Being Highly Emotional In A Highly Impersonal World

too emotional

When I say “highly emotional”, I don’t mean those people who get a bit weepy at commercials featuring puppies being put down at the pound or teary-eyed at the end of the end of a romantic film; that’s just called having a heart. To qualify as someone highly emotional, you have to be someone whose feelings are at the core of your life, often expressing itself situations where emotions are deemed unwanted, unnecessary or excessive – at least to other people.

For the those who fall under the Highly Emotional Umbrella, there are the usual transgressions: believing inanimate objects have feelings (when you pick up one apple from a bowl that contains two, you feel a twinge of sympathy for the rejected fruit), feeling as if you offend nearly everyone you meet because you read an eye twitch as a sign of dislike, crying just by imagining a tragic scenario. Those, however, are private examples, where as long as you don’t tell anyone what’s going on in your heart, only you know how much of a work-out it is getting.

In this day and age showing emotions are almost seen as a moral weakness. The paragon for both men and women is to be a high-functioning, quick-thinking, unemotional creature, able to make decisions on the fly, exude charisma, and never shed so much as a tear. Men who are too emotional are wimps; women who are too emotional hysterical. To be a highly emotional person is to be constantly told you are “overreacting” and need to “calm down”. Worse is when the disapproval is implicit, emanating from all the other people in the room like the waft of cold air when you open the freezer whenever you express something with a great deal of feeling. In an impersonal world that breeds impersonal people, letting your emotions bubble to the surface makes you feel oddly weak and inadequate, sometimes even a show-off, because no-one else seems to possess the same depth of feeling as you do, or at least feel the need to express it.

For instance, one time in History class when I was around fifteen, we were learning about the Holocaust. On the pages of the books we were assigned were photographs of the thousands of dead bodies of Jewish people piled on top of each other in mass grave. It was, to say the least, horrific. The corpses were skeletal, bent backward and collapsed in odd and ungainly positions like cast-down puppets, their rib-bones pushing up against the thin skin on their chests, their mouths tugged wide in paroxysms of agony. Around eleven million people were thought to have been massacred in the genocide. That is the number I still remember. Eleven million people who died in fear, and most likely pain, eleven million people who had had their own internal lives, dreams, family, talents, skills. Next to the photograph was a small box filled with questions students had to answer regarding the event. Around me other people, though quieter than usual, were obediently scribbling down words, but for me the words were beginning to blur on the page from my tears. The teacher noticed and came after to ask me if I was feeling unwell. I nodded. In front of the whole class, with tears leaking from my eyes, I spoke aloud my anguish at the barbarity that orchestrated such destruction, expressing my fear of the darkness latent within humanity.

And then someone, two rows in front, turned around, and said, “Well, there’s no use crying about it.”

Six measly little words, yet he might as well have slapped me in the face; at once, I felt ridiculous, stupid, childish, fresh tears pricking at my eyes. Being sensitive to criticism on top of having such strong emotions only worsened matters. He was right, my tears wouldn’t be able to bring back those who died – but didn’t I have a right to let my heart express itself? That is something I know now, but not then. Then, I merely burned with shame, looked down at my page, wiped the stupid little tears from my eyes, and began answering the questions.

On countless occasions in my life my outbursts of emotion – not always sadness, sometimes anger at injustice or mistreatment, sometimes immense joy– were met with similar distaste by other people, and sometimes something worse: lack of understanding. As you work yourself up into an emotional high, eyes shining, breath excited, they look at you as if you are a strange creature who perhaps has lost its way from the zoo. I gasped and squealed with excitement at the sight of a blue butterfly – a blue butterfly! – and received odd looks from passers-by. I stepped on a snail and felt guilt stab my heart: and my sister stepped on a snail herself to show me how silly my reaction was.

It is a cold fact that anyone who possesses any trait which goes against the norm, be it in terms of race, sexual orientation, physical defects or personality quirks, are made to feel less-than by the majority. As a result, I learned to hide my emotions behind a cold and aloof exterior. For me, it was a choice between either letting loose all the emotions or blocking all emotions; there was no-in-between: one crack in the dam soon led to a full-on deluge.

But emotions are, irrevocably, a part of who I am. In repressing them, I was repressing myself, and you cannot do that without sooner or later becoming a little crazy. Repression eliminated the crying sessions and the bursts of anger, but it also killed my ability to feel any delight or happiness. Emotions unexpressed externally through speech or writing do not disappear. Instead, they fester until some other outlet is found: self-hate, self-disgust, controlling one’s diet. Trying to not be emotional, to not feel so much, to be more impersonal and logical as I “should” be, made me sick. I spiraled deeper and deeper into self-destructive behaviors, ranging from procrastination to digging my nails into my skin, in a subconscious effort to gain equilibrium.

Recovering myself and accepting my emotions is still an ongoing process. When you have such a surplus of feeling within you, trying to fit in with society is nearly impossible. You constantly feel as though you are ready to burst into pieces, always scared you will receive odd looks or downright disgust from other people when you show your true self. To this day, I still struggle with the balance between expressing myself and reining in my natural emotionality so as to not “cause a fuss” or bother other people – which is probably one of the reasons I spend much of my time alone. Rejection triggers my emotions, too, so it’s better to secrete myself away rather than risk getting hurt by simply being who I am.

What I have found is that to possess an excess of emotion frightens people. All people are born emotional – just look at the how children spend their days. Among children, high emotionally is attributed to immaturity and acceptable; but the moment you crest around ten years of age, society begins to dampen your natural exuberance, turn a disapproving eye upon too much sadness, too much anger, too much joy. People, I believe, are taught that to be a grown-up is to be unemotional for a reason: a more impersonal world is easier to govern, a society of people ruled by logic rather than the fire in their hearts easier to control and manipulate. That, I think, contributes to so much of the problems in the world. Corruption, environmental disregard, wars and hatred – all these are the aggregate result of millions acting from the mind, which likes what is logical and effective and self-serving, rather than the heart, which works from a place of love and wonder, the place we all inhabited as children. Most children share and play with others; it is the adults fight, argue, kill and exploit, because in the transition from childhood to adulthood, the connection to the heart is deliberately blunted and dulled by social and cultural forces.

Which is why I, as someone who was born with a slightly hotter heart than those around me, am determined to allow myself to express myself more often, without feeling guilty or afraid of rejection – and if you are a highly emotional person, I would suggest you do likewise. The world needs hotter hearts. Hearts that not only flicker, but rage and roar in great spews of flame. It was those whose hearts burned with undying fervor throughout history for causes or personal projects that made the greatest differences in the world. Rather than try and stamp out the flame, let it fuel you in all your endeavors to make the world and the lives of the people within it a little better for you having lived by channeling all that feeling into good causes, into Art. Let your passions burn and burn inside you, propelling you forward, until, at the end of life, like a match, you are crisp and all burnt-out, and have fulfilled your purpose.

Asking For Money

  

Dear Readers,

Recently, I ran into some financial trouble. It had been building up for a while, but only recently entered a crisis state. The gist of the situation is:

1. Father left us quite some time ago, and my mother was forced to find low-paid labor-extensive employment whilst still suffering emotional trauma from the divorce and after having spent most of her life as a housewife.

2. I dropped out of my course due to anxiety issues and depression caused by having to hide my Asperger’s behind a mask for so many years. (If you’re interested in information on Aspergirls, see the following website: http://everydayaspergers.com/2012/02/10/aspergers-traits-women-females-girls/. The neurological differences makes it difficult to fit into mainstream society and follow traditional pathways of employment; but it does confer us skills in others areas).

3. After dropping out, I tried applying for Youth Allowance, which is a government benefit program for those over 18 here in Australia. Unfortunately I did not fulfill the eligibility requirements – my Asperger’s and anxiety issues meant I could not engage in full-time studies, or be actively looking for work and attending interviews – so my claim was summarily rejected. Anxiety medication had no effect on me, and I had to stop taking them, anyway, because they cost more money.

4. At the moment, I am housebound. To be honest, I don’t know, psychologically, exactly why it is so difficult for me to even step out of the house, but it’s a definitely due in some part to having Asperger’s (I was only officially diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, as the psychiatrist was old-fashioned and used MALE Asperger’s criteria to test me; many Asperger’s women on the internet have had to diagnose themselves after struggling for most of their lives). I live in the city. I live, in fact, in a small one-bedroom unit with my family right next to a busy highway because the rent was low enough for us to afford. This has only worsened by condition. Walking outside and being assaulted by the noise and the sunlight and the commotion feels like you are being pulverized. Each time I have been forced to step outside the house, either to go to the doctor’s or to Centrelink, I return home exhausted to the bone, my brain crushed into paste. It is how an introvert might feel if he or she was forced to socialise for two days straight without breaks. For two hours spent outside, I have to sleep six hours to have enough energy to leave the bed.*

*With Asperger’s, all sensory input, from emotional to psychological to visual to auditory is amplified. I hated school, not because I didn’t like learning, but because the noisy clamoring school corridors were the equivalent of a thousand loudspeakers blaring into my ears every second. But there is more to this, I think. I am a very introspective, quiet person. All my energy is internalised rather than externalised – thus, being in the outside world, which forces you to externalise your energy, exhausts me beyond belief.

I am also a loner. Make no mistake, I like people – only, I like watching more than I like interacting with them, and when I do socialise I can only feel truly comfortable with other quiet and sensitive people. My environment is not suited to who I am. It makes me sound precious, but I am very sensitive, very fragile: I feel my brain is being bashed open when a car rattles past, but I can be moved to tears by the sight of a flower poking up from the grass. AS an Empath, I also absorb the emotions of those I encounter in the outside world, another energy-drainer. This extreme introversion, coupled with the extreme sensitivity, means that the only occupations I can undertake are ones where I can be completely alone, in an almost silent space, preferably with nature outside the window, requirements which, unless I become a published writer able to make a living off my words in the next month, are impossible. To feel comfortable, I would like to live in an isolated cottage somewhere with cats and books and flowers and sunshine for company. Somewhere quiet, where I can be as reclusive as I want. But the world isn’t here to cater to my needs. I have to fit in with the world and society if I am to survive. Only I am unable to. It all feels so wrong. Which is why I am housebound, and angry at myself.

5. Due to my “disabilities” (I am only defective according to society’s terms; I am philosophical, empathic and creative, but these gifts are all overshadowed by the exhaustion and high sensitivity) surviving in a capitalist society is not easy. Until I publish my first book or find a writing opportunity through the internet, it is unlikely I will be find work suited to my needs, especially now that I am no longer officially studying (I say “officially” because I am constantly learning about the world through the internet and by asking questions; in this day and age of instant, technological information, for those who are curious and dedicated, school is unnecessary). I have tried applying, also, for the Disability Pension, but as I was only officially diagnosed by the psychiatrist with Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), my claim was also rejected (You have to be diagnosed with something serious, like schizophrenia, to be eligible, I think; the requirements needed to be fulfilled for disability are extremely stringent, partly to prevent people from getting money for no reason, and partly because the government doesn’t care if some people struggle with “invisible” disabilities).

6. My siblings won’t be able to work or go to university for a few years yet, while I, though able-bodied, cannot contribute financially to the family due to psychological problems. As my mother’s job is labor-intensive, it takes a great physical toll on her. For her work, she only gets around $20,000 a year, which, supplemented by Newstart (Government Assistance), currently amounts to $36,000 for four people, two adults and two children, to live on. Most of this amount goes to rent (Sydney is a horribly expensive place to live). She is also depressed and angry much of the time, and recently began to complain of pain. She won’t be able to do this job until retirement. It hurts my heart to see her have to work so hard when she is no longer a young woman (52 years old).

7. I have tried applying for writing jobs, seeing as writing is almost the only ability I have left. I signed up for oDesk but, as a new member, with no portfolio, it was difficult to compete with other, established writers for jobs. I did finally get a job, but after completing it – which took a few days – and sending it in, the client did not pay (I later realised that I should have asked for an upfront payment). Nevertheless, I am still applying for jobs, and still hoping to get another one, this time going into the business hopefully a little wiser. I am also trying to sell my belongings on eBay, but that is another minefield altogether, with exorbitant shipping costs that can make you lose money and the fact that most people don’t want to buy your old clothes.

8. But neither oDesk or Ebay, which have so far not proved profitable, solves the problem my family is struggling with now, which is paying for living expenses: the rent, the electricity and gas and water bill, groceries, etc. The rent also recently rose. In response, we’ve tried to cut back as best as we can, taking as few showers as possible, subsisting on frozen vegetables and rice and potatoes and $1 loaves, turning off any lights we are not using, even re-using water used for cooking, but even so, there are so many bills, and unexpected expenditures like my mother’s old car breaking down on her way to work. My sister used guilt to make my mother acquiesce to purchasing a $200 phone after she dropped her old one in the toilet bowl, pronouncing that she needed it for her own safety. I am still angry about that.

9. If the rent is not paid, or something unexpected happens, then sooner or later we will be evicted, whereupon we will either have to find somewhere else to rent (perhaps just a single room with a bathroom for the family, as the one-bedroom unit we are living in now was one of the cheapest places we could find, and it has two rooms), or go live at a homeless shelter whilst waiting for government housing. Houses owned by the government aren’t situated in the safest neighbourhoods; you often hear stories of stabbings, people smoke in the building, there are strange cars that pull up along them in the night. Many of them are where those who are recently let out of prison live.

10. Most likely we will stay at a homeless shelter until we can find a single room to rent. Though not the most comfortable situation for the rest of my family, it is not terrible; they’ll survive. It will, however, be a little hard for me. My mother has a very loud voice, which she raises often, and my siblings aren’t the quietest creatures in the world. In such a scenario, the world outside the home and the world inside the home will both be chaotic, loud and overwhelming. Squashed up in a single room with them, listening to their shouts and chatter, without a room for myself where I can recharge and be alone, I am afraid of not being able to cope.

11. All of which is why, after someone commented on one of my posts suggesting to link a Donate button, I decided to take their advice. Asking for money does not make me feel ashamed, as my family does need help, and I, unable to obtain it from the government, have simply gone to seek aid through other methods. I’m in an odd position where intellectually I am more than capable of work or study but too mentally and psychologically crippled to do either. Long-term, I want to try and find a job that allows you to work from home, perhaps something a little better than the pennies oDesk pays, and, eventually, make a living as a fiction writer. It might seem a fairy dream to my mother, but I know it will one day be my reality. My writing still isn’t the best – I have not been writing for long – but that can always be improved, I am only eighteen, and in the meantime a glorious cornucopia of ideas is bursting in my mind, just waiting until my skills are good enough to bring them to life. It is just a matter of practice, of bridging the gap between ideas and execution. But, as Virginia Woolf once said, a writer needs a room of her own to write, and if present circumstances continue the way they do, I will soon be placed in an environment, either the homeless shelter (strangers, everywhere) or a one-bedroom apartment (noisy and disruptive), where I will be unable to do either.

12. If you do choose to donate, for which I thank you from the bottom of my heart, please consider the following points before you do so:

  • We are not homeless yet. My mother still has a job, and we still get government benefits, amounting to $36,000 a year for four people. The only thing that is worrying is the rising rent. I am afraid it’ll get to the point where we are evicted. I wrote this post just to see if I could help her out with the finances through one of the few ways I could. But even if the worst does happen, we will be ‘homeless’ but we probably won’t be sleeping on the streets.
  • The amount doesn’t matter; every cent helps, whether to buy some carrots or help top up an electricity bill.
  • Only donate if you have the means to. A lot of the people who read my blog are INFPs (Idealists) or people struggling themselves with financial and mental issues, such as social anxiety like myself, all groups of people not known for their extensive financial resources. It also doesn’t matter if you have the means to donate but simply don’t want to; your money is yours to spend as you choose, so please don’t feel guilty; the love and care I have received from readers, through emails and comments, though it might not help pay the food or the bills, already means the world to me. It makes me feel loved. It gives me hope that there are kind people in the world. It makes me feel less sad and alone.
  • Your donation might not change things. It may help my family with a payment here and there, even if it is fifty cents, but eventually, if the rent keeps on rising the way it is, or my mother is unable to work, we will end up in at that homeless shelter, or camping at a friend of my mother’s house (more people, more strangers) or the single room. When that happens, I will have to somehow deal with it. I don’t how yet. I could sit in the bathroom with the seat down and the door shut to read and write, but bathrooms, especially toilets, due to their unhygienic status, make me highly uncomfortable, and uncomfortableness causes stress which causes fatigue, so I usually never stay in there longer than necessary. Yet, no matter how bad things get, I will find some way to keep on reading and writing. It is all I have.
  • I would like it if those who donate are people who either believe in my writing or my future as a writer or, even better, have found some of my posts personally helpful. Of course, that doesn’t mean that just because a post or two of mine resonated with you that means you should donate. I just don’t want to feel like I am taking money without doing anything in return for it. Even though blogging about being an INFP and other life issues isn’t exactly a recognised form of work, if I am helping people in some way, whether it is giving them advice or making them feel less alone, then I must be providing a little value and contributing to the world, no matter how tiny or insignificant.
  • There are many better ways to spend your money. There are likely people who are already homeless living where you are, or people halfway across the world who don’t have enough money for food. There are people in the world, even in Australia, a rich, first-world country, who have it worst than I do. Just one caveat, though, for those of you think donating to Humanitarian Groups will truly help starving individuals in Africa; it’d be good to read these two articles and be better informed on the situation rather than throwing some money to an organisation without knowing where it ends up, and its true impact: http://www.africaspeaks.com/reasoning/index.php?topic=2097.0;wap2 & http://www.siliconafrica.com/africa-top-10-problems-not-the-ones-you-were-thinking-about/ . The world has an extreme deficit of kindness, and a surplus of greed and corruption and selfishness. I wish I could help. I wish I could slap a few corporate leaders and let them go hungry for a few days. One of the best ways I have found to help in my own limited way against the horribleness of the world is to reduce my own consumption. The less you consume, the less power to give to corporations and groups who profit from your consumption by exploiting vulnerable people and destroying the environment. Stop buying any useless stuff like clothes (do you really need more?), re-use things, and eat as naturally and often cheaply as possible, incorporating more plants in your diet and reducing meat consumption. The best things in life, like books and writing and the imagination, are really often free.
  • If you do donate, please leave your name or email, either through the donation process or by sending it to dreamerrambling@hotmail.com, so I can personally thank you. Even if it’s five cents, it’s money, money probably obtained through sweat and effort on your part. I would love it if you give me some recommendations for any posts you would particularly like to read in the future so I can also repay you that way, and I will make sure to keep all emails from donors so that when I do publish my book I can send you a free copy (and I will get published, I know I will; it’s my belief in myself that keeps me going). Oh, and I used the “Buy Now” button only because the donation button for Paypal is only used for non-profit organisations, just in case that ends up to be a little confusing. If you do donate and need any writing tasks done like articles, professional emails or editing, please let me know so I can help you in return for your contribution.
  • Even if I don’t receive a single donation, I am still grateful to you all for reading my blog and for sending me your love, and I will keep posting pieces for as long as I am able, though if I move, it might be a while before I can find an internet connection. I will keep on trying to sell items on eBay and book a job on oDesk, and read and write and dream and love. My true dream is to be creatively fulfilled and be at a point where I can write books the proceeds of can entirely go towards helping people, like children in hospitals or hungry men and women. That way, my words can make people happy by taking them to other worlds and also by making a true impact on their lives in the real world. I don’t need much to live, a small place to call home, enough money to pay the bills; I don’t buy anything apart from food, partly because I don’t have the money to but also because I don’t want to support consumerism. If we all lived simply, and shared, and loved, and were kind, the world would be beautiful. Isn’t it disgusting, how there can be people in the world with billions and millions in the bank and live at the height of luxury while others have nothing, go hungry, starve and suffer? It makes me want to cry and throw up at the same time. I hate it, I don’t understand how those people can sit at their tables and eat without choking. I don’t understand how people can willingly hurt other creatures. I don’t. It helps me to put things in perspective, and I hope my experience helps to put things in perspective for you: how lucky you and I are, to live in first-world countries, how lucky we are to eat, and how much work we still have to do to fight against selfishness and corruption and spread love and kindness around the globe. Power, unfortunately, rarely lands in the hands of the kind and the good.

Thank you.

Self-Doubt, Self-Hatred, Fear – Welcome To Being Human

pray

Not homeless yet, which is a good. If there is a God up there, I thank him, but I don’t believe there is one. I think we made him up, just like we made up everything else.

Experiencing a homelessness “scare” truly helps you to appreciate the progress which has culminated in what is now our modern society.

At least, it started off as appreciation. As someone who would soon in many ways slip off the edge of civilisation, I saw the world, society, humanity and even the contents of the flat we are renting anew. Without the economic system we have today, unfair though it is in many ways, life would revert back to a caveman-style existence, wherein the men hunted for food and the women wove and cooked and tended to the children, everyone pitching in to help build shelters.

Think about it. If you were forced to make or create or procure all the basic necessities required for living yourself, necessities which you currently purchase with “currency”, how very difficult a task it would be. Very few of us, for instance, grow our own food; we do not knit our own clothes, or have to walk down to the river to get water; we use gas-stoves which turn on at a flick of a switch rather than burn wood; and the very thought of building our own homes, complete with the requisite plumbing, rooms, buildings and windows, without training or knowledge, is laughable. Instead, as society has grown more complex, humanity has banded together, replacing bartering with money as the method of exchange, creating a grand super-tribe in which everyone is delegated a certain job or task in order to contribute to society and in return are able to keep food in their fridges and clothes on their back and a roof over their heads.

This system has enabled us to live lives of luxury unimaginable a century ago. It is a system, ultimately, of co-operation – even if the amount of compensation received for many occupations is not always commensurate to the value the work provides; in every system there will always be those who try to exploit it for personal gain – rather than complete exploitation, such as slavery.

The more deeply I delved into all this, the more the history of humanity opened up to me, petals unfurling in gloriously complex shades and colours, and I was stricken by how blind I had been to it all before. Man, because of his intelligence, has, throughout the ages, developed social systems and inventions and achieved feats the likes of which other animals cannot even imagine. Having crawled, slithering on vines, down from the trees (if evolution is to be believed), to stand upright, brain enlarged on a progressively meat-centered diet, natural animalistic urges expressed themselves in uniquely complex ways.

Like animals and insects, who formed herds or colonies, humans formed societies, at first simple ones, because co-operation leads to greater safety and increased chances of survival. As time went on and humans multiplied, spreading across the globe, our tribes grew larger and larger; eventually some tribes, like violence-hungry monkeys, sailed on ships across the world to attack other tribes, whom they then recruited as slaves, just as particular ants have been known to convert the insects of colonies they overtake into servants.

Eventually, after much death and bloodshed and madness, enslaved tribes fought back; certain humans instigated themselves as leaders of enormous tribes united by common languages, customs and cultures; and countries formed, each with their own unique government, a ruling class, created to govern the rest of the population, punish those who committed crimes and reward those who followed the system. Here mankind ran into other problems: corruption amongst those who sat at the pinnacle of society’s hierarchy, revolutions as people rebelled against the rich and the powerful for living in luxury while they could barely feed their families, power struggles and bloodshed. Death. Killing. Animals, all of us, trying desperately to bring some order to a chaotic world filled with unpredictable events and unpredictable people, with nary a God’s intervention as people died, suffered, screamed, wept. Once you live long enough you realise, very quickly, that suffering, though terrible, is perhaps no more than a biological mechanism; the cow slowly slaughtered at the abattoir, grunting in agony as the shears grind and the blood spurts, is no more liable to receive any help as, say, a woman being tortured, somewhere in history, her tongue torn out and her limbs slowly sawed off. Flesh is flesh; blood is blood; cruelty is cruelty; and suffering just trillions of cries left unanswered by the abyss.

Give or take a few centuries and a handful of worldwide conflicts, during which human ingenuity soared to unimaginable heights, capturing sound and images in machines, rocketing man up to the moon, creating products ranging from pencils to clothes in factories at an unimaginable rate, and you end up with where we are today: a booming, technological age, a time where you can access any information you want at a click of mouse, communicate with anyone you want, purchase whatever you want as long as you have the funds, where people are more open-minded and accepting of each other than ever and convenience and luxury, especially in developed nations, is the name of the game.

The true breadth and scope of human achievement is mind-boggling. It is. And I do not merely mean the pyramids, the Roman aqueducts, the incredibly complex skyscrapers gracing our cities, the Internet, the complicated factory systems all run by obscure computers and algorithms, the plumbing systems which provide water to a trillion homes, the airplanes and space shuttles – though such large-scale inventions are heart-explodingly impressive – but also the less conspicuous things, like records and sticky tape, even language itself, books, the toothpaste you use every morning, the streets you walk on, the traffic lights.

What I slowly began to realise, with growing awe, was that everything that currently existed in our lives, from the carpets we walk on to public bathrooms to windows, to the spoons and bowls we use for eating, the light-bulbs in our ceilings, was invented and manufactured, somewhere down the line, by another human, just like you or me, who sweated and toiled to bring them into being. Everything man-made object that exists, every man-made system, every chair, every piece of plastic, every screen,  is the product of somebody’s sweat and blood, or the blood and sweat of many.

Initially my reaction to all this was, rightfully, one of awe and deep-seated appreciation; it was because of others, their work, their co-operation, their talent and intelligence, that the Internet existed, that I could sit here at my computer and type, that the city outside my doorstep was what it was and the world beyond it was what it was. It was because of others that we had films, movies, books, hair-ties, pyjamas, paper, cardboard, everything. The sheer complexity of it overwhelmed me; I was bloated with fascination, the world re-made before my eyes.

It took less than two seconds, however, for the despair to set in. A wolf’s jaw, clamping into my flesh. Where did I, little, talentless, anxious and, so far, disgustingly useless little me fit into all of this? Here I was, unable to complete university, jobless, crippled by anxiety and depression, who thought she might have a shot at being a writer, a good one, but had recently realised the full extent of her literary delusions – how was I going to contribute to society? How dare I eat the food others had grown, live in a house others had built, use items others had produced, even take the public bus to attend my free therapy sessions, when I had not paid an hour’s labor for any of it, all of it either funded through government assistance or my mother’s hard labor. While others had changed the tide of humanity itself by sacrificing their own comfort and working long hours, here I was, exploiting everyone who had benefited my life, no matter how small the contribution, by not doing my share of work for all the luxuries like clean running water and a roof over my head that I still currently enjoy.

Perhaps, some voice whispers, and still whispers, inside me, perhaps you deserve to be homeless. Perhaps you’ll be just getting what you should have gotten. Useless, stupid, talentless and mentally crippled people like you are a drain on a society, as much a parasite as the bankers who steal money, legally, straight from the populace; you do not deserve to have food, or a roof over your head, if you do not work for it; you do not deserve to live, when you are so pitiful and pointless, a waste of air, of space.

Another time, another post, it is at this point that I would wax lyrical on how I overcame this belief, finally, after much pondering, realising my own, true, intrinsic worth. Unfortunately, there will not be one. Even writing this, I almost felt bad for wasting the time of whoever might read this. Seven billion people and counting exist in the world – seven billion – and here I am, just one drop in a sea, not very important except perhaps to myself and my closest family members, and my friends, most of whom do not live in the same country as I do; what worth could I possibly have, as something so small and useless and insignificant? For that matter, what importance, apart from those who truly contribute to society and benefit the lives of others in tangible ways, does anyone have? Because the conclusion all this thinking ultimately brought me to is that human civilisation, in all its complexity and glory, is tenuous as a spider web strung between two tree trunks, fueled and fed by dreams and fictions, made up of beings who only pretend to know what they are doing and are really mostly scared and worried and lonely.

All it comes down to is two words: I don’t know.

I don’t know if my existence has a purpose or not, or whether I will be able to write and publish the stories that exist in my head. I don’t know whether I am just a leech, stuck to society’s skin, forever doomed to either homelessness or living in government housing and poverty because of my mental issues. I don’t know if I have anything unique to contribute, or if all my perceived creative talents are just a delusion. I don’t know if I can write, or if my writing will ever get better. I don’t know if I have the guts, grits and determination to be a success, because I mope away my time, and am filled with fear and despair for myself, for my family, for everyone, for the world. Other people just seem so wonderfully capable and talented and put together, with houses of their own, jobs, spouses and children, happiness and financial security – and I don’t know what I am doing wrong, what is wrong with me, that makes achieving those same things seem all the more difficult.

I just don’t know. You just wake up and cry and struggle and keep going, I guess. You just keep going.

The Next Time I Write Anything, I Will Probably Be Homeless

The next time a write anything, I’ll probably be homeless.

Did you think I wrote the title in farce, for a good laugh, a bit of self-deprecating humor?

I only wish it were a joke. Though I don’t blame you, if you did think it was one. Only an hour ago I would have laughed if you told me such a scenario was not only a possibility, but a likelihood.

Financially my family has not been in a good state for a long time now, ever since my father left us, forcing my mother, who had spent the majority of her life as a housewife, into the workforce, with no skills, no qualifications. We have tried contacting him for money, but he has steadfastly refused on all counts, providing the well-worn excuse that he is “a grown-man” who can choose what to spend his own money on (he also, incidentally, divorced my mother in order to no longer have to have responsibility for any of his children anymore, and go off on expensive holidays for himself). It has been hard for us. Rage towards my father, rather than physical deprivation, has been more difficult. But the deprivations have not been great, comparatively. Yes, we have a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, electricity and water and beds to sleep in – but it can only last so long. One lay-off, which is becoming more likely day-by-day, and we are done, finished, out on the streets with nothing but a beat-up car and suitcases to carry whatever belongings we could salvage.

Getting a job myself has been an unsuccessful endeavor, to say the least. Not only did I waste money on expensive paper and ink to print out resumes, I also put myself through taxing situations, fighting against my anxiety whilst trying to appear confident before people who would, a second after I left, throw my resume into the wastepaper basket. All that stress and money and effort, and for what? Nothing. Government assistance, though a possibility, has not been forthcoming because of various bureaucratic issues; our family, of four, including my mother, myself, my younger sister and brother are currently subsisting on less than $36,000 a year (a combination of my mother’s wages, working at a job for which she endures back pain and will probably will unable to maintain for any longer, and governmental family assistance). For those of you who live in Australia and know all too well the expensive housing and utility and food bills in this country, especially in a city pricy as Sydney, such an amount, for four people, is a pittance. So lately, to help pay the rent, we have been living off potatoes, peas, corn and carrots, and cutting back on showers and any items beyond necessities.

At first my reaction to this turn of events was, as I wrote before, rage. Other people had parents who had worked their whole lives to provide them with a stable home, while my very own father left me, left his wife and children, and took all the money with him (the child support he supplies, mandated by the government, is only a tiny chip in the weekly grocery bill; mother believes he has his real wealth hidden elsewhere, away from the taxpayer’s clutches). But anger did nothing, it only made me threw me into depression. Well, I surfaced from the depression, as some of you may know from my posts, but my anxiety spiked after the divorce. A huge leap from repressed anxiety to agoraphobic-levels of panic whenever I stepped out of the house and encountered any people. It was if the breach of trust I experienced with my father tore a rift through my heart, stopping me from interacting with the world altogether without finding it difficult to breathe – and of course, these panic attacks then impacted my course attendance, which made others treat me less nicely and worsened my anxiety, which then made me feel more frightened and lost and alone. Anxiety is a common disorder, and thus sufferers, even in cases severe as mine where it is difficult to leave the house, are generally refused the disability pension in Australia.

At this point in time I have slipped back into a state of depression, and I am unsure how to proceed from here on. It came upon me suddenly, when mother told us homelessness was a very real possibility. What makes me feel especially frustrated with the whole affair is that I am an able-bodied eighteen-year-old who possesses the ability to write (if not well, at least able to communicate my thoughts in a coherent form) and relatively useful traits, such as empathy and creativity – only because of my anxiety disorder, and my free-spirited nature which makes it difficult to survive in any conformist system, including classrooms, I am unable to help my mother in any way, either through pursuing education or employment, and will thus, despite not being in any way mentally or physically challenged, end up on the streets.

With such a great weight pressing upon me at the threat of this occurrence, it is hard to believe in the only thing I care for in the world, which is my writing, my Art. It has become all too clear to me how far I still need to go in terms of becoming a capable writer, who can earn an income through her published fiction. In the meantime, one possibility is to find a job that involves writing, but many of them require degrees and experience which I do not have and, currently, cannot obtain; and even if I were to land those jobs, my anxiety would cripple me somewhere down the line sooner or later, as it has countless times before.

The logical thing to do, then, would be to write. Write to stave off the fear, write to re-discover my self-belief. But, apart from the odd post here and there on my blog, I haven’t been doing any other writing – partly because I was depressed, and medicated myself through escapism, and partly because I was afraid of the inadequacy that would consume me when I approached the page. Well, it turns out that the self-hatred you feel for procrastinating is a thousand times deeper than writing poor words. It is a burning in my chest, this hate, eating me up from the inside, and I feel as if I must do something before there is nothing of me left. Besides, it very clear to me now that, all along, I have been a delusional child, thinking I could write, believing I could make this work, for a quick perusal of the internet showed me just how much more I needed to go before I could write half as well as all the journalists out there. To be a writer you must have a day job – and if you can’t hold down a day job, and therefore don’t have enough food to eat or a roof over your head, you can’t pursue your artistic passions. Art, for me, flows when I am relaxed; if I am stressed or anxious, the gush is stilted, blocked. In fact, forget about writing and art altogether: it is clear I have not a scrap of hope or talent, and have been wasting my time and deluding myself.

But stress is inevitably what I will experience if we were to become homeless. Living on the streets, or even in unfamiliar accommodation, makes me feel high-strung and anxious; I am disgustingly, abnormally sensitive by normal accounts, and find even sleeping on a strange bed as horrific as having cockroaches crawling in a steady tide over my body. I suppose, when the event does occur, we will merely have to sleep in the car after parking it in whatever safe place we could find. Even then, it is difficult not to be afraid of vandals breaking open your windows in the middle of the night – not to mention the cold.

The days would be a little better; I could stay at the public library, where there is light and books and warmth, only my anxiety is bound to be high in such an environment, so I’ll have to read in the toilets, as I have done on multiple occasions, until I capitulate (I am sensitive to smell as well, so the stench doesn’t help matters) and leave. Where would I go, then? Back into the car, I suppose, reading with the sunlight streaming in through the windows, trying to get into a more comfortable position. How on earth would we be able to cook or get food? A homeless shelter somewhere could perhaps provide some cheap, processed food, and I am sure there is one around where I currently reside. Yet another place, on a long list, where I would have to meet strangers in foreign environments; the thought is enough to make someone like me, who has been diagnosed in the past (though the psychiatrist, cruelly, elected not to write it down, for fear of branding me with a “label” for the rest of my life, thereby preventing me from receiving access to many services) with Asperger’s, scream.

Right, so, I need to calm down, I think, which is easier said than done. My heart is fluttering quick as a hummingbird’s, and everything about the world has grown very thin and hollow. Not a soul cares whether we live or die, are happy or sad – that is truth of it. The world is a place of exploitation, where those who are sociopaths, or just plain selfish like my father, triumph, and everyone who possesses anything good in them, like kindness or empathy, are pushed to society’s fringes, dealt the least food from the Grand Plate. For instance, did you know that those who own the banks, and therefore own the population, produce money out of thin air? For being the masterminds behind the system, they are able to have limitless wealth at their fingertips without having to do very much work at all, except to convince everyone of their own legitimacy. It is a miserable world, in truth, thousands dying in hospitals alone, people working themselves to the bone to get by, or trapped in soulless jobs. It’s a mess, but it’s a mess that works, that self-perpetuates itself, feeding on hatred and fear and hopelessness, so it’ll most likely keep on going, the human race gradually driving itself into deeper and deeper destruction and unhappiness. What does it matter, though? None of us, including our species, is going to last forever; so there is really no use fretting over it. Suffering and happiness are the same thing, in the end.

I want to die satisfied, that’s all that I want, and the only way I can do that is to continue polishing my writing skills until I can write the books I want to write, bring the worlds and characters in my head out of my mind and onto the page. To die, with my published books arranged beside me, is my true dream. Thus, towards that aim, I am willing to endure anything, even homelessness; for as long as I am alive, I can read, and I can write, and that is all that matters, even if the conditions in which I read and write in are not ideal. For my Art, there is no agony or fear or hatred and cruelty I could not endure.

Still that does not dispel the present realities of excruciating self-doubt and financial worries. Recently my sister asked my mother to take $200 out of her bank account, nearly all her savings, to replace her phone, which she had dropped into, of all places, the toilet bowl, and broken. Without consulting me, my mother, guilty at the deprivations she had been placing on her children for months, finally acquiesced, and so now we have no financial buffer, no matter how slight, while my sister has a shiny new phone she would be hard-pressed to re-sell for half the price it was bought for. I screamed at her, nearly crying, when I found out, but all that brought me was greater defiance on my sister’s part and a sore throat.

There is no winning or losing in this world. It’s a rotten business, all of it, once you get a good look at it, so downright rotten it’s no wonder millions jump off bridges and shoot themselves through the heads each year. Meanwhile, people with fat accounts and fingers in all the right pies, who likely engendered many suicides due to the control system they set up for their own benefit, probably sit in their mansions, happy as cats fed a canary-only diet, supping on the blood and flesh and time of the human population. Their lips are smeared with blood, they fingernails crusted with the stuff – and I am going to stay strong, to make sure none of it will ever be mine.

The Psychology Of Idealists (INFPs)

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Is it better to live in this world as an idealist?

Perhaps.

It is hard to find fault with a worldview which involves seeing everything through rose-colored glasses, transmuted and distorted into elegant and beautiful and melancholy forms.

Where others see an old cracked statue, we notice the moss crawling over the angel’s face, the chip on its wing, the paint on its arms scabbed and unsightly from years spent in the sun and the wind, and feel an immeasurable sadness we cannot explain deep in our chests.

Where others see an old, worn chair left out on the street, we see a lonely creature, abandoned by its owner and left out in the rain and the cold.

As children, it was the idealists who spoke to their toys as if they were alive, had imaginary friends whose voices they swore they could hear, and played make-believe with such fierceness they sometimes could see exactly what they were imagining, screaming with true fear at the monster clawing out from the bedroom cupboard and sobbing their eyes out when the unicorn vanquished in a pool of its own silvery blood, and came downstairs to dinner disorientated.

Through an idealist’s eyes, a place like Ancient Egypt becomes a world of endless, undulating sand and rich perfumes and gold, the glistening gush of the Nile – not a civilization who lived and endured as all humans have done since the dawn of time, ate meals and loved and wondered in cities baked hot by the sun, where sand had a habit of getting into everything and embalming the dead was a more grisly than sacred business. Which is why, much as idealists might adore the idea of visiting Egypt or whatever the ancient civilization they are enraptured with (and there is sure to be one), we would hesitate if handed a ticket and asked to pack a suitcase, for deep down, we don’t want to travel anywhere except in our minds. To see a place, breathe in its scents, to have it right there before us, beneath a familiar sky, would make it real, ordinary, sewn into the fabric of what already exists – and nothing could be more terrible than that.

Likewise, when it comes to relationships, idealists also recourse to their imaginations, a habit that often does more bad than good. Love, filled with rich and nuanced possibilities, is a ripe fruit for imagination to feed upon. It is a thousand times more fulfilling to pine after the fantasy of a person than discover who they really are (which is generally someone who is a little irritating, a little selfish, a little pitiful), to envision romantic escapades and love affairs than to, well, actually engage in healthy, adult relationships. We tell other people we have a fear of intimacy, but that’s not true. It’s just that intimacy imagined is often better than intimacy experienced. For figures to exist in our imaginations as flawed and exalted creatures, suspended in glowing coronas, is much more entertaining than to have the person right there, beside you, holding your hand, real, flesh-and-blood, real and dull.

This is why some idealists have a tendency to slip in and out of love so quickly, their hearts slippery as fishes – they love from afar, and fall out of love when faced with the reality of the person up close. The idealist knows that love, when experienced properly, eventually lessens in intensity and peters out into comfort, that not every day of the relationship can be kisses in the rain or dancing together in a train carriage as it hurtles through the darkness, that there will be days where you look across at the person you lie next to and want to slap him or her; and it is because we are well aware of these realities that we do everything they can do avoid them, consciously and unconsciously pushing people away, obsessing from afar, stirring up drama in our lives. The alternative is being with someone you will one day be able to vomit and fart and scream in rage in front of without batting an eyelash. The alternative is for the dreaming to end.

There is a reason why so many idealists tend to gravitate towards the creative professions, working as writers or painters, filmmakers or graphic designers. Art is idealized reality shaped into something tangible. So whenever artists paint or write or direct or design, they are sharing their version of reality – and to be able to do that, you must find the current reality to be intolerable in the first place. One only goes seeking for something more when what one has is dissatisfying. The less intense idealists dabble in their creations. The more intense let their creations consume them, allow themselves to be swept up in the colours and the words and the images conjured from their imaginations, desperate to create and, in the act of creation, escape into something that feels like home, something strange and wonderful and otherworldly to make their heart tingle with delight and their fingertips brush, just for a moment, against the golden bellies of heaven’s clouds.

Nothing in life is immune to the idealist’s imagination, not even themselves. Every person on this planet holds an idealized version of themselves in their head. It is a simple ego mechanism, designed to uphold one’s self-esteem. If you saw yourself as the flawed creature you truly were, it would be difficult to look at the face in the mirror in the morning. But idealists have a tendency to take it a step further. Not only do we idealize parts of ourselves, we also create entire personas to slip on and off like different outfits, each outfit made up of qualities we would like to possess, or qualities we found in others that we liked, taking a scrap of fabric here and there and stitching it all together to create patchworks of personalities. That is why many idealists make good actors; for a lot of us, every second is a chance to appear surly or elegant or disdainful or flirtatious or stoic or proud or dismissive or mad or sad or disappointed or brash, and revel in whatever person or emotion we are portraying. Our lives are plays, ourselves the stars, and the world, whether or not anyone is watching, our audience. The only downside to this is that sometimes we struggle to pinpoint where the acting ends and the living begins, and which parts of us are our “true selves”, or if there even is one.

We can also be delusional in our assessments of our attractiveness, our talent, our ability, and this, for good or worse, makes us more likely to succeed in our endeavors. Unlike pragmatics, who are, from the outset, often aware of the limitations circumscribing their goals, their own and those imposed by the external world, idealists are better able to gloss over such trivialities and keep plugging away at whatever they have their heart set on. We do not give up easily. Eventually, doggedness and practice and a dash of luck overcomes any limitations that existed initially. In believing in our ability to achieve something or create something or make some change in the world, we make it come true.

There are downsides, of course. To outsiders, we seem lost with the fairies, disconnected from all that is proper and correct, naïve and silly – and sometimes we are. It is easier for us to get lost, to feel alone, to feel strange or odd or crazy. To feel stupid. There are those who make it their life’s mission to dampen anyone who is too idealistic and in love with life because their own lives are not happy ones, and we can only gaze at such people in mute anger and bemusement. And when our daydreams are momentarily broken, shattered briefly, a virtual world fragmenting into pixels with the true reality behind the Matrix flashing through the gaps, horrifying and cruel and bland, we die tiny deaths. Fortunately, such incidents do not last long, and we soon return to our dream-worlds to sit beside the stream of imagination, trailing our fingers in its iridescent waters, and gazing, forever, at the pictures flowing past us amongst the ripples, in all their glorious and dazzling multitudes.

A Little Advice For The Scared, The Lonely, The Outsiders, The Bullied, The Quiet, The Sensitive

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To me, there has never been anything more lonely than a group of people, all contorted with laughter and rapid chatter, in classrooms, at parties, in halls and houses.

After school events were one of the worst, especially when parents were involved. My own parents usually never came – and when they did, they never made me feel safe, secure. Neither my father or mother were those kinds of people. When you have moved from place to place since a child, struggled with money constantly, and your own father left you, taking all the money with him, it’s hard to feel safe anywhere, with anyone. With every new home I grew attached – to the walls, to the bathroom, my view outside my bedroom window, even if it was just someone’s leaf-strewn courtyard – and each time we had to leave it felt like life was tugged out from beneath my feet. It was scary. The world was quicksand.

To this day, I live in fear of one day hearing a knock on the door and finding a man on our doorstep to evict us. A teacher once laughed at the possibility of anyone attending the school to be unable to afford a car, or the rent, because it was situated in a rich area, and everyone who attended the school came from well-off families, and I laughed along with everyone else, even as my heart sank. My peers feared getting bad grades, or social humiliation; I feared those, too, but I feared homelessness more. Thus, amongst my mingling classmates, who were tucked under a father’s wing, or nestled up to a mother’s side, or linked arm-in-arm with friends, I would often be overcome with such an awful darkness at the awful busyness and cheerfulness and bustling bodies that I would retreat to the bathrooms to cry, not knowing whether my tears were for the pain in my heart, or my terrific headache from all the noise.

Even after watching films featuring partying scenes, where the young men and women meet at diners with fluorescent lighting over fast food, or dance beneath disco lights that trace spots of colour over skin slick with sweat, I feel a peculiar melancholy in my chest at the ease with which people find a sense of belonging with others. The truth is, without sounding too self-pitying, in real life I have not met anyone particularly nice or kind, including my own father. Friends would often badger me, asking what occupation my parents held when I felt too ashamed to tell them, asking when I would purchase a house when I made the mistake I told them I was renting, just renting, renting until we found a house we “liked”. Those same girls eventually discovered my financial situation, and made every effort to remind me of it. On my long walk home from school, one girl told her parents to pull up beside me, asking me if I needed a ride, that it was no trouble, no trouble at all, smiling so wide it was hurtful. Others invited me to birthday parties again and again, until I came, only my gift to the birthday girl was tiny compared to the extravagances everyone else had gone to, so they all grew silent when she unwrapped it, and gushed, words trickling like melted candy down their chins, at how wonderful it was…

I got good grades, back in high-school, nothing particularly impressive, but mostly As, received a few awards. I do not know what it is about me that gives people the urge to try and put me back in my place. I only remember the hatred I received for getting full marks, for being too skinny, for being too quiet. And no matter how badly I was mistreated, I never, not once, fought back or spoke back. My very own aunt sneered at my writing dreams, in front of relatives, and I said nothing in return. Instead, because I felt so powerless and alone, so desperate to please and be loved, so out of place, I renewed my efforts at gaining people’s favor. I idealised young men and women, placed themselves above me, on a pedestal, for their social finesse and confidence, worshiped them even as they bullied me, avoided me, ignored me. To fight back and hold pride in who I was, even if that meant odd, an outcast, was something I did not learn to do for many years, and still struggle with. After all, I had no friends to back me up, no father or mother strong enough to bolster my self-esteem, and nothing to find solace in except books and the rhythm of words and my own imagination. It is hard to defend yourself from an enemy when you are scared of something creeping up on you from behind.

As a result of all this, I was depressed and anxious for a long time. Still am, on some days. But more debilitating than the depression and the anxiety was the self-hate. No-one at school appeared to like me, understand me, or accept me; they were loud and brash, strong and unthinking, while I was sensitive and quiet, “no fun”. Well, it is easy to have fun when there is reason to be. Putting on a mask of joviality when almost every soul in the world who has crossed your path seemed to want to hurt you is almost impossible. Life, experienced by someone who was different and bullied and shy and quiet and sensitive and unloved, was a land where others had been bred, from birth, to be monsters – while I, somewhere along the line, was born a tiny bird, existence a matter of hiding and escaping and fear from the swiping claws.

Yes, I have been mistreated, underestimated, bullied, abandoned, physically and psychologically abused, on multiple levels, all amplified by my innate sensitivity – yet, even so, I have found it in my heart to forgive every single person who hurt me so. It wasn’t easy. It will never be easy. For the longest time bitterness and rage bred in my gut, great coils of shadows twining around my heart. For the longest time I did not trust any human who I met, for somewhere in there, experience told me, was evil, selfishness, hatred. Pain. Yet holding onto that pain, in the end, hurt nobody but myself; and though I will never forget what they did to me, I can forgive.

These experiences have longer-lasting wounds than a little coldness to my personality. Whatever environment you grew up in as a child, depending on whether it was validating or invalidating, carries with you into your adulthood, as it did with me. Once an outsider, always an outsider. No matter how many kindred souls you might meet through the internet, no matter how many kind people you encounter, there will always be that part of you that is looking in the window, than sitting in the chairs behind it. You will always feel a sense of inadequacy around those who effortlessly form connections and fit in with other people. In large crowds and gatherings, you will always feel alone, and unseen.

My theory is that other people, who have not undergone the experience of being a social pariah, are better able to maintain delusions against their existential loneliness: relationships, family, love, colleagues, friends. Being on the outside gives you a unique perspective. You are, more than anyone else, aware that we all live and die alone, and that all that matters is to live a life satisfying to yourself. As you grow older, more illusions, like the desire to impress people, or money, also become clear to you. So in the end, you find self-worth through crafting a personal meaning for yourself, rather than letting others dictate how you feel or think, whether you cry or smile. For me, I desire, in my lifetime, to spend as much time as possible drowning in the waters of my imagination, floating across the waters from one country to another, encountering a nearly endless series of strange lands – and to share such dreams with other people, in the form of books. This hope alone has dragged me through many a bad night.

And, really, my loneliness or pain or suffering or sense of apartness does not matter, just like nothing else, under the sun, really matters, in this ephemeral business we call existence. Everyday, a thousand hearts in the world cry out in pain that I will never experience in my lifetime. Even those who seem to have everything they could possibly wish for – a successful career, a house, a job, a spouse, children – are not always satisfied with themselves, because smiles and photographs and closed doors can hide anything. At this point in time my goal is not to be happy or beautiful or wealthy, but to die, satisfied, in knowing I spent my time on this planet the way I wanted to, wrote the books I wanted to, did what I wanted to do, read as many books and soaked in as much knowledge and life experience as I could.

What people do, with their short, short lives, is what matters; we could not care less how hard it was for them to write that book or win that game or score that job or stumble across that theory, or how miserable they were or how much they were bullied as children. To other people, you are merely a cipher who can spit out services, make a sandwich for them at the corner store or make an entertaining film. You only matter to people as much as you help them. So, as an outsider, you must live for yourself, in a way that feels true to yourself, and that way, you will find yourself, and be yourself, and find a little satisfaction amidst the loneliness and anguish, until the day all pain ends.

How INFPs Approach Love

ladybug

The short answer: We don’t.

Or, at least, I don’t. I can’t speak for all INFPs – every person is different even if they share the same personality type, so perhaps this should be titled “How An INFP Views Love” – but I can safely say that “approach” is not the right word to describe the way I gingerly dodge and avoid the arena of relationships, turning up my nose at the whole business around others and then wistfully gazing over my shoulder at the spectacle when no-one is watching.

The long answer is a little more complicated.

My past is a contributing factor to this caution and fear. When I was a teenager, my father walked out the door without a backward glance, leaving my mother and I without the funds to pay even the rent for the week. To this day, I have not seen him since. At the time, the sense of abandonment I felt was like a howl in my heart I could not express verbally. Even when he was in life my life, he was awfully distant, awfully selfish, and awfully unloving; I remember he used to spend thousands on the perfect sound system yet complain when I needed fees to pay for school excursions. So it only follows that, as he was the first man I tried to love, my opinion of the male species in general is quite low.

Not all men, of course, are as bad as him; lots of men are nice and good and kind; I am not so bitter as that. But in terms of relying on men, on handing over to them my love and trust, as a partner – frankly, I would sooner stick a skillet in my eye. I am fond of likening myself to a woman who carries invisible burns, and now, every time I come close to any “fireplaces”, even if they are not lit, I cringe and step away. This, combined with my extreme desire for love and affection, naturally anxious personality, and high sensitivity, tends to make me view love with the wide-eyed gaze of a gazelle caught in a lion’s sight.

Then there is the small matter of my sense of separateness from humanity. In truth, I do not think there are any glaring differences in myself compared to others, apart from perhaps an increased tendency for introspection. But this introspection, which some might call self-absorption, means I am a highly self-conscious creature, which means in interactions with other people I am overly focused on myself and my own shortcomings, which makes me feel removed, and, well, different. Out of place. An outcast.

Being creative doesn’t help matters, as often what you want to talk about are too strange and random and bizarre to be palatable for most people. For instance, most people do not want to make up as many symbols for Death as they can while waiting in line to borrow books at the library (though I can’t imagine why). What all this boils down to, essentially, is that there are a limited cohort of people in society with whom I can find any common ground with, and feel comfortable with. University campuses are infested with people who talk of the most banal and trivial subjects; I have yet to find that sort of odd, artsy young graduate who is by himself a lot of the time, and seems to see and notice things others do not. Basically, I like unique people, and in society there are not many unique people, mostly selfish or boring or indifferent people. Thus my very nature greatly limits the available romantic candidates. Until I find a man strolling alone through a cemetery in the sunshine, looking thoughtfully at headstone after headstone, deep in philosophical thought, and who is not a serial killer trying to select the best place to bury his victims that night, falling in love is unlikely, if not impossible.

Another complication is my own self-hatred. Because I spend the majority of my life inside my own head, thinking and thinking and thinking, it gives me a lot of time to analyse myself, physically and psychologically, and, truth be told, I do not often like what I find. Self-love is an ongoing battle, every second posing a choice to love myself or to berate myself. On my rare good days, I see myself as a beautiful creature, both inside and out, kind and intelligent and sweet. On my bad days, which is most days, it is hard for me to look in the mirror without feeling visceral surge of disgust; to not loathe my arms, any body hair, my legs, my skin; to not see myself as an a reserved and aloof woman no-one could stand to be in the same room with, let alone love. On the worst days, I am disgusted by my own bodily fluids, disgusted when I pass gas or burp, disgusted by every word that comes out of my mouth and every thought that crosses my mind, am unable to look in the mirror or leave the house, and wish I were a pristine, ethereal creature who was above all humans matters and concerns. Such an unhealthy mental state, need I say, would not be conducive for a good relationship. To love others, you must love and accept yourself – and I am just not there yet, and might not be for a long while and after many hours of therapy.

On top of all this, I am just not an easy person to be around for most people. For one thing, I am very, very introverted. I am most comfortable going through great swathes of my day talking in short bursts, and spending the rest of the time observing the world and the people around me and holing myself up in my room, doing introverted tasks, like studying, reading and writing, for hours on end. This annoys people who like to talk. Even other introverts get a little huffy at my extensive desire for alone time.

And then there are times when I am just plain unpleasant to be around. Yes, I am kind, and caring, and I would never hurt a single creature willingly; but in the privacy of my home, I can be moody and impulsive, wallowing in misery one second and then taken to the heights of ecstasy by a beautiful piece of artwork. If riled, my ability to intuit exactly what would hurt the other person most makes my tongue sharp as a thorn. When my writing is not going well, or when I begin to despair of my literary ambitions coming to fruition, the door is shut, my soul is dark, and anyone who dares come inside my room does so at their own peril. Whoever does end up being my partner will have to be someone strange or crazy enough to want to put up with my mercurial moods, my bouts of self-loathing and depression, and my isolated nature. It’s a tall order, is all I’m saying.

In theory, I am a romantic, but in reality, I would much rather be alone than spend my time around someone I cannot be myself around, doesn’t understand me, and doesn’t support my creative endeavors. With the right person, I will appear bright, sensitive, self-aware, creative and talented. All the wrong person will see is a moody and immature woman who holes herself up in her room for long hours and possesses the irritating tendency to gush over the beauty of a dead insect, a rusted tap, a flower poking its way through the footpath. I need to find (or stumble, more like; “find” suggests one is actively searching) someone whose weirdness interlocks with mine, just like everyone else, and until then, I will file away Love to the back of my drawers, to be taken out some other day, and leave the business of dating to others.

A Good Life Is A Happy Life. Or Not.

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The point of life, apparently, is to be happy. Unfortunate, then, is it not, that we are bestowed with knowledge that hinders us from achieving this very goal?

For when it comes down to it, the life of a bird and the life of a man are the one and the same: both organisms live and eat and breathe and procreate, then end up dead, in the dirt, a mass of decaying protein. And so the cycle continues, indefinitely, century upon century upon century, dinosaurs flourishing one moment then sinking back into swamps as fossils, a thousand species appearing and changing and evolving, a never-ending, always-changing strand of life, with each twist showing new colours and concealing others.

One day, perhaps another organism will excavate the bones of a Homo Sapien, analyse them with curiosity as to our habits, our primitive thinking. One day, according to the scientists, the sun will expand and engulf the Earth, and if we have not by then migrated to some distant planetary abode, then all of life will be for naught. Galaxies exist in the universe numerous as the grains of sands on Earth’s beaches. In the full scheme of things, it is hard not to feel like you are nothing very important, a speck, a brief wink of light in the darkness – and that is a void all the spirituality in the world cannot fill.

The balm to this cosmic despair has been, throughout history, for humans to remind themselves to stay in the present moment. All is transitory, including ourselves, therefore there is little point in trying to hold onto anything. To flow with the river of life, without pain and without resistance, to accept the briefness of all that exists and revel in the beauty of everything even if it does not last, and perhaps to fill your life with fulfilling activities – that has been the sum of what philosophers have concluded, after gazing for hours into the abyss themselves. People throw around platitudes, like “Do you not eat the cake just because eventually the cake will devoured, gone? No! The point of eating the cake is to enjoy it. The same principle applies to life.” Others, communicating the same idea, pronounce life to be like a dance, like enjoying music; you do not listen to music to get to the end of the song, you listen because you like the sound of it; you dance for the sake of dancing, not to come to the end of the dance.

On a theoretical level, all that rings true. It makes sense. After digesting it, you can even put it into practice – for a while. Because eventually theory hits reality, and try as you might to tell yourself to enjoy the music, treat every action and sight as part of the dance, eventually, your efforts fall short. The dissatisfaction and despair return. For even music and dance, done for the pure, unadulterated sake of doing them, has higher purposes: to provide enjoyment to others, to evoke certain moods, to cheer up souls, to attain status and prestige through mastery of a disciple. There is something beyond just the notes and the steps.

But in life, we do not have that. We are dancing, and playing music, to an empty audience, like the last man standing on earth sitting down to play a tune into the silence on a piano or a ballerina locked away for the rest of her life dancing alone in the darkness of her prison. It would like a writer putting down words she knows no-one will ever read but herself. Sure, the enjoyment of the act itself is still there – but without the greater purposes, the connection you make with other humans through what you are doing, one’s enjoyment is liable to tempered by a great deal of misery.

And that is the position such a philosophy puts us in regards to life. It’s a dance, O, they cry, it’s music – but musicians and dancers don’t just play or dance for their own sake, they dance and play to be seen and heard by others. Unfortunately, when it comes to life, there are no “others” – at least, none that we are aware of. As far as we know, our act of living is not providing a higher purpose to something else. Of course, it is possible that some higher being benefits from our existence, as we benefit from the existence of honeybees – but because we do not know who they are, and will, in all likelihood never know, the misery is not mitigated.

It is the awareness that what one is doing is impacting or will impact others that makes the musician play, the dancer dance, the writer write. If, somehow, you deluded the musician into thinking the audience was invisible, that he was only playing for himself even as a crowd listened on, his enjoyment of the music would still be greatly tempered by the knowledge that his efforts were not being appreciated by anyone else. Thus, in life, even if there is something benefiting from our existence, because we are not aware of them, it is as good as them not existing at all.

None of this matters, though, because time and life will pass regardless of whether you are sad or happy, gripped by existential despair or blithely unaware of the abyss. So perhaps the philosophers were right in one regard: the best thing a person can do is focus on the present moment, and do work that he or she enjoys, and create their own meaning – because what else can you do? Philosophy is not so much about finding answers on how to live one’s life as to discovering compromises to make life more bearable.

Therefore, it is then perhaps erroneous to say the point to it all is to live a happy life, as broadcasted by self-help gurus and books and quasi-philosophers all around the world, but to live a tolerable one, where waking up each day does not give you the urge to hang yourself and you can smile without feeling like your lips are being stretched like taffy.

 

Knowing Without Knowing

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I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that my first child, when the time comes, will be a boy.

There is no rational basis for this knowledge.

At this point in time I do not even have a significant other, and probably will not for a long while to come, let alone a baby growing in my womb. In fact, if you asked me how exactly I knew this, with a step-by-step explanation of my thought process, I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything beyond simply “I just know.” Something in me – my heart, my soul, whatever you want to call it – has somehow peeled away the veils obscuring the future, and taken a peek, and come back to report what it has seen to me, on an unconscious level.

Life, for many people, is full of these strange hunches – and I find them absolutely fascinating. A father living on the other side of the world wakes up with a sense of premonition, only to find out later his daughter died in a car-crash at that very moment. While taking her usual route home, a woman, spurred by some internal compass needle flickering in a different direction, turns down a different network of footpaths, and discovers on the News the next morning another woman was murdered on that very street. A scientist, searching for answers, has a sudden powerful urge to step inside a cafe he has never been to before, whose menu provides the missing link to his theory.

They are what I like to call moments of “knowing without knowing”. To encounter them is to almost feel aligned with the Divine. They feel magical. They push against the boundaries of reality. Science drills into us that the world is just a mass of soulless atoms and molecules, vibrating at different frequencies, but when you “know without knowing”, you can’t but feel there is more to existence than meets the eye. At such moments it is impossible not to feel a strange sense of exultation at the mystery of what it means to be alive.

Of course, I could be wrong. Just because I favor the heart over the mind when it comes to “sensing” life doesn’t mean the heart is infallible. Who knows, perhaps somewhere down the line I’ll end up giving birth to a girl – or not give birth to anyone, and die childless. But those outcomes feel unlikely, they just feel wrong, slightly out of alignment, like a tilted frame hanging on the wall.

For those of you who extoll the intellect and scoff at intuition, such claims must seem laughable. Delusional, even. Yet throughout history, and with each day that passes on this planet, others in the world have experienced the same thing – not to mention that this is not the first time something of this sort has happened. Intuition, unlike intellect, does not discriminate. It picks up on everything and anything, whenever and however it wants.

Take Art, for instance. J.K Rowling, renowned author of the Harry Potter book series, was on a train in England one evening when the idea for her books just “fell into her head”. The intellect, analyzing this statement, can only shake its head. Fell into your head? Did it, now? You don’t say? Ideas are formed when disparate concepts merge to create something new. The lady simply mashed two things together: witches and wizards, and boarding schools. Nothing magical or divine to it.

But as a writer and someone who has often experienced ideas “falling” into her head, I must disagree, and my sentiment has been echoed by many other creators. All of my stories start with an image that, well, appears in my head out of seemingly nowhere. Often I can see them so clearly, and they feel so real, and seem so real, as if the story and its world and characters already exist, perhaps in some other realm, and all I need to do is pay close attention and write down everything I see. Yes, you can put forward the argument that it’s just my subconscious, brewing together disparate elements into new and interesting combinations – but there is something more to it. Something real, something true, at the level of the soul. It is too vivid and powerful not to be.

I could go on about this for days. I could tell you of the odd incidents in history when different scientists in different parts of the world stumbled across the same theories at the same time, or anecdotes where people used their Sixth Sense to accomplish wonders. Stories of the oddest coincidences. However, ultimately, what it all boils down to is that there is more to life than we know, and more to us than we know. God, the Cosmic Energy of the Universe, the Grand Mystery of Everything. It doesn’t matter what you call it. No matter how intellectual you are, on some level, each of us, if we are honest with ourselves, are aware of something greater than ourselves at play in this business of living. Hunches are just one expression of this Great Unknown.

And I love it. I love it because it makes life more interesting and exciting. After all, is it not better to wake up everyday and see the world and life as magical, full of surprises and secrets, than something dull and mundane? As a certain scientist once said, we have the choice, to either see everything, or nothing, as a miracle – and I am firmly in the former camp.

What about you? What have been your experiences of “knowing without knowing”?

A Message For INFPs

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Sometimes, as an INFP, I am not sure certain whether I am sensitive or if other people just lack tact and kindness.

Perhaps my experiences are only a reflection of our times. In today’s age of cut-throat competition amongst people at workplaces and schools and offices and on sports grounds, where money and success are king, and efficiency prized over intuition, “nice” has become synonymous with soft, or weak, and the quiet and reflective dubbed “meek”. So it would make sense for people to start presenting a more brash and blunt face to the world – but for those of us who are gentle and soft-hearted, we often find ourselves battered left and right, with no safe place to turn to except, well, ourselves. And perhaps the Internet.

More likely it is simply because I am more soft and sensitive compared to the average person, and thus, as a natural consequence, find myself hurt more often. The “feminist” wave, which upholds the ideal of a bold extroverted woman who sallies forth in the world and goes for what they want with as much aggression as men, has not done people like me any favors.

Compared to my soft-hearted and gentle male counterparts, however, I am lucky: at least I can still play relatively socially-accepted the “shy girl” card, while INFP men find themselves up against centuries of masculine ideals favoring the strong and stoic and aggressive, disadvantaging them when it comes to every sphere of life, from work to dating. Stereotypes, especially those gender-based, are powerful, and harmful (suicide statistics amongst young men are a sobering consequence of such preconceived beliefs). If any INFP men are reading this, I hope you remind yourself of your own self-worth in a world that does not find you worthy, keeping in mind that this INFP female at least finds all of you quieter and sensitive and contemplative creatures far more attractive than the “macho” ideals society crams in our faces. At this stage in time, for a long-term relationship, I would only consider pairing up with an INFP male, someone kind-hearted and caring, philosophical and melancholy. Unfortunately you are a rare breed, and I have yet to come across one of you yet.

Now where was I? In life as in writing, I have a tendency to digress. Right. Sensitivity. Yes. To put it simply, being sensitive has withered my happiness, as it probably has for you. From cold teachers and students to boys I idealised, one of whom even ended up playing a practical joke on me in front of the school, to cruel customer service representatives, dealing with the consequences of being too sensitive – namely, having to nurse hurt feelings – has been the single running them in my life, perhaps more so than even reading and writing.

And sometimes I feel hurt even when the person is not being particularly mean, only very distant and impersonal, as if you were an object rather than a person, which tends to make me feel like all the light has been sucked from the world. I have a deep-seated craving for kindness and tenderness, one I expect, idealistically, to be fulfilled whenever I encounter people. An absence of it turns me into an ingratiating and obliging slave, just short of frothing at the mouth, in the hope of obtaining just a little bit of niceness from the opposite party – or, at the opposite of the end of the spectrum, depending on my mood, makes me withdraw, and turn cold and unfeeling myself.

Much as I loathe those who bemoan “I’m just not good enough” without doing anything to get better at whatever it is they find themselves inadequate or “that’s just who I am” when it comes prejudiced views which they can easily change by educating themselves, the fact is, I am just too sensitive. And, to be frank, it’s not something I can control. I have tried, countless times. It would be hard for most people to imagine the agony I put myself through by maintaining a tough, devil-may-care persona for several years. When that led to a mental breakdown and nights spent crying into my pillow from repressed pain, I tried to use reason, wagging a big, fat finger in my mind as I scolded myself.

Now, now, you know very well you can’t make everyone like you, which frankly is a mystery, I know, because who wouldn’t like someone so kind and caring and sweet? Remember that time a girl was crying and you tried to give her a hug and she pushed you away? Right. Where was I, again? Reason. Right. People are selfish creatures, darling, you can’t expect them to accommodate for your feelings every time they talk to you, busy as they are with their own thoughts and lives. What’s more, you don’t need people to be kind and sweet to you all the time. It’s not necessary. All that matters is that you are kind yourself. The tenderness you provide yourself will be enough to make up for the deficit lurking deep in your heart. The world is an angry and cold place, no-one cares if anyone dies, it’s all just a sun rising and a sun setting. Got it?

Yes, I got it – theoretically, that is. Putting it into practice proved far more challenging. In fact, it was downright impossible. No matter what I told myself, I was still getting wounded by the slightest remarks, remarks others more thick-skinned than I might have brushed off without a backward glance. Worst of all, one woman, who is no longer my friend, when I confided to her some of my problems, began using herself as an example of how one should be. At every opportunity she would point out how she wasn’t as easily hurt as I was, how strong and tough she was, flaunting her ability to throw off outright insults with a smile whilst patting me on the shoulder in a condescending “one day you’ll be as good as me” manner. It only made me, who suffers from low self-esteem at the best of times, and soul-plummeting self-hatred at the worst, loathe myself more deeply than I had ever before.

What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I be just as tough as everyone else? Face it, in our world, men and women are both expected to be tough and strong. Whenever I expressed my fear or sensitivity, whenever I wept openly or retreated rather than confronted, or simply left the room during a horror scene, I was denigrated. Seen as weak. I was too weak, that was the problem, not strong enough, I had to be stronger, stronger, I had to let the world roll off my back like water off a duck, too weak, too weak

No.

I say, “No.”

No.

It’s time for the quiet and sensitive and shy and soft-hearted, the ones who notice what others do not notice, feel when others do not feel, who huddle in our rooms unseen, unheard, to start embracing our sensitivity. It’s time for us INFPs, the supposed “children of the MBTI”, to take a stand. Few and far between though we may be, that does not make us anything less worthy of those who already have their groups, their people, their support network, who can easily love themselves in a world that rewards them for who they are.

Without us, the world would be a lesser place. We are the healers, the counselors, the humanitarians, the artists and writers and philosophers (though this is not to say other personality types cannot hold these occupations; we must also account for variation amongst humans, not all INFPs are the same). We may take the slow lane in life, and seem stupid and sloth-like to those speeding ahead of us, but it only means we are aware of things those in the fast line can never understand. Yes, we can be moody, petty, seem odd or eccentric, “off with the fairies”, but we are also loving, caring, kind, imaginative, playful, and creative. I can nearly say with absolute confidence that very few cruel acts throughout the history of mankind were committed intentionally by INFPs, and that if there were more of us in the top positions in the world, such as the governments and the businesses and the companies, society would be a far more considerate, harmonious and loving place. Unfortunately those very fields often reward the very qualities we lack – ruthlessness, aggressiveness, valuing efficiency before emotions, money before people – thus often relegating us to the fringes of society, often with little money and little power. Idealistic, moody and fantasy-prone loners aren’t hot on the job markets, last time I checked.

Let me tell you right now: no matter how famous or rich or insignificant you are, as an INFP, you will never feel like you fit in with the rest of society, and never gain the approval and understanding of most people. So it is up to us to approve of ourselves and band together to make each other feel less alone. But we can do more than that. Each of us, with our deep feelings and deep hearts, our intelligence and oftentimes creative talent, can be forces for great social good in the world, only sometimes we are so scared and shy, and have such low self-esteem, that we sabotage ourselves, and barely step outside the door before we scuttle back inside.

Therefore it is important for us, above all, to link our hearts with a cause. Any cause, as long as you truly care about it. This is especially important for us idealists; without something to strive for, we can only stand by, hollow and empty, horrified by the world are witnessing. To make a stand, for once, we have to take action, to get out of our heads and fight. Forget about the money. You and I both know we can survive on very little of it, and still be happy: we’re not sensualists, good food and good clothes mean nothing if our ideals are not being met. For INFPs especially, we must find something to believe in, and funnel every ounce of our energies into our chosen cause. Only then will we feel worthy, only then will we begin to appreciate our unique gifts rather than deem ourselves “defective” – only then will the world, after we have done what we have done, appreciate us – and even if the world never so much as gives you a smile, you will be able to die happy, knowing you did what you had to do.

I, personally, intend to fulfill this creed as a writer, though my goals aren’t confined merely to getting books published. There are greater goals inside my goals. In my books, I plan on featuring characters, male and female, who are cautious and sensitive and atypical and plain; literature, especially Young Adult fiction, has enough of the bold and the brash and the beautiful. In addition, my characters will be predominantly from various minority backgrounds, to help those, like myself, who grew up reading books without seeing their own ethnic background reflected in the characters, feel seen, and represented. I plan on fighting my own fights, through the best sword I have – my pen – to enrich the lives of others, and make thousands around the world feel less alone.

And I challenge you to do the same. Your sensitivity is a gift. Trust me when I say I know how powerless you feel in a world so big and cold, where you do not even have a strong personality to shield yourself against it all, to help you weather the rains and the storms, and sometimes even not a single friend, because you are strange and quiet and no-one understands you. Sometimes, it just feels easier to escape – into books, into films, into pointless philosophizing and fantasies.

But what you do and achieve during your life matters, even if it touches only one person. As the saying goes, “To the world, you are just one person – but to one person, you may be the world.” So go out there and make yourself someone’s world. Go out there, and let your heart burst open, splattering the world in the form of love and art and aid and kindness, even if you risk rejection, risk getting hurt. Dig deep inside to find out what you want to do, what you were meant to do, what feels you with burning fervor, and go do it.

Then it won’t matter whether you get hurt, or if people push you around and misunderstand you and look down at you, for you will be fighting for something bigger than yourself, and that you will lend you strength some can only dream of possessing in their lifetime.

Scattered all over the world, we may feel lonely and misunderstood and useless, but if we remember that we are together in this, that there are other Dreamers out there who can understand us more deeply than any of our family and friends might be able to, we can use that to give us more strength. Strength to make the world a better place. To improve the lives of others. Kindness and big hearts are just as useless as cruelty and cold hearts if they are not mobilized and used as engines to power action. Do what you have to do. Create what you have to create. Be who you must be. Listen to your heart, the little compass-shiver deep in your chest that tells you when something is true and good.

It’s time.