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Let Your Freak Flag Fly
If you look at a word too long it stops becoming a word and let’s keep our Ani DiFranco moments to ourselves
It recently came to my attention that I expect more from myself than is reasonable given the circumstances. This is not news. It’s simply what has entered my field of attention as of late. It also recently came to my attention that I expect more from others than is reasonable given the circumstances. Again not news.
I turned 32 last week, dazed and sleep deprived, alone in a hotel room at 1 Princes Street in Scotland, bleary-eyed in a haze of financial modeling and starbucks coffees and all-nighters and conference calls, a full decade having passed since the beginning of my investment banking career. You think you’re too old for it right up until the moment you realize you’re too old to imagine anything different. I’m not even an investment banker anymore, technically. And yet. It blends. My only commentary on late capitalism is that it is what it is and we are in it folks.
In the days that followed, I reflected on 3+ decades spent on this planet as I was simultaneously reflected back at myself through the lens of my relationships, platonic, romantic, and otherwise. Here are some other key takeaways that entered my often-diffracted and perpetually deficit-ridden field of attention:
I am somewhat emotionally inept, barely able to reliably access my own emotions, let alone those of others
I am arrogant and prideful and I make people feel under-appreciated or exasperated or both
I am probably on the spectrum. Or I have ADD. Or both. Likely both. I guess the point of the spectrum is that we’re all technically on it. But some more than others 💁🏻♂️
I am hot and cold on people and I don’t even notice and when I do notice I quickly forget
I am “too quick to bury the hatchet” and sometimes I need to “shut the fuck up and just listen to people’s feelings”
When confronted with this, I pontificate about my ability or lack thereof to co-regulate the autonomic or parasympathetic nervous system of another primate (This drives people crazy even when they aren’t the one who is upset with you)
A corollary to this: I am overly analytical
I try to think my way through what cannot be thought through
I refuse to feel my way through what must be felt through
Sometimes, when people tell me about their trauma I just get uncomfortable and ignore it or gloss over it
Other times, when people tell me their medical diagnoses or rare conditions, I change the subject and fail to follow up on their treatments, prognosis, or health
Despite my best intentions, I am frequently inconsiderate of others’ time and energy
I have trouble maintaining close friendships and even more trouble maintaining appropriate boundaries with acquaintances
The people I care about most consistently find themselves left on read, mid-conversation, to their chagrin
Across the board, I tend to overshare on facts and under-share when it comes to emotions
What others consider normal social graces require Herculean effort on my part and this effort does not always guarantee success
I spend more time narrowing the scope of my apologies than apologizing
That is just the tip of the feedback iceberg. Everyone I know is nodding their head at this point. These things are all fair and they are all accurate. All of these things happen at the subterranean level of my consciousness. It takes months and years to collect and process even this small quantity of stupidly obvious data. Because it is others’ experience of me as opposed to my experience of me. My experience of being me is wildly different, unsurprisingly. I annoy myself, but for completely different reasons. Something more like the following:
Every day I wake up and tell myself “I’m not going to eat today.” Around two-o-clock I fail. When I fail I binge. Recently, Nashville hot chicken is a staple. If I eat, I am consumed by guilt. If I make it to the gym, I immediately forget the food and ponder with bemused and frustrated disbelief how it could possibly be that exercise doesn’t make you taller. It really seems like it should.
I am incapable of calorie restriction without adderall. My willpower isn’t up to the task. At least these days. This is only one of the many reasons I think about adderall almost every day. The last time I took adderall was ~ February 19th, 2022. Without adderall, my ever-present state is that of not knowing where my keys are. Or my wallet. Without adderall my ADD is super intense. It is managed through mind-numbing amounts of mindfulness and doing yoga. There is no intrinsic value to avoiding adderall and I need to stop hanging my hat on having kicked the habit.
Life whilst raw-dogging ADD is boredom incarnate. I am trying to pay attention to the keys. To their location. But I worry that my dog is becoming indifferent to my existence. And that my goals may be outdated. And it is unclear where any of my conversations landed lately. What are my obligations again? And to whom? And which ones are important and which are underwater and which require immediate attention after I find my keys and remind myself to remind myself to make a note of where they are?
“If you look at a word too long,” says a friend of mine, “it stops becoming a word.” In a word, my life. My life, in a word.
June is the anniversary of the stonewall riots, marking pride. An occasion to celebrate the incredible diversity authentic to our human experience and a reminder to raise hell fighting for the right to be whoever the hell we are or want to be. One of the prerequisites is sifting through the vortex and chaos of our relationships and habits for some weird and ineffable thing called who we are. Who we really are exists somewhere in the space between stimulus and response. In the meantime, we try as best we can to accept others for who they are to themselves and who they are to us. In the meantime, hug your LGBT friends.
Speaking of pride, its antonym is shame. My individual struggle often lands in figuring out what to be proud of vs. what to not be shameless about. Shame’s abode is secrecy. Secrets aren’t all bad, because one flip side of the secrecy coin is boundaries and boundaries are ostensibly healthy. Here’s a fun exercise: the next time you date someone, try navigating the difference between setting a boundary on the privacy of your thoughts and preserving the shame and secrecy of your inner life.
Lol good luck.
Here’s a boundary I do know how to set: I don’t subject others to it when I listen to Ani DiFranco. Listening to her music around others is too revealing of my personality, too embarrassing and accurate. My secrets evaporate in the presence of Ani DiFranco. They say goldfish have no memory / I guess their lives are much like mine / and the little plastic castle / is a surprise every time! This is my ADD in a nutshell. I am an Ani D’goldfish.
Like me, Ani is hypersmart, shreds on the guitar, and seems mildly upset and confused about a vast number of things including but not limited to societal ills and an enduring sense of isolation. I’m proud of my love for Ani DiFranco but I’m not shameless about it. Her music is good. It’s also incredibly bad. Ani’s music doesn’t always help me let go of my shame but she does occasionally help me feel less alone in it. This is a hallmark of great music.
My same friend says, “Everyone wants the same thing, don’t they? But everyone also wants something different.” This means nothing. But it also means everything. We all the same. Or are we all different? It’s a rabbit AND it’s a duck. In yoga, we say “the light in me honors the light in you.” Which, okay, I agree in the context of yoga. In another context, the goth in me refuses to honor anything about your normcore existence and the indie kid in me thinks you’ve sold out and the emo kid in me just wants you to know that I am in my feels and the ibanker in me thinks you should get back to your desk and quit pondering all this fuckin’ useless nonsense and make sure the model ties out and fix the logos on the charts on slide 12.
White light, according to science, has no color. And yet refracted through a prism, we get all the colors of the rainbow.
Happy Pride 🌈