“Home, where my thought’s escapin’
Home, where my music’s playin’
Home, where my love lies waitin’
Silently for me…”
~Simon and Garfunkle
Home is where you belong. I read that somewhere, or heard it in a movie, or someone said it to me once upon a time, and it got stuck in my subconscious. I don’t know where it came from, but I’m going to steal it and use it here. Home is where you belong. I like it. It’s as good a definition for “home” as you’re likely to find.
I’ve never really belonged anywhere. I’ve never fit in anywhere. Not with my family, not with any of my friends, and not anywhere I’ve ever lived. No matter where I was, or who I was with, I’ve always felt like I was on the outside of humanity, looking in. I have always been an observer in life. Never a participant. Well, that’s not exactly true. I have participated in some things, with some people, but I always felt like an imposter. I have always felt like if they knew who I really was, they’d kick me out. Imposter syndrome, I think it’s called. Or maybe that’s just specifically for professional and educational achievements.
For a while, I thought home could be found in another person. First with my marriage, and then by becoming a parent, and through several failed relationships after that. Even with friendships, I thought that if I could just find a sister or a brother or two, that their home would somehow include me, too. I’ve finally learned that it doesn’t work that way. You can’t just insert yourself into someone else’s home…no matter how much they love you or how much you love them. Home is something you have to build for yourself.
Recently, someone pointed out to me that I am a manipulative person. At first, it really triggered me. I don’t want to be a manipulative person. But then, I realized that they were right. I am manipulative. In fact, I’m probably a master manipulator. What I mean is, I’m really good at it. I never really realized it before, because I’ve been doing it my whole life, and it’s unconscious behavior. It’s how I learned to survive.
You see, when you don’t fit in, you have to learn how to blend in. Camouflage. You hide the parts of yourself that don’t fit in, and you emphasize the parts that do. Over time, you become plastic. Malleable. Silly putty that everyone arounds you molds into a shape they find desirable or acceptable. You don’t mind, because humans are social creatures, and if this is what is necessary for your survival, then you’ll do it. Sometimes, you even like the shape they put you in. I certainly did. People molded me into this kind, compassionate, ready to help the world and ready to help everyone else kind of guy, and I loved it. I ate that shit up. I convinced myself that’s who I really was, because that’s who I so desperately wanted to be.
During all that time on the outside, I became an observer of human behavior. I got good at it, too. I know what most people are going to do long before they know it. I’m almost never surprised by anything that people do, because I see it coming from miles away. If this sounds like I’m bragging, I’m not. It’s not something I’m particularly proud of (although I certainly used to be). It would be far better, and much more useful, if I could view my own life the way I view others’ lives. If I could see my own blind spots and pitfalls as clearly as I see everyone else’s, I’d be…well, I don’t know what I’d be, but it would be nice. As it is, my clarity and insight is just another tool to manipulate people. I see where you are, and I know where you want to go, so I’ll help you get there. If I do that, then you’ll love me, right? Of course you will. That’s the contract we signed, right? What do you mean you never signed a contract?
I think, on some level, even my disability manifested as a tool for me to manipulate people. If I’m poor and crippled, then people have to love me and take care of me, right? Do nice things for me, because I can’t do them myself. Love me, dammit. When my parents got divorced, I remember thinking that if I was sick, they wouldn’t get divorced. If they had to take care of me, then they’d work through their shit and stay together. Less than a year later, I started having serious problems walking. I no longer believe in manifesting or magical thinking, but if I did, that would be the only proof I’d ever need. For the more scientifically minded, consider it a case of extreme placebo effect or something.
A few days ago, I got what can only be described as the worst haircut of my life. I accepted this haircut, even though it felt wrong and looked wrong, because I believed that the stylist was an expert, and that I was not. I listened to her, instead of listening to myself. And that’s when it clicked:
I’ve always accepted the truth about me from others. I’ve let people mold me and shape me. I’ve given away all my power to teachers, guides, lovers, and friends. Instead of listening to myself, and being myself, I became whoever people wanted me to be. It’s no wonder I’ve always felt lost, and never felt comfortable in any place that might have been home.
I went out searching for answers, even though I wasn’t aware of what I was doing. I came home looking for answers, even though I didn’t realize that’s what I was doing, either. The blessing of covid is that I have spent a lot of time in isolation, and in isolation, I have found some of the answers. More importantly, the forced introspection has helped me grow more than I’ve ever grown before. Now, I know what all the self-help gurus and spiritual teachings mean when they say things like, “the answers are all within you” or however they phrase it. I’ve got to learn to start being myself, listening to myself, and trusting myself. The time for people pleasing and putting myself second is over. The time to build a home for myself, within myself, has come.