Forever a weirdo on the outside, looking ahead

I have spent a lifetime trying to fit in wherever I am, and I have never felt as if I succeeded. A lifetime of feeling like an outsider, from my birth family onward, has been a lonely one.

This could be why I am so consumed with the hope that F can find her tribe in high school. Watching her navigate the painful middle school years has dredged up an awful lot of PTSD for me; reading about autistic people’s childhood experiences — many of which have echoed my own early years — has just compounded that.

I sort of transcended social groups back in my day, floating among different ones with some degree of acceptance but never really becoming that entrenched in any one. I was proud of myself for that somehow, as if it proved I was above cliquishness and the need for deep friendships. (I was brought up to believe that I could never trust anyone outside my immediate family, which I have learned the hard way is such a damaging — not to mention warped — mentality.) So why was I so deeply lonely, even despairing at times?

(This experience is echoed throughout the audiobook of Unmasking Autism that I’m working through, which has helped get me thinking so much about all this.)

College was better, I guess, where I became firmly entrenched at the student newspaper. It helped that most of us were working toward a common goal of a news career. But I still couldn’t avoid that outsider feeling there and in other contexts, like the evangelical Christian college dorm where I lived for almost 2 years and felt like the odd one out as a fat, brown, nominally Catholic person.

I never fully shook that outsider feeling through my single years, or even in my married ones. Even and especially now, in a White suburban town outside Chicago — when I once got disdainful looks from the Caucasian stay-at-home moms at F’s kindergarten playground outings as if I was merely a nanny — I get that vibe. And I am very much an outlier, politically speaking at least, at our traditional and orthodox Roman Catholic parish, where some folks will ask the priest how to get out of a COVID vaccination requirement and tell me about all the killings of January 6 rioters by Capitol Police that “the news won’t tell you about.”

I’ve reluctantly accepted my perennial sense of separateness in this world. It helps a bit that I ended up marrying someone who has experienced that same sense of never quite belonging (and admits that he, too, is likely on the spectrum), so it’s kind of a blessing that we belong to one another.

My greatest longing right now is that F has that same sense of belonging with us, too, as her loving weirdo parents. But I also yearn to have her find that beyond us in the wider world.

Random thoughts at the end of a long, exhausting work week:

  • I can’t function on 3 hours of sleep without burning out and melting down. So, I go to bed these days before midnight and, if I have work to do — and often these days, this is the case — I get up early, praying it doesn’t get in the way for the opportunity to go to weekday Mass in the morning. Thus far, no major meltdowns, and I’m grateful for that.
  • The more I read about autism, the more I honestly think I’m on the spectrum (as are several undiagnosed people close to me). The woke rhetoric of a lot of the reading materials and social media is hard to stomach, but maybe I have something to learn from it.
  • I honestly don’t know why I bother posting anything on Facebook anymore. At this point, I’m fine with posting F-related things there (and on its Meta sister site Instagram) and leaving it at that. Nobody online cares about my baseball thoughts or other uninvited opinions, which is part of the reason I have this space. Here, I can post purely for my own enjoyment, and I don’t have to be reminded by the visible lack of response that it’s being ignored.
  • In some respects, I have become less empathetic as I grow older. I have slowly learned to be less thoughtful, less caring than I was in my youth. Some of it is laziness, I admit. Much of it is a defense mechanism after years of feeling overlooked and finding my own kindnesses — particularly toward those for whom I cared the most — unrecognized. Thoughtfulness eventually had become pointless to me. I’ve edited a lot of my friend circles for this reason.
  • Caring hurts. That said, I also understand that I am still called to be charitable and kind. So, this is how I try to move forward, despite my unfortunate tendencies in recent years.

As always, onward.

Random thoughts:

  • I’m tired.
  • I don’t enjoy social media anymore. I’m beginning to wonder if staying in touch with friends from college and elsewhere is really worth sticking around Facebook.
  • My capacity for news – or what purports to be news – and the chattering masses online is down to nothing now. My online consumption is limited to faith content and sports coverage (often in newsletters), and sometimes even that can be intolerable.
  • I’ve grown incredibly disenchanted with humanity.
  • I’m exceedingly grateful for this little web space of mine.
  • My head is crowded with thoughts about how to uncrowd it. My soul feels so cluttered and in desperate need of structure.
  • Themes that keep popping up in my spiritual reading (not listed in order of importance): order, peace of heart, mortification and suffering, Jesus in the Gospels, purity of intent, forgiveness, disappointment.
  • Very grateful for the Hallow and Amen apps that provide prayers and meditations and Scripture readings I can listen to when I need to wind down at night.
  • Did I mention I’m tired? Deeply, deeply tired.

Theologian Greg Hillis tells MLB: “Quit Trying to ‘Fix’ Baseball” (Commonweal).

Don’t run from baseball’s leisurely pace. Embrace it. Teach about it. Market it. … No matter how distracted we are, we know intuitively that there are deep patterns within us and without us, and that happiness is in some way connected to our discovery and contemplation of them.

Hillis’s essay is prompting me to give Josef Pieper’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture another spin.

Quite excited about both of these books arriving today. Adding John XXIII to my saint squad for Lent.

Currently reading: Aggressively Happy by Joy Marie Clarkson 📚

Looking to start logging my book reading (and audiobook listening) more often – largely to encourage myself to keep going rather than set books aside to doomscroll or feed dragons or send Pikmin to fight mushrooms.

This landed in the mailbox today. I’ve already read through most of it and plan to go back and linger over it again.

After catching Anne Helen Petersen’s two interviews with this Native American poet and storyteller, I immediately subscribed to his Substack newsletter and bought this book from someplace other than The Retailer That Shan’t Be Named.

Chris La Tray is a national treasure. Read him. Now.