Juli Hoffman, you think we are dumb!
~A Facebook Friend
I have been accused of being argumentative many times throughout my life. I don’t necessarily see myself this way, but it’s been repeated enough times by enough people that it rings true. I don’t know where the seed started, exactly. I suspect it stems from my childhood, as these things usually do. I felt out of control most of the time when I was a kid. My mother was sick with Multiple Sclerosis. I had a lot of responsibility thrust upon me. And I was ashamed and afraid to talk to anyone about it.
As an adult, it seems weird that I STILL feel shame for events that happened in my childhood, stuff that wasn’t my fault. I was a kid. I wasn’t in control of my life. My family was stuck in a terrible situation that none of us asked for. Even still, at school, I was this quiet, awkward girl who got relentlessly teased and bullied. I’ve got pictures to prove that I WAS indeed a weird looking kid! Like…REALLY weird! Cliché in a movie kind of weird.
My clothes were NOT fashionable. I didn’t know how to fix my hair in the style of the time. I had NO ONE to seek advice from. My mother was clinically depressed, agoraphobic, and wheelchair-bound. I didn’t have older siblings. I did the best I could. I tried to keep my head down at school and not draw attention to myself, then come home and take care of my mother and younger siblings.
I’ve been MUCH kinder to myself now that my own child is a teenager in high school. It helps to have some perspective! I can’t imagine asking a kid in middle school to get good grades, make the family dinner, keep the house clean, take care of Mom and a baby sister, etc. Believe me, I felt overwhelmed pretty much every day. (My younger sister was going through the same thing, but she was in elementary school. Imagine a 9-year-old successfully looking after an infant sister. It’s quite terrifying in retrospect!)
I was afraid to talk about my life because the threat of being removed from our situation was real. My mom could hardly take care of her own needs, let alone anyone else. This wasn’t her fault. She was sick, physically unable to do most things other people take for granted. My dad had to work to pay for the house and her medical bills. It was a tough situation. Stay quiet and keep the status quo, or reveal what’s happening at home and risk my younger sisters being put into foster care? We did the best we could and kept our family together.
Even still, while I learned many useful life skills, like how to safely transfer someone from a wheelchair to a car seat, I missed out on learning important things like…how to talk and interact with other human beings. No joke, I think my love of books is two-fold. Books were a way for me to escape from my life and they were a source of information in the days before the Internet existed. “What would Ramona Quimby do?”
So here’s an olive branch to anyone I may have offended over the years:
I don’t mean to say things that are socially inappropriate. I don’t want to offend anyone. I don’t think you’re dumb. Seriously, I’m still working on my own baggage and emotional insecurities. I’ve figured out a lot of stuff over the years. I’ve even learned to form friendships…but I’m not very good at any of this. Most of the time, I feel like an alien from outer space, trying to emulate what healthy friendships and relationships look like. Sometimes, I do all right. Sometimes, I hurt people.
I’ve also learned that some people scream and cry out when they’re hurting emotionally, and some of us are quiet about it. We smile and make jokes to keep the tears away. I’d rather have people laugh WITH me than AT me. Sometimes this is seen as inappropriate behavior for the situation just as much as crying in public is. What’s the correct response? Don’t ask me! I use sarcasm as a coping mechanism. I can think of at least three inappropriate jokes right now—true story! I also make jokes at funerals, including my own mother’s funeral. (No, really. I’m THAT person. That’s how I deal with pain. Your results may vary.)
So why am I argumentative?
I can’t always understand what’s happening until I pick apart the situation and dissect what’s going on. Either through nature or nurture, I don’t think part of my brain developed correctly. I use other methods to compensate for this. I need a sounding board. I need to HEAR myself vocalize the situation so my brain can process what’s happening. Writing is an excellent tool for this, but people are BETTER.
“I think this because of A, B, and C.”
“Well, I disagree because of D, E, and F.”
When I find another human with my same weird way of processing information…it’s AWESOME! I don’t even care if I’m right or wrong. That’s hardly the point. It’s the discussion that’s important to me. It’s the back and forth that helps me think! And grow! And learn!
If your brain is NOT wired like this, be grateful!! If you can’t relate to any of this, that’s okay. It really is. It probably means you had a healthy childhood. Or maybe you experienced a different variety of “broken.” (And we’re all a little insecure and broken in some way.)
I don’t mean to be a “troll.” Seriously, no one WANTS to be that person. I just want to shed some light on my situation.