Wednesday, October 01, 2008

I love blogging but not at 3:39 in the frickin a.m.

My damn arthritic toe woke me up and then I couldn't get back to sleep, and I only went to bed at 11. Grr. The radio is going to come on at 6.

So anyway, here I am, might as well do something with it.

I started looking for new blogs to add (like I don't already have's gotten to the point where I'm missing some good ones and letting days go by before I can catch 'em) and decided to add Rex Stout to the "favorite books" section of my profile. I stumbled upon Nero Wolfe almost by accident last month and wish it hadn't taken me so long. Then proceeded to check out some other bloggers who listed him.

I have discovered something interesting. Most of the Stout fans have been blogging for more than a couple of years, like me. New minor pet peeve: Finding a good blog and enjoying the first couple of entries, only to discover that there are no other pages and I'll have to wait several weeks before I can settle down to a good read.

A great many of the Stout fans also run multiple blogs with multiple teams, and quite a few (perhaps not surprisingly) share my interests in other areas such as movies and music, and rely more on words than pictures to convey information.

[static while I desperately surf, looking for something else to put here...]

Aha. CNN. My trusted source for blogfodder.

Here's an article in the Oprah section about how to disconnect from people who drain you.

Lest the link die someday in the too-near future, here's an excerpt -- the part that made me nod my head:

3. Play favorites -- Your ability to connect is a resource much more precious than money, so manage it well. Make a list of everyone to whom you feel bonded, then consider what kind of return you're getting on your investment.

It may sound cold-blooded to say you must divest yourself of the relationships that give you consistent losses, but unless you do this, you'll soon run out of capital, and you'll have no connection energy left to invest in anybody. So, please, decide now to deliberately limit the time and attention you spend on "low-yield" relationships. Above all...

4. Get rid of squid -- Squid is my word for people who seem to be missing their backbones but possess myriad sucking tentacles of emotional need. Like many invertebrates, squid appear limp and squishy -- but once they get a grip on you, they're incredibly powerful. Masters at catalyzing guilt and obligation, they operate by squeezing pity from everyone they meet.

Getting a squid out of your life is never pretty. Tell them straightforwardly that you want them, yes them, to leave now, yes, now. This will be unpleasant. There will be lasting hurt feelings. Don't worry. Squid love hurt feelings. They hoard them, trading them in for pity points when they find another victim -- er, friend. Let them go, their coffers bulging.

I'm discovering this thing that I call The New Introversion. More and more, just lately it seems, I'm hearing people declare that they like being alone and would rather not talk to others that much. If they're single, they want to stay that way. All of this takes me by surprise, because I've always been an introvert, as were my parents, and we all lived under the impression that we were somehow "wrong." The story that always comes to mind was my first day of school in the 4th grade. The average class size back then was about 30. The desks in the room were arranged in pairs. The only unpaired desk was one of the older, roomier models -- it sat in the back and I headed straight for it. The teacher (who turned out to be the bane of my childhood) came by to talk to everyone; when he got to me, he observed that I was not paired with anyone and asked "Aren't you afraid you'll get lonely back there?"

This man, by the way, was lauded far and wide as being some sort of "uber-teacher." Everyone wanted to be in his class. I know he entertained fantasies of being voted Teacher of the Year or something similar, because my non-conforming, daydreaming, independent ways had him tearing his hair out. He quite honestly did not know what to do with me, and tried every trick in the book to bring me into harness -- everything from consulting a psychologist to subjecting me to months of endless ridicule. In the end, he simply demoted me off the advanced-placement track -- and then proceeded to follow me around the school, trying to determine what kind of progress I was making without his divine guidance. My mother finally called the school and told them she wanted him to leave me alone. I don't remember anything overtly sexual in his behavior, other than bear hugs, but there was certainly some sort of obsession at work there.

Yes, he seemed to genuinely think I'd be "lonely" sitting in the back of a class with 30 other kids. I can't go so far as to say he was an idiot, but without a doubt, he was an asshole.

Forty years later, it still feels liberating to say that.

But that was the first inkling I had that wanting to be physically or existentially separate from other humans was abnormal. Through the ensuing years the same message came through in different ways, up to and including the girl, whose name I have long since forgotten, who made me miss the opening number at an Eric Clapton concert in the 80s because she needed someone to accompany her to the restroom.

The mindset is a common one. The article quoted above is welcome, just for its ability to reassure the introverted reader that "no, it isn't just me." I only wish it hadn't taken so long to unhook myself from one squid in particular.

Of course, the most common variation of the "must not be alone" fallacy is the one that leads people to marry the wrong person. Plenty of people still do it, but here again, I see the beginnings of a trend whereby a newly divorced or widowed individual will say "Been there, done that, got the t-shirt, finito."

I love my spouse, but this is my second marriage, and if it should ever end it will be the last. You can take that one to the bank.

4:31. I'm getting back into the bed now in a last-ditch effort to snag another hour or so of sleep. Most likely if sleep comes, it will be crammed with weird dreams.

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