“So what you’re saying is that I expect too much from people.”
Chad stares at me for a millisecond and then grins. “Always have.”
I sit in our big green smushy chair, legs tucked up, palms on my knees, in traditional ‘Sted-style. I’m looking straight at him and there’s no joking in his face even though he’s smiling. It’s the smile I see often when I do Something That Only I Do that endears me to Chad.
“So what do I do about that?” I wonder, half to him, half to myself. I’ve always been this way; thinking outside the box is not something I can do on command.
And we chat for a while about our differences, until it comes down to an actual tally of whose opinions affected us most. Chad starts.
“You,” he marked off with his index finger. “Gavin. Robert. Rusty.”
“Scott,” I prompt.
“Yeah, Scott,” he agrees, nodding. Pausing.
“Your mom and dad,” I prompt again, and he nods, another tick of his fingers. I offer more names but Chad is not as sure about each of them; they have conditions, sometimes-clauses attached to them.
“You,” I tick off with one slender index finger. “My mom and dad, and T.R. and Melissa with them.” Chad nods. “Kite. Tony. Karawynn. Lara.” And then I pause, frowning; Chad, in my peripheral vision, is anticipating something.
Wiggling my left pinky, I tick it off and announce, “And everyone else in the known universe.”
Our eyes meet and we start laughing. Because it’s absolutely true and it’s absolutely ridiculous.
The conversation began after I explained to Chad my latest disappointment in people. I was upset the other night, while logged into DruidMUCK, and I went silent. No one noticed. Or, to me, no one noticed. They might have noticed and just figured I went off to do other things; people idle there all the time and nothing is thought of it.
Childish, I know. Sulking and waiting for someone to ask if I’m okay, and when they don’t, because they don’t even know I’m sulking, I get upset.
When I was sulky as a child, my mother would tell me to stop. And I would have to stop, or suffer her disappointed glances. They say we spend one-third of our lives asleep. I have spent the second third sulking. It is a specialty by now, a finely-honed skill, an unregistered weapon.
There are too many rules for most of my friends. When to follow, when to stay away. When to ask if everything’s okay, when to talk about something else entirely. The problem is not that I have rules but that they change so erratically that no one, not even me, can keep up with them.
The traditional sulking facial expression is a pout. Not the concentration pout, which usually keeps my brow unfurrowed. The sulking pout weighs down my eyebrows, chisels tiny webs between them. My mouth, with its thankfully full lips, closes tightly shut and little waves of self-pity can be seen along the line of my jaw.
Observant people have no trouble at all spotting the sulking expression in person. Online, though, it’s a different story.
I do throw out some signals, faint though they may be. I leave the webcam on, I leave ICQ on, I stay connected to the MUCK. If someone picks up on one of those signals, I can be drawn out. I will talk. The jaw-waves subside, the web fades, and within just a few minutes the sulk withers into a raisin version, easily set aside for better emotions.
Yet I expect too many people to even think about the signals in the first place. In fact, I expect Everyone to think about the signals. And therein lies my problem. I expect too much from each and every person I come into contact with.
Today in the shower I announced, “I will not expect too much from people,” and then forced a grin onto my face more hideous than The Joker’s. Driving to work, I repeated it quietly several times: I will not expect too much from people. On the whole, I’ve been utterly cheerful today at work, even getting ready for work was pretty delightful, and every time someone affords me a kind word in the copyroom, I grin honestly. Maybe there’s something to this mantra thing after all.
Or maybe it’s the zoloft and espresso cocktail I had for breakfast this morning.