|wolf pack of 1|
In the past, and--as if by default--still now, I wanted to be approved of, I wanted to feel cool, I wanted adoration and so on. It turns out that, what I vaguely understood all along when I was school-aged, was that wanting to be cool expressly made you not so. I thought I could slyly bypass this unspoken rule of humanity by acting like I didn't want to be cool and spending stupid amounts of money on the trendy-logo-ed sweatshirts at the time. I wound up falling prey to the high-school trap, which is to say I looked like a lot of other people and didn't speak my mind or express myself freely. There were exceptions to that like in any humanities class discussions and in the remnants of my actual self that I snuck into my "move with the pack" style (i.e. purple shoes, the occasional disco shirt, Gap's "freshly cut grass" perfume). In art classes I was sometimes seen for who I was. In any class, actually, I felt safer with a teacher there to give me the recognition my obviously brilliant mind deserved, and also protect me from any one who might want to point out my fatness (scary!) or try to relate to me on a real level (unthinkable!).
Sometimes I'm baffled by how sensitive I was/am to other peoples thoughts. As I've gotten older I'm learning that what I'm picking up with my super-sensory antennae are not thoughts about me but more often thoughts or feelings the person has relating to him or herself. Duh! We are all self centered! I'm super glad I finally am understanding that.
So, what I was coming around to, are the nature of relationships. I was not good at having real ones. I was good at friends, I was good at acquaintances, I was good on the surface. Getting to know any other person in a "real," deep capacity meant I would have to confront myself, my thoughts and the reality of my flaws (i.e. I have them!). My family were the only deep relationships I had and I mostly took those relationships for granted or gave very little credit to the people with whom they were formed. It went unquestioned that I was the only person with a busy and complex emotional life and all others were foils to my experience.
In fact, I'm going to take a break from that charming portrait of a self-centered (average) young person to relay an idea I just got from, don't judge, O Magazine.
There's an expression in neuroscience: Neurons that fire together wire together. This means that new patterns of thought can actually change the physiology of our brains. So while we can't ignore bad news, we can train our brains to become more alert to good information. When you notice a positive detail in yourself or someone else, or in your environment, try savoring it for at least ten seconds. Most of these observations will be as simple as 'the sun is shining' or 'this coffee tastes good,' but do this a handful of times each day and you'll feel an emotional shift. --Rick Hanson, PhD, neuropsychologist and coauthor of Buddha's BrainContinuing for a bit with the above quote: after I read this yesterday I did stop for a few moments and try it out. First I tried, "my son is healthy," then "my son is eating organic broccoli," and finally "I am prospering." All of these thoughts were things I felt good about and repeating these three statements to myself for several moments each did, and does again now, make me feel just dandy. I even feel almost giddy now, recalling the feelings of well-being I had the first time.
But, relationships with me and my own thought patterns do not an intimate connection with others make. And now, as I attempt to make forward progress and talk about how satisfying it turns out to be, to let myself be vulnerable and to deeply know others, my darling, healthy, prosperous son is waking up for the day. I always craved deep connections with people. I was troubled for a long time with this wanting. It turns out, I guess, that I wasn't ready for it until I was much older. That is just who I am and where my path has taken me. I'm OK with who I was and who I am now. I'm so glad for the others in my life that I deeply love and the new friends who I am organically, slowly getting to know.