Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The Front Lines

In what is strangely but indisputably a step forwards, my social anxiety from adolescence is back. I remember, in my more extreme periods of social withdrawal, how deciding to accompany my mum to the supermarket would represent a significant triumph over this tendency, and would be reserved for my more courageous days. Lately, I've begun to feel very keenly again the strain going to the supermarket has apparently never stopped causing. Asking questions in class also is a newly exacting ordeal. I will raise my hand in class and when the teacher lets me speak I will feel a massive stutter coming on, and it will take about 7 seconds of everybody wondering if I'm okay for me to be able to swallow it and somehow start my sentence. Talking to people one-on-one I'm oddly giggly and slow to understand what they mean, and when volunteers are sought to read out passages in Middle English or Classical Chinese as is my awesome new weekly routine this semester, there's an interlude of unmistakable blind terror while I do intense battle with myself trying to get myself to take a shot until somebody else casually or within the saner bounds of nervousness does it instead.

It feels like some kind of coordinated attack. What it is, I think, is me, genuinely resolved to not fake self-confidence, and not contrive to gain the approval of absolutely everybody everywhere, realising that this way I cannot be sure to have their approval. I have stopped trying to engineer it without ceasing to consider it important.

It is a strange time with strange moods, but there is truly something frightening especially about going to the supermarket. It feels like a harsh, duplicitous, loveless arena, where people are crowded in together like the products on the shelves, forced into zombie-like interactions, expected to deal with the overwhelming information around them and distill out of it some kind of workable household collection. That doesn't actually make it sound that much less strange, but it's definitely got something to do with expectations. When you come into direct contact with people, you have to be able to deal with the likely reality of disappointing them.

I'm used to being able to weasel my way out of being disliked by people I don't like myself. Probably many of us have this ability, but presumably most of us show more discrimination in utilising it. I'm trying to start on a road of more complicated and strained relationship with others for the sake of an easier relationship with myself. In spite of myself, I keep feeling like I have a lot to lose in this exchange. It's the difference between being a good religious devotee and being a good person and a good me. Every time I come to a point where this decision has to be made I feel like I'm facing down the entire religious-normative-moral establishment and demand that it dismantle for my sake. I really don't know how to deal with people who think you can demand or expect of someone to do anything besides being a decent person who tries to be fair with others, and in the absence of role-playing, I feel naked. How do you deal with being under attack if you have no idea how to hit back?

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