Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt: How many of my limitations are really self-imposed?
That’s the one nice thing about a pandemic. Outside of work, I’m not doing anything I don’t really want to do. That did get me thinking, though. About family…
I have mentioned before that I define myself as an observer in this world. I pass imperceptibly through society, watching, listening, analyzing, invisibly emotionally engaged. It doesn’t bother me that I am invisible. It liberates me. It doesn’t bother me that I am not understood–although when someone does take the step to know me, I am touched beyond all sense of reason. You may call me what you will, because no name encompasses me. No name will capture those names I have for myself.
I grew to adulthood as an only child, lost somewhere in my own perception of myself, always at odds with the perception of others. I never doubted or failed to love my soul, those essential things that make up the core of my being, but I did experience the dissonance of discovering that others could not see the world through my eyes. I saw no reason why others should not like me, until I discovered that most others were not like me. It’s not that I felt I was better, or worse, but that they were different. And so I learned to watch.
I do not know what it is to be a brother or a sister. There is no person I have been linked to through bonds of genetics for the entirety of my life. I do not know that kind of love. I do not understand that bond, as I have never felt it. I can guess at what it must be like–the good and the bad, the continuous presence even when separated by miles or estrangement. I did not share my childhood with anyone. My best friends passed in and out of my life with little continuity, and now, in my middle years, although I have many friends, I have no best friend. I do not know how to be a best friend. It seems to be an instinct I lack. I do not know the balance between too close and too distant, that precise alchemy of the bestie. It is too late now to have lifetime friends–although I do have friends who I have known for many years. I do not think that closeness is possible now, because I do not know how to navigate it. Someone else would need that map, would need the script, would need the sheet music, would need to teach me directions, words, and the melody. And my friends have their own lives. I will just need to be content that the ways of siblings and friends so close you call them brother or sister will remain a mystery to me.
I do not know how to be a parent. That is not a path I took. The memory of being a child is just that–a memory, now over twelve years gone. My aunts and uncles are mostly lost to me as well. A few cousins remain on the periphery–some once close (and so still connected, if by gossamer threads), some now also mostly remembered. They likewise have their own lives. They do not come here, or if they do, I am not a priority. To be fair, I did not make them a priority, either. I was not sure of how to do that. I was afraid to intrude.
I am not lonely. I have lost the meaning of that word, partially because I have a life partner of 30 years, partly because I thrive in solitude, but partly because I know how to thrive on more tenuous connections. I observe lives lived on social media, a window into the mysterious ways and means and minds of others. I see others as they would like to be seen, but sometimes I see more, and surprise people by how well I know them.
None of this is written to elicit sympathy. I am not distressed at what I am most of the time, because I understand it–for the most part. I am amused by it. I am often frustrated by it, although I can usually get around that with a little thought and a little humility.
Tonight my thoughts on “the last normal thing I did before the pandemic” were on Here and Now on CBC Radio. Although I did do things after my birthday last year–went to an SCA event, went to a Sunday afternoon get-together with friends (forgoing what would have been my last concert because they changed the program up on me and it no longer was as appealing), and would spend two more days working at the downtown office–on March 5, none of my plans really yet seemed in danger, although I did remember sitting there in the James Rhodes concert wondering whether this virus thing would impact any of my concerts. Sigh.
Tomorrow I am going to push hard on the embroidery work. It’s now tied rather intimately to that date, as a kind of a celebration of what joy I have found in my stitchery. I can’t go to a concert, so I’ll have to settle for this obsession instead. And after this one is done, I have a completely charming little commercial kit with cats and stars I want to get in before the next marginalia cat.