Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Solitary Man

I am a natural introvert. More precisely, I am the INTJ personality type.  A thinker more than a doer.  Reserved, perhaps even aloof, more than a social creature.  These are traits I have never considered a problem.  As one who has spent much of his life engaged in studying the humanities with his nose always stuck in a book, omly stopping to write his thoughts down, I considered them a virtue.  I still do, to be honest.  But it has come to my attention in recent months that perhaps I have not considered the negative origins of these characteristics.  With those cast aside, I may have crossed the line from introverted to antisocial.

There is a fine line between introverted and antisocial.  The introverted may not express how much they value the people and things around them, either because they are not particularly communicative or are immersed in big ideas, but they do care.  The antisocial are self-absorbed and have little to no interest in anyone or anything.  Have I crossed that line?  If so, how far across have I gone?

First and foremost, I was comned to/blessed to introversion, depending on how you look at the results.  As one born with disabilities that necessitated a more sedentary, therefore solitary life form other children, I looked inward rather than outward for entertainment.  This might not have been so bad--indeed, it could have been a virtue --had my mother’s cynicism regarding people, coupled with the attitude her handicapped child had to be tough in order to survive, not combined to instill a severe distrust in others.  She could have just named me Sue, but I guess that would not have been good enough.

I was never spared from the harsh realities of dealing with people.  Sure, people can be cold and mean, but not everyone is.  Nevertheless, I was never sheltered from the darker aspects of peoples’ personalities.  When I faced kids making fun of my disabilities, my mother would tell me that I would encounter ten thousand people in life who will act  that way.  Was I going to cry over or fight them all?  I knew early on my grandmother offered to pay to have my mother’s tubes tied so she would never have another handicapped child.  I knew every aspect of my father’s alcoholism, such as where he hid drinks from public view, from an early age.  When you learn at an impressionable age the people you are supposed to depend on are so severely flawed, you never think about depending on them at all.  Ironically, my mother became an undependable alcoholic late in her life, too.  My guru was herself the same kind of person on whom she told me not to depend.  So I eventually stopped that, too.

There is also the matter of a Bob Jones influenced theology drilling into my mind the existence of a harsh, punishing God constantly angry at us wretched sinners, but that is a topic for another time.  Consider it the icing on a large, bitter cake.  Seven layers, naturally.  One of those the baker must have deliberate skills to make.  Because the metaphor is tragically apt in my case.

    The question has come up in recent times whether I have skill in sabotaging relationships.  I am curious if I have even had any beyond the often superficial relationships of circumstance.  Certainly I have made some good friends that way, but they have been  few and well chosen, often low maintenance types.  I am just as inclined to look myself away as a hermit to be with my own thoughts as anything else.  I am also one to withdraw in order to avoid the relatively minor dramas of relationships--the kind one usually endure in order to keep those people in one’s life.  Youcan guess how I feel about true problems that are extremely difficult to handle.  The end result in either case is a reliance on myself and no one else.

 So what does a person like me do with his time and energy?  Focus on goals, like becoming a lawyer.  What happens when that goal fails because of health issues beyond my control?  I hide away in my sister’s house in solitary confinement for nine years hoping life will soon, mercifully end.  When, as I have grown to expect, someone I should be able to depend on like my sister fails me and abandons me to the long term care system?  Surrounded by strangers in whom I have no trust and without goals for the future, it sounded like a good idea to tie a plastic bag around my head.

These days, I recognize the problem.  I do not know how well I am working through it.  I have never been surrounded by so9 many people in a living arrangement as I am now.  After nine years of extreme self-absorption, it has been awkward building relationships, though it has been made easier because I am surrounded by caregivers.  The urge to dive under the bed at the slightest setback is still strong, but I am working on it.  There is definitely a line between introverted and antisocial, and it is becoming clearer to be daily where it is and how far I must go back to be on the proper side of it.

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