Friday, March 14, 2008
"What was your childhood like?"
"It was okay."
"It was fine. I don't have any complaints. My parents stayed together. We had a nice house. My father had a good job. We got to do fun things."
"How did you spend your time?"
"I went to school. I played. The normal stuff."
"No, what did you do in your free time? Did you hang out with the neighborhood kids?"
"Well, I was really good at entertaining myself. I had all sorts of interests. Crazy things. Like science and astronomy. Or making up stories. Sometimes I built things."
"Are you an only child?"
"Did you wish you had a brother or a sister?"
"Oh no. My friends with brothers and sisters were always fighting. It used to bother me. I couldn't understand what the big deal was. Why they got so mad. It's okay if the little brother plays with us. Really, who cares?"
"Why did that bother you?"
"All the conflict. It just seemed so draining. Emotionally draining."
"So you spent a lot of time with these friends with brothers and sisters?"
"Sure. Now and then."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I moved when I was growing up. That upset the applecart, so to speak. I lost all my friends twice. And people change."
"Well, I had one friend who moved in next door and was in the grade over me. After a little while, he met a kid in his class who lived farther away, but was in bike range."
"So he drifted away?"
"They saw each other all day in school. It made sense."
"After I moved, I made a friend next door, but he got girl-crazy around 14. He went off with her. I ended up lecturing them about birth control. You know, really simple stuff. The idiots had a pregnancy scare."
"Did friends often look to you for advice?"
"Absolutely. The story of my life."
"Who did you go to for advice?"
"I had some very cool teachers in school."
"You asked them about birth control?"
"No. No. Of course not."
"So who did you go to for the deep things? The personal things?"
"Well, no one, I guess."
"How about parents?"
"Why do you say that so strongly?"
"Well, you know like when no matter how much you try to explain yourself, the other person just doesn't seem to be hearing you?"
"That's how it was. Like there was this phantom person standing twelve inches to my left. I'm waving, hey, you guys, I'm over here."
"Isn't some of that normal?"
"You tell me. My mother, for example, thinks she taught me to be the most considerate, respectful person in the world."
"Not the way she thinks. In her eyes, I'm the equivalent of a 12-year-old kid who remembered to say thank you to the nice lady."
"What about your father?"
"My father likes to bring up the good old days. When I used to have this huge smile. When I used to have a belly laugh."
"Don't you laugh any more?"
"Not around them."
"There's no frame of reference. We're not speaking the same language. They're talking about one thing, and my mind is flying off to another. I'm polite. I nod and smile when I'm supposed to. I used to laugh like that when I didn't feel so alienated from them."
"Why don't you talk about what you want to talk about?"
"I tried that."
"They looked at me like I had three heads."
"Well, to be fair, my mother looked at me like that. Her eyes would blank out. The blue screen came up. Can't compute, system overload."
"Your father was different?"
"Yes, but actually worse. He understood more and just didn't like it. He felt that I was being difficult. Competitive."
"Were you competitive?
"No. I certainly wasn't trying to be. You have to understand, he had quite a few problems of his own. When my parents eventually divorced, he accused me of letting my mother choose me over him."
"What did you say to that?"
"I told him it wasn't my job to save his marriage. He had to fix things with my mother on his own."
"How are things now with him?"
"Polite. Sometimes he wants to reconnect. Other times the old jealousies come out."
"All this was going on when you were growing up?"
"There's more. But you get the idea."
"So, while you were giving advice, being the stable and responsible one, who was there for you to lean on?"
"I feel like I'm shrugging my shoulders a lot tonight."
"What was that like?"
"I don't know.... I'm not sure. I just don't know...."
"Are you okay?"
"Are you sure?"
"I was just thinking. Maybe I'm realizing that the things that bother me now aren't so different than the ones back then. Just different faces on similar problems. Maybe the truth is more painful, and I need to resolve that before I can move on."
"The truth of what your childhood was like?"
"Yeah, because I let myself spend most of it alone."