“The price of invulnerability: Brené Brown at TEDxKC” (plus additional thoughts)

“The price of invulnerability”:

I get what she’s saying there and am very bad about doing some of that myself. “Beating vulnerability to the punch” by imagining the worst-case scenario — yep, bad about doing that in particular. “Joy actually becomes foreboding” — always wondered why I do that and chalked it up to bracing myself just in case. I also get nervous about getting my hopes up and prefer to wait for good things to happen before getting excited. But I’m not natured toward perfectionism (thankfully) and I do battle against becoming overly cynical since that does strip all the joy out of life.

Something I’ve recognized I do is I tend to keep my happiest memories and thoughts to myself for fear of others “pissing in my cornflakes.” The more I cherish something, the more quiet I tend to be about it, and this probably is what leads some of my friends to think I’m negative more often than not when really I do try to cultivate my pleasures, I just don’t want others stomping on them since they mean too much to me. And I think that comes by way of growing up in the U.S. in this day and age where it’s very popular to undermine other people’s happiness out of a sense of competition and misery loving company. Growing up, I was around a good many people who were pretty bitter and miserable and I did feel picked on and unfairly criticized, so some stuff became very private. Kinda sad that the positive became private and a good measure of the frustration became open, but it depends on who I’m dealing with also. Like my partner — I share more of my secret pleasures with him and do enjoy being playful (when we’re not fussing anyway). I probably share the most with my best guyfriend because he’s very nonjudgmental and supportive. Over time I have admittedly closed up with my closest girlfriend because she gets offended easily, even over matters where it baffles me that she would take issue, and she’s explained it on a couple of occasions that I talk about things she’s not knowledgeable about and therefore gets intimidated or takes it wrong (like when I’m working out a thought exercise or discussing political topics).

But when I think about it, I actually keep some of my private pleasures from my Grandma as well, because she’s prone to being very critical without meaning to be. I’ve tried opening up to my stepdad in the past, but he’s prone to being extremely critical about nearly everything. It’s kinda hit and miss with most folks, and some people I talk with are dealing with such heavy shit of their own that I don’t feel right sharing too much of what makes me happy unless I think they might directly relate. But when I stop and think about it, complaints do spring to mind much faster than happier bits, and I find it easier to relate with people over shared grievances (particularly petty ones). This links back to why I spend so much time listening to music — in that I can experience a range of emotions and the memories associated with any given song, and it remains an internal experience. Others might like the music as well, but we’re experiencing it in our own unique ways.

For a long time now I’ve felt it was important to try to avoid giving in to becoming jaded. Didn’t fully succeed obviously, but those happy memories and thoughts or the challenging stuff I enjoy toying around with are what make life doable. And perhaps it is the free rein I give to my imagination that acts as a buffer against extremist sentiments, because I don’t feel terribly extreme on much beyond one’s right to maintain personal autonomy. Any given issue raised I can usually investigate from several angles if provided enough time, and oftentimes I am unable to settle on one course as proper and correct at the exclusion of all others since it tends to depend on so many other variables, and then I slide down into the labyrinth that is my imagination and have to label it on the surface as a tangled web requiring more time and energy to make sense out of (which nobody seems pleased to hear as my response, but oh well). This I typically refer to as my inability to approach life as a series of blacks-and-whites, and it definitely grates on people’s nerves when they’re pressuring you to pick a side or clearly define your position. What some consider wishy-washiness I guess I see as remaining flexible and uncommitted where there’s no good reason IMO to be staunchly convicted. Eh, quibbles…

In short, I don’t feel certain about nearly anything, but I don’t feel the need to be certain in most cases. Until it comes to relying on people closest to me, and that’s where I yearn for a greater sense of certainty in terms of being able to predict their behaviors and attitudes in so far as remaining able to rely on and trust in them. That’s where it becomes a problem. But by the same token, they need to rely on me too, and I have disappointed before by behaving erratically and impulsively. It’s a two-way road, that’s a given. But I find so many people to be fickle and easily ran off by one misspoken word or bad day, so I’ve grown very nervous when it comes to dealing with most people and do expect they’ll be around for fair weather when it suits them and then will high-tail it the other direction at the first sign of inconvenience. Doesn’t help my attitude toward people generally, speaking as one moody eccentric in the crowd, and I can’t help but brace against this and try not to get too attached (though I sometimes still do and it often enough turns out as described, which can be quite disheartening when a real connection seemed possible).

So how does a sensitive person navigate in this sort of social climate? The scarcity I’m running up against is for openness toward one another. The way I’ve come to see it is most people want you to serve some sort of purpose for them, and once that purpose is exhausted, so is the relationship. So it becomes very difficult for someone like me to relate with people in a meaningful way, and I react to this by retreating more and more, because I do get excited about dealing with others, even when we disagree, and I like to bond and revel in our shared human experiences. Yet I find myself surrounded by many actors and actresses who seem to care more about being perceived a certain way rather than simply being with one another. Communion — perhaps that’s the word I’m grasping for here. I feel the need to be in communion with others, to be human with others. And yet it seems very many would rather not be human so much as a picturesque image of it, and I don’t know what to do with that.

And there I feel like a hypocrite for stating it like that since we all take time to open up and it’s expected that we try to put our best foot forward in certain social situations. But where does the act end and authenticity begin? Hard to say.

Life is messy. Problems occur. Nobody’s life is perfect, and many who pretend theirs are have the most insecurities. There’s no fool-proof script, no one tried-and-true method for dealing with one another, and communication involves missteps and misunderstandings that can take time to iron out. But people seem to want life to be easy and for it to be “drama-free,” but that’s just not realistic. We’re expecting too much of ourselves and others, and in doing so we’re silencing one another and requiring people to wear a mask in order to gain acceptance. That’s my irritation with society as it stands today, and I struggle in dealing with all of this because it seems so unnecessary and crazy-making.

Perhaps I feel like my own scarcity is in possessing sufficient social skills to navigate without frequently feeling as if I’m doing something wrong here. We’re going to argue and we’re going to disagree, and I accept that as the way life goes, but it seems like a lot of people do not. If it’s unpleasant, even mildly unpleasant, some folks want nothing to do with the interaction. But then we live in such stressful times where we must be bulldogs in order to get customer service personnel to fix our bills or to back off debt-collectors or to get our landlords to make a repair or to not get screwed in countless other ways. So we’re all stressed out and wandering around society, yet we’re supposed to act like everything’s peachy and everything’s gliding like water off a duck’s back and we’re somehow unaffected by all the bullshit. We get rude sometimes. We lose our cool. We need people to just act human instead of sidestepping us because we’re not all smiles and confetti. And when we don’t get that, day after day, year after year, pressure mounts and we become the asshole up in somebody else’s space. And around and around it goes…

The pressure to be fake and to follow some script for which I never received the memo is a tiring game. What gets to me is how many others seem capable of playing along as if it comes naturally to them to do so. That’s so wild. I must’ve been raised by wolves because so much strikes me as so foreign. I do make mistakes, sometimes doozies, oftentimes with onlookers present, but don’t we all? Perhaps I’ve stubbornly learned more the hard way whereas many were able to learn vicariously through fools like me? Maybe so. But damn.

Written enough for one night.

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