I slid into the guest chair in Janet’s office and said “Sometimes, I get confused.”
She had been reporting to me for over a year now. “You know, at first, I saw you as so sharp and fast that wouldn’t have believed that you ever got confused, but I every now and then, I have seen you get confused.
“I know that you get confused.”
It was comforting to be seen.
Most of the time people talk to me because they are a bit unclear, a bit fuzzy, a bit confused. They like how I can ask questions that help bring things into focus for them, listening with intent and offering new words and new ways to look at situations.
When I get confused, lost, vapour locked, though, where do I go to find caring and support?
I suspect that when other people see me as being confused they know that there is no simple answer. Answers are rarely simple for me, it is true. Those who just want to offer quick solutions resist because they have learned that I will have seen through them. Few are ready to offer solace and focusing questions.
I get confused. And, just like I had to do in a family where Aspergers was the common theme, I have to struggle to find my own answers, a desperate and herculean struggle indeed.
For me, the cost of not being allowed to be confused, to always have to be the one who understands and explicates is enormously high. This is the hard work that falls to the scapegoat, to the queer one, to the healer.
My brother rejected the work I was doing to make a good memorial service for my father, saying that “funerals are a time to let other people take care of you.” Of course, I was taking care of my mother at that point, but when she died a few weeks later, who was the one who could step up to take care of me? No one. Who cares for the caregivers?
My slow and halting progress in the world is very much the result of my own confusion and the hard work that I have to do to pick through that confusion and find a way forward. While I am available for others to call, they make it clear that they are not available for me due to limited time, energy or capacity. Sure, maybe if I made myself easier to take care of they could help, but isn’t that my problem?
“I have been learning to trust myself,” I told an old partner, “but I need to learn to trust other people.”
“Can’t you learn to do that by yourself?” she suggested, telling me clearly it wasn’t going to be her that helped.
I get confused. To have to be the one who breaks through the barrier and the one who has to worry about cleaning up the broken bits at the same time is to be put at odds with yourself, to be forced into internal turmoil and confusion.
So much of the pain and struggle I write about is just the outward manifestation of inner confusion. People have often sneered, putting it down to “analysis paralysis” but just diminishing it with a name doesn’t break the reality of it.
Warmth, kindness and healthy reflection from others can ease the moment, helping me feel safe, supported and cared for even when I get confused, tender and vulnerable. When I don’t feel that, I have the need to be invulnerable, defended, leaving me to pull back and pull inside my shell.
To put yourself out there and get back discomfort and bafflement, criticism for being too cerebral and complex, does not make you feel supported in basic humanity, Instead, it seems to ask you to think harder, be disciplined more, to clean up and simplify things for others, because their confusion makes your challenges about them and not about you.
This is one reason I loved meetings, because the give and take would help me work through my own confusion. Instead, I now write, knowing that while a few will get some insight out of my offerings, almost no one will mirror and contribute back.
I get confused. Sure, it is my own kind of confused, complicated and frustrating, but it is confused. It comes with lots of words, images and concepts, comes with sparks, resistance and pain, but it is confused. I am cerebral, emotional, confused, all at once.
Sometimes, like all other humans, I just really want to be confused, want to be able to let down my guard, have a few drinks, get loopy and non-cerebral, end up in a party, playful, abandoned way.
Safe space for my confusion, though, escapes me. Who else can show up, be there, give me some soup and do the driving for a while? How can I trust that my confusion will be handled with grace and tenderness, not attacks and demands that I be the smart one who modulates themselves for the comfort of others?
I know what living with confusion is, inward confusion that others find baffling and even scary. I know what it is to reach out and get answers rather than questions, expectations rather than compassionate engagement.
I get confused. And as long as my confusion is a solitary challenge, there will always be more confusion and less safety.