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.
5 thoughts on “A Bifurcated Life”
Ah, Callie, how much I can relate!
Having a depth of feeling, of caring, of loving, on the inside that few others care to engage, or even know how to begin that process. So, I try to be agreeable on the outside to be accepted, to have friends, even if they do not give me all that I need.
But, still, there is that inner loneliness, that feeling that there is a part of me that is never shared with others and only rarely explored because it sometimes just feels too full, too powerful to encounter, without being overwhelmed, and just too painful to remind myself of when there is no one who understands and is willing to share the weight of all that lies within.
So, I leave it untouched except for rare occasions when it bubbles to the top on its own or I’m with my therapist or doing a workshop in a setting where I feel safe and that is designed to delve into those depths.
It hurts to keep that part of myself “shelved” except for rare occasions because it is in those depths that I found who I am — a loving woman with so much to give who wants to love and be loved deeply and without limit.
It’s hard to open myself up to the world, so that I can know that part of myself, without defenses. But that is the work I must do, because that is who I am and who I need to be.
Wow, that was so touching because I see how I feel the same way but put on a happy plastic face for others.
If only they knew.
I think the key difference between living a healthy bifurcated life and a not so healthy one is the amount of shame we carry about our inner life.
If we feel it is sick or shameful, then we hide it, and anything that grows in the dark becomes ill and twisted.
I often see “experts” talk about trans lives without working to understand what is part of the trans nature and what is part of growing up shamed and marginalized in this culture, forced to be without the exposure and feedback we need to grow.
And I have seen many transpeople who really believe that they can fool all the people all the time, wearing a “happy plastic face” and needing to believe that no one can see deeper.
In fact, it is these people I find the most dangerous. They want their own inner life hidden, and when they see someone who is out and truthful, they may want to silence them in any way possible, believing that silence will make their “happy plastic face” more credible.
It’s tough to be truthful, but the idea that our “happy plastic face” is working to keep our truth invisible is usually just a really messy self-deception that leads to bad things.
Thanks for your comment.
I did something similar. In retrospect, I began to use the metaphor of an invisible twin — he was the one they saw, but she was there with him, watching, listening, still thinking. A one-way person, never interacting with anybody. Invisible.