I have always been strange. I have always been on the outside.
No worries. This isn’t about to be a post about how the band Staind changed my life or anything. The only way Staind changed my life was by making me more aware of the popularity of whiny crap on the radio. Then a Nickelback song came on saying, “I like your pants around your feet” or something and I thought, sarcastically, “Awesome.”
I’m simply pointing out that I have been askew. Those of you who have been reading for a while know why this is. It was, of course, both nature and nurture. This bag of chemicals was destined for oddness and oddness was certainly nurtured in my household growing up.
But my oddness was inoffensive back then. It was the kind of oddness that led people to label me as “so unique” and when people saw me wearing a ring with a big eyeball in it or something they would say, “oh, that’s so you” and it was up to me to decide whether or not that was a compliment. I had friends who ultimately seemed to like me because they were relatively straight laced and they could show me off to their straight laced friends. I was a sign of progress for them. “See? I have an interesting weird friend from the big city!” I was a novelty.
As such, I have felt lonely a lot in my life. I have always had friends, but I didn’t really connect with many people. There is a difference between someone simply understanding you with little self-explanation and having someone look at you as a part of some sort of anthropological study as you explain yourself. I never really felt a sense of community anywhere. This has been a general theme in my life. Often, I find myself thinking I might have found a place for me amongst people I hope are kindreds, only to find that we really are not. I am, apparently, just too strange. I can fit in anywhere with a little effort, but I don’t easily fit in everywhere. This allows me to be successful in ways that people generally respect as successful, but it has meant that deep down I haven’t been happy a lot.
I have mentioned this before, I think, but I always loved the concepts put across in Kurt Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle”. Other than being a book about the end of the world due to an impressive world-wide chemical reaction, he invents a new religion, Bokononism. A lot of its major tenets have to do with people’s group identities. A granfaloon is a connection based on nothing of great consequence (we all like the same sports team or we all went to the same university) and a karass is a connection based on the matching of souls…fate, if you will.
Of course, I don’t believe in souls or fate or any of that, but I do believe that some people simply understand each other and if you are lucky enough to find even one person like that in your life, I feel like you have really managed something. I feel like this accomplishment, this lucky thing, is something to be appreciated and cherished because very little else matters ultimately. What good is success of other kinds if you have no one to share it with and no one to understand why a particular success is so exciting or why a particular failure is so devastating?
I have been very lucky in my life when it comes to people. This is a fact I have only really become aware of recently, as I have also been pretty unlucky when it comes to people. For every one person I have met who has brought me great amounts of joy there are ten people who have done quite the opposite. This isn’t unique to me. I would venture to guess that this is the experience of most. In highschool I had the great fortune of meeting Peter and now 18 years later I am astounded that I didn’t truly realize how important the day we met was. If I were to describe being in a karass with anyone, Peter would certainly be a member. Our lives have been so intertwined without a lot of effort that it is clear that our paths are inseparable. There have been long gaps during which we didn’t particularly see each other, but we would always come back together as though no time had passed. I didn’t realize until recently how very unique this is and how important it is.
Similarly, when I met Kelly at my second internship, I thought little of it, but ultimately I stumbled into finding another person to understand and be understood by. I never felt like I had to explain myself and yet she knew me. We engaged in all kinds of silliness together (which we would still do if she were remotely close by…stupid Atlantic Ocean) and we never felt it necessary to explain why whatever we were doing was awesome. We just knew that it was.
When I got together with Wes I knew that I had found another person who intrinsically understood me. I was an emotional wreck back then, but he saw through it to the person I was underneath all of that. He understood why I felt the way I did and helped me to get out of it. When I would explain myself, I knew that I was explaining it to articulate it to myself. He already got it and was waiting for me to catch up. I had never been so loved and so supported. His blunt honesty, his insistence that we articulate issues (and that the conversation isn’t over until we have really done so), the way he never walks away are things that make a lot of people uncomfortable, but they were life saving for me.
I thought that I got so lucky with Wes that it was a ridiculous notion to think that there were more people to find who could make me feel so happy and well. When we decided to open our relationship up after a philosophical discussion about the subject, I assumed that I would likely not date anyone seriously because I just didn’t have a lot of faith in people. I still don’t and for pretty good reason. Wes lucked out and met Jessie, a woman who, much to my surprise, was yet another person who seems to understand me very easily. We were fast friends and I figured that I could only have so much luck in life. I thought I might find someone entertaining here and there. I did not think that I would fall in love.
And then I met Shaun. We didn’t really talk the first few times we were in each other’s presence but when we finally got a chance to really have a conversation, the connection was pretty immediate. When we started dating, I was head over heels for him in less than a month. I felt ridiculous. We both felt ridiculous. There we were barely a few weeks into dating and we were wanting to say “I love you” but we felt like that was too fast. We felt like teenagers or something and I was uneasy about it. “I’m being foolish, right?” I would ask myself. But ultimately I had to accept that it was so because it was simply so easy. When I am in Shaun’s presence, just as when I am in Wes’ presence, I am me completely. And neither wishes it to be any other way.
Today is Shaun and my one year anniversary. For those of you keeping track, yes, I started dating Shaun a few weeks after Wes and I got married. Polyamory is neat-o and that just makes July a month for wonderful celebration! I am caught between two feelings. On one hand I barely believe that it has been a year already, as I still feel great anticipation when I’m going to get to see him on any given day (of course, I still feel like that about Wes and it’s been 9 years, so I guess I just kinda, you know, like them and stuff). On the other hand I think, “Has it only been a year?” and while we joke that this is because we’re sick of each other, it’s simply because it does feel like we have been together for a long time with the level of comfort between us and that when we explain ourselves to each other it feels like we are just confirming what we already know about each other.
I have been made aware very recently that I am, most certainly, an “Other”, but in a more seemingly offensive way than it used to be. Even amongst “others”, I am a different “other”. The way Wes, Jessie, Shaun, Ginny and I think about polyamory and practice it, our commitment to honesty, direct communication, and learning to navigate through other things that are difficult seemingly alienate us from communities. In a recent discussion Wes, Shaun, and I were spoken about as though we were some strange culture in a remote jungle and I wanted to try an deny that we are so bizarre, that I have never felt so “otherly” in all my life. Wes and Shaun both assured me that, “We are the others, Gina” and I realize that I have to accept this, but I am not alone. Far from it. And so, I have never felt more grateful for my strange little family than I do right now. Sure, we are few, but what we lack in numbers we make up for in passion, love, and general awesomeness.
Happy anniversary, Shaun. I hope for many more. I thank you for a year filled with hilarity and adoration. I thank you for your patience in explaining philosophical things to me when I have to admit that I haven’t read anything. I thank you for reading Nietzsche to me while I baked Ginny a birthday cake, if only for the absurdity of the scene. I thank you for the inspiration to be more domestic and attempt to not live in squalor (doing dishes sucks). I thank you for arguing with me about subatomic particles and then admitting you were wrong about hydrogen. I thank you for watching Zardoz with me and introducing me to “The Wall” and Upright Citizens Brigade and Archer. Thanks for letting write on this blog thing.
And may the things that make us so odd become more part of the norm in our lifetime. It’s a long shot, but a girl can dream, can’t she?