Thursday, May 1, 2014

People, Fate, and What You Do About It- Imagine Dragons, "Demons"

This song; this song. Every time it's on the radio while I'm driving, I belt it so loud my head and/or throat starts hurting when I'm done. And I cry more often than I don't. I was with some friends when I saw these guys live, and it was all I could do not to start weeping in the bleachers in Indy. I went out for karaoke with some friends for my birthday (it was kinda crappy), and we left before I got to sing this song, which is prolly just as well- I likely would have made a fool of myself, crying in front of a bunch of drunk assholes (not my friends, the other patrons that night, and the douchebag DJ). 

So what is this song about? I think it's about a person with a lot of shit in their past that's trying to be there for someone, knows they're capable of it, but is afraid of what will happen if things continue, and doesn't really want the relationship to be entirely reciprocal because they're afraid that opening up will scare the other person.

The lyrical structure is important: The verses are the singer telling the person they're singing to that they're loyal and wouldn't abandon them; that there isn't anything the person the song is directed at could do that would freak the singer out, and that, if anything, the singer can relate to the target of the song's own demons and struggles because they've been there before. The first part of the pre-chorus either time is about the conflicting desires to open up versus "hide the truth" from the object (the singer's internal struggle is demonstrated pretty clearly in how the first time they say they do want to "hide the truth," while the second time, they say they don't), while the second part is about people in general and how we're all messed  up,  no matter what we try to do. This leads into the chorus, which is the singer expressing their fear that they'll hurt the person to which they're singing because of their baggage and what that baggage has done to them. The bridge is the singer pointing out how they've had very little control over their life and what they've been through has made them the person they are, and an admission that they treasure the person to whom they're singing and need that person in order to feel whole or find that spark they're missing. 

Kids, that's me in a nutshell. With my friends, with my family, and how I would be if I had any sort of serious and meaningful romantic attachment. Hell, even a light, non-serious one.

See, like I've said before, all of the messed up stuff I've been through in my life, very little of it has been the result of something I did, like a mistake I made (I think maybe coming here for grad school was a mistake, but meh). The vast majority  has been things outside my control, things I didn't remotely ask for at all. And it's heavy stuff. It could scare people  away- and, in all honesty, it has. I had a few people I could say I loved decide to push me away because it's "intimidating" to be around me... because I "have so much going on, they don't want to get in the way."

Note these people, they had insisted on me opening up to them, pushed and poked and prodded, and then? When they got what they demanded, they didn't like it. And they pushed me out.* And I never asked them to fix things or actually help me- at most, all I expected was they'd listen, maybe stroke my hair for a while, and then we'd go play more video games. But no.

And so I've learned a lot of negative behaviors over time. I'm honest, sure, but I keep the stuff that's boiling within me inside, tucked away. So I guess you could say I'm lying through omission. Because I'm afraid if people know my truths, that I've been through this and that, that they'll assume I expect them to fix it, or that I'll be this huge-ass emotional burden on them. That I'd I don't know... suffocate them and do nothing but complain about my problems all the time. Of course that's never my intention- I try so hard to be anything BUT a burden or inconvenience. But I think too many people assume confiding in someone carries with it a veiled request for assistance. I know I'm un-help-able in most of the things I struggle with (nobody can fix my Daddy issues, nobody can un-rape me), I just don't know if anyone will be able to discern that I understand this and wouldn't ask them to fix me. I'm too used to being treated like crap.

Because I'm a doormat. I keep getting sucked in and stepped on.  I get abandoned in big and small ways all the time. People change plans without telling me, or send the text while I'm at work or something, then act all surprised when I'm finally able to answer. They tell the secrets I'm dumb enough to confide about to other people. They say on Wednesday we'll get together Friday, then Friday, I haven't heard what we're doing and they don't answer their phone. They spend more time making  fun of me than  being kind. They suck me dry. They never take initiative in any aspect of being a friend, then bitch about how we "never see each other" when we finally do get together (because I pestered and pushed and finally found a time that worked). 

And don't get me started on my sad excuse of a "love life." God, if I had a dollar for every guy that said he'd "get back to [me]" and disappeared, I'd be rich. For every guy that led me on until he got what he wanted (even forced it out of me violently), I'd also be doing pretty well. Combine the two, I'd just retire now at the ripe old age of twenty-eight. The "you're great, but..." speeches, I could start a trust fund for my future kids (assuming I meet someone not douchey someday).


And so... I'm not used to being treated well by people. Anyone close enough to me knows this- they've seen me or heard me break down over something as small as them giving me something unsolicited for my birthday. When it comes to friends,  I'm so used to doing all the work that when someone else actually puts forth some effort, I react like they've just offered me their kidney. And I often underestimate how good to me people will be. For example, someone I knew I should have been okay with telling that I'm leaving grad school, I waited until yesterday to tell her because I thought she'd be mean about it- but she was more supportive than someone else I thought I could trust more.

So yeah, part of the problem is I'm a terrible judge of character. I'm empathetic, but that's not the same thing. I can tell how someone is feeling inside, but I'm bad at discerning people's motivations and goals with respect to me. And I think know that's at the root of a lot of the times I've been hurt by people- I didn't see them for what they really were, but rather what I hoped they'd be. Because I'm optimistic to a fault and my de-facto assumption is that a person I meet is kind and has the best of intentions and desires. Which may sound contradictory to the above, but really, they go together. I guess the idea they're good is what happens at first, then when it's time to get serious, I panic?

This doesn't mean I can't have close, deep relationships. I have a good group of people I can genuinely say I love, that I've made into my own "family." Here in Indiana, I met my roommate, a couple whose wedding I was in (actually, two, but the second is in August), another I'm helping plan theirs, a friend from undergrad that also ended up out here, another friend I met my first year here and that I, hands down, consider my brother. And I have a whole set that's about the same size out in Washington. And when I thought I was in a mutual relationship in the past, I grew to trust those guys and love them "like that," too (which, ultimately, was what led to me being hurt so badly, but that's not the point).

I feel too much. I think that's my big "demon." When I feel, I feel intensely. If you're a friend and you breach a certain threshold, I'd literally do anything for  you. If it's romantic between us, once I feel you care enough, I'd become hopelessly devoted to you.** 

So this is going to sound weird, but I've thought of my heart as two things at once. First, it's on my sleeve. As I've said before, I don't get mad, I get hurt. I'm easily hurt.

But when it comes to, I guess, uh, giving my heart away (?), I keep it locked in a secure room in the middle of a huge, multi-layered medieval keep with walls upon walls and a moat with  some crocodiles and maybe a dragon or two... Like I'm at the top of one of those typical "tower heist" type games where you go from level-to-level and  finally reach the end and get the prize (usually a woman) (which hey, makes sense, since I'm indisputably 100% female). Except instead of killing monsters and slicing skeletons, you're more proving that you're worthy through some test of valor or worth.

Dude. It's totally the Holy Grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Like this:

And  this:

Okay, okay, so I know it's kind of awful to compare my complete trust with the friggin' Holy Grail. But what I mean is, it takes a lot for me to really trust someone.

And on top of that, there's the fact that I don't want to be a burden. I like to relieve other people's burdens and troubles, not cause more for them. So often, even with the people about which I care the most, I don't open up for sheer lack of wanting to trouble them. Which makes me a really easy friend to have, because I'll help you all the time and like hardly ever ask, let alone expect, you to do the same for me. 

So what about fate? Well, I see the way I get treated BY PEOPLE as things that have happened to me. Add to that all of the icky circumstances that have less to do with people directly and more with just life in general- circumstances entirely out of my control that caused me grief or anxiety, pain or suffering. As the song states, then, "I say it's up to fate/ It's woven in my soul."

It is. My past influences who I am now. I can't separate myself from it, just as I can't pull any aspects of my identity away at a given time. All of my experiences build on each other and some compound and make  things hurt more- like when you're having a day where just every single little thing seems to go wrong, and by the end of it, spilling your soda makes you want to cry, when normally you'd just laugh or roll your eyes.

But the choices I make, to be a good person, to be happy whenever I can, to make the most  of a bad situation. Those are qualities that make me worth it, for friends or potential...something elses... Those are what matter, and what should matter to someone that I care about and want to care about me. I don't want them to take care of me, I'd rather they recognize that despite all of the reasons I have to be an asshole, I'm the opposite. That I'm warm, giving, kind, open, honest, sincere. That if you're part of my inner circle, I'd give you my kidney if you needed it. 

That, um, #humblebrag, I'm strong as fuck, and will be strong for you if you need me. Because I've persevered through all that bullshit in my past. Even when it hurts, I'm still kicking ass and chewing bubble gum. Except I'm all out of bubble gum. And anyway, I don't even like bubble gum all that much. I'm a gorram Joan of Ark, bitchez, and in the end, I'll come out swinging.***

Bring it. Seriously.

So I guess the one difference I have with the singer is that he presents "fate" in contrast with "what you make." As if they're mutually exclusive. And I think they go together. It's what you make of the fate you're given. How you deal with what fate puts in your path. It should read more like the Terminator slogan, "No fate but what we make."

I'm not in control of what happens to me, not often, but I'm in control/responsible for how I deal with that. Some things, I deal better than others.

So when it comes to my interpersonal relationships, this really just ends up meaning I'll be one of the most earnest, caring friends you'll ever have, or I'd be a damn good S.O., if that was the nature of the relationship. The hangup is, of course, I have trouble letting people in and returning the favor. I want to get better at this, I do. And I've done  it, because I've somehow been able to meet the "right" people for it. So it's possible, absolutely. It just takes time and patience. 

And, ultimately, I do need people. I'm a people person. Or, more bluntly, a codependent person. So I do keep seeking new relationships, even though I keep getting hurt, because sometimes, I don't. And I'd rather take the risk in seeking happiness with people than not and be unhappy as a result. I'll keep building my "family," and maybe someday be able to make a family, too. 

*A related song and potential entry would be "Never is a Promise" by Fiona Apple- that describes perfectly how my best college friend broke  my heart by telling me he'd rather not be friends with me because it was too hard being around someone with such a hard life. Also,  because his new gf didn't like me... uuuugh...

**This is actually pretty accurate for the times I fell in love and realized that, despite any and all interaction pointing to the contrary, it wasn't reciprocated. If it was mutual, this wouldn't really apply. I just couldn't help myself, because music.

***And not burned at the stake, by the way, just feel like I need to clarify that, do-do-dooooooo...

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