Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Understanding Annie: A Graduate Course in a Clusterfuck Iconoclast

My insightful and dear Knoxite friend posted the following original quote to her Facebook this morning:

"Of all the things, in the whole wide world I wanna be when I grow up, 'Understood' is at the very top of the list." --Jillian Marie Szilagyi Kelly

I'm not sure if I 100% agree or disagree with this quote, though it struck me enough to repost it on my profile. In a lot of ways, I beg to be understood. It's half the reason I throw myself out into the websphere and blurt out all of the seemingly nonsensical thoughts that race through my head. (Hell, it all makes perfect sense to me!) I write this blog to understand myself better and to have others understand me more richly. Conversely, I fully admit I get an egotistical kick out of confounding the masses, confusing the establishment and upsetting the apple cart.*

(*See me with my supervisor at work.)

I can count on one hand (ok, maybe a hand and a half) the people in this world who truly understand me. I mean, truly. And by understanding me, that definition expands into truly accepting me for who I am, flaws and all, and loving me without pretense. (God and Luke are at the top of that list.) Loving and understanding me on that level takes effort and emotional energy that not everyone is inclined to expel. It takes work. That particular rogues' gallery of individuals all claim that I'm easy to love, too easy to fall in love with, and that the qualities in myself I view as disabilities are really strengths. All true, I suppose.

In an attempt to rebuild my self-esteem after it was literally stripped by my former partner, I asked one of those unconditional love-individuals recently what he loves the most about me, after having a similar discussion with another one of my best friends. His answer was delightful. Kind of surprising. He prefaced the singular trait by saying, "I don't know, there are so many things to choose from..." That warmed my heart. "Seriously?" I thought. (Now my curiosity is majorly piqued, I later told him. I want to know what "all those things"are. It'd be good for me to hear. Healthy. He has yet to cough up more elaborate detail. But he's a guy.Worse yet, I asked him to put it in writing, and he's a scientist. Oh, my giddy aunt!)

He touched on my intellect and intelligence, but ultimately decided on my honesty. The general gist was that he appreciated my openness and ability to express myself without worrying about what other people thought of me or my often radical opinions. My impression of his answer was that he valued the fact that my honesty leaves me vulnerable, yet I don't detach and cower. I told him I was "no bullshit," to which he agreed. That all leaves my psyche and heart in a precarious place sometimes, but I've weathered enough heat to deal with those ramifications.

(On a happy but totally unrelated note, he finally referred to me as "Annie" instead of "Andrea" in an email recently. For me, that's kind of a big deal. I use Andrea professionally, and it is my given name, but those who are close to me typically only call me Andrea when I'm in trouble, or being scolded, or chastised for something. I much prefer to be called Annie, for that is what those who are close to me refer to me in general. I think Kate is the only BFF that still calls me Andrea, just by virtue of the fact that's what she's always called me, and I don't mind that. My own husband refused to call me Annie until after we were divorced, which always struck me as strange. Then again, he refers to doctors as "licensed medical practitioners," so his formality and politeness are not unusual for him.)

My therapist was highly impressed that I'd extensively planned my free time while my family was away, surrounding myself with individuals who cared enough to help me through what they knew was going to be a challenging time for me. I count those folks who all saw to it that I stayed sober, sane and well-fed as those who unconditionally love me.

Then there is a separate, lengthy list of people who love me with a litany of conditions attached to the sentiment. "I love you except when you're...." or "I love you, but when you're....you're ...." or at the worst end of the spectrum, my former partner, whose vibe was "I love you, but you're lucky I do, because who else would love you given everything that's wrong with you...?"

Sometimes, it's hard for me to discern who's loving me out of "tough love," brutal honesty, or who's "looking out for my best interests," or who's just bitching at me to bitch. Recently, on my Facebook, I reposted an article from The Onion that I found hilarious: "Manic-Depressive Friend a Blast While Manic." It was about a guy whose friends thought he was the life of the party, generous, hysterical and a hoot to be around when he was manic, but was life's biggest buzzkill when he was depressive. I posted the article with my own commentary: "Is this what I'm like when I'm manic? Do tell!"

One of my good friends, who can be harshly critical of me at times, frankly commented, "Truthfully? Manic Annie is a little frustrating, typically disjointed and totally exhausting. Mood-stabilized Annie, with the intact insight and judgment and wisdom a mile deep is pretty fucking awesome." I took that statement to be sort of an insult veiled with a compliment. It's not that I didn't agree with her, for Manic Annie is no picnic. But my interpretation of that, for which I found myself apologizing, was that it was love with condition. I thanked her for the "fucking awesome" part but apologized for my mania, which I really shouldn't have to do, given it's, as we've covered ad nauseum, a temporary brain chemical imbalance over which I have zero control. (In her defense, she did say that I have about as much control over my manic episodes as she does over her allergies.)

There are those who love me fiercely, family and friends included, who will just simply never get me, no matter how hard they try. That's not a character flaw of those people; merely a fact. I'm far from the general public's cup of tea and I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm really glad that mood-stabilized, med-compliant, clean and sober Annie has retained all the charm without the lack of functionality associated with my bipolar and addictive history. I revel in individuality and non-conformity and encourage that in my son as well. I'm a self-proclaimed iconoclast, but an iconoclast who still loves to be hugged and kissed on the forehead, told that she's worthy of love, who tries her damndest to fit a square peg into a round hole with both successes and failures.

Thus, I keep on truckin'. Another rhythm from the Offbeat Drummer.*

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

After we learn to find the right word for our feeling and its intensity, the next step is explaining why we feel what we feel. At this point, our analytical brain is called into action. We actually make things much easier on ourselves and others when our language is clear, direct, and precise. When our words and our non-verbal communication is consistent, we gain respect because we come across as having integrity. Clear, honest communication is not only helpful in personal relationships, but essential to a society. We are simply all better off when we all follow the old rule: Say what you mean and mean what you say.