You guys know the drill- skip this post because ~long~, me practicing rewriting old stuff I've said before, yada yada.
Except me. I've never stopped role playing. I never got to be myself in the first place. I was different and punished or tortured and picked on continuously for it, so I developed a stoicism at such a young age that other adults weren't quite sure what to do with me. I wasn't quite sure what to do with them, either. "How are you?" (It's just a greeting, I know that now.) "Well, my life sucks and" "That's nice" moving on to the next person.
When you see a child at a birthday party sitting perfectly still and being either a perfect gentleman or a perfect little lady and not joining in the festivities or even talking to other children, what is your first thought? I asked my psychologist that the last time I saw him. Most adults walking by would say "My, what little angels you are" to me and my sister, also sitting perfectly still. Do you know how outrageously abnormal it is for young children to not act like young children? We performed.
It's like horses. People go awwww when a tiny child walks around the legs of a great big horse and the horse doesn't move. They think it's precious. Some of us know what goes into breaking a horse to not move even when it's being bitten by horseflies and teased by dogs and other people. They perform.
I share a story sometimes of other girls trying to get me to react, dumping their lunch trays on me and staining up my white blouse, then jerking me around until that blouse ripped, having to go to the office and ask for a needle and thread to repair the blouse before I went back to class because the rip showed my bra, and saying "No" when the shocked secretary asked if I needed anything else. Sitting quietly in the bathroom sewing my stained ripped up blouse as quickly as possible before the girls found me again. Sliding into my seat in the nick of time and pretending like nothing had happened.
What I don't share is that the reason I didn't react at all, the reason I stood so still and let them do it, the whole reason for the performance was because I knew how much trouble I would be in if I reacted and it got back to my mother. I knew exactly what I was capable of, and I knew exactly what my mom was capable of. I never broke anyone's nose, but growing up shoving and killing animals much heavier than my tiny little body, I'm sure I could have drawn some spectacular attention to myself, and that would have dominoed back out through the family in the form of my mom being a bad mom and my behavior was proof that she should never have married my dad and the only way for her to regain any control over the fear of condemnation would be to once again put me through a private hell of her anger ricoheting back through the severest corporal punishment she could hold out through herself, and I don't mean emotionally, I mean physically.
I'll pause a moment because that was a really long sentence.
It takes me a really long time to process my feelings about things because I've been trained all my life to shut down when anything happens. That was important because I was the sort of kid who attracted a lot of attention when I got upset. When I overload I become irrational and hysterical, even nowadays. No one knows what to do with me. (Thank goodness the big stuff is fairly rare.) It's up to me to control myself so I don't hurt other people during a meltdown. (I once broke out a door frame.) Sometimes I'm so busy controlling myself that I don't see what I'm missing all around me. Outside of meltdown I'm fine. Once meltdown hits, there's no logic in the world that can rescue me or save anyone else. So, I either just shut down and 'go away' emotionally and mostly no one notices, or I trigger into meltdown and everyone around me cringes and I have to figure out for myself why because it pisses me off when I see that happening.
A few years ago I had an opportunity to win a really big game. I didn't know I was set up to be one of the pieces, or that I was even on a board. Even though I was somewhat unaware of the layered undercurrents, I knew exactly what I was capable of, and I balked at the little flags waving that I couldn't figure out, and instead of simply asking questions like any socially normal person would do, I put the brakes on and went into control mode (like aspienado pre-damage control), and by doing so wound up controlling the entire outcome, and that turned out to be unfavorable, to put it simply.
I wasn't a winning piece. I'm not sure it would have mattered in the long run, because I still don't have enough information to assess that, but I know what I lost personally because of it. I also know it would have all gone very differently if I'd had a little more information or had known I could trust a team to help me handle a trigger. The big challenge that none of us saw coming was that I would be physically present for a real performance for this plan to roll out, after months of having only online contact. There was no practice, no heads up, no warning. I actually went into full aspie overload shutdown in the middle of a very public venue with all eyes literally on me. I didn't follow through because I saw in a flash what the layers really were in the moments as this happened, and deviated immediately into my own fail-safe reaction and did what I'd been trained to do from very young childhood- don't spotlight myself, don't respond negatively, don't show off, don't cause trouble, don't point and blame, don't whine, don't be a baby, don't create conflict, and I could go on for miles. An opportunity was lost for my team because there was no preplanning or contingency for me having a meltdown or a shutdown, and how could they if I never talked about anything? I wasn't even diagnosed yet, although we suspected Aspergers was my thing.
Sometimes a horse is standing still because it doesn't want to be treated badly for acting like a normal horse, but sometimes a horse really is a nice horse and doesn't want to hurt anyone. It's so hard to tell, even for the horse.
My dad rarely gave me anything. He wasn't the sort of guy who believed in birthday and Christmas presents or splurging on a soda pop after a long and thirsty hike. He rarely interacted with me at all except when we were doing chores or to play chess and teach me debate tactics, but he did give me a book called Smoky the Cow Horse. I think I remember Mom telling me he picked it out himself. She built on that by adding Walter Farley and Breyer to my growing interest, and my best friend in the fifth grade showed me how to draw horses.
I get horses. I grew up extremely ticked off that I wasn't born a horse or a dog, and took it very personally as an affront from God himself that I was born a human. I figured out at a very young age that I need a handler. I'm the sort of person that needs to be part of a team. Unfortunately, I didn't grow up around anyone else that understood that, and no matter how well Will James could write and how much my dad loved his books, it didn't seem to sink into an application format in real life. I wasn't handled so much as simply broken, and not to pick on him because it seemed all the adults around me agreed on child rearing methodology. I grew up not trusting anyone. You know why a horse whisperer is a big deal? Because a horse trusts that person so much it will do anything that person asks without so much as a quiver of hesitation. But if you can get the same results with negative training, why worry about it?
Several years ago I wrote of horses and ACT scores. I was still just finding my feet as a writer-blogger. People make a big deal about people like me on TV nowadays. I'm sure there are lots more like me that fell through all the cracks. You guys are surrounded by us, and you have no clue. We've all been broken to hold still, except those of us that bolted and either holed up or wound up in jail.
If I could go back in time, I would go back to that day and change the way I handled everything blowing up. (Full confession here.) I would go ahead and allow myself to react normally like a real person and let everything fall into place the way it should have. Who knows, I might have remained a useful person in a team, and I might have kept the best friend I had. Even though I still disagree with the motivation and the method, I'd have cooperated.
I'm still playing. I never stopped the RPG. I know they didn't understand back then that's what I was doing to survive, but maybe now it makes sense. I sucked at pretend RPG back then, clearly, but the fallout from that confusion isn't lost on me at all.