Monday, August 13, 2012

The Thing I Find Most Difficult To Talk About

(Here is the long awaited and, until recently, unpublished post I have mentioned many times before. I wrote it some time in March, 2012. I didn't publish it because I thought it wouldn't be a good time to make it public. I think the time has come where it is ok to put online.)

I guess today is the day I talk about the thing I find most difficult to talk about. I am fairly certain this will be the longest entry I have ever written. It may take you a few attempts to read the whole thing. In keeping with my 100% open and honest policy I will write this entry in one take. No editing. What you see is what is going through my head, not necessarily a polished or coherent thought, although I'm sure it will kinda make sense. I've hinted about it before in previous posts like this one. This is the final frontier. You may not want to read any further. You've been warned.


There. I've said it. I guess what I mean is romantic relationships and feelings and emotions and all that other stuff. Like so many of my other "quirks" (left overs), I'm sure this one started by being teased as a kid. When I was in grade 4 there was a girl who used to walk by my house after school. I don't think her route had to go by my house but she went that way anyway. My brother and dad noticed. And like younger brothers and dad's tend to do, they teased me about it. Certain "Up a tree, K- I- S- S- I- N- G" songs were sung. I kept hearing, "Oooo,  you have a girlfriend." And it all sounded like taunts and name calling to me. It caused me embarrassment. Like so many times before I resolved to avoid the things that caused me to be teased and judged. That began a life long distancing of my myself from my emotions and feelings. I can't say I actually liked this particular girl but I still associated those kinds of feelings with ridicule and resolved never to share those things with anyone (it maybe wasn't as conscious a decision as I am making it seem). And unfortunately I associated this particular girl with the teasing I was getting and I began to dislike her because of what I was going through, blaming her for it. That was too bad. She was a nice person. Her family seemed nice too and I regret the resentment I felt towards her at the time.

That was just the beginning. Now, I'm not exactly Don Juan DeMarco, but there have been girls in my past that I have liked. It caused an internal turmoil inside me because I had no idea what to do about it. I didn't feel like I could share that information with anyone, especially not my family, and especially not the girl. I had no idea how to relate my feelings to the person I was feeling the feelings for.  (Side note: Last year my brother asked me if I had a girlfriend. I told him no, which was the truth. Apparently him and some of his psychiatrist friends decided that a grown man wouldn't be watching Gilmore Girls unless a girlfriend was making him, which triggered the question. He followed that up by asking if I had a girlfriend would I tell him. My response surprised me. I'm still trying to process it. I said that if I had a girlfriend, I would tell my family after I was engaged. That can't be normal, but it was the truth at the time.) Back to the story. I felt like I would be rejected the second I made my feelings known. On top of all that, I still associated those feelings with something to be hidden and ashamed about. It's the weirdest feeling ever. I suppose it would feel like associating laughter with sadness and every time you laugh you would feel sad. Pretty messed up. Well, that's how my feelings were tangled up at the time. I'd like to think some of those knots have been untied over the last few years.

So basically I've been living my whole life with this inner confusion and messed up associations. On top of all that I always believed that no one could actually like me for who I was. I didn't understand how friendships or romantic friendships worked. I was a ship tossed about on the sea. I couldn't deal with or understand all these feelings and emotions I would experience growing up. All I knew was that I needed to ignore them and hide them or I would be teased and feel rejected. It was easier to live my life alone in my bedroom or on my bike than with other people.

I suppose some girls may have liked me growing up. I was a Sheldon Cooper (Big Bang Theory) though. I never really picked up on the "signals". And even if I did, I wouldn't have known what to do next. (I still don't.) They would gather around me and laugh at my jokes or touch my arm or shoulder or twirl their hair or call me on the phone. As they got older they got a little more forward, moving suggestively, bending over, talking about things I felt a little uncomfortable talking about. All this was normal teenage girl flirting I guess but I was not picking up the signals they were sending. Funny enough, everything they were doing played into my fears and phobias. I didn't like being the center of attention, touching or talking on the phone. Everything that probably would have clued a guy in on their intentions only drove me further away. And a few times they just outright asked me out. And I declined. Actually, it's more like I blacked out and can only vaguely remember what happened next. I do remember laughing nervously and saying no. I suppose there was a better way to handle that. There were other things too but I'm sure you get the gist of it. My friend AW told me years later that all the girls in youth group had crushes on me, (including her) and when there were no guys around they would talk about how many kids we'd have and what their names would be. Apparently Junior was quite popular. Anyway, I had no idea. I guess it's a little boost of confidence now, all these years later.

Then one day something happened. I noticed a girl. It's not like we had just met. I knew her for years by that point. But something was different. I couldn't not notice her. Something about her was now drawing me in. She was more interesting than I had remembered. She was more attractive than I remembered. I don't know what specifically changed but I remember she was all that I could think about. And I didn't know what to do about it. We associated with the mostly the same groups of people and I thought everything would get weird if I did anything. It took a long time for me to be comfortable with the people in my life at that time and I didn't want to change anything. I tried to ignore it. The feelings didn't go away. For months the feelings didn't go away. I couldn't tell anyone about it. I felt like I was going to burst, so I wrote a letter to this girl. I had no intention of giving it to her but it was the only outlet I knew. I did this day after day, week after week. We'd see each other regularly as part of a group. I started looking for ways to cross paths more frequently. I still wrote my letters. I wrote a song. In fact, I'm sure the first song I ever finished was the song I wrote for her. This went on for a year. Yes, for a whole year I had a secret crush on a girl. There were other things going on in my life at this time and things were changing drastically. I thought as long as everything was changing I may as well tell her how I feel. Whether things get messed up or not, life was changing and this couldn't make things any worse now. One day, after sitting outside her house talking for quite a while, which we would sometimes do, I gave her "The Letter". Then I ran away.

I recently watched the movie Beastly. In the movie, the "beast" begins writing to the "beauty" on a daily basis. After 6 months he finally gives her the letter. After reading it all she responds by saying it's the most romantic thing she's ever read. She loves him and blah, blah, blah. That's how you know it's a movie.

In real life, or at least my life, the story goes more like this... She responds by saying the thing you've poured your heart into for the last year was "nice", but she doesn't feel the same way. She likes you as a "friend" (puke) and hopes you'll be friends forever. She does however, like another guy who's the opposite of you. He drinks and does drugs. He's the loud obnoxious guy. Your foil. She says things have been getting too physical with him and she wishes that they had the type of relationship you have with her, being able to communicate and share and talk, but he's still the guy she wants. And my teenage heart was broken. I felt sick inside. There was a literal pain in my chest. I was devastated. It took me 6 months to get over it. What I "learned" from that experience was that I was not good enough. Not only was I not good enough, I was the opposite of everything that was good enough for the girl. Once again, if you know anything about my past, you know this situation does not bode well for a guy struggling with social anxiety phobia. I shut down. I withdrew. It took every fibre of my being to work up the courage to even tell this girl how I felt and now I was wiped out. If I'm scared to dance because someone laughed at me when I was 11 imagine what this experience did to me.

I suspect a lot of my social issues stem from this particular event, especially anything to do with guy/girl relationships. I know it was a very defining moment in my life. It is probably the single most impactful single event in my life. It destroyed my confidence for years and years afterward. Even to this day I know I am extremely cautious with my feelings and emotions because of the horrible rejection I felt. How I approach the whole idea of romantic relationships comes from the experience I had then. Hopefully I can overcome it.

There have been a few females that caught my attention since then. One thing I have noticed is that I usually know a person for quite some time before I ever become interested in them. The thought of "love at first sight" does not compute for me. I don't know how someone could be attracted to another person instantly without knowing what makes them tick. I have no idea how anyone could ask out a complete stranger. I think it shows how superficial our society has become. Maybe I'm wrong. My newly married best friend has been engaged twice and easily dated over 50 guys since we graduated. It blows my mind. I don't understand how that is even possible. Random strangers getting together and deciding to not only start a relationship, but a romantic relationship, based on what? Dates would be like an interview. Just trying to find out all the normal stuff I'd want to know before I'd even ask a person out. That's why I don't like blind dates. It would feel so awkward. How can you really know a person from a date? Real life is where you get to know people. How do they treat their family? How do they treat their co-workers, fellow students, customers, employers, animals, kids. Are they kind and compassionate? None of that stuff can really be determined in a blind date unless you simply take their word for it. I think that's why I usually find I know someone long before I ever become interested in them. When I find I do like someone it's because they are actually likable. I have reason to like them. Then again, I realize I'm an introvert and maybe I'm just different that way. I find it so difficult to make surface judgements on people. Occasionally my friend would ask me if I thought "X" was hot or if "Y" was pretty and I constantly frustrated her because my answer was always, "I don't know. I don't know them." I know that's not the typical guy response, but that's how I felt. Looking at someone without knowing them is like looking at a poster. There may be some beauty there but its flat. There's no dimension to it. It's not real. I suppose I can admit that there is something to be said for physical appearance but I could never be attracted to someone I didn't know, and knowing how beautiful someone is on the inside makes them so much more attractive on the outside. (The reverse is also true. If you're ugly on the inside, no matter how pretty the outside appearance, you're just a lump coal in Christmas wrapping.)

Back to my romantic history. Let's see, I kissed DD in kindergarten. We had a pretend wedding at recess. Our classmates threw snow as confetti. I gave CL "The Letter" when I was in my teens. I kinda liked a girl when I was in Bible College. (Hence my stint on the dance team to impress her.) Somehow I found out she like me too. That only took 8 months. We hung out in groups and it was good. We went on one date, kinda, and I got so nervous. It was awkward. A week later she told me it wasn't working out and I was weird and that was the end. Back into my hole I went. More devastation. And that mostly brings me up to date. There have been a few others too, but as I've gotten to know them, from life in general, not by dating, I realized we didn't really connect on "that" wavelength. It was actually good because I never put myself out there and got hurt. We just got to know each other in social situations and things seemed to work themselves out. I realized that we didn't connect on that level. We didn't have the potential to become real friends and so we drifted apart. That's how I prefer it, but I realize once again that I'm different than most people and maybe I'm chickening out. Maybe I'm not really putting my full self out there. Maybe I'm trying so hard not to be vulnerable and not to be hurt that I'm not putting myself in a position to find this type of deep and meaningful relationship? I sometimes wonder about that. It reminds me of the lyrics to I Am A Rock by Simon & Garfunkel. Maybe I avoid the opportunities for that type of relationship so that I can avoid the possibility of pain too? Maybe. Despite my shyness there is someone else I have been getting to know. The pattern is the same. She is amazing. If things keep moving in this direction, I may tell her how I feel one day.

In my entire life there have only been 3 people who have caught my attention and held it. Usually after I initially notice someone I get to know them better from a distance. Often, during this phase I realize we don't really connect and those feelings fade. Very few still draw me in after we've had a chance to get to know each other (outside of dating) in a casual environment. Like I said, only 3 people have ever held my attention. And of those 3, the first was completely not interested, the second one started into a relationship with me and after a week decided I was not what she was looking for. The third has no idea at the moment. I don't know how things will progress but I find I'm going through all the same fears and doubts I usually do. We'll see how this goes.

And that is my romantic history. The entire history. There's not a lot to tell. That's just who I am. There are very few people out there that embody what I am looking for, and the desires I believe God has placed in me. And of those people there are probably fewer yet that find I am what they are looking for. The old adage, "There are plenty of fish in the sea," is not entirely true. I've only come across 3 my entire life. And in retrospect, with the benefit of many years of hindsight, I can see the first girl was a compromise. She was not everything I was looking for, but I was blinded by my teenage hormones. I have said it before and I'll guess I conclude by saying it one more time. I do not want to compromise on the traits and qualities I am looking for in the person I want to spend the rest of my life with. I believe those desires are God given. The rest is flexible.

(Update: The third person I mentioned was the person I eventually entered into a romantic relationship with. She was everything I was looking for. It was good.)

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