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shock and surprise, part 2

July 15, 2011

There’s peer pressure on the outside, and what I call “Mrs. Nocerino”* on the inside, telling me that my feelings are odd, and — because they’re out of step with everyone else — unacceptable. I should change them so they match everyone else’s. Because I wouldn’t want people to not like me, would I? Except that, if you are expected to disavow your deepest impulses (i.e., your feelings), and “change” them to fit a standard you can’t understand, nobody really knows you, including you. And so all these people that you are trying to charm (or at least, not repel) can only “like” a chimera.

Barbra Streisand sang: “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” When I was a child, I couldn’t figure out what she meant. When you need people, you are at their mercy. And if they don’t need you back, you have to hope and pray that you don’t become a scapegoat, and get “voted off the island”, so to speak.

I can tell you from personal experience, in multiple situations, over many years, that being scapegoated totally sucks.

Human beings are social animals, and we not only need to have other social animals around us, we need to be in relationships with them. Preferably relationships that are mutually supportive, mutually respectful, mutually nourishing.

Relationships that consist of person A (or persons A – n) telling person Q^2 that everything that makes them what they are is kind of weird (in a bad way), and it makes other people uncomfortable, and don’t you want to be just like all of us because then we could like you (hypothetically)? Those relationships are abusive, and nobody needs a relationship like that. It’s a little awkward when person Q^2 has exactly that relationship with primary caregivers, because then person Q^2 doesn’t get socialized in a way that is going to make their life any easier when they go out into the wide world.

Lots of people, even “normal” people (whatever those might be), make social missteps from time to time. And then they worry if other people noticed, what they thought if they noticed, is this going to harm their relationship? When you have the added burden of hearing Mrs. Nocerino screeching in your mind, “even your parents don’t love you, so why do you think anybody else would? Of course you screwed up! You are unlovable!! Because even your parents don’t love you!!! [Rinse, repeat]”, well, it’s kind of hard to figure out what argument trumps that. And truthfully, no argument will.

The only thing I’ve found that helps, really truly helps, is to ground myself by thinking about who I am, what kind of person I am, what kind of person I try to be, and reaffirming that I love that person.

Love not only does not require perfection, but I don’t think love could work if someone was perfect. Because a “perfect” person presumably wouldn’t need or want anything from anybody else — they would be wholly complete in themselves. Isn’t that what perfect means?

People make mistakes, that’s how we grow and (hopefully) learn. I believe that “life is problems”, and so people who make more mistakes, grow and learn more (at least theoretically). In my own experience, people who make a lot of mistakes, who think differently than “everyone else”, are way more interesting to talk to and have relationships with, precisely because you don’t know what they’re going to say or do next. You might learn something from them. And I often have.

Having a relationship with someone who thinks like “everyone else” means you only really need one relationship. Your other relationships with people who think similarly will be fairly interchangeable. You will rarely be surprised, in a good way. But I am often surprised, in a bad way, by how retrograde “everyone else’s”  attitudes can be.

And that just encourages me to seek out other weirdos to be friends and family with. Because it is really hard to be a weirdo. I’m reminded of the movie, one of my favorites, Lilo & Stitch. The family of choice that Lilo and Stitch craft, which you see at the end of the movie, does not contain even one “normal” person.

Pluralism, diversity, variations on a theme, hybrid vigor — they all make life a lot more interesting. And they are all biological adaptations to not just surviving challenging or hostile/toxic conditions, but potentially thriving and then evolving in them. Think monoculture versus ecosystem. The more you know about biology and ecology, the clearer it is that biodiversity, of all sorts, is absolutely crucial for life on this planet to continue. The current human monoculture has been an utter disaster for every nonhuman, most humans, and the very planet we all depend upon. Maybe it’s time for fresh thinking!

The more friends and family we have who surprise or even shock us on occasion, the better off we all are.


*Mrs. Nocerino was the name of a nosy and annoying neighbor of my grandparents. Apparently she disapproved of everything my grandmother did. My mother grew up constantly worrying about what Mrs. Nocerino would say about anything and everything. As a result, I have one internalized “disapproving parent” voice that is my mother, and I have a second one that is Mrs. Nocerino.


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