Monday, March 26, 2018

The Curse: Summing Up

Previous installment
First installment
All installments in reverse chronological order

While the previous posting was about my "Curse", I didn't title it as such, because the point I was making was an interesting stand-alone. And I worried that readers understandably fed up with the sordid whackiness of the whole Curse thing might have otherwise skipped it. But now we're back in the series, officially, for a final summary.

One note. A Facebook friend read through this series and expressed concern for my well-being. I had to reply that I have tons of friends unaffected by this stuff (the "Curse" is only a phenomenon with strangers), plus plenty of equanimity. I enjoy, come what may. Yes, there were rough moments, and my composure wasn't always perfect, but I was (and am) ok. This tale hasn't been a wail of pain disguised as a wry mystery. It really was a wry mystery!

The Big Chill-Out

Like diabetes, the "Curse" can be managed but never cured. When I lapse into quiet sub-sub-sub-shlubbiness these days, I still come off like an extreme "zero", while sending out highly discordant vibes of super high intensity and awareness. And the spectacle of a high-intensity "zero" - pretty much a contradiction in terms! - has to seem troublesome and creepy. How could it not? He must be plotting something. He's gonna mess with my kid, or play mind games with my head, or act out in lord knows what manner!

All my life, people told me I was "hyper" and needed to calm down. So I eventually did. But while some people mellow into a persona of Laid Back Smooth Dude, others wind up three notches below "shlub". It just goes to prove that no advice is one-size-fits-all. I wondered, as a child, whether everyone experienced their own unique universe - or if different people could act and think and do the same stuff with very different outcomes. I am now as certain as a human being can be certain that it's the latter.

I wasn't ever "hyper". I was intense. People don't always apply the right words. For example, the term "eccentric" is used to describe every sort of nonconformist, including those who've found a truly better way (I wrote about this here). For another example, people often compliment my intelligence, when I actually have a middling intellect (I'm poor at following directions, filling out paperwork, following movie and novel plots, and generally at inputting and processing lots of data in a snappy, efficient way...unless something visceral drives me to do so). What I am is creative, insightful, and, in its original sense, "clairvoyant" (which didn't used to refer to ESP - which doesn't exist - but to people who are especially clear in their vision....which is not to say I can't sometimes be cloudier than a hangar full of gauze). But it's easier for people to just figure I'm "smart".

I heard "hyper" a lot, though, and figured all those people couldn't be wrong, so I learned to slow down and chill out. But I was never a Chill Dude. The meditation, etc., that relaxed me only increased the intensity, compounding the real issue. I'd chilled to a puddle, while dissonantly projecting huge intensity and awareness. Hence the "Curse".

Lesson: When people give you bad advice, ignore the advice but pay close attention to the problem...then solve it your way.
I used to go ballistic when editors suggested thoughtless changes to my writing. It took the longest time for me to understand that I was missing a phenomenal learning experience. If I'd simply ignored the suggestions, and focused on the issues prompting those suggestions, I'd have seen all my writing problems helpfully mapped out. Instead, I spent years raging at the stupid suggestions.
I hadn't needed to chill, but I accepted the solution at face value, and paid a steep price.

Escaping the Curse

So how did I escape the "Curse"? I heeded an impulse to speed back up. I've returned to old behavior patterns which had been criticized as "hyperactive". I've reinjected my energy back into my speech and actions. I am a bit more dominating and loud. And I let myself say things that might seem a bit kooky. In so doing, my intensity seems less discordant than when I'd presented with a spooky, hollowed-out affect. Making myself a "character" elevates me a level or so, on the gravitas scale, to "Dude" from The Big Lebowski. I obviously have some sort of shtick going on, so my intensity seems less startlingly out of place. Hey, it's that kooky guy!
If this account of adopting a persona creepily reminds you of the line about psychotics needing to put on their "human suit", believe me, you're not alone. It's troubled me plenty. In the end, however, I'm pretty sure psychopaths aren't compassionate, empathetic, or generous, whereas those things aren't among my deficiencies. I think many mental illnesses reflect an incomplete registration of deeper truth. So it may be that psychopaths in some ways resemble me, rather than vice versa.
Sometimes I forget to speed up socially. So I have harrowing scenes with strangers. But I need these vacations. At this point, adapting a persona gives me a bit of a headache (my maniacal food-loving Chowhound persona had similarly weighed on me). There's a reason devotees traditionally withdraw to caves and monasteries. It's hard to be in that groove while maintaining a facade - but it's socially perilous if you don't.

Confession of Guilt

This entire series has been disgustingly self-justifying and humble-bragging. "I'm so modest." "I'm so spiritual." "None of this is my fault." "They just don't understand me!" I know, I know. So let me inject some self-blame here. There is one thing I've failed to consistently apply. It's this, which is too subtle and interesting to recap, so you'll need to read the link. I'll wait!

A lot of people said they were moved by that post. And it would have helped if I'd followed its approach more diligently. Whenever I'd simply do the small flip of perspective suggested in that posting, a deeper connection often formed.

Yes, it sounds lovely. A hopeful vision for a future where it all comes together! But you might have forgotten the only truly horrific component of all this, recalled in installment #9, and which I'll repeat below:
There was a farm stand I shopped at a few years ago. The elderly proprietor was never kind to me, but one day, late in the season, we exchanged a couple of thoughtful words, and connected for a moment. She looked at me as if for the first time. It was absolutely nothing romantic for either of us, just a touch of soulful bonding. Nice!

The next season, I didn't have a chance to return to the stand. But the summer after that, I did stop by. When the woman caught sight of me, she gasped, and I realized that I'd stumbled into a late scene of a very bad movie. "Where did you go?" she implored in a hoarse, tremulous whisper, her eyes dark wells of pain. I, ah, ghaaahh, uh, I, ah....wuh, er, I, ah....

I wish I could say that was a one-off. And you'll surely understand why I much prefer senseless rejection. The Curse was a trial but also an amusingly goofy story. This, however, was some sort of bona fide tragedy...and, for whatever unfathomable reason, it seemed to be on me! Yikes! I don't want that!! Who would want that???
This is what happens when the Curse flips the other way, and I feel compelled to stave off this outcome with absolutely everything I've got. While it might seem better for me, it's definitely not better for them.

One might diagnose a fear of connection on my part. No. Read more closely, bearing in mind that this might not be the sort of experience you personally relate to. Like the rest of this "Curse" story, it's edge case stuff...which makes the entire tale somewhat unrelatable, though hopefully still interesting reading).

Continue to final installment


Display Name said...

thank you so much Jim. Am longing for some more Scheherazade. Now what am I gonna obsess about? :)

Jim Leff said...

Hey, the Slog continues! Keep reading!

What happens when you merge Scheherazade and schadenfreude? "Schadenzade?"

Display Name said...


Blog Archive