Sunday, February 10, 2013

Open Letter to My Neighbor

I'm starting to realize that a neighbor is paying a bit more attention to me than I'd prefer. I suppose it's a foregone conclusion that this person's googled me and found my blog, so I'd like to take a moment to set a few things straight.

I can't imagine this person bears me any ill-will. Our fleeting in-person encounters have been mostly polite. And I certainly don't mean this person any ill-will, either. I do realize I'm a strange fit in a conservative, family-oriented neighborhood, being a single middle-aged guy who keeps odd hours and plays weird music (never after 9pm, though). It's true that I'm not chatty, but I spent most of my adult life in NYC apartments, where you give neighbors their space. But if there was ever a problem or disaster, I'd surprise you with how responsive and helpful I'd be. I rise to occasions well.

I had some bad years (here's the story), and am still a tad post-traumatic. You may have noticed that I occasionally mutter quietly to myself. What I'm doing is reassuring myself. Loopy though that may seem, I believe it's saner than more "normal" inner monologues. I once explained it like this:
Human beings spend their lives in conflict with imaginary people: mentally rearguing old arguments, worrying about faceless attackers and detractors, reliving bygone humiliations, and generally using our imaginations to make our lives a living hell. That's considered "normal", but using the same faculty in positive ways to help us cope seems, for some reason, childish and loopy.
You can read back articles here on the Slog for a good idea of who I am and where I'm coming from. Nothing so mysterious, though I may seem to have beamed here from another planet!

Anyway, I'll make you a deal. I'll quietly wish for your family's lives to turn out well, and maybe you can do the same for me. And we'll just keep living here in geographic parallel, you pretending you never saw this, and me pretending I never registered your disapproving gaze. There are evil people in this world, and neither of us is one of them. So we'll be just fine.

For those reading along: consider this outreach-via-proxy from the shy nonconformist in your realm.


bobjbkln said...

I have come to the conclusion that one of the primary reasons for the persistance and widespread acceptance of God- (and gods-) based religions is that people can have those discussions with themselves while being totally in the mainstream.

Jim Leff said...

Do you know anyone who doesn't have discussions with themselves? Usually negative (conflict with imaginary people: mentally rearguing old arguments, worrying about faceless attackers and detractors, reliving bygone humiliations), though, sometimes positive (reassurance, etc)?

I've never met anyone who didn't. Find a spot to observe passersby on a busy city street and watch their faces. Are they actually right here, right now? No. They're arguing with their boss or girlfriend. Reliving trials/tribulations from the past or imagining/projecting future ones. They're lost in reverie. They're seldom mentally here. You can see it! That's what people do, all day, and every day. It's so baked-in that a lot of people don't even realize it.

My point is that since every mind does this, we might as well hack the process to make it positive - tell ourselves positive, soothing, encouraging things, rather than negative, horrific, draining things. It sounds loopy and childish to do so, only because the negative stuff stuff is so utterly normal that it's a sort of baseline. Walking around with your face frozen in a grim sneer is the most normal thing in the world. Walking around with a loopy smile and hopeful, open, searching eyes is juvenile and daft.

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