Monday, October 27, 2008

Why it Seems Like I Twitch a Lot When I Talk to You

Sometimes I feel guilty for things I haven't done. I don't mean large-scale social injustices like race discrimination. Although I am probably guilty of that, too, on some level, given the unbidden and unearned privileges I enjoy on account of my "white" skin. But I am not talking about that right now. I am talking about being guilty of things like shoplifting or lying. I have this recurrent feeling of guilt in certain situations, even though I am doing and have done nothing blameworthy. Many times I have had the experience while shopping. I gradually feel my neck and shoulders tightening, because I know I am being watched. And once I realize that I am being watched, I feel suffused with guilt, as though I am shoplifting, even though I've never stolen anything from a store in my life. If, under these circumstances, a salesperson catches my eye, I am compelled to look down or away, and I am overly conscious of my arms and legs. I am thinking the whole time about how I'm not stealing anything, don't even intend or want to steal anything, but my body is actively performing as though panicked because I have been caught stealing. Except I am not stealing. Other times, I will be in the middle of talking to someone, looking them square in the eye, centered in what I'm saying, when I am all of a sudden apart from myself (not visually but in my head) listening to myself and thinking, "yeah, right." Even though I always really, genuinely mean what I am saying, another part of me has split away and doubts (or maybe plays with doubting) it, and that part begins to affect the part that believes what I'm saying, so that despite my sincerity, which is real, I can feel my eyes start to look like they are lying. And sometimes I'll stumble over my words, or I'll suddenly scratch my face when I don't even have an itch--a "give," as that old movie about the gambling psychiatrist--House of Cards--called it. And the thing is, I know I am not lying, but I also know I feel like I am and I look like I am. Then, instead of spinning my head around and spitting green stuff, I usually tell my self /ves that I don't really care if it looks like I'm lying, and I bluster my way through, telling sweet truth the whole time but getting none of the credit or enjoyment from it that I deserve. These are the things that make social interaction difficult for me.

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