The time to hesitate is through

I have to write this because it’s been plaguing me for some time now and I think I finally understand why.

I have very strong intuition. I can meet someone once and have a pretty good read on them. I’m not right 100% of the time, but it at least steers me away from people who would do me harm. What do spidey senses feel like? It’s hard to put into words, and words are my jam. But I guess it feels draining; the way kryptonite would feel to Spider-Man. My brain just says, “Nope, nope, nope, nope. Extricate yourself from this, quickly and smoothly. Danger, Will Robinson.”

I didn’t always have this inner voice. It took me until my late 30’s to hone. Prior to that I could get into all sorts of bad situations that required levels of extrication. I’d just sink into the bad and then the worse and then the worst. It wasn’t that I lacked intuition. It was that the people who were responsible for my welfare as a child constantly told me that I wasn’t feeling what I thought I was feeling, and even if I was feeling something, it was the wrong feeling.

When I was finally able to get really quiet with myself and start slowing down the reaction process, I could finally ask myself, what feels wrong? Usually, it presents in my body as a stomach ache. And the sense memory transports me to childhood on the way to swim lessons at the Bafferts. I don’t know what the initial bad situation was at two or three, but it stayed with me forever. “Ah, this feels like driving through Meadow Hills.” I know what it is now. It feels like abandonment and terror and a lack of safety. Having been bullied pretty savagely well into my 20’s, that sense memory came up all the time until I finally got rid of the bullies.

I can remember feeling this way on my trip to Princeton. Everything just felt wrong from way before I even flew out. It didn’t help that my mother had told me that someone would do harm to me and basically set the stage for bad things to happen and for me to conceal said bad things until they almost broke me. But, had I been more in tune, I might have sidestepped major events that made Princeton as bad as it became.

The practice of getting in touch with one’s intuition takes a lot of time. In the beginning, it is mindfulness, which in itself feels like an overwhelming feat to accomplish. Checking in with whatever bothers you, examining it, giving it room to be, and then watching it float out of your life. For someone who spent decades ignoring feelings, this part can be as intense as voluntarily sitting still as someone comes at them with a red hot poker. All I wanted to do was flee.

The only reason I stuck with it was because I knew I had to change or I would just circle the drain until I eventually gave up fighting altogether. It wouldn’t necessarily mean suicide, but it could mean eeking out a meager existence with my family. I could play that game out to its natural conclusion and there were no good outcomes. I was like the computer in War Games. Mutually assured destruction would end with no winners.

After becoming proficient with the mindfulness, I could slow down my reactions. I had time to think and feel before I responded. From the outside, no one would have guessed because there wasn’t a time lag. On the inside, though, I could figure out what my “natural” response was (i.e. ego) and what really would bring out the best outcome. Again, this wasn’t easy at all. I had to deny inclinations that had gotten me to where I was over the course of decades. These inclinations were built upon self-preservation, anger, jealousy but really, they were based on fear. Fear can be good. It will keep you awake and alive to survive in the wild. But the fear that we face in modern society does us more harm than anything. It taxes our brains and hormones, leaving traces of fear all over our bodies. It really is as FDR said: There is nothing to fear but fear itself.

Stripped of this primary motivation, I was able to make space in my chest. My lungs could expand. And my heart began to grow. The only thing I can equate it to are those videos of colorblind adults trying on glasses for the first time that allow them to see color. Grown men weeping.

It’s a lot of information to take in. It can be overwhelming to see the spectrum of human emotion for the first time as an adult. Coming to the realization that you’ve been missing out on that relevant information and making decisions based on what you believed the spectrum to be is unnerving, to say the least. There is a period of reckoning in which you come to terms with all the damage you’ve done and all the damage done to you and all the the regrettable things in general. It’s enough to kill a mere mortal. But if you can survive it, it does get better.

This is when I started to blossom. I had way more information to draw from now in living the human experience. With more time to respond, not react, and more time to understand my motivations and the motivations of others, I sort of grew confidence. At the time I had a human translator named Courtney. She was one of the great loves of my life. She was, in equal measures, cynical and gorgeous. But she took me in like a bird with a broken wing and nursed me back to health when no one else would.

I shocked Courtney time and time again. When she took me in, there wasn’t much potential there. She was worried about me dating for the first time in life. She was worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle being sexual around anyone. She tried preparing me for awkwardness and let downs based on my physicality but also on my general sad-sackiness. But I took to dating like a masochistic duck to water. In the beginning it was awful. It must have been awful for her to sherpa me through. But I learned fast. And I was ambitious.

By the time I was dating in NYC a year later, I’d eclipsed Courtney in some ways. I think, had I not, she could have gone on living a life that was built on lies and being in a relationship that was unfulfilling for eternity. But the things I experienced had led her to begin questioning her own life. I watched the disintegration unfold over the course of a year. She crumbled in a very self-aware way. I tried to be there, but she was an avalanche and gaining speed and she would have taken me down with her had I not gotten myself out of the way. When she started getting mean I knew I had to get out. I wasn’t going to be her punching bag to work out her frustrations on. It killed me to break up with her. But it had to be done. If not for that, I probably would have never moved to NYC in the first place.

So where I’m at now is so very different than who I was at 36. I don’t crave control as a means of dealing with a chaotic world. I don’t walk the streets in fear the someone is lurking in the shadows to hurt me. I still get overwhelmed by others’ emotions and motivations. But now I know that they are not my fault. I didn’t create these people and I didn’t do anything to hurt them such that I deserve their projections. I don’t have to convince anyone to like me. If I’m holding a friendship together with Scotch tape and twine, it’s probably best let go of anyway.

This brings me to my current dilemma. And that is to bounce on a newish friend. I’m grateful to this person for putting me in the path of good things. But my intuition doesn’t just say “Danger, Will Robinson,” it says, “GET THE FUCK OUTTA HERE!”

And I’ve been battling with this voice for a while now. I’ve been trying to give her the benefit of the doubt, give her a golf handicap because she’s probably autistic as well, and try and be compassionate and understanding when all I want to do is walk away from her. I’m conflicted. I want to transcend how uncomfortable she makes me feel to be around. I want to be the bigger person. But I know that’s my ego talking and not my intuition. My intuition tells me that she’s not ready for my kind of friendship. I hate saying this. Really, it’s been tearing me up inside for about a month now. But I don’t feel safe around her. Nicole finally put it into words last night. This woman would Single White Female me if she could. Steal my life for her own because what I have is something she covets for herself. And rather than do the work, she’d just as soon take what I have.

I’ve seen her get jealous and petty about my recent accomplishments. She can’t be happy for me without acknowledging that she is not happy with herself. I keep not wanting to acknowledge this feeling. I keep telling myself that I’m ridiculous. But I know I’m not wrong. There’s a reason she makes me feel awful. And I’ve been hinting at this awful on social media now to the point where it’s consuming my soul. In trying to push her away, I might end up pushing away others.

This is why I have a problem with fans. There’s something covetous about them. I want people to love me if they really love me. But I can’t deal with sycophants who would skin me and wear me like last year’s couture. It leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

I don’t know if I should be transcending all of this, or understanding it better to keep honing my intuition about who to let in and who to keep out. But in the meantime, everything inside me is telling me to ghost her. Because I’m pretty sure she’s working on something right now that would be more than riding on my coattails, it would be stealing whole cloth. And I normally don’t care about that sort of thing because my writing is so distinctly mine. It’s not about stealing things I’ve already done. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of creativity (knock on wood). It’s about someone who would come in the guise of a friend and try to hurt me because she herself isn’t aware of how avaricious and ego driven she still is.

All I know is that if I don’t get away from her, I’m going to become self-destructive. So for my own preservation, I’ve got to figure this out pronto.

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