’re here!
Tyler: Wow. That was the polar opposite of what I just said.
Abbie: Um, that’s because I love her.
Me: I believe Abbie has made the logical choice in this situation, as I am wonderful.
Tyler: Wow. You said that just like Spock. Fuckin’ creepy. That’s why I hate you.
Abbie: Don’t hate her for that. There’s nothing wrong with Spock.
Tyler gives us a weird look and leaves.
Abbie: I don’t get him though.
Me: Tyler? His animosity toward me is unwarranted.
Abbie: Not Tyler, Spock. I mean I’m a Kirk fan–
Me: –you would be.
Abbie: Right. But I still like Spock. I just don’t get him.
Me: That seems fitting, since you like me and still don’t get me.
Conversation over the radio.
John: Justin, did you just send him on break? No breaks. We’re too busy right now.
Justin: No breaks, heard.
John: They can check back later on breaks. That goes for everyone. *pause* Unless we get slammed. We can just take breaks when we’re all dead.
Me: John, that is unfair. Being immortal, I would be unable to take a break.
John: Oh. Yeah. Sorry about that.
Jeremiah: No, you’ll still get a break. You’ll just have to wait like, twice as long as everyone else. Being Vulcan, you get to wait a long time to die.
Me: An unenviable position. Unless everyone else truly is dead, in which case I will have my break and enjoy it.
I did do something today that I hope will help me in all of this.
I almost didn’t. But…halfway to the main theatre office, I turned myself around and had the good fortune to catch Toni away from the herd of bussers and ask if she wanted to do anything Tuesday.
I am pleased she said she would, and I have a few days to invent something for us to do…but even after all the stressful things that happened today, that thirty second conversation was the one that I walked out of with my heart hammering.