Where They Are

I took a speed reading class in my senior year of high school.

The assessments were done using a mechanized filmstrip style projector that pulled one line of text down for projection at an adjustable rate.   The teacher set the speed on the tachistoscope, you watched it on the screen, and then you took a comprehension test.

To demonstrate the system for the first time, she set the machine on the highest speed 800 words per minute.   After that, she would show the same text at 100 WPM and the test would come.

After the first showing, though, I raised my hand.  I felt confident enough to take the test right then.   The teacher looked skeptical, but allowed me to take the evaluation.

I got eight out of ten questions correct, for an 80% comprehension score at 800 WPM.  My effective score was 640 WPM.

Charting my progress in that class showed that the next week my effective speed dropped 85%. down from 640 WPM to 100 WPM and then slowly climbed from there.   She never ran the film at 800 speed again, and I always got 10 out of 10 answers right at what I considered very low speeds.

It turned out that much of what she wanted to teach was critical reading skills for comprehension and not real, Evelyn Wood style speed reading, which was what I had signed up for.

I eventually stopped going to the class, instead student teaching in a second grade classroom where the teacher even called me early one morning, told me she wasn’t going to be in, and wanted me to take the class, though I would have to have a licensed substitute with me.

I still got a “Pass” for Speed Reading.

The advice people want to give me is simple: you have to meet other people where they are.   You can’t expect them to meet you.

If everyone else is running at 100 WPM, well, that’s where you have to be, even though your experience shows you that you have mastered that skill and should be working somewhere else.

I know how to meet people where they are.   I know how to modulate and attenuate and dial it back, how to enter their world.   I know.  I have proven those skills time and time and time again in my life, down to taking care of my sister last week when she was fried and needed someone there.

I was pleased to be able to play my part in the conversations of the world.   I understood my role, to be the point person, shattering the assumptions and offering a very different viewpoint.

I was supposed to love on the bleeding edge, be the shock trooper, taking the pounding and translating it back into something that eventually might be digested by the world.   My father was a crackpot engineer, my mother a curious woman who never understood her own feelings, and I was the one who got the crashing lessons from them.

The last time I told the speed reading story, in 2006, it was on the topic of how I crafted my own text so that other people could access it more easily without losing meaning.   This time it is on the topic of how my own possibilities were stunted by the world I lived in, one where who I was had to fit into the expectations and assumptions of others.

Moving from how I tell my story more effectively to the costs of not being able to be effectively and accurately mirrored is my shift.  I am smart enough to meet others where they are, but the cumulative cost of that process has been deadly.   The more I moved into myself and away from servicing others, the more the cost of that lifetime has been made clear to me.

Being there for other people has always had to mean not being there for myself.  I knew that was the way it had to be because I learned early that no one else was going to be there for me either.    Who I was inside had to be sealed up and controlled, because it was just too much for the world, too smart, too intense and too queer for people ever to be able to meet me where I am.

Talking to myself has been an invaluable tool in coming to understanding, but having to be one’s own mirror has serious limits and flaws.   The fun house twists of other people’s self-centred mirroring, even with my learning to quickly determine biases and fears of observers so that I can work apply correction for their limits, were always so much work to interpret.

Women love having partners for many reasons, but one of the most important is as a well understood reference point, a mirror, someone to help them recenter and polish their choices in the world.   That is something, though, I have never found.

So I end up whinging to myself, going deep and not getting any air.  That’s my experience of being between worlds.

Where they are is a place where I am not, and where I am is a place where they are not.

Capish?    It’s Okay.  I know you don’t.   Heck, you aren’t even reading this.