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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Eric and The Social Anxiety (or Eric and his Damaged Brain Part II or I)

            You’re walking towards a door. You reach the door, extend your hand, grab the handle and open it.  You stop and look around to see if anyone else is coming.  You see someone walking in your direction.  It’s time for that split second calculation to determine whether or not they are close enough for you to have to hold open the door or if it would be socially acceptable for you to walk in and forget about it.  You decide they’re too close and hold the door for them.  They’re still coming, this is taking forever, and maybe you’ve miscalculated their distance, now you look like an idiot holding the door for someone who was probably a block away.  They reach you and walk right passed.  They weren’t even going in, now you feel completely retarded.  You look around again, “did anyone else see that?”  “Shake it off” you tell yourself, “just walk in and forget that ever happened, nobody cares but you”, but you never believe yourself.  If this has never happened to you and you can’t relate in any way then go back and replace all the “you” and “you’ve”s with “I” and “I’ve”s.  This is just an example from the craziness in my brain that happens more often than I care to admit.  I’ve got thousands more.
            I’ve touched on my social anxiety before but I figure it’s time to dive right into that scary place and maybe try to figure out what the hell is wrong with me or at least explain the weird hell that is my life.  I will often find myself standing and watching as other people are working.  “I should help these people, why am I just standing here being worthless?” I ask myself.  I’ll try to determine the best way to help and I’ll grab something or try to move out of the way, but it’s usually the wrong thing to grab or the wrong way to move.  These are basic things that most men are born with, but for some reason I can’t function as a team.  My solution is usually to withdraw and just try to be quiet and stand in the corner until it’s time for me to do something or I’ll just leave.
I’m extremely awkward around people I don’t know, people I haven’t seen in a while, people who check out at the grocery store (or any store for that matter), people I do know but I’m scared of because I can’t really tell where they are coming from, people I work with, people I go to church with, etc. (this would have been shorter if I had just said “people.”).  I use humor to highlight things that make me uncomfortable, if often comes off as insensitive and generally offends at least half of the people involved.  I don’t have any idea how to do small talk (I hate sports, wrestling, nascar [notice how I didn’t call nascar a sport?], the weather, etc…)
My coping method for awkwardness is self-deprecating humor.  I will usually say the funniest thing that pops into my head no matter how it will affect my social standing because if I can get someone to laugh it will hopefully diffuse the tension.  I usually just end up looking like an ass (note: it’s not a good idea to joke around with your bosses about how lazy you are, even if it is the most hilarious thing you’ve ever said).
This weirdness is something that I’ve lived with as long as I can remember and even though I am more able to push deep down inside than I used to be it’s still very much part of me and anyone who knows me will probably tell you that I’m not fooling anyone with this normal act (this sentence is far too long).

Eric Anderson

P.S. “He was such an understanding child, he always listened when you explained to him in a rational logical way what you were doing and why you were doing it even though he couldn’t possibly understand any of the words you were saying as he was only 4 months old” is not something that we will ever say about our son.  I love you, Charlotte, even if you do sound like a crazy person.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Eric and his Typical Sunday Morning (or Eric and his Damaged Brain Part I or III)

            I’m sitting in church looking around at all the people praising God.  I hear the music and the singing; I see the dancing and flags waving around.  I tell myself to focus.  I’m here to praise too.  I start singing “…I want to dance…” hmmm, wait a second that’s not true.  I don’t want to dance, I don’t want to shout, and I certainly don’t want to run…anywhere.  Is God going to be angry with me if I don’t really mean these lyrics?  I don’t want to be making any half-hearted promises through song.  I don’t want to lie about how I really feel through song either.  “Okay, stop being distracted…focus…I’m here for a reason”.  I clear my head and try to visualize God.  I see bright clouds.  I’m singing about how Holy He is and how He’s going to take care of me.  I get distracted by some random thought about a video game or a TV show or work or a video game based on a TV show about work (I don’t think such a thing exists…yet).  “Focus”!  I can’t, my brain is malfunctioning.
            I look around again. Some people are lying on their face, some are kneeling, some are shouting and some are wailing (who am I, Dr. Seuss?).  People are speaking in tongues, I realize that the music is still playing but no one has sung anything in what seems like 30 minutes.  Something is happening with these people and I don’t get it.  I don’t feel anything…at all.  Well, accept for the fear that there is something bad wrong with me.  I ask God for help, but do I really mean it?  I might be dead inside.  “Okay, focus, close your eyes, visualize the bright clouds, and maybe throw a throne up there for good measure”.  I don’t want to lose control and fall on my face, or shout, or wail, or dance, or laugh, or speak in tongues unless it’s real.  I don’t want to fake it.  If it happens to me then great, but I’m not going to pretend.  Is this really happening to all of these people?  Are they faking it?  Am I just broken?  (Yes, maybe, and probably)
            Okay, praise and worship is over, it’s time for announcements and to pray for tithes and offerings.  “Finally, something I don’t feel so guilty about” (I started tithing again about a month ago), “oh but wait, what about all that time I wasn’t tithing, and what about the part where I’m supposed to be a cheerful giver?”  I’m trying to give cheerfully, but that’s really hard.  I tell myself it’s not my money, it’s God’s money and I’m just giving it back to Him.  I don’t have a problem with doing this out of obedience, but I’m rarely cheerful about anything I do, and in fact I’m really not sure what that even means.  Okay, prayer time is over. It’s time for the sermon.
            The speaker gives us a verse and I pull out my iPhone.  At first I go to my Olive Tree NKJV app and read along, and then I get bored and play Angry Birds or Plants vs. Zombies.  I can multitask; I can hear what the speaker is saying…mostly.  “Focus!” I turn off the games and go back to the bible, and then I get bored and check Facebook. “Oh look, other people in church are posting right now” but they’re usually posting bible verses so they’re still better than me.  Check words w/ friends and play any pending turns I have.  The speaker says that God loves us and all that, but before He will bless us we have to stop doing bad things.  “Hmmm, what bad things do I have to stop doing?”  “I guess, all of them” since all sin is at the same level and all.  This is really hard.  Am I overthinking this, am I underthinking it? Is underthinking even a word?  Microsoft says no, whatever
            Basically, this is how my church life has gone for the last 20+ years, except replace iPhone with daydreaming.  I’ve never really been able to participate in what’s going on in my church and I’ve always felt like more of a spectator.  This is 100% my fault, over the years they have tried to include me in their jubilee and I just haven’t felt it.  I feel like they have mostly given up on me at this point (and by “they” I mean the leadership).  I’m open to something happening but I don’t want to force it or pretend that it’s there when it’s not.  Maybe I need to find a new church, I don’t know if that would help.  Well, now I’ve gone and depressed myself…again.  Oops

Eric Anderson

P.S.  I don’t want “saying nice things about my wife” to become gimmicky and therefore meaningless, so I’ll probably stop doing that so much.  I do love her though

P.P.S. This was supposed to be the third part of a trilogy, I guess now it’s the first, I don’t know how that happened