I heard you all the way from here

It’s 64 degrees outside today and, if you were here in my room, you’d think it was Mardi Gras. Regular people celebrate with noise. Being boisterous is valued amongst certain people. It is a valued quality for them.

For me, that kind of noise hurts. I know they are happy. I am happy for them. But the physical sounds pain me today. I’ve never been much for yelling. Meditation helps. So do sound cancelling headphones.

I’m in my room watching Contact. I would have loved to have known Carl Sagan. How hard is it to be an outsider, to be sensitive, to feel alien in some way, and still manage to escape unscathed and not bitter? To know that we are all made of stars?

I’m not just sensitive to noise. Imagine if you could tune into human emotion the way others tune into radio stations.

I feel everyone else’s feelings immensely. Not just friends but people down on the street below. I can hear a disembodied voice and entire lives flesh out in my head.

But even more so I can feel the things they don’t acknowledge themselves. When you’re sensitive to others’ pain, you pick up on the lies they tell themselves. It’s the worst kind of pain because they’re hurting themselves and there’s nothing you can do about it. You have to pretend to not know what you know. It’s intimate. It feels like eavesdropping or watching private moments through binoculars.

I’ve tried bringing these things up before. Telling people when I pick up on things can turn them defensive…people who claim they have done all the ego work. In fact, the ones who claimed they are the most self-aware usually are the most recalcitrant in acknowledging their pain. They’ll brag about acting out. They’ll get dark and lash out at the wrongs of others. They’ll suck you into their vortex if you let them.

I’m learning how to deal with those boundaries. Telling people when I don’t want to engage in their pain. I have to because it not only triggers whatever unresolved trauma I have, but it can become so overwhelming that I feel slimed by their negative ectoplasm.

Boundaries make you less popular. But they’ll save your life. I grew up in a home so toxic, in a town so toxic, in a culture so toxic. There were no boundaries. Boundaries were for the selfish and those with evil to hide.

So imagine a sensitive little girl feeling things everyone denied exist, having to cope with so many lies and dark truths, who had to pretend she didn’t feel anything? I grew bitter very young, rejecting before I could be rejected.

Lucky for me, it isn’t that way anymore. I have the wherewithal to see when someone, usually a friend, is projecting their insecurities onto whatever it is I’m saying or doing. I can see their moves on the board back to starting position and play out the game to disastrous ends. And then I get to say, “Stop. I’m not going there with you.”

My edges are porous. They will bind quickly with others’. It makes me charismatic and it allows them to think they can take liberties. They want to bask in the glow of my compassion and warmth. What they don’t know is how hard I have to fight for that glow to even exist. And how I will shut everything down to protect it.

You can lie to yourself. And you might be able to lie to me for a while. But eventually I’ll figure things out.

This woman contacted me because she considered herself a victim of a treacherous man. I’d met him on Tinder but never in person. Apparently he’s repeatedly lied to women, gaslit them, taken their money and broken their hearts.

She contacted me to “warn” me. She had legal documents and first hand accounts of his bad deeds and the women left damaged. But what I knew without her saying it was that she was looking for two things: 1. absolution in kindred; and 2. some semblance of hope.

The first part was really about creating trauma bonds with other victims to keep playing out the pain as an addiction. The second part was the holdout that maybe, just maybe, this man really did love her and there was a future for them.

I never met the guy but he raised so many red flags that I told him I never would meet him. He tried to break down defenses, make me feel special in a way that only he could see, tell me he needed me, act remorseful, and withdraw attention.

I can’t be manipulated that way anymore. I’m impervious to it. I saw him for what he was. But this woman, this victim, never saw that. She kept asking me questions, trying to see how I managed not to be taken in or snookered. Any time I questioned his looks or his potential sexual ability or his charm, she defended him. She needed him to be as good as she believed in order to paint herself as a victim. If he were just an over-the-hill, run-of-the-mill, narcissist alcoholic, that would mean that she herself had a role to play in her misery. But she wasn’t willing to accept that.

I knew all of this through text. I never met her. She just spilled her guts to me, a complete stranger, over social media. I could have been slimed. But instead, I thanked her for the warning and told her I wasn’t part of her catharsis.

I could give you three or four other examples this past month in which I’ve had to do this. Just shut shit down. I’m a little resentful that I even have to do it. But it doesn’t stop me from telling people what I won’t tolerate. Or refusing to engage in bitterness and rage. Or maintaining a breath’s distance from their pain.

How I got to this point requires more introspection than I have at my disposal today. Today I am hanging on by blocking everything out. Maybe I’ll talk more about that tomorrow.

For today, I’m just practicing self-defense. An angel told me back in 2019 that it would come in handy in this city. He was right.

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