I saw a friend of sorts a week ago. Someone I hadn’t seen in fourteen years, but have been speaking to more and more over the last two years or so. Our relationship began in our childhood and has been rather complicated, at times intense and messy, at times distant and cold. What keeps drawing us back together, aside from shared history, is a pattern of abuse that we both suffered as children. Abused kids don’t always do adulthood well, and in her case this is particularly true.
Turns out, she thinks I’m boring. I am the reliable, predictable and at times complacent and content person that she doesn’t want to be. She tried to rouse me out of that state, a bit unsuccessfully. But she has no idea why she failed.
I have a pretty ordinary life – I work, I go to school, I have my hobbies and amusements. I have few friends, and mostly keep to myself. I don’t break major laws. I pay my fucking taxes and do my part to support social justice movements where and when I can.
To some people, that probably seems pretty boring. But there’s the thing about this boring life – it’s what saved me. It’s what healed me. It’s all I ever wanted, this quiet contentment. This sense of safety.
I grew up in a household with abusive, manipulative adults, and from a very young age, I was constantly in survival mode. I didn’t graduate to adulthood so much as I was vomited into my twenties after a tumultuous, confusing childhood and some rather tormented teenage years. I was grappling with the realization that my childhood was abnormal, that my parents were abusive, and that I was not loved. I was full of anger and desire and was running mostly on emotional energy that I had no idea how to control.
I was a fucking mess back then.
All I ever wanted was to create a space where I felt safe, at peace, and not constantly judged or belittled. At first, I had no idea how to do that, but now, in my late thirties, I’m proud to say that I have achieved just that. Home, which used to be somewhere I had to be on my guard, is now somewhere that I love to be – so much so that I prefer being home to any other place.
This didn’t come easily. I had to fight for this – mostly my own demons, but as I live with another person who was similarly abused, I had to fight with some of his as well. And here we are, in 2017, not in the most ideal of situations, but in a situation which is at the very least peaceful and workable.
Who the fuck is she to shit on that peace?
Yes, I have certain…talents. A certain skill set that I let off its leash now and again, but I keep it on a chain by choice and for a reason. That fascinates her, but it scares me. I know what I’m capable of, which is why I’ve cushioned my life.
And yes, certainly, to some people, my life appears mundane and boring. Even the very subject I am pursuing a PhD in is yawn-inducing to most. I don’t care, because it’s mine, it’s hard-won, and I’m happy with it.
And yes, I have certain desires and an identity, too often erased, that didn’t cease to exist the moment I accepted a marriage proposal. I’m extraordinarily good at sublimation. It works for me.
What I don’t think many people realize is that this boring, ordinary life is the reason why I’m still here. It saved me in so many ways. I have a stability now that I lacked for too many years of my life – important years, developmental years. I have a home where I feel safe in now, whereas for many years, home was the least safe place. Home was where I was constantly being attacked. Home was where I was in survival mode, and other children, sensing that I was weaker, sometimes made school difficult, too. Imagine being a young child existing in survival mode, a child whose sole daily goal was to get through each day unnoticed. All I ever wanted was to be invisible, to be left alone.
And look – now I am. I’m just another ordinary person in a sea of ordinary people, and I take great comfort in that. My friend, she wants to stand out…I want to blend in. Not to be like others, just simply to be able to walk among them unnoticed and unbothered.
I have a rich interior life. Most of the time, it satisfies me. I have a stable, ordinary, and entirely unremarkable exterior life. Most of the time, it satisfies me.
Most of all, I have contentment. Yes, contentment can lead to complacency, but I’m not so complacent that I won’t make changes when necessary, or have difficult conversations, or pick my hills to die on. I can and I do. I was, after all the only person with the balls to file an HR report against an abusive boss. I will not tolerate anyone abusing me, or abusing others. I am still a fighter by nature. I am still confrontational and loud and prone to emotional outbursts.
It’s just that…I never wanted to be special. I never wanted to be different. I am different, but that’s by design, not desire. I’m different in a way that most people don’t see. My spouse does, and this friend does. I am a thing which is highly stigmatized, so much so that I don’t speak of it openly. My closest friends don’t even know, except for her. I just told a therapist recently – This is what I am. I have no one I can talk to about this except this one friend…my husband knows what I am, but he isn’t like me. She is. She’s the only one who understands. She’s the only other one like me that I’ve ever met.
And she thinks I’m boring.
All I ever wanted was to belong to myself. And when I look around at what I made of my life I realize…I do belong to myself. She tried to shake me into discontentment, but it didn’t work.
So my life may seem boring to some, but to me…it’s my magnum opus. And no one’s going to rattle me into thinking my life boring or a waste of time.
So I think maybe I’ve lost her to my boring, sensible, predictable, responsible life. I didn’t want or intend to lose her. I wasn’t trying to say that her desires are wrong, only that mine are different. I didn’t intend to chase her off.
But like the song says…I’d rather lose you than lose my way.