just a joke

The illness-induced musings I spoke of in yesterday’s entry were positive in nature, while focusing my attention on some negative patterns. One of these patterns is my tendency to read the worst into what someone says to me. I believe this is borne of feeling as if I always had to catch the second and third meanings in Chad’s words, because he was constantly joking, even when he tried to address problems with our relationship. I became trained to understand that nothing was “just a joke” and it was my responsibility to figure out what behavior of mine he was attempting to discuss, because if I didn’t, it wouldn’t get brought up again, and the problem would lay there and fester. As a result, jokes get passed through a filter in which they are scrutinized for any possible innuendo. If no innuendo is found, then I laugh and let it go. If possible innuendo is found, I will still probably laugh while wincing internally, and then I’ll spend the next minutes, hours, days attempting to figure out what is wrong. This is particularly amusing (in a painful way) when there is Nothing wrong, and I can create whole scenarios in preparation for a confrontation that never happens.

This doesn’t happen with everyone. There are plenty of people I love dearly from whom I have practiced a very specific form of emotional distance. These people usually fall into two categories: friendly acquaintances, and long-term close friends. Because I am not emotionally invested enough in the former group, and because I am accustomed to the communicative styles of the latter, I do not delve into what they say to me. In fact, they could be subtly trying to tell me plenty of things, and I’d never know it. :) Those who do not fit into the aforementioned categories have their jokes run through the filter. Lately I have been cognizant of the filter, and I’ve even been able to circumvent it a few times. Not always, though, which is incredibly frustrating to me.

It was difficult for me to accept the fact that some people just talk, but when I focus on that reality, I am so much happier. What I mean by “just talk” is that they are self-aware to say what they mean, but that they may not be as aware of the potential for other meanings within their words, or they may be aware of the potential, but just not care, or just expect that their words will be taken only at face value. Sometimes I have admired this way of living; other times I am hesitantly proud of my own ability to find four or five meanings in everything in my life.

I have always been this way, to a certain extent. My prose and poetry is a reflection of this, and that is a good thing. The intricacies of meaning – as I have studied through linguistics and literature – have fascinated me. Only in my marriage did this fascination turn into a paranoiac’s obsession. And now I am carefully unraveling this ugly filter.

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I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.