Fewer Doritos, More Gene Kelly

handmade greeting cards, collage artNow that the whole Valentine’s Day business is over, I can get back to the posts that REALLY matter.  Me.  Me Me Me.  Me.

Sometimes I’m dumbfounded by my self-absorption, my complete lack of empathy or interest in anyone else.  I always heard this is what happens when a person lives alone for too long—there’s no one around to poke holes in the ego, no one to interrupt the flow of internal dialogue.  And I suppose those of us with mental illness have a predisposition to belly-button gazing.  We’re taught to monitor our internal world carefully.  We build complicated sieves to sift through every emotional burp and gurgle.

So, when I have to spend time with others, it takes me a few minutes to adjust my worldview.  It’s a refocusing of the camera from micro to macroscopic.  And there’s always a little vertigo involved if the shift happens too fast.  But, I seem to still do okay, interacting with others.  I can still pull out my ability to be with someone and listen to them without making everything they say about me.  I can still sit in a group and join the discussion without spiraling off on a tangent like my brother, a bachelor all his life and firmly ensconced in a World of Me.

But, I’m finding my tolerance for the macroview shrinking.  I don’t seem to understand people the way I used to.  Motives, and machinations, and offenses seem incomprehensible.  Other people take note of subtle nuances, remember details of previous conversations, maneuver chit chat with charm and ease.

As Time Goes By, Judi Dench, Geoffrey Palmer

All that stuff happens somewhere over my left shoulder, out of sight, beyond my reckoning.  And trying to fix on those things exhausts me.  It’s like trying to learn a new language by emersion—everyone is speaking gibberish.

So, I end up running back to my little apartment, pulling on my pajama pants, eating a sack of Doritos, and watching three seasons of As Time Goes By just to blow off the agitation.

Great Expectations, 2011, Helena Bonham Carter, Miss HavishamPeople are hard work.  There are days I want to give them up, like a bad habit.  Instead of quitting Doritos, I’ll quit people.  But I know that’s a slippery slope mental health-wise.  Affiliation.  Belonging.  Support.  Socialization.  These are bedrock words in the How to Be Less Looney Handbook.  And I have a feeling that the road to Crazy Cat Lady would be very short indeed if I went cold turkey on people.  Something along the lines of Miss Havisham with calicos.

Gene Kelly, Singing in the RainIt’s an edge I must continue to explore—how to be a social animal without depleting my energy or overstimulating my nerves.  It’s a dance, sometimes stumbling over my own feet, sometimes gliding gracefully.  Like everything else in my life, the dance changes—new  music, new partners, new steps—and I’ll keep trying.  But, I’ll also keep practicing my solo, because coming home to myself needs to be a place of joy as well as rest.

Fewer Doritos, more Gene Kelly.

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14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kathryn McCullough
    Feb 17, 2014 @ 05:45:06

    Good God, do I know this feeling!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Poor you. Poor me. Poor people who aren’t us.

    Great title, Sandy.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    Reply

  2. Michelle at The Green Study
    Feb 17, 2014 @ 07:25:55

    After I’ve spent a great deal of time alone, re-entry into a world with other people is generally awkward. I will often stand completely silent in a group of people, not realizing that I’m thinking responses to conversation and not saying them out loud.
    I have family members that live alone, because their mental disorders become too apparent around others. Without social interaction and seeing the consequences of one’s mental illness, it’s very easy to rationalize keeping the status quo. It’s hard to say whether this is better or worse for them in the end.
    It would be condescending to say they are missing so much, because the flip side for them is often very painful. Deciding to live in solitude is not necessarily the worst thing that can happen, but it does limit growth to the thought patterns in one’s own head.

    Reply

  3. David Kanigan
    Feb 17, 2014 @ 10:48:36

    Sandy, if you get a chance, pick up this book: http://www.amazon.com/The-Measure-Days-Florida-Scott-Maxwell/dp/0140051643. I’m half way through and she speaks your language.

    Reply

  4. Rose
    Feb 17, 2014 @ 12:11:16

    I lived alone for a period of two years, and looking back, it was blissful. I probably was stuck in my own head, but I like it there and I liked my little routines. It was very difficult moving into a relationship and then, moving in with someone. My boyfriend and others I am around frequently poke little holes in my ego, as you say, and sometimes I find myself really missing the quiet and solitude I used to have. This is not to say that I would go back to that life, because I am very well loved in the one I am in, just that I wish, sometimes, well, you know…

    Reply

    • Sandy Sue
      Feb 17, 2014 @ 13:00:19

      Yeah, I do know. There’s always a trade-off. No situation is perfect, I guess. It’s a matter of what we value most and how we negotiate for it, maybe.

      Reply

  5. shickman
    Feb 17, 2014 @ 19:48:25

    I live alone and prefer it that way, but I do not suffer as you do. Nevertheless, you are to be commended for your brilliant self-awareness and your willingness to share it. Not to mention how well thought out this piece is and how well written.

    Reply

    • Sandy Sue
      Feb 17, 2014 @ 20:16:51

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Susan, and for coming to visit. Hope you pop back soon (Oh, dear. I really have been watching too much As Time Goes By).

      Reply

  6. Littlesundog
    Feb 17, 2014 @ 21:19:39

    This is exactly why I stick to the woodlands or stay busy outdoors – by myself. I prefer this quiet life. I can keep busy with my own projects and maybe it IS about me. People ARE hard work. I enjoy my blogger friends, and just a handful of people I might see 2 or 3 times a year. That is enough.

    Reply

    • Sandy Sue
      Feb 18, 2014 @ 03:29:33

      Blogging is a lovely balance of solitude and community, I think. Maybe those of us who lean toward introversion (or hypersensitivity) are drawn to it.

      Reply

  7. cathy
    Feb 18, 2014 @ 08:04:32

    People exhaust me. Period. (fellow introvert)

    Reply

  8. pegoleg
    Feb 18, 2014 @ 08:43:26

    “fewer Doritos, more Gene Kelly” – words to live by, indeed!

    Reply

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