Hide, cry or shit yourself, you still need to meet people.
“Look at that fancy footwork.”
Some one upstairs is dancing.
I think it might be the crying children.
Last week, for some reason, some unknown and ungodly reason, the couple upstairs acquired two children.
Tonight an apparent party has paused the overture of crying that has clouded my workspace for too many days.
“Look at that fancy footwork.” Her voice is familiar but disguised. Usually she is screaming defensively at her partner for nearly an hour until someone storms away and is replaced by Miley Cyrus or some other wrecking ball of importance.
“ALEXA TURN THE VOLUME DOWN,” as she yells at Alexa, I settle into a zone familiarity.
These people are loud.
This couple fights. They throw things. They scream.
Now, for some reason, this baby whose name, I have learned, is, CHARLIE, has interrupted their domestic disputes and in return has numbed my head with child cries.
The crying fucks with me.
Ominous, above me, like an ongoing meditation bell or drill or shofar.
Sitting at my desk, listening to the thumping of large plastic toys, small smacking running footsteps and wailing agony, I count the passing trains, stare at my front door, wait for the dogs to stop barking and try to convince myself that this is a real distraction.
I should be networking.
I don’t know how to do that.
So, instead, I make lists of names and lists of names and tell myself that I can’t contact anyone until I know exactly what I want to say and I can’t decide what to say because Charlie is crying.
I know I need to network.
Every time I speak to my mother on the phone she reminds me: “Your cousin works at Loblaws and she started out writing for the internet which is I think what you want to do so why not maybe speak to her?”
I have not spoken to my cousin.
“Your brother’s friend is working in marketing and he made that commercial for Good Eats or Uber Food so why don’t you maybe have a meeting with him?”
I have emailed zero of my brother’s friends.
I am going to do it, to network, I am going to do it because it is something that I am not comfortable with and so according to my library of self-help podcasts, I MUST do this, I MUST have authentic/strategical conversations with strangers so that I can push through and make it somewhere…
Ok but I don’t even know where I want to go? Is it ok not to know? Can I just meet with people and wait for them to tell me what to do? I am already bad at this. Just write a list of names. Just look through my Facebook contacts. Just draw circles overtop the JANUARY on my calendar…
“CHARLIE PUT THAT DOWN. CHARLIE! CHARLIE!”
Charlie is wailing, weeping, sobbing, a mess.
I can’t think. I hate Charlie. He keeps succeeding and I hate him for it.
He cries and she turns around, changes her devil tone into water and waits for him to feel better. It works. Every time.
I stare at the ceiling.
What if I just show up to a meeting and cry? Is that networking?
I write a lot about self-doubt but lately it feels desperate.
Charlie cackles. I bite my tongue.
My mother, as beautiful and wonderful as she is now, had trouble taking care of us when we were young.
I missed her frequently.
I cried, constantly.
Every time I cried, I was ridiculed and condemned by my alternate caregivers. Over and over. It didn’t work for me. I never succeeded.
And so I started hiding.
Until age ten or eleven I was soiling myself, hiding the evidence, throwing away my clothing.
Eventually at summer camp I was ridiculed for having soiled clothing and sheets and this is where my memory goes blank.
What did I do when I was too afraid to shit myself? Better hiding spot.
Voila the birth of introversion.
I don’t think our past informs all of our presence, but I feel a quiet rage every time I hear a child cry and maybe this is the answers but beyond that here’s a thought: Maybe I never learned reasonable skills for coping with rejection. Maybe all I learned was fear.
I know I am afraid of people.
I thought being introverted was just my brand. I thought that’s how I am to people, I am socially awkward and in the shadows, I am away from you, I am inaccessible.
But maybe all those things are just the learned coping mechanisms of a kid who lived for a while with a real fear of her own literal shit.
Have you ever seen those Harry Harlow experiments with rhesus monkeys?
Harlow separated infant monkeys from their mothers and replaced those mothers with artificial surrogates, one made from wire and one made from cloth.
After a while he learned that the infants preferred and actually clung to the cloth mother, even when the wire mother had food.
Harlow was proving the necessity of maternal comfort and companionship.
In 1950s/69s psychology, it was thought that children only benefitted from their parents in sustenance.
This series of lab tests proved that actually without the comfort of a mother, primates run the risk of developing a desperate sensation of fear.
Watch the videos. They are heartbreaking.
Mostly, for me, they are heartbreaking because I empathize too powerfully with the monkeys.
Without proper surrogacy, the infants would retreat to a corner, curl into a ball and suck its thumb. Well. That just feels too familiar.
I bring up Harlow because his body of research proved the efficacy of socialization in general.
Harlow proved that primates are healthier when they rely on each other. We learn real fear when we don’t learn early enough that we can rely on each other. But actually, if we rip apart that learning, we can just go back to a non-fear.
I keep thinking people will laugh at me. Not take me seriously. Provoke me back into hiding.
But, isn’t it true that we all need the network?
Charlie is eating something now. He is crying in between bites. The woman’s high-pitched waves make him settle and laugh.
I do not believe that she is his mother. The fact of these children merely appearing in the apartment all of a sudden, I just hope that they leave soon, honestly which sounds terrible but I’ll tell you what sounds even more terrible: Charlie crying.
It sounds terrible because I resent his success.
I resent the success of others frequently which I am now realizing is not the ticket to healthy networking.
I don’t feel like crying at all. In fact, my eyes feel revoltingly dry.
I have had a full calendar this week. I have spent time with various people. I have had appointments and places to go. I am doing this just fine.
All I need to do is not be afraid, not hide.
So what do I do at that desperate moment when I doubt everything and I know I can’t cry because it won’t work and God help me if I shit myself and there is nowhere to hide?
Be a human. Face my primitive instincts. Thank the person in front of me for meeting with me and trust that what they provide is more that just sustenance. They have companionship, comfort, wire and cloth. They are my species-sister, made from the same needs and wants as me.
Maybe we can both cry together.
Or maybe it will be fine.