I vividly remember this image of an unkempt man walking down a sidewalk at dusk looking wistfully into the window of a house he was passing by. Inside this house was a family, laughing and talking, sharing their day and a meal. Everything inside was warm, sunny and cheerful and the outside was cold, dark and lonely. I related to the man walking down the sidewalk. This image perfectly represented how I had felt in my family. I was the outsider, always wistfully, looking in. I was the sardine trying to blend into the familial scoops of ice cream. I just didn’t fit.
This was a theme that followed me through most of my life. The easy thing to do was blame my parents and for awhile I did. The problem is that when you become an adult and you are the one making the choices and those choices still leave you feeling alienated then you need to look at you and that is what I did. I have moved over 20 times in my life and as previously stated this started back in my childhood. What I hadn’t closely looked at was how many times I had moved as an adult. It turns out that I moved more when I had a choice than I did when I didn’t. I was shocked to find that we only moved 8 times during my childhood all the others were on me. So, what, if anything, did I feel was missing from my life?
Home! People talk of home all the time. “I’m going home for the holidays.” “It felt like home….” “I just want a place to call my own; a home.” I had never experienced that, I had never felt I belonged…anywhere. Why? There have been plenty of places that I liked and could have lived at happily but did it feel like home? No! I am not certain that I will ever be able to completely explain to myself or anyone else why I lack the societal need to stay put and plant roots. So, my next question to myself was…Am I running from something?
Yes and No. To make a very long process short and save about 3000 words…I have an odd method of self evaluation when in a quandary. I question everything. Every thought, idea, word (said or unsaid(whispered, muttered, half said)), every thing observed. I wish I could say that this came about as a way to deal with the bipolar diagnosis but it was firmly entrenched before that presented. I play Devil’s Advocate…with my own internal issues. Argument after counter-argument and I drew the conclusion that I wasn’t running from anything…I was running towards something. What?
Was this a simple case of Nature vs Nurture? I cannot completely say that one outweighed the other. They both played their part. A simple two sides of the same coin scenario; neither one or the other, but both. Good or bad, I simply prefer a nomadic existence. It appears to be in my DNA. My grandmother loved genealogy and I often got to help. My ancestors, we found, travelled the planet settling for perhaps a generation or three and then migrating somewhere…new. It has been a very recent thing that my family seems to be planting roots but is it? Four generations ago my great-grandfather immigrated to America from Wales, his parents came from Scotland, and so on and the search has stopped (for the moment) in 1542 Denmark. I guess my family is due for someone to suffer from wanderlust and it seems to be me.
I also concluded that I become quite bored extremely easily. I wasn’t shocked by this realization it has been skulking in the back of my mind for a decade. I like to know things, understand them and I often sink myself into studies or projects until I have thoroughly exhausted them and then I move on. I am loathe to mention that I do this with people, to some extent, as well. I don’t fully grasp social constructs and why they are in play. I have over the years accepted that there are social norms and I do my best to apply them to the correct situations but for the life of me I don’t always get why it is the norm.
The easiest example of this is small talk. Everyone seems to do it and I don’t understand why? I understand the concept…you are in a group of strangers it is safe to discuss the weather, celebrities, movies and television, etc. I am perplexed when after meeting the same person for the fifth or sixth time why we are still discussing the same small insignificant things. Of course, I am aware that the other person is probably thinking “whoa, who is this and why does she keep pushing me to discuss Quantum Theory and creativity and how the heck do those two things go together?” Which of course led to my next conundrum.
Being Misunderstood! I think everyone feels this or at least worries about it but I have observed it. Here is what I mean by that. I have basically two faces (not to be confused with being two-faced). I either look like I am mad at the world or I am smiling for no apparent reason. With the mad face everyone thinks something is wrong, that I am mad at them, or offended by something they said or did. The truth is I am lost, deep, in my own mind, pacing out a solution to a dilemma that needs solved or simply mulling over something I read, watched, heard or observed.
I am most likely not even aware of the fact that you are in the room with me, let alone talking, hence the stony silence. If I do realize you are talking my responses are quite brusque and abrasive. I have been accused of being emotionally detached and that isn’t exactly true. I feel and I do so intensely but I seldom if ever let those emotions show. I know what you are feeling when faced with this persona because I felt the same way as an adolescent when dealing with my father.
I know it hurts and therefore I overcompensate when in a social setting and mimic my mother, bringing us to happy face. I am by nature a happy person despite my hyper-critical personality. I derive great pleasure in things novel and whimsical. I also hate my happy face persona. It comes with good intentions but is a bit deceitful. It is also a learned behavior.
I am female and as such there are certain expectations, I am short and appear younger than I actually am which again comes with expectations. I learned that to survive I had to meet these expectations…to a point. Appearances. It turns out that my appearance is sunshine and lollipops but my personality is efficient and logical. it is incongruent and puts people off. It is fine if a man is efficient and logical but a woman? She becomes known as a hard-hearted harridan. My younger years were therefore spent being lectured on how a woman should be and it was exactly what I was not and seeing opinions were not going to change, and tired of wasting my time fighting ignorance, I modified my behavior.
It turns out that I am ok with who I am. I like to travel so do I really need a home? As far as I am concerned wherever I am that is home. There are times when I see groups of people laughing and having fun and wistfully wishing I had that…but then I remember that although I like people I prefer being a hermit. I have reconciled with the fact that if feeling lonely I can go in search of human company; no one is stopping me. The only person responsible for me feeling uncomfortable or out of place is me.
So, after further reflection, I think the guy in the image maybe isn’t outside, looking in wistfully longing to fit in and have what that family has. No, not him, he is like me, he isn’t lonely. He is tired, he just spent the day hiking and taking photographs of alpine flora and fauna. That wistful look is hunger, he just realized as he looked into the window and saw the family meal that he hadn’t eaten all day. He had been so excited when he came across that wolf den and saw the mom and babies that he had settled into some nearby brush to take cover and photograph them.
As for me and my family. I am less likely to consider myself the sardine in the sundae, I see things differently now. I still don’t exactly fit the expected mold but I also realize that not everyone in my family is a scoop of ice cream. We are more like a barnyard and I have decided that I am just a unicorn and luckily I am not the only mythic creature in that paddock full of goats.