Tom and I were discussing last night how we perceive the world around us. Little things have started me noticing more about Tom that I hadn’t really seen before. He called me “baby girl” the other day and I looked up at him (I was sitting on the floor and he was walking toward me) and I realized he was studying my reaction, unsure how I would feel about this slip of a term of endearment. I actually didn’t mind it, I thought it was sweet. It also made me realize that he watches me, much more than I watch him.
We talked about how I live in my head and wander through the house in this kind of bubble where I go through the motions while constantly thinking. I also rarely see other people as individual people, but more as extensions of my own experience. Think Descartes’s Evil Demon theory. I’m not SURE the world around me is real, so other people’s experience, their motivations and how their minds work is irrelevant if the world isn’t real, but completely relevant if it is because a human should care about other humans. I took some time to study Tom last night, ask him about his human experience, take into account that he might be real.
My first memories are of me inside my head, considering my own motivations and my surroundings. I know how other people perceive Tom. I’d taken note of his mannerisms before and knew how they came off to others because there was a time when I didn’t know him as well as I do now. But I don’t know how they perceive me, if my inner-reflectiveness comes off as cold or distant. My father once told me, in a loving and advice-giving way, that I need to take care not to alienate people because I risk that with how often I try to correct people. He fed my “I’m-smarter-than-most-people” ego a little and told me to just let less intelligent people be. Showing them their errors would only make them dislike me. I’ve never been a shove-my-opinion-down-your-throat kind of person, but if someone says something factually incorrect or comes to a conclusion based on prejudice or incorrect knowledge, I feel compelled to argue. My brother and I used to drive my parents crazy with this because I was right most of the time and my brother wouldn’t admit it. He was right sometimes and, in an effort to improve myself, I began to admit when I’d been wrong. When my brother learned I’d been right, I tried to be a graceful winner. Not always successfully.
Anyway, I became interested in other people’s experiences. I hadn’t really much considered them before. How do others perceive this world we live in? Do they feel like they’re floating around, like I do? Or do they feel more interactive and in touch with their surroundings?
Tom told me sometimes I look lonely, which I found interesting because I rarely seek out company from others. I’ve been that way since I was a kid. I have low tolerance for being around people, for having to divert my attention from my own inner monologue to interact with others. I wouldn’t call it misanthropic, but it is a fault, nonetheless. My mom used to joke about how quickly I’d get sick of my friends during sleepovers and how I needed my space by dawn. Give me a few hours alone, then I’m over it. I still don’t go seeking company, but I’ll be ok interacting with the same person for a brief amount of time the next day.
I can handle a couple hours, no problem. I can handle seeing people every day. But an extended period of time with someone makes me really irritable. My family was always very affectionate, very loving. I have no idea how I got this way. I enjoy being around my parents (sometimes my brother) and Tom very consistently. Even when they annoy me (as all families will do) I don’t feel any sense of “these people need to go away.” Tom is probably the only person not blood-related from whom I’ve never felt I needed a break after a whole day of being constantly around each other. It’s a miracle. And probably how I knew he was right for me. So yeah, the “you seem lonely” comment took me off-guard.
I’ve also always struggled to make eye contact with people. I find it intensely uncomfortable and tend to look away from most people when they start to look into my eyes. I make the concerted effort when I’m trying to convey seriousness or at a job interview. Other than that, I avoid it like the plague.
Stepping outside myself for a few minutes completely shifted my understanding of the world. But by this morning, I was back in my own head and thinking about work, about what Tom was talking about without contributing much to the conversation, about Charlotte, etc. It’s difficult to shake off a paradigm I’ve been living in my whole life. I’m hoping that, over time, I’ll take more and more time to seriously consider others. I hope that I’ll look at the people around me and really see them without filtering their existence through my own limited understanding of the world around me. People are more than furniture, after all.