Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Neurotic Narrative Need

There are times I wish I kept an actual journal of my day-to-day activities. Oh, sure, the blog serves to record some of the larger, stranger aspects of my life, but there are plenty of other things that don't make it on here -- sometimes because they're too personal, sometimes because they're too sensitive, sometimes because I can't quite capture the right way to express them, sometimes because I run out of time, and sometimes because the events don't strike me as entertaining enough to warrant a blog post. And, as time goes by, those events which fall through the cracks for any of the above reasons become dimmer and spottier in my memory, which can lead to frustration down the road.

You see, one of my many, many, many personality quirks is my desire to be able to look back on the ins and outs of my life and analyze the narrative structure of chains of events. This is especially compelling during those times when I have an epiphany about a change in my life -- whenever I become cognizant of a shift in my perceptions of people or things around me, my first impulse is to scrutinize the actions and events which led up or contributed to that shift, in order to better understand it. My Secret Origin posts were basically an accumulation of this sort of internal scrutiny which had built up in my brain over the years. Sometimes this drive is a useful tool, aiding me in discovering where I went wrong in my choices or behavior; sometimes it's nothing more than a mental exercise that my borderline OCD forces me to complete in order to get any rest.

It's this latter drive which has brought these thoughts to the forefront of my mind recently, as my attempts to plot out the narrative of a significant change in my thought processes have been stymied by a lack of hard data -- data which was never tracked because the path to the change in my mind was marked by the subtlest of events. There was no sign from above, no earth-shattering catastrophe that instituted the change, no bolt from the blue to knock me for a loop. No, try as I may, I am unable to find any hard evidence to help me answer the question "At what point over the year that I've known him did I start to consider Li'l Random McEvil one of my Best Friends?"

Yes, you saw that right: capital-B capital-F. Sometime over the course of this previous year, I was finally able to batter that no-more-Best-Friend-barrier in my mind to pieces. In fact, Li'l Random is not the only recipient of this dubious honor; both Cap'n Shack-Fu and The Lovable PigPen have been added to that list of people who have been faced with the full depths of my psychotic and neurotic tendencies and not run off screaming into the night.

To be honest, I've been a little reticent to write about the whole "Best Friend" thing due to my usual paranoia -- I mean, what if one of my good-but-not-quite-Best friends read about this and is then overcome by hurt and betrayal as they wonder why in the world they didn't make the grade? Granted, the thought that anyone out there is actually clamoring to be claimed as my Best Friend is pretty ludicrous -- especially if they were to realize just how vulnerable that would make them to being overrun by my most neurotic and paranoid worries and fears at all times -- but the fact that I could conceivably see myself reacting in such a way made me gun-shy. Plus, there's that whole "too personal" stumbling block; when I wrote about my friendships with Ol' Vick, G'ovich, and Flunky, there was the comfort of many years of distance to help soften any hard feelings; by the time I started CoIM, Flunky had been firmly entrenched in my mind as My Best Friend for over a decade -- hardly breaking news. But singling out a few of the Singles for special recognition made me feel weird, especially in my role as teacher of the Foundations of Fellowship class -- what if others felt like I was playing favorites?

But, the truth remains that, while I count most of The Singles among my "good friends," in any group there are going to be people you feel closer to than others, and to try to act like all friendships are created equally borders on hypocrisy. So in the interest of full disclosure -- and, to be perfectly frank, neurotic obsession -- I find myself copping to the fact that over the past year, these three men have earned their place as my Honorary Brothers and Best Friends. Of course, that sort of brings us back to the question at hand, which is "how did they earn it?"

With PigPen, I may not have a clear picture of how and when he made the transition from "random roomie" to "good friend," but I have a crystal clear image of the night he graduated from "good" to "Best," the night he first saw my full neurotic self unleashed and responded with his pledge to help me overcome my negative self-image. With Cap'n Shack-Fu it gets hazy, although I can sorta kinda point to examples of sharing our problems with each other as roadmarks; with Li'l Random, it gets even hazier still. I can't recall exactly how he went from being Shack's co-worker/friend to being my friend to being One of My Favorite People in the Worldtm, to being one of my Best Friends. There are no inciting incidents, no cathartic bonding sessions, no nothing outside of general hanging out and a gradual realization that we share a brain. Oh, sure, there have been plenty of cathartic bonding sessions as I've unloaded my neurotic ramblings on him, but all of that came after the determination of Best Friend status, and not before.

I think.

Dang it, this is why I need a journal!

Sure, in the grand scheme of things, this is not that important of an issue; who cares if I can recall the exact moment Li'l Random went from some guy in my class to someone I consider a brother? Well, obviously, I care, but why? Because I'm an obsessive freak? Probably. But maybe there's another reason.

When PigPen first began his campaign to break me of my self-defeatist attitude, he counseled me to create a mental mantelpiece, and to populate it with memorabilia of all the victories in my life, both large and small; that way, when I start to slide into my more negative thought processes, I can take those imaginary trophies off the shelf, dust them off, and let the recollection of the positive things in life wash away the negative.

I think in a way my drive to chronicle my life serves as a companion to the mental mantelpiece, only the narrative is more of a mental scrapbook, a collection of snapshots of my life which form a timeline that serves to make the positive things more tangible to me and help stave off the dark times of doubtfulness. At those times when I'm overcome with fear and paranoia, when I read too much into meaningless comments, when I become convinced that my occasional self-loathing can't help but be reflected in how others see me . . . at those times this mental scrapbook can serve as a lifeline of sorts, something to hold on to and remind me that, despite whatever stupid minutiae may be sending me into a spiral right now, there is a wealth of events which serve as proof that, contrary to what the voices in my head might say, I am not all alone. One of the biggest paranoid delusions I've had to combat over the years is the idea that those people I care for the most don't really care about me, and that I've deluded myself by becoming attached to people who only suffer my existence grudgingly. It doesn't strike me very often anymore, but on occasion . . . But with a narrative in place to chronicle the ups and downs of my friendships, I can stave off these fears by focusing on our shared history.

Although, I'm leaning more towards the "I'm a freak" interpretation . . .


cedric said...

Face it. You're a likeable guy. Deal with it. Even if someone were to grudgingly submit to being in your presence against their will, they soon realize you're pretty cool. I saw it happen a couple of times in High School. Through church or Drama, there were people who assumed they didn't like you (Happens a lot, especially in the bible belt). You were a different duck than most people. You excelled in school, read some pretty freaky literature, and were a lot more mature acting than your average high school kid. But, after spending time with you, found they enjoyed your company. I found that most people seemed to be intimidated by your intelligence, which led to a sort of jealous/dislike attitude. Especially amongst your drooling jock scene. Plus, your mother was a feared teacher, and while you never played that card, that too, added a lot to that attitude. Your friends wouldn't continue to hang around if they didn't like you.

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