Searching For My Village
Lately, I’ve been spending my every-two-week alcohol allowance by hanging out in the garden of a local bar, shmoozing with a friend.
Sharing a drink with a friend and hanging out – what a concept!
Last time I did this, just chillin’ with a man from my men’s group, for a moment or two I almost felt normal. (It soon passed). So this is what the humans do!
Usually I’ve spent my downtime, sober or not, by myself, writing, observing others, listening to music or dancing. I’ve spent most of my adult life avoiding idle chitchat and small talk, feeling secretly above such indulgences. But lately I’m starting to regret this, as I believe I’ve missed out on (along with some wasted time) much human connection.
And I notice in my work that this tendency to go it alone in life tends to afflict more members of the male persuasion and can be pathological. There should be a name for it, like Isolationary Personality Disorder.
Which leads me, once again, to my dad, as I notice my tendency to replicate his loner way, which was to distance himself from old friends by judging them out of his life.
As I’ve noticed before in these pages, by the time he reached his 70s, my father had effectively cut himself off from most of his social circle. Periodically complaining to me about especially his male friends and acquaintances, he’d bury the remains of the friendship by shoveling the phrase “not a real man” onto his final critique, and that would be that. He was still friendly with everyone, but friends with practically no one, and died virtually alone.
I think he ultimately became disappointed with them, and I notice this proclivity in me as well, which I compound by accumulating unexpressed hurts, disappointments, judgments and resentments over decades, like so many bricks in a wall.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, and have been noticing how judging in itself tends to be a hurtful, contagious energy. When someone directs it my way, I judge them back to defend myself.
When judged or criticized, I tend to barely register, and jump over, my feelings of hurt or fear, and go directly to anger. And not only anger, but an anger that’s been infected with the judgment and returns the favor.
In 12 Step programs they put it this way: Hurt people hurt people. Yeah, that would be me.
Put another way, being judged hurts me when I grab hold of the arrow shot my way and defend myself by hurling it back, not realizing I’ve wounded myself by grabbing its sharp edges instead of simply dodging it.
I mean, someone could point at me and laugh derisively, and say, “You’re a complete idiot!” and I could get all huffy and offended. But if they did the same and said, “You’re a complete Martian!” I’d just look at them funny. Yet I’m no more an idiot than I am a Martian. (There are those who might disagree). If I know this, why grab the arrow?
Truth is, I’m most sensitive to receiving the same criticism I tend to give myself, so it’s like I’m getting caught in the crossfire. This has led me to consider that when I’m critical and judgmental, I’m simply throwing at others the same darts and knives that I’ve sharpened all too well on my own skin and bones.
While we’re talking about this, there is a distinction to be made between judging and discerning. It’s healthy and necessary to discern, for example, who is wise or foolish about something. Or who is better at this and worse at that. Being judgmental, however, adds a whole overlay of value or moral judgment, implying superiority over the one being judged, and exercising aspects of condemnation, faultfinding and self-righteousness.
It’s like the two meanings of the word, discriminating. One definition means to discern, the other, to be biased against and reject.
I want to be discriminating about who I continue to be friends with, naturally. But I need to guard against my inherited rejection-gene.
I don’t know where this post is going really, like I don’t know where I myself am headed on this path. I’ve tended to choose the road not taken, and have benefited greatly. At the same time, I often feel lonely, and am scared to death of dying old and forgotten. I continue to strive in all sorts of directions, and tend to be a loner in this regard as well. But every season I look around me as others are hanging out at barbecues, in parks and on benches, or watching ESPN, or at the beach, or even on Facebook for chrissakes, just shootin’ the shit, and I increasingly feel envious.
They say, “It takes a village” to raise a child (or, I might add, live a full life). I guess I’m still searching for mine.