Thursday, April 20, 2006

What About The Non-Squeaky Wheels?

Ever played "Marco Polo" only to find out later no one was in the pool with you, and they've been saying "POLO" just to make fun of you as you splash around with your eyes closed looking like an idiot?

Ever go to give someone a handshake, or a high-five...and they just look at you, and leave you hanging?

Ever played hide and seek, and no one comes to find you?

Right or wrong, accurate or not, that's how I feel most of the time.

The old saying goes:
"The Squeaky Wheel Gets The Grease"
But what about the non-squeaky wheels?

I guess no one likes to feel like they are a "high maintenance" person, but we all need a little grease now and then. It feels weird having to ask "Will you please pursue me and do things that show me I am loved?" but that is where I am at.

This is really really hard for me.

REALLY hard.

It is hard for me to even write about this let alone personally tell people who may be involved in my life. It is hard for a few different reasons. It is hard because:
  • I don't want to come off as self-pitying
  • I don't want to fish for compliments
  • I don't want to draw attention to myself
  • I have a hard time asking for help or communicating my needs because I don't want to burden anyone
  • I'm afraid I'm making a big deal out of nothing
  • Others have worse problems
  • etc
  • I guess deep down, I worry no one will care
  • I guess deep inside, I worry I don't really matter
I was going to call this post:
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Keith
But that would sound like I am equating myself with happiness.

Really all I want to do is vent a little bit. Maybe if I can just lay this all out there and say it multiple times in a variety of ways and get this off my chest I will feel better about it all.

Here goes: For a long time now, I have felt pretty much un-pursued by other people. I pursue others, they don't pursue me. I don't think that is OK anymore, and I need to say it hurts.

My wife knows I love her. She knows for a variety of reasons. But it is still right and good for me to tell her, often. I can't just assume she knows and never say or do anything again.

And it is good for me to be intentional about showing her in ways that are meaningful for her. The two main ways she receives love are through Acts of Service and Quality Time. Knowing this, I try hard to do thoughtful things for her and spend time with her doing things she loves to do. I'm not perfect, but I think I do a pretty good job. I think this on my own, but she tells me so as well.

It is really important for me to say here that she knows the way I give and receive love, and she does them. She tries to, anyway. It is hard, and we've both acknowledged that. But I want to say very clearly that we are working together on learning how to love each other better.

But my wife is just one of the many many people I know. She is just one of the many people I care about. She is just one person. There are others who also have told me that I do a good job of making them feel loved and cared for in ways which are meaningful to them. I don't hear it all the time, and it hasn't been a lot of people, but I think it is a representative sample.

I try to pay attention to (and sometimes even ask) how others feel loved, and then I try to do those things, along with the ways I naturally express love. I do it because it comes naturally to me. But even when it doesn't come naturally, I do it anyway because it is the right thing to do, and people matter. I don't do this to get people to like me (at least not consciously). I do it so they feel my love and care for them and so they know they matter to me and to God.

I just wish I felt the same in return. The two main ways I receive and express love are through Specific Spoken (or Written) Words of Encouragement and Physical Touch. But it often feels to me no one reaches out to me in these ways. No one comes up and gives me a hug or a shoulder squeeze just to let me know I'm loved. No one takes the time to look in my eyes and say meaningful things to me about how I matter to them or to God. And sometimes it is really hard for me to recognize the ways others do choose to show me love, so it feels to me like they are not. But knowing the hurt is sometimes from my inabiity to recognize someone else's expression of love doesn't make it hurt any less, you know?

I mean, I believe in my head people love and care for me -- I just don't, you know feel it in my heart. It's like, if I died tonight a lot of people would come to my funeral and say really really really nice things about what a great guy I was and how much they'll miss me.

Why can't they tell me now, in person, when it really matters?

Growing up I never felt a "part" of things -- always longed to be included but never felt I was. I remember my parents telling me (when I bemoaned my sister's lack of interest in playing with me) "You need to learn to play by yourself". That got old quick. If I was hurting emotionally, it got shut down, shoved aside, or belittled. What I learned from all this was:
  • "you don't matter"
  • "your soft emotions aren't OK"
  • "you are a burden to me/us"
I guess that's why I also learned early on how good it feels when someone does care; when someone shows me in a way that is meaningful to me that I do matter.

It feels good when someone says "how are you?" and they really mean it. And I guess that's why when I ask someone, I really mean it. When I do ask it, I listen, and really try to focus on the other person.

I was taught "If you want a friend, be a friend" and "If you want to receive love, you need to give love." So I try to do that. The Golden Rule says (my paraphrase of Jesus here) "Treat others the way you would like them to treat you" and all that makes a lot of sense. I think I try really hard to be compassionate and notice people's feelings. I try really hard to show them they matter; they're loved. It feels good to me when I experience someone else's communication of love and care, so I like it that I am able to give that warm-fuzzy feeling to others.

If I walk into a room and see someone standing by themselves, I am drawn to them, want to love on them because I know what it feels like to go unnoticed. I know that feeling because if I am standing alone in a room full of people, no one walks up to me. No one checks on me. No one shows care for me. No warm-fuzzies for me ("you don't matter").

Sometimes I feel so alone. It seems to me I am so often the one asking others about their lives and so rarely the one being asked -- or if someone does ask and I begin to tell them, they back off and disconnect emotionally. I can tell by the look in their eyes or their body language they didn't really mean they cared how I was doing, and now they're sorry they asked because they're getting more than they bargained for ("you're a burden").

I am the one pursuing others; checking on others to see if there is anything I can do or say to make them feel more loved and connected. But it is a lonely place. I mean, I love it when someone does feel connected and loved because of me. But I am tired of feeling alone; tired of feeling like no one ever comes to me to ask me how the heck I'm doing and then really listen and care when I start to talk.

Maybe my standards are set too high -- maybe I'm expecting too much.

Maybe I am being melodramatic, over-sensitive, and self-indulgent.

Maybe people care about me and they just don't know how to express it.

Maybe people care about me and I just don't understand their expressions of it.

Maybe I waited too long to say anything.

Maybe I put up walls that have signs on them that say "I'm fine, don't bother asking" or "I'm strong -- you don't need to check on me because I don't need anyone" or maybe the signs on the walls just say "go away". If so, and you care about me, please disregard these signs. The real me is dying to feel loved and cared for. The real me is dying to feel pursued.

Maybe God is leading me to a place where His pursuit of me is all that really matters.

I dunno.

All I know is I don't like hurting and I don't like feeling left out. I am tired of feeling left alone and un-pursued and unrequited and unloved.

~ cob


dave kellogg said...

wow, once again you're keeping me up way too late with some really heavy stuff. Up front, I'd never want you to feel like I didn't care and hope I never have made you feel that way. ... but I know this post isn't about laying a guilt trip on anyone. I think it's hard in your position ... let me equate it to mine. As a manager, I feel like it's part of my job to reach out to the people I work with, to pursue them. Yet, I must also be somewhat closed to the people I work with concerning some of the behind the scenes things with management. So I can give out the vibe of, "don't ask too many questions." Also, although I try to be transparent as possible - shoot, my message is often, I'm scared/worried too, but we'll get through this together - I can't always be. As a man, I think it's been drilled into our head not to be a burden to anyone, that's why it's really difficult to share (that and you don't want to be perceived as a whiny wimp). .... Yet, I keep coming back to this: To receive, you have to keep giving away. And maybe that's a selfish reason I pray that God give me the holy spirit so I can give it away (so that it will always come back to me). Hey, I'm a coupla hundred miles away, but I really do care about how the heck you are doing. - dave

Can Opener Boy said...

Thanks Dave,

There's a stereotype I think we're all familiar with:

Two women sit down for coffee. One shares her heart, the other listens and then shares how she's lived through (or is living through) a similar thing. The first woman feels heard, validated, and connected to. Women seem to want to relate.

Two men sit down for coffee. One shares his heart, the other listens (poorly) and then shares how he's lived through a worse thing and what he did about it. The first man feels one-upped, belittled, condescended to, and even more alone. Men seem to want to "fix".

I'm really glad God doesn't pay attention to stereotypes! You shared your heart with me and I feel connected to and understood. But you also gave me some insight into my feelings and while that new insight is good, I don't feel like you were trying to "fix" anything.

Thank you for being my friend!

~ Keith

Can Opener Boy said...


I really appreciate you telling me you understood I was not trying to lay a guilt trip on anyone. I do want the people in my life to hear me and love me, but I do not want to seem manipulative or whiny -- so I'm glad you took it the way I intended.

You said:

"As a manager, I feel like it's part of my job to reach out to the people I work with, to pursue them. Yet, I must also be somewhat closed to the people I work with concerning some of the behind the scenes things with management. So I can give out the vibe of, "don't ask too many questions." Also, although I try to be transparent as possible - shoot, my message is often, I'm scared/worried too, but we'll get through this together - I can't always be."

I feel you. I guess, for me, I'm tired of hiding behind those walls. I'm tired of being "somewhat closed to" people. I've learned the hard way that:

"Leadership is 90% about knowing things you wish you didn't know, and 10% about not being able to share it with people you wish you could"

In a work setting, and in some personal situations, I can see how this is important -- but in general, I so want to be done hiding. And more than that, I want to be sought.

Girl in the Globe said...

Ooo. High maintenance. I can totally appreciate that. When I start feeling those same feelings you’re talking about, I can hear my mom’s voice in my head telling me to stop throwing myself a pity party. Probably one of the big reasons that, to this day, I’m also a non-squeaky wheel. I think for me too, I don’t ask for help because I didn’t have anyone to ask…and now that I do, I’m not even sure I know how to ask.

What you are talking about…wanting to feel pursued…reminds me of that episode of King of the Hill from the other night…I actually almost mentioned it in my own blog last night. Weird. Anyway, when Peggy goes off on Hank for never sharing his feelings…then later when he’s grabbing onto a tree trying not to get sucked up by a twister…how he finally tells her how much he loves her. It’s weird that I almost cried the other night watching that. Kinda made me think about how we tend to wait until things get really bad before we finally bite the bullet and tell people how much we love them. I know I *totally* do this. It’s the reason I finally talked to my mom again. I waited until she was on her deathbed to get over myself and get to the heart stuff or whatever you want to call it. I’m so thankful to God that I got the short time I did. I already grieve the loss of the 11 years where I didn’t talk to her. I can’t imagine how awful it would be to have to say really really really nice things about someone at a funeral…all the while knowing in my heart that I was too chicken to say them before it was too late.

I can totally appreciate what you’re saying about someone asking you how you are, and knowing they don’t really want to know. I almost always give the canned answer of fine…since that’s what I’m used to people wanting. I guess I’m trying to say I *do* care how you’re doing…even if I’m not always so up front about coming out and asking.

And I’m really sorry if me being stuck in my own stuff and slow to get over my fears has come off hurting you in any way.

You *do* matter to me. You’re a good brother, and I *do* love you…even if I forget to say it sometimes.


Can Opener Boy said...

Thanks gg.

I really appreciate your thoughts (always do) and you taking the time out to write all that.

Re: me being hurt by you being "stuck in your own stuff" to the point where I get overlooked. Thanks. I don't think I have been, specifically. But I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of you expressing that.

...and I also appreciate what you said about how you feel, and acknowledging that you don't do it as often as you could, etc.

You are a good friend and a good sister -- and both of those are by choice, so that means even more.


~ cob

Unknown said...

I love you Keith! I never blow smoke, and I totally understand the "spoken(or written) words of affirmation" thing... and so here I am writing to tell you how I really feel about you...

you are one of those people who it doesn't matter how far away we live from one another - I know I can pick up the phone and we can pick up right where we left off... If I ever need anything or if you ever need anything - no questions asked - you'd be there - I'd be there, but more than that, you know?

I remember one time at home group in Pacifica where my back was hurt and I got prayer from the group but mentioned that I was embarrassed because my sock had a hole in it but I couldn't afford new socks...and the next week you had bought me a whole package of socks and left it in my chair for me to sit on... that touched me so deeply because it was something you noticed that others would've glossed over. I felt incredibly loved by that.

I also want you to know that I often quote you or tell stories about you to other people because some of the more significant converstaions and experiences I've had have involved you (and Cathy) and you are a "part" of us... like threads in the same blanket... and I love you dearly - deeply - warmly... if I didn't live 1000+ miles away I would be holding you right now - in a brotherly / sisterly / godly embrace that would go on and on and on until the Holy Spirit said 'stop'... and I don't care what you think about this comment - if you think you guilted me into anything (because you didn't) is too short to let things go unsaid... and you know what else?

you could be drinking whole milk if you wanted to...

I love you!

James Proffitt said...

I ordered a book today and thought, hmm, I wonder if that book was in Keith's email that he sent me back in February? Sure enough it was! I'll tease you with that. Let me read it first and then I'll tell you which one it is, k? haha.

So I came to your blog to check it out again and I see this post. Here's a big {{{e-hug}}} from me to you.

I created a blog today (not much fun stuff there yet, I'm afraid) so hopefully we'll be able to reach out and knock down each other's walls.

You know I have them too.


Can Opener Boy said...

Thanks Trace, and thanks Sprocket.

hugs rock.

~ cob