May 7, 2021 – On the outside looking in.

I don’t know what it is about me but I feel like for the better part of my life, I’ve been ‘on the outside looking in’. It’s almost as if the world is a swimming pool filled with people (splashing about and laughing) and they’re all calling out to me, “Come on in, the water’s fine!” while I watch from a distance, shaking my head and refusing to budge. “Uh…no thanks. I’m good,” I reply, my feet planted firmly beneath me. It’s hot and humid outside and I’m sweating profusely, even though I’m standing in a shady spot beneath a tree. The idea of taking a dip in some cool water seems mighty appealing, however, there’s no way I’m getting in that pool! I’d rather stand there all day and die from dehydration or heat stroke rather than get in that pool with all of those people. Truthfully, as many opportunities I’ve had to be ‘a part of things’, I always end up retreating or withdrawing, preferring to ‘self isolate’ rather than join in.

What the hell is that all about anyway? I recognize the pattern because it keeps happening over and over and over again. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m an introvert, or I’m too sensitive, or I don’t like expectations being placed on me, or whatever the case may be, but I continue to place myself in ‘solitary confinement’. And I hate it because it’s lonely. Still, there must be some appeal to it because I continue to return ‘there’ time and time again. I did it last week when I quit the art gallery. I had an opportunity to be part of something but I chose to cut ties. I’ve done it with so many things, I’ve lost count. In fact, most of the time, I never have to ‘cut ties’ because I refuse to get involved in the first place. When my kids were growing up, if their teachers ever made a request for ‘helpers’, I’d head for the nearest exit. I never was a part of PTA or assisted with field trips. I never volunteered to help on Field Day or any of the events that occurred throughout the year. I wanted no part of it.

When I was a child myself, my mother was the same way. I have no recollection of her ever coming to my school for any reason whatsoever, with three exceptions. After my attempt at being ‘funny’ in 5th grade (elementary school), when I falsely confessed (sarcastically) to smashing a boy’s cupcake and the whole thing went off the rails and blew up in my face, my mom had to come and speak to the principal. In 7th or 8th grade (middle school), after I was repeatedly bullied by a peer, my mom made another trip to the principal’s office in an attempt to get the school to intervene. And while I was in high school, she did come to one of my track meets. Aside from that, she steered clear of the school grounds. Why did I bring up my mother? I’m not exactly sure, it’s just that as I was writing, I began to see some similarities. If my mother had been more involved in my school activities, would I have been more involved as a parent? Hard to say. As humans, we do tend to ‘live what we learn’.

All I know is that as much as I yearn to be with others, I don’t have a lot of ‘staying power’. I wonder what it must be like to be one of those people who has a 30-50 year career somewhere? The longest I’ve ever lasted anywhere is 4 years. And even at that job, I thought about leaving in that 4-year span more than once. Since I’ve been home (unemployed) for the last 14 months, the idea of ever going back to work gets me about as excited as the idea of running directly and purposely into a beehive and getting stung 1,000+ times by some very startled and angry bees. To be clear, it’s about the last thing I want to do. I know I don’t necessarily ‘play well with others’. On top of my issues with sounds (misophonia), and being overly sensitive to people’s comments, I’m also a perfectionist and very territorial. One of those things is bad enough, but if you put them all together, it’s like walking around, carrying a stick of dynamite with a lit fuse.

Can you think of a job where those ‘characteristics’ would be helpful? I can’t. I also get bored easily and have no stamina. And you can forget about asking me to do anything repetitive and mindless. It’s not going to happen, my friends! I look at jobs every week, and every week I talk myself out of them. Hey, are you hiring? I’d make a great candidate!! Yeah, right! Because I used to work at a senior activity center, I considered working at an assisted living center. The job advertised was for an ‘activities coordinator’. I can guarantee you this much, at some point, ‘singing’ in one form or another will be involved. That’s not going to happen either! If you want me to work for you, if the job involves singing or public speaking, you’d better keep looking through that pile of applications because just like when the teachers used to ask for helpers, if singing or public speaking is involved, I head for the nearest exit!

What the hell was I talking about anyway? I started talking about my refusal to ‘get involved’ and somehow I ended up on another topic altogether. Or did I? Are they related somehow? Good grief. I don’t know. What I can tell you is that I’m feeling particularly lonely at the moment…and it’s my own doing. In addition to that, when I woke up this morning (after the initial ‘euphoria’ of forgetting my troubles subsided and the anxiety returned), I became depressed and overwhelmed with a sense of loss. I spent nearly the entire day trying to understand where or what it stemmed from. Was it because I quit the gallery and all of the people associated with it, or was it something else? When I arrive at a place where I cannot make heads or tails of the situation, that’s when I usually reach out to my therapist. I sent an email to the office manager late this afternoon and let her know that I was coming unraveled and needed to meet with my therapist ASAP. Of course, after I did that, my husband and I sat down to dinner. When I looked across the table, a thought did come to mind.

“Do you notice anything different?” I asked my husband, as I pointed to the opposite side of the table. He didn’t. “I cleaned up all the Safeway Monopoly crap!” I declared triumphantly. I must admit, I do wonder if that’s a big part of why I’m feeling this way. After making yet another trip to Safeway two days ago, after I finished my transaction, the cashier handed me an entire box of tickets! I practically started foaming at the mouth. My husband texted our children and stated the following, “I couldn’t believe the cashier gave her a whole box!! Mom’s eyes lit up like a junky getting crack.” When we got home, I sat down at the kitchen table and started tearing off the tabs on either end of each ticket and setting them aside. After I removed all of the tabs, I painstakingly opened each ticket to reveal the contents. Based on what the ticket stated, I placed it into a specific pile. I had a ‘prize’ pile, a Shutterfly pile, a Redbox pile, a ‘scan to find out’ pile, and a coupon pile. I also had a notebook at-the-ready, along with a pen, in order to write down each prize I won.

I kid you not, I filled up three pages of 8 1/2 x 11 sheets of paper with prizes! Of course, the majority of what I ‘won’ was bottled water and french bread, but there was plenty of other stuff, too. I was like a junky taking a hit each time I scanned a ticket and it alerted me that I had won a prize. The whole process has been exhausting. It’s been going on for weeks and I’m beat! After I went through the entire box, even though I could have returned to Safeway for more, I decided against it. I told my husband that it’s a good thing that the contest isn’t year-round or I’d probably have to go into some sort of inpatient treatment facility. Seriously, I think I’m going through some weird sort of withdrawal. I can see it now. After voluntarily admitting myself to the nearest psychiatric hospital or treatment facility, upon answering the admitting nurse’s question, “What are you seeking treatment for?” with “Safeway Monopoly addiction,” a trio of men in white uniforms would storm through the door and whisk me away to a double-reinforced padded cell.

I don’t know, it might not be so bad. I seem to like solitary confinement, maybe I’d thrive there? Of course, in that case, I’d be ‘on the inside looking out’ rather than the other way around. Either way, I’d probably get some counseling out of the deal so that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. The only thing I ask is that if they choose to play music in my cell, they don’t play any of that doo-wop crap from the 50s, any ‘a-cappella’ music (I’m sorry if you don’t agree, but Pentatonix sucks), any Irish ballads or sea chanties, ‘Beat It’, ‘Pretty Young Thing’, ‘Baby Be Mine’, or ‘I Can’t Help It’ (because after watching ‘that’ documentary about Michael Jackson in 2019, those songs have taken on a whole new meaning), anything AT ALL from Enya or Susan Boyle, ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ by Bobby McFerrin, ‘I’d Do Anything For Love’ by Meatloaf (my husband used to torture me with that damn song), ‘Invisible’ by Clay Aiken, or ‘Party All The Time’ by Eddie Murphy. Oh! I just remembered one more big no-no, ‘Screamo’. Oh, God! Please, no ‘Screamo’!!


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