My inner life is rich, full, nuanced, packed with thought and growth, finding the joy in exploration.
My outer life, though, is a total fucking shambles.
As a young child, my outer life was dominated by my Aspergers parents, my sweet and distant father, my upset and controlling mother.
I learned to read before I was three. I was reading Time magazine at age four. I completely stunned my kindergarten teacher by reading out the label on some paste she was trying to introduce to us.
Reading, you see, fed my inner life. Give me a book, preferably non-fiction, and there was a safe place for me to enter.
In my outer life the pain, frustration and self-pity of my mother were spewed everywhere. Very early I learned to protect myself, and, not so soon after, learned to protect my sister and my father.
In school, I was always out of synch with my peers. They played, were physical, had parents who nurtured their dreams, learned how to be part of a family, a group, a community.
I learned to have a rich and powerful inner life.
The opportunities for relationships with the kids around me went cold as we moved around the northeast. My father was brilliant, but his Aspergers meant he could never really master the rules and relationships of the workplace, so we moved on.
My mother was angry that I kept blowing my next chance in a new school, thinking that somehow, I should be someone other than the person she had raised this time. After all, my choices were about her, and my failures fed her own self-pity. It wasn’t easy.
How did I survive this stuff? Simple. I survived because I had a rich inner life that I could return to.
My outer life, though, has always been a mess. It’s not because I am bad or acting out; never did drugs and any criminality was very petty. It’s because I just had no idea how to be one of the group, how to trust the people around me, developing healthy, lasting and enduring relationships.
I lived within shell after shell, from my family to my intensity to my transgender heart. I was trained to think like an Aspie, learned to be an introvert. Every difference became a barrier between me and the norm, teaching me to keep what is inside inside, finding ways to explore and live with myself in a rich inner life.
Living inside, within the meta, it was easy for me to make quick maps of other people’s interiors. That was a skill I had to develop early, because if my parents weren’t going to understand and polish themselves, getting better, then I had to hold the guide to the pitfalls, have tools to predict what would cause which explosion.
Living inside, within the meta, it was hard for me to express myself in the world, to assert my ego and create external spaces which others found inviting. Coming together with people who don’t have the inner discipline and awareness I have is very difficult because I don’t have the skills and habits they expect for someone participating in “good” outside relationships.
It turns out that it is hard to build a strong outer life as you get older. Outer lives depend on bridges between people and as you mature, developing a richer inner life, the separation between you and those who are focused on outer lives becomes greater, not less. The gap becomes harder to cross when you are more aware of the patterns and when outer people have turned their beliefs and practices into habits which serve them.
People who have focused on their outer life often can’t understand that anyone could lack the skills and habits that they have developed. They see failure and damage in those who don’t know how to fit in, how to be successful as outgoing “normal” humans. They don’t cherish links to their own inner lives, often finding the inner dark, scary, difficult and impeding on their outer lives, so they find it hard to value your mastery of the inner.
They find my stunted, service-driven outer life incomprehensible in their understanding, find the messages from deep within as just so much blah-blah, noise keeping me away from the fun of rubbing up against other people.
The inner material I handle so easily can trigger their own inner feelings. It’s easy to believe that I somehow caused those feelings and therefore I am responsible for their feelings. I know that others own their own feelings, that they heal only in their own time and own way, but that doesn’t stop them acting out against stimuli which bring up their fears and prejudices, doesn’t stop them acting out against me.
My inner life, lost and lonely, is getting very threadbare nowadays. I feel the need for more outer connections, more people to share with, more give and take, more rewards and challenges.
That doesn’t mean, though, that I want to give up my hard-won and rich inner life, doesn’t mean that I want to have to freeze it out to play someone’s elses game, to enter a more shallow worldview. I own my depth and intensity and I paid dearly for that wisdom.
My own performance, much like the immersion in television that shaped my inner life as a youth and lead me to do a half-hour daily talk show for a year and a half, is very managed. I know how to take the stage when that red tally light comes on, focusing my energy. For me, these essays are also very TV style, fast, fresh and improvisational, like host-chat jazz, but not a routine to be pulled out at any time.
I am not the only broadcaster type with a deep inner life and a considered performance, though my show and audience are much, much, much smaller.
My rich, full inner life has saved me time after time, even though I had to develop it first, while the kids around me were exploring, learning and delighting in the bigger, outer, shared world.
Right now, though, I need more connections to an outer world. That seems simple enough until I demand that outer world reflect and support my inner world rather than forcing me to seal my rich inner life away in order to not scare the bears.
My lifemyth is clear: people just don’t get the joke. Is that because it is too much of an inside joke? Probably. How can I be in relationships that develop insiders and connections rather than just push them away? Where are the venues in which that tally light goes on and my performance can be met with affirmation and value?
I love my inner life. I just wish that my outer life wasn’t as difficult and limited.