This is going to be a long, personal entry (yep, another one)… a warning I like to extend as a courtesy to you, my readers. Following the strain of self-reflection started with my entry, Unbold, and continued through Compromise, I’m adding on another layer to the heap of “things I don’t quite understand”.
“…and that’s why we love him” is the phrase that started this self-conversation, hence the title of this entry. Now, this isn’t about the actual use of the phrase, as it can actually be put in a number of different ways, but more the meaning behind it. That phrase has two meanings for me, one condescending and the other genuine. I’ve always struggled with feeling accepted by folks, so when it’s said in certain, positive terms, it feels really nice. Even when I consider it condescending, though, it’s generally not intended that way. That’s why I’m thinking about it all, now… because no matter what, when I hear that phrase I always have the same reaction.
Pretty much any time someone uses that kind of phrase with me, it’s regarding an attribute or character trait of mine that I can’t fathom someone else actually appreciating.
The rabbit-hole is getting deeper ;).
I briefly read through those previous entries to sort of inform myself on where I was at last time… and I almost see this post as a culmination of those two. Or, perhaps it’s not. But, those two topics reference held-back emotion, my issues of being “different”, the lack of a completely accepting and loving relationship, and oodles more. We’ll see where it goes, though, because (as is often the case) this is simply me trying to understand something I don’t… and bringing that to you, in the hope that you might be able to shed some new light.
First, though, what exactly am I talking about regarding this phrase? Basically, it’s an acknowledgment and acceptance of something unique. What spurred it, this time, was a casual joke I made about watching women’s volleyball just to admire the players. Everyone had their say, but KB wrapped it up with “and that’s why we love him.” That was one of the times I appreciated it, but still… the root meaning boggles me. I am completely aware that I, very often, am out of the norm in what I do/say/think. It’s very hard for me to understand an appreciation for that difference, though. If it’s a gift or talent, okay, I get that.. but to appreciate me simply because I’m different? I can’t wrap my head around that. Starting to see a connection to my issues on compromise? 😉
In the comments on Compromise, I mentioned the movie Pleasantville. I know the point of it all, and I think it’s an okay movie, but I’ve also always had a hard time with it. Why? I prefer the black-and-white world. Everyone was the same. I constantly hear reactions to that idea like “oh, that’d be such a boring world”, but that’s only because we know different. I know that’s not how the world is, so it’s obviously complete fantasy… but when people are waking up in that movie, and seeing color and differences.. and APPRECIATING them, I find myself cringing – longing for the world of symmetry and unity that those characters were living in before. To me, that’s the beautiful world… where nobody is outside or different, where everything and everyone is basically the same. It sounds safe… and really lovely.
So, yeah… perhaps I don’t appreciate differences, because I’ve spent a lifetime BEING different, and it’s not usually been a fun experience. Following that, when I say something in a way or do something that most folks wouldn’t, I’m usually aware of it. Different is just different.. it’s not intrinsically good or bad, and I’m aware of that, too. Haha, coincidentally, though.. just as I was typing this a friend IMed me saying, “that’s what makes it difficult to relate to you 🙂 … you don’t converse back.” And it’s those things that I cause me to struggle with believing anyone can appreciate those differences… because I’m more often accustomed to differences being a negative. It’s a personal view, sure, but it’s something I’ve spent a lifetime with.
I can’t help being who I am, even those things in me that have changed that I try to work on and fix. Most folks don’t say that I shouldn’t be who I am, of course, (haha, at least.. directly) but I know how much easier it’d be… and how much nicer. Nick brought up the point (also in the Compromise comments) that differences can enrich relationships. I know that there is some value in that, where we fill each other’s gaps and things like that… but in terms of opinions and tastes, it’s not a concept I can fathom. Like I responded to him then, I like Movie A and he doesn’t. What does that gain us? Bringing that back to the topic at hand, how does my differences or oddities benefit someone?
I choose to do or say what I do, not as some statement, but simply because it makes sense to me. I wear suspenders because I like how they look and they’re comfortable. I don’t make phony small-talk because I’m okay with silence and have no interest in it. I don’t usually share my problems with friends because they can’t do anything to help anyway. These are all things that I just don’t give a second thought to. Some, like my wearing suspenders, are just unique… others, like my being more closed-mouthed, I am at once told are detrimental.. and then, later, seemingly accepted for as just “Oh, that quirky Mark.” That’s where it seems to get confusing for me – it’s like mixed signals.
I know that some of my traits annoy people. I know that I don’t always fit in. So, when I then hear someone saying how great a difference is, it’s almost as if I don’t trust them. Not fully, at least… because I know what their reactions are at other times. Heck, even with KB, whose example I used to start this post, there have been a number of times I’ve frustrated her not by being a jerk.. but just by being me. So, I know that I can be loved by her, or other friends, or whoever, but I also know that those people don’t love EVERYthing about me.
So, this is where I kind of saw this as a wrap-up of the previous two posts. The idea came to me, when I was thinking about this, that my issue is in accepting love. That, I have an extremely hard time believing that someone actually loves/appreciates me for my differences, and not just despite them. In fact, it’s not that I just have a hard time believing it – I absolutely can’t believe it. That’s why the ideas of compromise (at least, in regard to a relationship) are hard – because I’m not interested in finding another person who cares for me despite some of my oddities, I’m interested in someone who doesn’t see the oddities at all. So, because of all of this, it’s a really hard idea for me to grasp – this idea of love without complete appreciation. Heck, I’ve spent a lifetime with parents who are quick to remind me that I’m strange, but then say how proud they are of me. You’re proud that I’m strange, too?? No, of course you’re not. And, if you are… what’s wrong with you? I sure as heck wouldn’t wish this on my kids. I often say how I’d hate it if my kids were the cool, normal, popular people… because we wouldn’t have much to relate on, but man – it’d sure be nice for them :). I don’t really like this entry, because it almost feels like it’s boiling down to me whining. Not the intention, I promise. This isn’t some call-out on horrible friends, or saying I need more assurance. I’m just trying to really figure out (and explain, in the process) another concept that just goes right over my head.
So, I guess, this comes down to the idea of “How can one learn to be emotionally bold, to appreciate compromise, and to love the differences of people… when one doesn’t love those things in themselves?” It seems like this is a very important crux to many of the issues I deal with, even if it’s not the root of all of them, though I still am nowhere nearer an answer for the solution. This is part of something I’ve struggled with for a long time (I’m how old?) and I’m sure for a long time after this. And so, we venture on… 🙂