"You always help everyone else but you never let anyone help you."
Dear God, the amount of times I've heard that in my life. It's right up there with, "He has the smarts, he just doesn't apply himself!", "You were right," and, "Santa hates you." And while the latter three only mildly bug me due to the only possible reaction being a smirk and a shrug, the You-Never-Open-Up lecture has always lingered around in my mind with each new person that says it as I add them to my collection of arms-length "friends".
What caused this? I dunno. I'm fairly certain there's no singular catalyst. It's not like Bruce Wayne where the reason he became Batman was (1) the death of his parents and (2) see number 1. If you dig around my past enough you could chalk it up to abuse, neglect, stress, abandonment, and a host of other after-school special plot lines. And I'm sure they'd all be valid to a degree and could be easily snapped into place in my psyche's history.
But why do I still do it? That's a more complicated subject. It's not as if I'm immune to loneliness. I go through that every night. I don't fall asleep next to someone, which is a big thing for me. Even going back to college constantly reminds me of how out of the loop I've become. Put it this way: I went through high school before Google or cell phones. In fact, the only thing the internet was good for was AOL instant messaging... mainly because there were no cell phones. So there's a very intense gap between me and most kids there. The internet jump-started a mini-generation that I was at the beginning of, but now anyone even 3+ years younger than me reveals a stark contrast in culture. Even when I'm around colleagues at work, there's still a disconnect, because after we're done at the studio, I head home and they go out without me because I don't drink - not socially, anyway. And there's no comfort at home (sans my guitars) which would normally be enough to temper the sting of solitude if the songs and sounds that come to my fingers didn't amplify the situation.
"Then sing happy songs!"
That's like telling someone who stepped on a landmine to "walk it off."
The point is, whether intentionally or subconsciously, I've surrounded myself with an assembly of safe acquaintances: None of whom care enough to try, and all are too busy anyway. It's that perfect distance of them being friends only when I deem myself comfortable enough to have them. Not too far, not too close.
And this may function just fine with friends, but eventually I have to deal with a girl - or woman, as it were. That whole relationship thing. I feel I've done my best at maintaining my modus operandi in not revealing too much of myself over the last 11 years of girlfriends (first one being at 19). But it's finally come to a vaulting ultimatum lately, where letting someone in to see the good and the bad of me will determine even the mere possibility of being with someone, let alone being happy. So I've thought about why I keep so much locked up while always insisting people let me in so I can help. And here's what I've come up with:
I am acutely aware of my faults, flaws and shortcomings as a person. I know no one is perfect, but most people either accept their weaknesses and say it makes them who they are and then maybe even work on them, or they ignore their weaknesses entirely. I know what mine are, and they're deep, crippling defects. These aren't the typical, "I bite my nails sometimes," blemishes of character, although I do that, too. These are, "At night I lie awake and make a mental list of friends and plan what my suicide note to each one of them will say." Which is ridiculous to think about, but I'm obsessed with the universe and how small and infinitesimal we all are. Hence, I don't see life as this roller coaster ride of awesomeness; it's a blip on the existential radar. Maybe pulling the lens back and seeing how unimportant being alive is is just my way of coping with my own sense of insignificance. Who knows.
Anyway, point is, I'm not exactly eager to brag about how insane I am. Or my past. Or my parents. Or anything about me. I'd much rather let people wonder who I am and what I'm thinking than for them to know the truth. Because I know whatever their imagination is conjuring is far better than the reality.
"What are you thinking about, Neil?"Fucking exciting, right?
"Wondering if the method a flock of birds use to change directions virtually simultaneously as a group is somehow related to the reason why a school fish can, too."
So if I open up and spill and finally let someone in (which, in and of itself is a massive, time-consuming undertaking that only the most patient and mentally agile people could tolerate - not because I'm especially intelligent but because I'm confusing as hell), I suddenly lose all my luster as a person. Because now they have all this new, terrible, neurotic, weird, maybe even scary content to add to the equation of who I am. And everything good about me instantly loses value because it's being compared to the bad. And if there's one thing I hate being more than predictable, it's being measured. Especially incorrectly.
And to top all of this off, my biggest fear? Finally opening up and letting one person in after all these decades, only to wait and have their verdict be, "Whoa. No thanks. That's too much for me." While that's a completely valid reaction, to find out that I haven't been good enough from the start? That I was unworthy the entire time? That would surgically dislodge the last bastion of hope I have for myself as a functioning person. Because for all my surface bravado and outward cool, calm and confidence, I feel undeserving of all this deep down inside myself anyway. To have it be justified via her own words would tear me apart.
And so I regress to where it's safe.
How are you today?
Talk to me about it.