Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Orange Power vs. The Moody Blue Pt. 2 - Savor the Irony

Y'know, it's been a while since I've had a really, truly, neurosis-fueled rambling blog post . . . I think we're well overdue, don't you, my blog monkeys?

Not counting my parents, I currently have 4 individuals who get to regularly bear the brunt of my most neurotic ramblings, which I generally convey in the form of horrendously long emails which enable me to make sure I touch on every point I want to cover; however, 25% of these individuals (i.e. PigPen) prefer to have these conversations face-to-face in order to respond in real-time. Last week, I had some stuff that had been bothering me which I was wanting to cover with PigPen, and I had been having trouble finding a time when we could both sit down and hash stuff out, so I emailed him one morning asking if he could set some time aside that evening so we could talk, and he said sure. However, that conversation didn't take place because not too long after PigPen got home from work, he got a call from Li'l Random and went out to do something with him instead, only acknowledging the fact that he was skipping out on our planned conversation as he was halfway out the door, an acknowledgment that I assumed at the time only came because he saw the perturbed look on my face and suddenly thought "Oh, crap." I was not too happy with him, not so much because he went out instead of staying in and talking -- I mean, I know I would rather go hang out with Li'l Random rather than listen to me spew neurotic crap for the zillionth time -- but because it felt to me like I was just an afterthought. However, once I began to think about the fact that one of the things I had wanted to talk to him about was the fact that I had started to feel like he was always blowing me off, and now I couldn't talk to him about him always blowing me off because he had, in fact, blown me off, well, you just have to savor the irony, y'know?

Anyway, PigPen and I got to sit down and have our talk the next evening and straightened everything out*; I've decided that pretty much every serious conversation I have with PigPen boils down into the following Paranoia Resolution Formula:

Me: Hey, bud, it bothered me when you [insert action here].
Him: Well, when I [insert action here], it's because [insert basic reasoning here]
Me: Well, to me it felt more like you did it because of [insert paranoid interpretation of action here]
Him: No, it's because of [insert basic reasoning here]; you see, [insert expanded line of thought and additional situational information here]
Me: Okay, that makes sense, but do you see why I thought [insert paranoid interpretation of action here], since I didn't know about [insert expanded line of thought and additional situational information here]?
Him: Yeah, sorry, didn't mean it to come across like [insert paranoid interpretation of action here] at all, it really was because of [insert basic reasoning here].
Me: Cool, glad we got that straightened out. Moving on, it bothered me when you [insert next misinterpreted action here] . . .
And so on and so forth. Sure, there are variations along the way, but most of the time what it boils down to is this: PigPen and I view the world much, much differently. Often, this is a good thing; I really do think that having a close friend who challenges your point of view and makes you think outside your comfort zone is a positive, and out of all of my friends, I definitely find PigPen the most challenging. The biggest problem in those situations is actually remembering that your friend has vastly different thought processes than you do, so you don't ascribe your own motivations to their actions -- a trap I still fall into at times despite my best efforts.

I'll let one example kind of stand for the rest: PigPen and I really don't hang out much at all outside of what manifests as a natural result of us living in the same house: watching TV, playing video games, beating the crap out of each other, etc. And when we do occasionally hang out with other people outside the house, such as when we had weekly lunches at Frilly's with Cap'n Shack-Fu and Li'l Random before PigPen's work schedule made it impossible, I usually feel like a third wheel since PigPen would often ignore me and focus totally on the others, thus triggering Outsider Complex and Disposable Friend Syndrome issues galore. But after we talked about it, it became clear that it was just a case of his extroverted, HyperTwin Orange personality clashing with my overly emotional Blue personality.

You see, PigPen by his very nature craves a variety of interactions an experiences; in his mind, our time hanging out at home more than fulfills his quota of Todd-based interactions, so when he wants to go out and do something, he doesn't automatically include me because he wants to vary his experiences and we're in a group he's focusing on the people he doesn't see all the time. Of course, for me, and my Blue-driven need to develop deep and lasting bonds, when I want to go out and do something, I want to do it with that small group of people I feel closest to because I want to strengthen those bonds with shared experiences -- I'll admit that sometimes this makes me a bit insular, but when it comes to my Best Friends, I could hang out with them practically 24-7 and not get tired of it.

So, taking those Frilly's lunches as an example: for PigPen, that was probably the only time that week he was going to get to hang out with Shack-Fu and Randomino, and so he was more focused on directing his attention and humor and conversation towards them, and not the guy he saw and talked to almost every day. Totally understandable; unfortunately, what would wind up happening is that, by dint of the force of his extroverted Orange personality, all conversation at the table would revolve around PigPen interacting with those two to the exclusion of yours truly, who would sit back wallowing in my very Blue sense of estrangement because I had convinced myself it was a sign of PigPen's growing disdain for me.

Now, while misinterpreting the actions of my friends in such as way that I construe their innocent words and deeds as more negative and harmful than they were intended, I would like to point out that I am not alone in this; I can think of at least a couple of times when PigPen took something I said or did and filtered it through his own prism of personality, ascribing much less friendly motivations to my actions than what I had meant. Of course, I'm much more prone to it than he is -- much, much, much more -- but it gives me some small comfort to know that I'm not the only one who stumbles.

The cool thing about my friendship with PigPen is, even though our brains work in totally different ways -- and even though PigPen's favorite game in the world is "PigPen Wins!" which is the worst freaking game on the planet for anyone other than PigPen and which he plays pretty much every minute of every day -- we're both willing to concede that neither way is the only way, and that there is a need for give and take. Yeah, sometimes we might go round and round for a bit trying to get the other one to understand where we're coming from, but that's become less frequent over time; I think of it like a jigsaw puzzle, where in the beginning you have all of these pieces scattered all over the place and you're trying to figure out how in the world they can come together to make a coherent whole, but once you've develop a base to work from, you no longer have to struggle to get your bearings, but instead just have to figure out how this latest piece you've discovered fits into the whole. I have a much better understanding of how PigPen thinks now than I did when I first moved in a couple of years ago, and vice versa, but as all of this shows, neither of our pictures are quite complete yet -- nor will they ever be, to be honest, but every little bit helps.

When I start to get caught up in the trap of paranoia and Outsider Complex and the like, the one thing I have to focus on is this: PigPen is my friend. And while he may not consider me one of his Best Friends like I think of him, he still does consider me a good friend -- the biggest evidence of this is the fact that if he didn't, he wouldn't have put up with even a tenth of the crap he's had to wade through while thanks to my neurotic tendencies. And when he says or does something that triggers my paranoia, I can't give in to my self-doubt and assume the worst -- that I've managed to damage the friendship, wear out my welcome, overwhelm him with so much neurotic crap that he's ready to run for the hills -- but instead approach him and run through our familiar Paranoia Resolution Formula until we're both one step closer to maybe never having to run through it again.

Yeah, I know, fat chance of that, but a paranoid and neurotic freak of nature can dream, can't he?

*Yes, he explained his reasoning behind the earlier night's blow-off to my satisfaction; hopefully I was able to explain the reasoning behind my perturbed state to his


Flunky lover said...

I love what you wrote about friends challenging you etc. Everybody would do well to remember your wise words.

Cap'n Neurotic said...

Thanks for the kind words; and, I would hold myself at the top of the list of people who need to remember my words, since there are times I have what I think is a stunning epiphany until I go back and re-read some of my earlier e-mails and blog posts and realize I've just re-discovered something I already knew.