Okay, that's not exactly fair. I have a lot of friends who intimidate the hell out of me.
But there's this one particular friend who is older than I am, who has a formidable intellect, a prodigious recall, an encyclopedic knowledge of the most esoteric things, and is particularly opinionated and articulate about them.
Sometimes, in fact, he scares me spitless. I can feel so inadequate to his company that I hesitate to call him friend (not because, mind you, he has ever treated me in an unfriendly fashion) but because I feel that I don't measure up. I'm more like Bill the Pony than a Fellow of the Ring, if you know what I mean, and I get that way a lot in the company of many of the people I know.
Well anyway, last night he said something in email that lit my head up inside. In a particularly sticky conversation about a subject of mutual high feelings, he made himself vulnerable.
And it caused me to undergo a bit of an epiphany.
The funny thing about epiphanies is that they're not the same in real life as in fiction. In fiction, you get your epiphany, and then stuff changes. In real life, you have to keep having the same epiphany over and over again.
And somehow it always happens that I have to be reminded over and over again that everybody else is fragile and human too. Like this person, one of the more impressive and erudite people I know, who looks ten feet tall and bulletproof to me. But who gets scared just like everybody else.
And that reminds me that it's nothing to be ashamed of.
The funny thing is, I can manage to remember this in fiction. Nikki Lau, and her bulletproof facade, and the insecurities it hides--she's a very easy person for me to identify with, because of that tension between strength and uncertainty.
But in the real world, I forget that. And I forget to be gentle with people, and compassionate, and realize that 90% of the time any pain they're causing me is because they are fronting as hard as they can, seeking acceptance, looking for a place to go where they can be accepted, trying to look strong so the wolves won't single out them. Possibly even running with the wolves, on the theory that it's safer to be a predator. Or just because it's good to be part of a pack.
It doesn't mean that I have to leave myself defenseless. Because there are wolves, after all. And you can't afford to forget that.
It comes down to the same skill set as dealing with criticism. Most of the time when somebody does something hurtful, it's not about me, and taking it personally just results in boring melodrama.
And on that note, it's time for a grilled cheese sandwich, and then back to the word mines again.