Sunday, 8 February 2015

I've felt like an outsider my whole life.  I don't fit in, not in my family, not with my peers, not anywhere it seems.  I do fit in with the big guy though.  He's an outsider too. 

When I was at Shirley's funeral on Monday I felt like an outsider again.  Listening to the eulogies I remembered the space between us that eventually became a chasm.  Shirley was Chinese;  her parents were refugees who came to Canada for a better life for their children.  They operated a dry cleaning business and the family lived in an apartment above the dry cleaning store.  Eleven people lived in that apartment.  Her parents spoke Chinese.  I remember one day telling Shirley how much my middle daughter hated me signing to Katie and how she refused to learn sign language.  Shirley was shocked.  I asked if she minded when her parents spoke Chinese to her in public when she was a kid and she said she hated it, but that it was different.  It wasn't different.  Kids don't want to be different.  They don't want to be set apart.  They want to belong.

Shirley belonged.  She was outgoing, smart and sociable.  She had a wide group of friends and was involved in everything.  She was also hard working, organized and very stubborn.  I was envious of her life.  I looked through my window at the constant stream of parents and children coming and going into her house and felt like an outsider again.  Shirley never made me feel like that, it was me.

As my marriage fell apart and my children went to hell in a hand basket, Shirley listened.   She didn't tell me what to do, she just listened. We didn't agree on child rearing but we respected each others ways. 

When we sold our house almost four years ago I kind of let go of everything, not intentionally but I did.  Maybe I didn't want the reminders.  That house was my home for twenty years, longer than I had lived anywhere else.  It's where my kids grew up.  I poured myself into that house and garden for years and then strangers bought the house and I was out.  I didn't like going back to visit neighbors because the new owners let my garden go to hell, which is no reason to not visit but it's the truth.

And then just over a year ago Shirley came back into my life again at the Cross.  She was different though.  We were more honest with each other.  I told her how envious I was of her life and she just laughed.  She was still stubborn but softer too.  She finally came up against something that was bigger and more resolute than she was.  Death was coming for her and would not take no for an answer.  Our conversations were sometimes like the old days and sometimes about life and death, always honest though.

Being at her funeral dredged up all these old feelings of being an outsider again.  I'm guessing a large portion of the world's population feels like an outsider at any given moment.  But I have only my own head to live in.  I've spent this past week thinking about my life.  I'm not very sociable and I used to blame it on my ex-husband or Katie but to be honest, I don't think I'm very sociable.  I enjoy spending time with people but only for short periods of time and then I need time alone.  I listened to my middle daughter when she came out on Monday for Shirley's funeral.  She doesn't have a lot of friends and it bothers her.  She talked about some psychological test the class had taken with regards to selling and I laughed and shook my head.  She is just like me and I told her this.  At work I am very sociable as a nurse.  I love my patients and most of my co-workers and then I need to withdraw into solitude again to recharge my batteries.  But I need both.  I enjoy making others laugh and caring for my patients but I need time alone.  The big guy understands that. 

So here I am, still striving to understand and accept myself.  It is a lifelong process I'm thinking, at least for me. 


  1. What a lovely portrait you painted of your friend. Sparse but true hearted. I could see her in my head. And I have managed many, many group therapy sessions and I've found that we all have one thing in common: we all feel as if we are basically alone in this big world, even when surrounded by others.

  2. i wish i could wave a wand above your head only for the purpose of re-enforcing how kind and brave and worthy you are. acceptance is a life long process and we are basically alone, but the friendship you describe with shirley lights the way. i am so sorry she had cancer. what a way for you to reconnect. i imagine that was precious, real, and hard.

    btw, i think introverts learn the social skills of extroverts, but the fuel needed for living comes from solitary moments. not a darn thing wrong about that.


  3. Yes, this writing was so spare and so rich, at once. I think I really SEE Shirley -- your words were powerful and haunting. I think you're right in that we all feel like outsiders, but I am certain that some people truly are introverts. I used to think that I was one -- in fact, my Myers-Briggs personality test showed that. Something happened in the last fifteen or so years, though. I am more of an extrovert. I think.