“Nobody knew what to do with his brain,” said a 1982 classmate of mine at Placer High School. “He was so hyper-verbal.”
I often don’t know what to do with myself. I guess I should take comfort in other people not knowing what to do with me either.
My high school journalism adviser Bob Burge (in my senior year, I was the editor of the school newspaper) wrote in my 1984 yearbook: “Luke, I remember when you first joined the Messenger staff, I gave anyone permission to strangle you at any time, including me. Can you believe that after three years I haven’t had to resort to that? They have been three exciting, lively years to say the least. But I must compliment you for at least one thing. In 17 years of teaching I have never had another student challenge me and keep me on my toes as much as you did. If I have challenged you to remain calm in the face of disaster and to be a gentleman and a journalist, then we have both gained.”
Damn, did he see me clearly!
Despite his best efforts, did I become either a journalist or a gentleman?
Oh, how I love to be fascinating and provocative! Spontaneous me!
I’m struck by how people get stuck in certain grooves of thinking. The most common track I see in the people around me is that of victim. No matter what happens, they think other people are out to get them. Entirely neutral events such as a phone call unreturned after 12 hours provoke great anxiety. When that eases, they conclude that people are not trustworthy.
Two women could go through an identical rape experience. One would be traumatized for life. The other mourns for a few days and then goes on.
Sometimes a girl will not return my call and I’ll not sleep soundly for days. My fear of abandonment kicks in and I’m not capable of thinking about anything but this girl, who may not be that hot. For many guys, however, they’d lose no sleep over the matter. They figure she’ll call when she wants to. Meanwhile, there are lots of fish in the sea.
What are my most common thought patterns? What are the most frequent ways I respond to stimuli?
That’s easy! “Nobody will tell me what to do! I’ll go my own way and I’ll pay the price for my choices.”
That’s my instinct when people try to correct me or to set limits on me.
Another thought pattern I have is — “It’s useless. No matter how hard I try, I can’t succeed here. I’m f***ed.”
And, “There’s no alternative. There’s no way out.”
Here are some of my other common responses to stimuli:
* I’m just going to isolate.
* I’m going to shut up and emotionally withdraw.
* I’m going to retreat.
* I’m going to mumble.
* I need to start again.
* I just need to get off.
* If I could only have her, my problems would be solved.
* What can I do to get the maximum amount of attention?
* What can I say or do to appear most fascinating?
* I’m going to ignore everything until I complete this task.
* What is God’s will?
* Other people’s feelings shouldn’t squelch my expression because I’m a genius.
I have all sorts of things like this rattling around in my head and when my life is going at least halfway decently, I have the conviction that I can impose my will on the world around me, no matter the cost.
The most devastating comeback to my plans is the question, “So how’s that working for you?”
Not so well is usually the most honest response.
So what is the primary reason I am in this position today? The small regard I have for other people’s feelings. This has served me well in many instances because it has allowed me to write with brutal honesty. Still, its overall effect has been isolating.
Hmm. I want to go deeper. Why do I have such little regard for other people? Because I have so little regard for myself. Why do I have such little regard for myself? I think a deep sense of shame got implanted in me very early on in my life and as a result I walk around with dysthmia (chronic low-grade depression).
When am I most likely to live without regard for others? When I’m unhappy. When am I most likely to live with regard for others? When I’m happy.
My weekly therapy sessions are as much a gift to the world as they are to me.
My 1984 graduation from Placer High School.