September 1st, 2008

Moody

Steady state

Someday I'd like to stop feeling freaked out by relating with people. Not sure just what that would entail—in writing it sounds like a pretty severe problem; in practice it's both less and more than that. It's less in that, functionally, I'm pretty good with people and understand them on many levels (sometimes more than most of them would be comfortable with). It's more in that, relationally, there's some kind of blind spot that confuses me across a wide variety of people, maybe something connected with a need or want they have that's simply not present for me. I can see it and feel it in them, but I don't connect with it, don't navigate well around it, and don't feel like I can meet it.

Heaven knows that I have my ups and downs dispositionally—no way that could even be in question. But on a fundamental level, much of the time I'm OK. Not unfeeling (I feel plenty, all the time) or unaffected, but OK—my feelings often just don't affect my ability to be OK. I could speculate on why that's the case, but it's tough to explain and may be tougher to understand.

But that's not how I read others much of the time. Instead, it feels like they need or want something in order to be OK, and I want them to just go ahead and be OK. I don't mean to be dismissive of feelings; in fact, I'm terribly respectful of them in that I don't even understand why they should be changed and replaced by other feelings so urgently—feel what you feel and be OK with that. But others don't seem to work that way, either by nature or by choice, and I get more and more lost when I try to relate.

The ante is upped when I feel their want or need turned on me—it scares me on some level. I'm sure there's plenty of laziness, selfishness, faithlessness, and outright sin in my response. I'm afraid of getting used up or drained dry in someone's attempt to be (possibly momentarily) OK. Since I don't understand why they can't just be OK, I don't know what or how much I can give toward that want or need. Not giving is selfish and cold; giving is throwing myself into a relational freefall. Where's the bottom? When will you be OK?

As I get older, I get more skittish on even simpler wants and needs. Faced with some of the smallest desires from others, I'm immediately afraid of being consumed. I love focus and mission and purpose, because then I know what we're shooting for and when we'll be done. I can deal with and even enjoy being depended upon for something, but just being generally depended on scares the bejeezus out of me. I don't want to be a dependency—I don't even understand how that would work or what would ever be enough. For me, that's the equivalent of signing a blank check or the back page of an unread contract.

The disconnect has potentially monstrous repercussions—in how I view culture and politics, in my career, in my friendships, with my family, in my marriage, and in my relationship with God. No man is an island, but this man is afraid he's doing a truly rotten job of connecting with anyone else.