John (johnpalmer) wrote,

"My" rules....

I've survived a long time, and I've come to understand the rules for social interactions.

Here's the first, and all of these rules are spoken to me, in the second person.
1) You're the weird one - everyone else knows how to do this. So don't expect any sympathy when you fuck up.

This is a key rule, because it underlies all of them. If I accidentally hurt someone, that's my fault. And if someone accidentally hurts me, that's also my fault, for causing unpleasantness. It's far, far worse if I cause more fuss than simply the normal parts of being hurt. Dear lord, I'd better not say "if you care about me, you should apologize!" though it's best to remember that a false statement can be said to imply *any* other statement.

(Hah! See what I did there? "If you care about me" is presumed to be universally false! Ha! HAHA! HahahahahahaokayItWasn'tThatFunny. Seriously, I know there are people who care about me. It's the faith that they do that's hard to maintain.)

It's an important rule for me to keep in mind at all times, because when I'm fatigued, I strongly suspect blood flow to my brain is impaired, so my brain isn't firing on all cylinders, and that makes it easier for weird stuff to occur, from bad emotional reactions, to misunderstandings, to just plain looking funny. Did you know an exhausted person can have funny facial expressions? Especially if they're hurt by something?

2) you're not allowed to be happy, unless every other important person is - you're sure not allowed to show any special pride in who or what you are.

I once had a dear friend who I let in on a little joke of mine - trying for a Spencer Tracy vibe, and a self-effacing tone, when I'd done something impressive, I'd said "well, I *am* a genius, you know, I'm allowed to have a good idea once in a while." Well, the genius bit is true; seriously, if you hang with me for a while, and don't realize it, either I'm in a bad fatigue shell, or, we're not doing anything important, or, you're not trying to observe my native intelligence (or you are, but suck at estimating it). But it's a really stupid joke, opening me up to all kinds of pain, so it's kind of fallen by the wayside.

Besides, brilliance is overrated in social circles - popular, and witty is far more important.

Every now and then I get this deep chill from "Behind Blue Eyes" when I hear the bit about "if I smile, tell me some bad news, before I laugh, and act like a fool." You need to be vulnerable to laugh, you know, and someone is sure to find a way to cut you down to size for that crime. (Laughing? Or being vulnerable? To-may-to, to-mah-to.)

3) You're really not welcome here, we both know that, but if you're 'house trained' - what, that makes you sound like a not-quite-human animal? Oh, okay, then - if you're 'house trained', it's okay, so long as you don't make trouble, like annoying someone or being hurt.

Of course, I'm not 'house trained'. I'm weird; my brain works in unusual ways; I think of things other people won't think about, and I like to work on them, think about them talk about them, but of course, sometimes what I think is wrong, which is normal, because, after all, if I'm annoying, I'm wrong and broken. So it's better not to bring up any ideas I find interesting that aren't already being discussed.

4) there are rules about being right, and being wrong, about being hurt, or offended, or upset. The most important one is, you are to intuit when someone else feels that way about you (even if they're acting politely and like a friendly acquaintance) but you are not to feel that way and act as if it's someone else's fault, responsibility, or that it's even of interest to them.

Finally, and most importantly:
5) Who the fuck are you to think that you *matter*? How have you *earned* your right to decent treatment, without having done anything that allows someone to hurt you with impunity?

I can earn the right to decent treatment by being of use, but I do have to be aware that there are many things that allow a person to hurt me with impunity. Breathing seems to be a good example.

These aren't easy rules to live under, of course, but there's a fascinating thing about most people: we need other people. We need human contact. It's a stupid game, and it's a sucker's game, but what else is there, except fading away, without anyone? And you can't just play it when you're strong enough to handle the pains of hideous failures. You have to try to play it when you're already battered, skinned and broken, because otherwise, there won't be anyone there when you're able to engage happily.

Of course, in the past six months I can't think of a single day when I've been able to engage happily. I'm sure there have been days in the past few years, but none stand out. But I can't assume that there won't be those days; there are three hundred fifty seven reasons not to give up, and that's before you think about how people will be hurt.

These rules are why, when someone I love and trust tells me I'm crap, it's really easy to believe it. It's not that I believe it as an *essential truth*... it's that I believe it's exactly what they see, with good, sound reason. It's exactly why I expect there are more people waiting to say the same thing, who just aren't annoyed enough to do so, yet.

I was working with these rules, trying to figure out how to shed them. It didn't work out that well.

I remember one person, who tried to convince me that it was good to talk about *me*, and when I did, it turned into a public calling out - why did I discuss my interest in shamanism, of all things? (Of course it was dealt with in public! "I can tell you're excited about this, but it's not something I find interesting" is far more trouble than *I* am worth!)

I remember one person who heard an ugly story about me, and told me I was definitely wrong, but, wow, this story was a bit too ugly for all of that. That was loads of fun; how dare I expect people to reserve judgment on my actions unless they know the situation! How dare I be *hurt* and *upset*, other than in some properly sanctioned manner (which I never learned and never will)?

I've had people tell me how *boring* I was and how *upset* they were that I wasn't the person they wished I was. Sure, they consented to participate in activities with me, but geez, I should have realized that their free choices are somehow my problem! For bonus points, I got that talking to when I was realizing that I literally didn't have anything left to live *for*.

I still don't. I have plenty of reasons *not to die*. That's a different thing.

And right now, I have this glimmer of hope. It's like, my hip is healing, and my mental energy is sometimes far, far greater than it's been in years and years. I'm being careful; hope is a lovely drink, but too much of the cheap stuff and you'll have a magnificently miserable hangover! But there's one place where hope is still a sign, "this way to the egress" pointing to the opening of the blast furnace, and that's friendship and love, because I still don't know how to shed these rules, and try to interact like an ordinary person.

Maybe I'm tough, or maybe just too stupid to give up, but I haven't given up. I'm just completely lost.
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