If the problem is that I just can’t scale my emotional connection rather than I can’t have individual connections with that many people, that is a very different flavor of possible. It’s not that I can’t love multiple people at once. (Maybe–hopefully) it is that I don’t feel it now. I can feel it with and for those people as pull-outs.
What is the problem with scaling and/or crowds?
I am probably more intentional with my behavior than average. I think really hard about what I can say and to whom. I mess up, sure, but I work very hard at being appropriate. It isn’t very natural for me. Noah says it isn’t for him either so I don’t know if it is easy for anyone.
I feel like I earn love in an ongoing way. On a daily, maybe hourly basis. I have to continue to behave in a way that will deserve someone loving me.
But I slip a lot. I’m not a polished person. I say things that are too harsh, things that are off-putting, things that are too intense. I’m a lot better than I used to be.
When I am in a group of more than four or five unrelated people (I do ok with a mom and her kids even if there are eight kids) I experience so much terror. Group think is so viscerally terrifying to me. It isn’t fear. It is terror. I shake.
Watch me at home school events. Or parties. It only happens when I feel like I “should” be able to be friendly and work the room but I don’t know what these people want from me. If I screw up I will be ejected from the group and everyone will hate me.
It is my perpetual new kid problem writ large. (25 schools before I dropped out of high school followed by five colleges/universities.)
Social group hopping is part of my problem. I only go to a given group long enough to get to know a very small number of people. Then I have a minor conflict with one person and I never come back. Because I’m scared.
Since I was 17, so in the last 15 years: theatre (first in college then moved on to the local community theatre crowd so this was two very distinct groups of people), bdsm (I have met people in dozens of states and multiple countries–my bdsm contacts are legion), a few different sex communities, vintage ballroom/ceili (they were very overlapping crowds but not identical), Renaissance Faire, Dickens Fair (some overlap but not identical), teaching (I worked at two schools longer-term and subbed at many more), libraries (I spent a lot of time in every school library–those librarians were big deals to me), Burning Man crowd, BaGG people (some overlap with bdsm crowd but mostly its own distinct group), home school groupings, the S&P crowd, poly people…
I have moved through a lot of groups. And they have such completely differing social values that anyone who can act the same way in every location… that person has super powers I don’t have. I act very differently from group to group. Social norms differ wildly.
You wouldn’t look at that list of group associations and assume that I have friends from every religion. Many of my friends are incredibly conservative. I walk quite the line with my friends. They are worth the effort.
Sometimes I feel weird about the degree to which I live in a bubble. I live in a unique time and place where someone like me is allowed to exist without continual punishment.
I am hyperaware that I live in a bubble. Bubbles can be popped.
The sufferance that allows me to be part of a given group can be revoked pretty fucking easily. Let me tell you.
Group think is terrifying to me. Groups are dangerous. Groups are very difficult to turn aside if they decide they are angry. Groups carry out lynchings and other reigns of terror. Individuals are… very differently dangerous. I can fight off an individual who has a problem with me, or I can run.
Groups are scary. Yes. Even groups of people who have been carefully selected to come to my house because I’m pretty sure they like me.
Want to know one of the problem with the wedding reception? We used it as a reunion of as many ex’s as we could invite. Noah and I are big whores (ok, I’m way friskier than him a few times over) so it was festive having all our men and women in one place. No potential for issues there. Some of my bio-family was there. That was awkward as fuck.
I think this problem is tractable. I may not ever get to the point where I can handle any group without terror but perhaps I could get to the point where my hand selected crowds are less intimidating.
I mean, good fucking grief.
I have had more than one woman over the years tell me that they dislike me because I am so bouncy and hyper around groups of people. I look like I am trying to get attention. I seem like I want to be the center of attention.
Err, my central nervous system is going haywire. My voice gets louder because I’m scared and I can’t keep it within a normal range when I am trying to control the shaking. Yes, I get up and move around a lot. I stand and sway. It’s better than trying to sit in a chair and letting everyone in the room hear it rattle because I am not physically capable of sitting still. I have to be so tired I can barely move before that goes away. Luckily I experience a lot of sleep deprivation at this point in my life.
Well, I can start consciously paying attention to what works and with whom. I can try to deliberately combine small groups of particular people. Perhaps if I can cross connect a couple of lines I can increase my feeling of safety.
The problem is that my friends are different. They vary from one another dramatically. It is hard to talk people into adding someone radically different from their norm into their life. I’m usually already the biggest aberration in their life.
It also doesn’t help that I’m not willing to blanket say, “If I know them that means they are wonderful and safe and a “good” person.” I try not to lie. I know a mix of people. Some of them are not actually “good” people.
I don’t require people to reach a certain level of “good” before I will know them. I simply interact with people differently based on how they interact with my neighbor.
I go from nice and friendly to hostile on a dime when my neighbor starts his racist shit. Sometimes I am pretty nasty. But when he minds his manners I’m happy to hang out with him.
I know more than one rapist. My boundaries with them vary dramatically based on the context of the rape that I know about.
I know a lot of drug addicts. I think it is a really hard situation to struggle with. I watch my boundaries and try to be a good friend when I can do so in a way that is healthy for me.
I even know conservative Christians and instead of alienating them as my more liberal friends urge me to do, I nurture them close. I like these people. They are working hard to manifest what they believe in the world. Rock on. I am similarly interested in the teachings of people from every other religion. If someone is willing to sit and tell me about their life and their family then I probably want to listen.
I don’t allow people to attack me, but I like aggressive people. Almost every other detail is negotiable.
When you put a large number of aggressive people in a room, especially when they are all aggressive in different directions….
Well the two men who used to shout down all of my female friends in the room won’t be at events any more for very complicated reasons. (Ok, one moved. That’s not so complicated.)
I hope that means that some women will come back. I know more than one woman who stopped coming to avoid them.
How do I create an environment that feels safe? What kind of overlap works?
I’m not interested in being a recluse for the rest of my life. What will work?
I will probably keep trying. Life is long. I tell myself pretty often that if something doesn’t work out with one person there are 7 billion people I haven’t met yet. I don’t need to assume that I have to be alone if one person doesn’t like me. Even if a dozen people don’t want to know me. Even if a hundred people. Thousands. Millions.
There are more than seven billion people on this planet. I don’t have to be alone.
Even if I am annoying. I don’t need to feel so terrified that people are going to hate me and tell me to go away at the first sign of being annoying. Most people don’t actually do that. Most people are kind of lonely too. They can overlook some failings.
Just make sure the failings fall within a given, limited range of acceptable issues. It’s ok that my voice gets a bit too loud sometimes. People can either not be in my life or ask me to soften it. I can if given feedback. I do require feedback. I’m sorry. I know that can be annoying.
How do you learn the right list of disclaimers. “I am too loud sometimes. If my voice bothers you, please ask me to soften it. I’m happy to. I used to stage manage little girl dance shows and it has had a permanent effect on the volume of my voice. Sorry.”
“I have had an unusual life. If I ever start on a topic that feels uncomfortable for you it is ALWAYS OK to say shiny change of topic and we can abruptly switch to a neutral topic. It’s ok. I promise. I won’t be mad. I will be grateful you helped me learn about your boundaries.”
I want to know people and it is hard. You always start viewing people through the filter of how like you they are. Projection is almost always part of a relationship–in both direction. It isn’t just me.
I learn about their differences when they show me their boundaries. It is a valuable opportunity.
Thing is, in a group situation it is much harder to say shiny change of topic when you feel intruded upon so people have to withdraw to deal with problems. It’s not a great cycle.
I will always talk about things like incest and rape. It is ok if you don’t want me to have much of a conversation with you about those topics. Or any other topic I’m obsessed with. You are allowed to have different interests.
But I’m going to walk away if the conversation turns to World of Warcraft or other games I don’t play or movies I don’t watch or tv I don’t watch or gets too technical for me. I’m not going to say you shouldn’t have those interests. I will let you stay and talk to the people who share them and I will go stand somewhere else.
But when people walk away from me because I said something… it usually isn’t neutral. I’m not upset by the gaming or technical stuff I’m just kind of burnt out on social listening to such topics. It isn’t visceral or anxious. When people pull away from what I am saying, often it is with churning guts.
I feel pretty bad about that.
I’m not going to stop talking about these topics. There are people who need to hear what I have to say. Sometimes I am the first or only source of information people have had. I’m really happy to get the ball rolling for people. I make sure I represent multiple points of view when I talk about stuff. “So I tend to agree with ______ but there any many opposing views such as _____ and _______ and people have different preferences because of _______. You have to figure out what will work for you.”
Balance. There has to be a point of balance somewhere. Ok I haven’t found it yet. That doesn’t mean I won’t. That doesn’t mean the balance doesn’t exist. I just haven’t gotten there yet. I’m not dead yet. Nothing is set in stone until I do.
Today is not always. What I am feeling right now is not what I will feel for always.
Today I get to make invitations for a birthday party. We have a joint birthday party coming up soon. Calli has a birthday twin and luckily, they like each other. *phew* Most of their friends overlap and it would be super awkward if they didn’t get along. This year the other family is hosting but I’m helping. It’s going to be fun. She’s getting a bounce house. I’m pretty sure I will never rent a bounce house. So I’m super happy we have friends who will.
I think I’m not doing goody bags any more. I don’t like the waste involved. Even if people get mad at me. I can live with that. I don’t need to contribute to a system I think is broken. My whole life is kind of that. I opt out of a lot of things. That’s ok.
My kids break everything in the goody bags before we get home. I collect the now-trash into the bag and drop into the trash on the way into the house. The madness has to stop. Yes, my kids are more destructive than average. All of my friends are drowning in schtuff. I don’t need to make their lives worse.
I’m taking a stand. Goody-bag free zone.
Luckily the birthday twins mom agrees with me. *phew*
I don’t have anything against bouncy houses. I think they are fun. I just don’t think I will rent one. There are lots of things I like and don’t do.
I feel freaked out the whole time my neighbor works on his boat because of the motor. I can’t imagine having a bouncy thing that close to my house. The noise would send me up the wall. I handle noise better out. There I have a very different level of sensitivity to intrusion. At home I keep it pretty quiet. We hear our neighbors walking by if they talk. I like being able to hear who is coming and going. They stop to chat. It’s fun.
I like hearing the birds. I like the train noise off a ways
And my time is up. Have a day. Cause I’m not the boss of how it goes for you.