Every once and a while I have a tendency to not “put my foot in my mouth” but rather to kick a hornets nest with full force. It’s something I’m still trying to get a handle on in my 30’s.
Just recently, earlier this year, I was in a conversation with an aunt and it happened. We were discussing the issues in the marriage of one of my cousins. His father is a professional counselor and has been for decades. My uncle even started his own counseling center many years ago and it’s still successful. My uncle is a perceptive man. And, I began to wonder aloud passionately (although not angrily according to my actual feelings at the time and my husband’s account of them) why my uncle hadn’t warned my cousin and his then fiancée against getting married if he saw any problems in the relationship… Well… That was apparently a deeply loaded question. My aunt demurred and said that she had become uncomfortable in the conversation. She claimed that she couldn’t divulge anything that private about that family and that she was even starting to feel personally attacked.
I was shocked and hurt and genuinely confused. Obviously, I had no intention to attack my aunt and I was unclear on how it even became an attack on her from her perspective. And, I was deeply embarrassed that it suddenly seemed like I was engaging in petty gossip. I had thought it was a more kind and high-minded discussion than that, but of course she didn’t see it that way anymore.
I still don’t know what entirely happened in that moment. My aunt felt I was completely guilty, and yet, in all honesty, I’m not sure what even was really going on. BUT I do know that I’ve been in that sort of situation a few times in my life and every time I’ve walked away puzzled, scared and aware that I need to be more aware somehow.
I don’t lack self-awareness (what that term means). I know myself very well. What I do sometimes struggle with is an awareness of how others are perceiving me. I don’t have any disabilities, disorders or mental illnesses thankfully (like autism) that contribute to it but I don’t always “get” what others are going to take from something I do or say at very weird moments. It’s not a lack of empathy either… I’m intuitive and I’ve been told my whole life I’m perceptive about other people’s feelings, place in the world, personality, motives, etc. It’s more that I just tend to not know how others will see me and I upset people unintentionally… At times, very rarely, I’ve used this ability to make a point as I’ve become keenly aware of my tendency over the years and I’ve tried to find a way to use it instead of always being hurt by it. But, every once and day I surprise myself by “doing it again”. Sometimes I’ve been called “selfish”. Other times “prissy”. Once “controlling”. …My aunt thought I was “too intense”. Admittedly, I can be prissy and intense (for better or worse) but the other labels don’t really suit me all that well.
I also tend to think this lack of awareness is tied to my lack of concern for social position (as compared to other people). I know this about myself well enough to some degree but…not well enough. Where my aunt may have been trying to protect herself and her nephew (my cousin) from what seemed to be an onslaught of judgment and criticism on my part (after analyzing it in hindsight) I was simply very bothered by what I saw as the illogical tragedy of the situation. It felt scary to me to think that a gifted counselor might not be able to prevent relationship woes in his own family. But, that’s very naive and I should have realized that the moment I felt a twinge of sadness in that direction…
I can also get lost in things that I feel deeply about. The time I was called selfish was by a professor who I was trying to have as an advisor for a private study about the history of Poland. He couldn’t believe I wanted to take his time away from things that he believed were “more important” and he likely thought I was doing the project for self-aggrandizing reasons. Truthfully, it was just that I had been to the local Polish Film Festival twice because I was friends with a woman from former communist Poland and had started to find the country extremely fascinating.
“Poland?” He asked incredulously. “Not France or Germany or Russia!?” He was very upset. “Nobody studies that country unless they’re at a major research university. And historians don’t study countries anymore. They study cultures. You said, you ‘know something about history’ but you clearly don’t based on what you’ve said.” I still beg to differ with him on that last point. BUT, regardless, I don’t think he realized many things about the situation in that conversation (another professor later told me that) and he had me cast as an entirely different person than I am.
I’m a bit…eccentric…at times? Unaware not of social conventions but more than somewhat unaware of the cares and concerns most people have about…what’s cool? What’s fashionable? What’s going to be perceived as wealthy or glamorous or desirable. Desirable in every meaning of that word (not just sexually). It’s not that dense. I do understand social cues about class in regard to other people, just not myself as much. And I just get lost… Lost in what one roommate said was, “my own little world”. I do live in reality though. Ha! I just…I was raised by very subversively counter-culture people, I’m different from almost everyone in my family, I experienced trauma at a young age, and I was never able to fit in with my peers growing up (for a host of complex reasons). Namely, we weren’t financially affluent in a very “bougie” neighborhood (although we were in other ways due to background and that further complicated things) and my peers looked down on me because of it, and my parents were strict about certain things for religious reasons. They weren’t fundamentalists but they were very much Evangelical Christians (not ignorantly so though) and I was an obedient child. And I was an only child. But, anyway, I was…isolated a bit. And while I developed a very rich and resilient inner-world, I never learned to care that much about certain “outside” things and in fact did the opposite. It goes so far that if reincarnation is true I likely moved far back into my inner being and in a way I’ve almost lived partly in my past life while being in this one. Ha! And maybe my views of everything as an adult are more based on that experience than this one at this point. Maybe those parents from a century past have informed me and shaped me still… *laughing* Who knows? Who knows how such things work really other than God. *smile* I hope that if reincarnation doesn’t exist that my Christian God (Who I worship) will understand my wondering…