Funny, I Didn’t Expect To Be Here
Last spring, when I admitted to myself that I was going through more than a simple period of the blues, I didn’t think I would be exploring the themes I’m exploring now. But now that I am, they’re making a lot of sense and, for the most part, they aren’t as dark and mysterious as one might have thought. Making the necessary changes still aren’t obvious, though — at least, no yet.
Call me crazy, but I didn’t make a connection until now with being bullied and taunted as a “fag” through all my childhood. As far as I was concerned, that was something I had gotten over long ago. What I hadn’t considered are the scars — in this case, the coping strategies I developed to get through the pain of being rejected, of not being among the “cool” kids.
For example, take my excessive avoidance of confrontation that I mentioned earlier. I remember now how I so dreaded the next episode of bullying (i.e., the next confrontation) that I tried everything to avoid it — to not having it happen again. For heaven’s sake, in elementary and junior school, I’d even feign bellyaches to avoid gym class! (I know, it’s pathetic, but remember: these are products of a child’s thinking.) I also set out to be the best in class, the logic being that, while admitting that I sucked in phys ed, I thought outperforming everyone would “shut them up” (if not draw “admiration”) because I’d be better than them in all other respect. (Again, a child’s way of thinking.) I probably was, and probably still am, thin-skinned or sensitive. To this day, I shrivel up on myself whenever someone raises their voice around me.
As a kid, I also preferred conversing with teachers after class or during resess, not to be teacher’s pet but because I found the company and conversation of adults far more interesting than that of my peers. Adults were safe and non-judgemental. This is reminding me of that feeling I felt while in high school and even sooner — a feeling I mentioned in a musical retrospective I wrote in June 2007 — that feeling being that childhood and adolescence felt like a purgatory for me, an unpleasant waiting period before I could start living, really live life — unimpeded by the immaturity of non-adults.
It’s often said, although it’s difficult or impossible to prove empirically, that many gays and lesbians grow up to become over-achievers, regardless of whether or not they were taunted as kids. For me, I drew from my strengths and did whatever I could to draw positive attention to counter all the negative attention I was getting. At the same time, I also remember a time in my early teens when I cautioned myself against being a showoff. Developing a personal “charm offensive”: that’s what it amounted to. I pressured myself to constantly say and do everything so perfectly that it couldn’t possibly go unnoticed by anyone. In fact, I often strived for more than “perfect”; I went for completely over-the-top. I felt I had to DO more and GIVE more as well as doing it better. Being “wrong” was never an option. Yet, as if to inject even more insanity to such insane self-imposed pressure, it all had to be subtle enough so that it wouldn’t come across “showoff-y.” Enough pressure yet?
It’s that last insane bit that probably explains my tendency to be self-effacing in the sense of trying to occupy my space but my space only …but here, let me make myself smaller so that I won’t take up too much space for myself. And it’s also why people who blow their own horn at every occasion drive me insane, as it just so classless to me. I guess I was an apostle of the “show, don’t tell” adage well before I ever heard it.
This account so far may lead some to think that everything they’ve come to know as “Maurice” is all one big phony fabrication. That wouldn’t be true, though. The core of Maurice is hypersensitive and deeply caring. And maybe in good part because other kids treated me so “unjustly,” I could never endure seeing others being treated unjustly for whatever reason. From my inherent personality traits and my early life experiences emerge the Maurice who is compelled to help or outright rescue, who can seldom say no, who cannot comfortably occupy his space, who sometimes gives more than he can afford (emotionally or financially).
Forty years later comes a complete depletion of energy to the point that I can no longer find the energy to do the simple, mundane things in life that anyone needs to do for themselves. And I avoid the things that might turn confrontational despite the odds that they won’t be.
Thus the purpose of my two-weeks’ leave from work is not only to rest, reflect and see my therapist, but to start the things I’ve put off for too long. Once started, they can eventually come to completion and stop causing noise around me. And as I’m getting a better understanding of how I tick, I’m starting to see what exactly I need to recalibrate so that I don’t come back to this point: how to care for myself as much as I care for others without stopping caring for others.