December 11th, 2003:

silly little brains

I received a nice handful of emails yesterday in regard to my entry about being different, maybe. Additionally, there were a few comments left. All of this correspondence seemed heartfelt and compassionate. Even aside from the words that were said, I appreciate all of you taking the time to help me solve a problem that I think most people solve on their own.

Whenever I write about myself, I find that the writing is more of an exploration of myself than it is a complete piece with a coherent theme. In most cases, the statement or point I make at the beginning of the writing is in direct contradiction with that which is stated at the end. It’s sort of an internal learning process that I share with you all which, in many cases, results in feedback from you, which causes me to learn even more about myself through the eyes of others. The most important part isn’t what is said at the beginning but, instead, the lesson learned in the end. Only, there really isn’t a beginning or an end as learning about oneself is a continual process. However, I think that I ended yesterday with an important realization.

The truth is, "these feelings of loneliness, unacceptance, and misunderstanding are created within me. [...] If I could just accept and understand myself as a normal human being with normal, acceptable, and understandable thoughts and dreams, I would feel open enough to express these things clearly and without regret. [...] If I could do just that, I might find that I’m really not that different after all."

One person who emailed me suggested that with me "the key is to be able to quiet the desperation." He goes on to say that "people have willingly invested their time, effort, and love into [me] simply because [I am] wonderful. [I], on the other hand, see a different person." After some hefty analysis, I’m fairly sure he’s right. I "don’t lack self-understanding. [in fact, I] know [my]self quite well. Sometimes too well. [I] understand [my] faults and [my] weaknesses better than anyone else." I think that one of my greatest weaknesses is VERY low self-esteem. Unfortunately, a weakness like that can be very widespread throughout a person. It can be so deeply rooted that it is difficult to overcome. I know that, in many ways, a lot of the trouble I have in life has to do with this weakness. From issues of acceptance and friendship, to problems at work. From trouble with friends who need too much and I keep on giving, to problems with accepting myself. I could make an entire list of "problems" in my life that I believe are caused by my lack of self-esteem. The funny thing is, most of those things are the things that I choose not to talk about with other people because they are what make me feel so different. They’re a lot more related than I even know, I think.

Another person suggested that "it seems like [I am] so desperate to be completely accepted for
everything that [I] stand for. And if [I'm not], if one thing isn’t treated with open arms, then [I feel like I] have been rejected which clearly isn’t the case, only [I] can’t see it." I think this is true, to a point. And, again, it stems from a low self-esteem. I can’t see what’s really happening around me and within me because I’m too busy watching everyone else, too concerned with what people think about me and my beliefs.

I’m not really sure what the key is in overcoming a weakness like this. I’m fairly certainly that looking in the mirror every morning and saying "I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, dog gone it, people like me" isn’t going to help. Perhaps finding the roots of this issue would help. The problem is, the roots surely go so far back, it’s unlikely I could even trace them.

Again via email, it was suggested that, as a way of learning through the times and lives of others (fictional or not), I might be interested in reading "the series of books by Orson Scott Card about Ender Wiggin. [...] He tackles some serious issues dealing with alienation and "differences" in ways I haven’t encountered in other literature." The funny thing is, the mention of this particular series of books recalled a few memories for me. I actually read a few chapters of "Ender’s Game" a few years ago. I was offered the book to read while 1500 miles from home, sitting with my back to the wall on the bed of a woman I thought I loved deeper than I had ever loved before. At that time, I felt that she understood me more than anyone else ever could or would. I remember specifically wondering, as I sat there looking at her and flipping through the book’s pages, how I could convince her that she felt the same way I did and, later, how it was that I didn’t see this coming. Despite all of the changes she and I have gone through since then, I still feel that she understands me more than most people ever will. I don’t remember much of the pages I read. My mind must have been too occupied. But ever since then, I’ve been meaning to buy it. Yet, every time I’m in a book store, I forget. Maybe it’s subconscious.

I realize now that, while I’m certain this particular event isn’t the sole cause of my self-esteem issues, it is situations like this, that have caused me to feel different and out-of-touch with others. More times than I can count in my life, I’ve been so sure of someone else’s beliefs, feelings, or level of understanding that I accepted it as fact only to find out later that I shouldn’t have.

At this point, my self-esteem is so low, even the most insignificant things can send me into a short depression. I’m sure there are many men who look up to their fathers and seek their approval and acceptance and I’m no different. But I take this to an extreme. My parents decided to buy a bedroom set for Jess and I for Christmas. A very generous gift for which I am very grateful. I live about 40 miles from him and the place where they purchased this bedroom set. Last Sunday, we delivered it. I drove out there, loaded his truck and mine, and then we drove to my apartment together, him following me. He doesn’t have any need for a toll-tag and, in order to avoid using the toll-roads, I took a few back roads to get home. I thought he would be interested in the roads I took as he followed me. I thought he might appreciate knowing the shortcut that I use every day to get to and from work. But when we arrived he, incorrectly, stated that my path took us very far North only to go South again. This is entirely untrue, but isn’t really the point. The point is, it broke me when he said that. It shouldn’t have. It was meaningless. He certainly wasn’t trying to hurt my feelings. Yet, I was hurt because I didn’t have his approval and his acceptance. Of course, I didn’t say anything to him. But part of me wants so badly to bring him a map of the roads we took so he could see that it is indeed the shortest route from there to here.

My father and I are fortunate enough to work for the same company, though in different departments. We have a mutual work friend and one evening this friend, his wife and my parents went out for drinks. The next day I was talking to this friend and he mentioned that my dad had said "I would have asked Daniel and Jess to come, but then I would have had to buy". I was destroyed. I know he meant it as a joke and our mutual friend found it funny, but it really hurt me to hear that he said that. It hurt to know that there was something about me that he didn’t approve of, or was at least annoyed enough with to make a joke about, even if that really wasn’t the case. The thing is, I don’t expect him to pay for me. I don’t expect him to always buy. He just does. Long ago, I would pull my money out every time we went to dinner or to the grocery store to get stuff to make dinner. But he was always decline to accept money from me. Eventually, through the course of time, I stopped. But ever since I heard what he said, I’ve always made it a point to insist on paying. He still doesn’t usually let me, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try.

My father is a kind, caring, and generous man and I don’t mean to shed any negative light on him. The fact is, in both of these cases, he didn’t really do anything "wrong". And, even if he knew how it made me feel, he shouldn’t have to watch every word he says around me to ensure that me feelings don’t get hurt. It shouldn’t matter to me. It shouldn’t be this important. But it is.

I’ve got a long way to go, obviously. And I really don’t know where to begin. Introspection is something I do well. However, despite my abilities to devour and understand myself, it doesn’t ever seem to lead me to a place that allows me to be more comfortable with me. The fact that I understand doesn’t make me feel like other people do. Sometimes I wonder if nurturing this underlying fear of acceptance is the only way to overcome it. If that’s the case, then my problems are bigger than I imagined because I can’t really nurture that myself. And, at this point, I’m not willing to expect others to do it for me, and, even if I were, I don’t think I’m ready to share enough of me to allow them to do so.

In reality, the truth can be found in this statement from another email: "We’re all just silly little brains walking
around trying to satisfy a few basic needs. We fear death, we fear
isolation, we fear being unloved. We do strange things to fulfill these
needs. [...] You’ll find what
you’re looking for eventually. Or you’ll die. Either way."