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[personal profile] jay


Going back 30 years... when I was a smart, geeky kid in 1970s semi-rural Georgia... life was tough, from second grade onwards for the next eight or nine years. I was Other... called queer, fag, nerd, pansy, and whatever obscenities that 10-year-olds could manage. Driven away, forced over by the chain link fence, alone at the edge of the school grounds. I'd try to leave the fence and come over to groups of other kids at times... sometimes I could stay briefly, until one of the local bullies or popular gatekeepers noticed. Then there would be another hail of threats, verbal abuse, and often violence. I was chased away with thrown rocks, back to my-place on the edges. I can remember feeling desolate and completely alone and believing that I must be a bad person, that it was hopeless and I must deserve the abuse, somehow.

Even harder was sometimes when a (typically new at my school) kid came up to me and started playing or hanging out, starting to be friends, because then peer pressure would take hold, they'd be warned, and my friend would suddenly disappear and reappear in the rock-throwing groups. And would participate there... sometimes they'd surreptitiously slip me a note later that would tell me it wasn't personal, they really didn't think I was all those bad things, but they were warned that they would have no friends themselves or would be targeted as I was, unless they did as the others did. Then... that was harder, because a tiny flicker of hope, to have a friend and to feel like I maybe wasn't so awful, after all -- was extinguished. I learned that my friends would always betray me, when they needed to do so to protect themselves. I couldn't even really blame them, then, because why would they want what I had? 10-year-old Jay grew up with lots of coping strategies, and then started going by his first name (Brian) as an adult.


Fast forward a few decades. Like most other childhood trauma survivors, safety was a driving need for me. I'd put up barriers, make it hard for other people to get to know me, as a filter in the hope that anyone who was willing to wade through all that, was then unlikely to then turn on me and go join a group-with-rocks. It tended to select for few, but really close, friendships and relationships. But it kept many other people mystified, or at a distance. And my safety-first social interactions tended to project an uptight or fear-reactive image or energy... always half-looking for the bullies to arrive and the sticks to come out, even in a group of laid-back middle-aged poly pansexual people at a backyard barbecue, say. And as I discussed in a post last week, inclusion, or "making room" has been the strongest positive *and* negative love-language for me. If I'm included, I'm safe, no rocks are being planned.

This used to be a rational response long ago, but mid-20s Brian's fear and wariness and awkwardness did not now serve the needs of the mid-40s Jay. So a few years ago I began slowly stripping out old reactions that were impinging on my interactions with others, and leaving both my friends and me unhappy. Started intensive individual therapy, in addition to couples, in order to facilitate that and get some of the tools I needed. And went back to using Jay, although I'd never completely stopped using it at home. After several years, and despite tumult and stress in my close-in relationships, I started being able to stay more grounded, and trust more, and share my feelings in ways that could build more mutual understanding rather than online flamewars. Worked on having more faith in my own intrinsic value, and therefore it was OK to have boundaries, and therefore it was easier to negotiate others' boundaries. Began letting go of old grudges and faded quarrels. And one of the first to notice the positive changes was [personal profile] dawnd, with whom I'd been close for years, but I'd always been too high-maintenance or risky for her to date. Until four-feet, late last August. :)



One of the casualties of my older, awkward behaviors and filters was being taken off of the invitation list of a periodic social event, last year. Given the way it was handled, I felt publicly shamed and embarrassed, and even though most of my friends there really didn't notice (well, until I later made a fuss...) I felt like I'd been made Other again, and *that my friends there saw me as Other* as well. Self-worth and safety plummeted, to the point where simply the mention of the event's name could sent me back into being that 8-year-old again, out at the fence. Expecting his friends to turn on him again, and laugh and throw rocks, even if it was just for their own reasons, so he shut them out and preemptively asked them to leave him alone around the event, trying to salvage some feeling of control and safety.

But... there was no actual evidence of any of that. Most people who participated in that event were unaware I'd been excluded, or presumably didn't care and were just there to have fun, and my friends there still liked me and probably wished that circumstances were different so I could join them in their fun. They weren't trying to endorse my exclusion by showing up, no rocks were being thrown, there was no Jay-snark-session or dartboard in the upstairs back bedroom. I was not Other, after all, even during said event. So pushing my friends away, to them, must have seemed strange and hurtful (sorry... blush).

After post-Arctic and mid-breakup stress left me completely failing at this in mid August last year, by last November I'd gotten to the point where I didn't need to put up walls or push people away. But over lunch with [profile] deedeebythebay yesterday, she commented that many people apparently still thought I needed them to leave me alone, this week and next, which is not so, and for anyone affected you are hereby encouraged to contact me all you like. :) Hence this post, actually, as I wasn't originally planning to write about these things, this week.

This time around, though, that event was going to be more challenging. In the past, my inclusion/exclusion triggers had been so strong around a *partner* joining in some event (that excluded me personally, not just because I was the wrong gender or age) that I'd come close to breakups twice, years ago. And at the next event, my partner [personal profile] dawnd was planning to attend (she is OK with the identification, btw). The inner eight year old Jay has been scared and lonely and convinced "it's happening again! I'm losing my friend to that group over there and I can't trust her now!" And "if she loved me, she would stand by me and not leave me all alone by the fence again!" My inner child-Jay needed love, safety and to not feel betrayed again, like all those times as a kid. There was going to be a blackout, if only so the adult Jay could buffer his partner from the lingering strong feelings I'm still having at times.

However... I'm choosing to not do that, even. The situation still scares me, but instead of living in my fears I'm going to have faith that my sweetie will still love me, even while she's there, and likewise wishes things were different and I could be there with her. And there won't be any rocks brought back to slip down the back of my shirt at close range. I can be happy that my partner will be getting the love and support she needs from her friends and community at what is, after all, also a difficult time for her. It is a way I can show her that I care about her, and her well-being.

And rather than mope or let myself feel lonely or excluded, I'm going to go out and put my caring and energy and organizing skills to use, taking a day-long HAI Assistant's Training class on the day of the other event, learning how better to give to others, while being welcomed in that place. Go me. :)
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