Once upon a time I wrote an essay about my social needs. Then came another one. They’re not up anymore, but the gist of it was: we’re not meant to get along.
They were lengthy rants, a bit overdramatic, and actually not so different from the rest of my archives from around that time. Words with cutting edges, honest and straight-forward, but without measure. The thing to know is that in spite of sounding rather blunt, I am not cold-hearted. It’s easy for me to speak my mind and push people away, but I take no pleasure in hurting other’s feelings. In being honest about my preference for loneliness and territorial habits, I ensure I can stay in peace, but I also do it out of sincerity because I despise lying and pretending – and I avoid breaking my own rules at all costs.
Some of the people I know have told me that my outspokenness has made them uncomfortable. I know it’s pushed them and others away, I’m not oblivious. I see the tip-toeing around me, the reluctance, the silences in some instances. I notice it when I’m fled from or when I’m sought for approval (or just for the companionship of like-mindedness where my words and opinion matter as a peer, which is fine). What is frustrating to me is that I value being true to oneself, self-determination, not letting others deciding who and what’s good or bad instead of myself, yourself; and speaking one’s mind if called to. Why would some people care about disappointing me, when the disappointment only comes from the fact they care too much?
I care for my friends, and it’s sincere interest in how they’ve been and what they’ve achieved, instead of a dramatic “carrot and stick” policy about what they’ve said or done. My honesty is less harmful than this and more beneficial to long-term friendships, and it’s too bad if it scares off people. I’m straight-forward and no-bullshit, and this is me, and this is cat, and that is all.
This is what disappoints me. Hypocrisy. Letting others determine your opinions, your priorities, your values and who you associate with. The over-carefulness, the hiding, the lies. Speaking one thing, and acting another. The silences when scared. The pretence, the display and posturing, out of fear as well. Being manipulative. Seeing me as a threat, or seeing me as a mentor, instead of a companion. Holding onto my words to validate oneself – even by choosing the diametrically opposite stance, it comes down to the same thing. Putting up oneself as a strong-willed, self-confident, self-determined person, not because this what one is or strive for in their life, but because this is how one wants to be seen. Similarly, people who are interested in any subject, especially political subjects, not in themselves but for the social benefit they grant in certain circles.
Yet I am able to re-contextualize the attitudes I witness and I soften my heart, because only few things are done out of pure maliciousness. I have high standards for who I associate with but they’re much higher when it comes to me – I forgive friends more than I forgive myself. And the more they open-up, the more I forgive, because it takes Strength to assert onself and fight one’s fears, and I respect this more than most things. I respect people who have Strength in their life, not crushing Strength that belittle others, but gentle Strength such as in the famous quotation from Saint François de Sales (who also said other very wise things regarding being who you are and fear). I respect truth and its imperfections, rather than pretty lies.
Regarding animal words I’ve read about territoriality and social needs, I sometimes find it looks less like “this is who I am” and more like “here’s a proof of my animality”, which are two different things. At most what it shows of someone is how important it is to them to prove everything, get validated about anything (which goes back to what I was saying about caring too much about what others think). I looked back at my old essay on social needs and personal space, questioning my own motives, but I realized I hadn’t mentionned animality in the first place; that wasn’t the point, actually. Because my essay was genuinely about how I function as a person, a note left for whoever might want to use the “contact” button of my website back then.
Writing about social needs and how to approach me will always be something little related to animality because, simply put, my ability to get along with people has more to do with the values we share than anything else. This is also why I am not seeking to associate myself solely with people who are [insert category or identity here] no matter if it’s animal-related, gender-related, sexuality-related, interests-related and so on. I am not interested in being with people to always agree together; I value being able to understand where one’s coming from so it doesn’t matter if we disagree, so it doesn’t matter if we have very different lives.
Sure, I am territorial and introverted and it expresses in its own way as an animal person, but they aren’t aspects of my personality that are solely animal or that are impairing my life (social and otherwise). They’re traits a lot of people share, actually, and I’m not sure my situation is really worse than theirs. Even if I require little social contact to remain happy, no matter how territorial I can get physically, I’m not going to blame it on the cat or corvid. They are the form it takes, the snarling instead of cursing, the hackles raised and the way I move. It doesn’t take to be feline to be introverted, nor corvid to be adaptable.
If I were to write something solely about territoriality, I wouldn’t sound very different from any other introverted person who needs a lot of time alone to reload from socializing, and who can feel disconnected from certain human conventions. I don’t find asocial animal-folk terribly different from other asocial people. So right now instead of talking about what supposedly distinguishes me from others, I prefer writing about what makes me click with them.
This essay actually reads backwards.