A Bifurcated Life

I can’t ever remember a time when my inner life and my outer life were in sync.

“Did you used to play alone a lot as a chld?”  Colleen asked me in my freshman year in college.

Well, yeah, I did.

I heard a story on the local public radio station reporting a study showing girls success in math is affected by their peer group.  If their friends think math is cool, they do much better in math, which the authors see as an argument for all-girls middle schools.

As I listened to the authors recount their remembrances of girlhood, I realized something clear: In school, I had no peer group.

My outer life wasn’t ever my life.  Never having trusted my parents, feeling the need to take care of them, I learned from an early age to separate into observer and participant.

This was always baffling to people who looked for external validation and affirmation.  My teachers couldn’t figure out how to motivate me; when I went home, I went inside.  For years I would go to sleep when I got home from school, be bashed in an attempt to wake me up for dinner, and then stay up all night listening to talk radio.

And so I try to think of when I had a peer group that I trusted enough for assimilation, when I had a partner who needed to know my deep inner life, and well, that list comes up short.  Very short.

There was no connection between home and anything else.  That’s why homework seemed so far from me; nobody at home really was invested in my success.  I was written off as stupid and scary, so I lived alone no matter how many people were around.

My life is a bifurcated life, where my inner life and my outer life just aren’t in sync.  A few weeks ago, my inner life bubbled to the top, and I tried to explain to my sister why I had to stop, but she just went with my parents on this: they don’t like to see me suffer.  They don’t mind if I do suffer, as long as they don’t see it.

This doesn’t mean that I didn’t connect my own life, or that I don’t make those connections clear.  As any reader of this blog knows, I expose my inner life here all the time, and this is accessible to my family if they ever chose.  I often offer comments and insights from my inner life in my outer life.

No, my inner life isn’t solitary because I have huge walls.  My inner life is solitary because people choose not to enter it, choose not to engage it, choose not to see through my eyes.  I am just too much information for them, too intense, too intellectual, well, just a “too person.”

Having a history from my youngest days of living a bifurcated life, with an inner and outer life divided by the capacity of humans to enter my world, well, it has created habits and defenses that can often be crippling.

I still play alone a lot, because if I need to play my own games, well, I haven’t found anyone who is willing to join in.

And that means I am very, very, very good at being lonely.