Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Sledge Hammer Part 2


Part 2 of a fictional conversation I am struggling with. I need perspective. The total conversation is part of a bigger piece but doesn't fit well. Part 1 is below.

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She looked up at him, shook her head slightly trying to focus on his question. When she said nothing, he encouraged her.

“You prefaced that point as your first reason. Which indicates to me there is probably a second. Perhaps even a third or a fourth? What is it?”

“Just one more” she admitted reluctantly. “But it’s more difficult to explain than the first.”

“Try me.”

God, that smile was wicked. Wicked, unnerving, demanding.

“The second reason.” She snorted at the complex simplicity of the words about to be said. “The second reason is, regardless of what John Donne says, I am an island. I need very little attention or interaction with others. I don’t seek approval or disapproval. I am most comfortable in my own company. I care for my family and closest friends, but can go for long stretches of time without connecting, and never feel the lack.”

She paused, knowing she needed to add a clarifying explanation. “I know this sounds contradictory to my control issues, but it isn't. One does not have to be an extroverted motor mouth to manage the world. Exerting control over a situation can often be done with very little conversation or direct interaction. Sometimes, the most effective way I control a situation is to remove myself physically from it.”

She looked at him and smiled conspiratorially. He knew exactly what she was talking about.

“I’ve no idea why I am like this. I’ve never really tried to figure it out. It suits me, so why question it? I’m aware, at least conceptually, that I miss out on the depth of feelings others experience -- that my inability to depend on others or seek their counsel has made my life, at times, more difficult than it had to be. But I’ve found benefits through the years as well.”

A pause to regroup, gather strength. A strength she desperately needed because she did not want to confess this to anyone, ever. This was her secret, a secret that sharing, even with one other person, a person she knew would understand, meant giving up total control of certain aspects of herself. Made her vulnerable.

“It is more than mental self-containment. It's physical self-containment as well. I’ve built a wall around me that is invisible to the eye, but next to impossible to breach. I’ve tried to explain the physical aspect before, with little success.” Knowing she would likely be unsuccessful again, her frustration surfaced.

“The best explanation … look … it’s like you live in a brick house. Between you and the outside world are layers of brick, insulation, wooden joists and iron support beams, sheet rock , plaster, paint and wallpaper. If someone wants your attention and they tap on a brick on the outside of your home, you aren’t going to even notice. To get your attention, they either have to come in through a door or window, or they have to take a sledge hammer to the walls to break through all the layers.

The walls around me are the same as the walls of that house. And my physical contact with most people is limited to a light tap on the brick. So light, it usually never registers with me. It is as if it never happened.

My unapproachability, my introversion, rarely allows anyone to approach me through an unlocked door or cracked window.

What this leaves me then, is the sledge hammer. The intensity of the contact is what matters. It takes this to get my attention, to drag a response out of me. The feeling of someone patting me on the back is like tapping on a brick, it is never going register. I am oblivious to it. So sometimes, just to make sure I still feel at all, I need that sledge hammer."

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