First of all, let me introduce myself. I guess you could say I’m an introspective extrovert – not shy but definitely contemplative. Many years ago a friend observed, “You’re different. I mean, we’re all different, but most of us are different the same. You’re different different.”
I think she meant the remark as a compliment, and I have long delighted in such a distinction. Well, maybe not delighted, for sometimes being different means you’ll be on the outside looking in, and that can be depressing. Come to think of it, I’ve been in that situation my whole life. Maybe being different isn’t so great after all.
I suppose the obvious question is, “If you’re so different, how did you get that way?” Let me assure you, unraveling that mystery has not been easy.
Thinking insight could be gained by knowing more about my deceased father’s background, I called my earthy uncle (known affectionately in the family as the last of the Bohemians) to determine if he could shed any light. Paul answered a few questions about their parents, grasped the psychological intent of my inquiry, and responded (with disdain dripping), “Are you trying to figure out what the hell’s wrong with you?”
“Something like that,” I acknowledged.
Our conversation didn’t continue much longer, and I didn’t obtain answers for that which I was searching. But, by sharing the pain of his parents’ divorce, he did try to help, and that’s as much as I should have expected from someone with so little use for emotional considerations. As my friend Steve Brown has observed, when you get any help at all from an unlikely source, the principle is that if your dog can play checkers with you, don’t criticize his game.
Returning to the difficulty of being different, now that I think about it, coping has been more of a problem than I first imagined. I eventually came to realize that a major portion of what I thought was genuine personal tranquility was actually peace by pretending – that is, manufactured from within to compensate for a profound sense of unworthiness. The situation was so discouraging, I wondered if my psychological plight would be one of eternal insecurity.