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[personal profile] magicaddict
I watched an episode of The Big Bang Theory recently, in which Leonard was made to wear an itchy, uncomfortable jumper until such time as he had gained closure on something he had promised Sheldon he would resolve, as a means to show Leonard what Sheldon felt like by the world around him consistently not resolving things with closure.

Normally, I think that Sheldon is insane and in dire need of re-education, but on this one, particular issue, I know exactly how he feels. It's not closure for me, though - it's inconsistency.

My life at the moment - hey, my life for about four years - has involved repeatedly spotting incompetence, unfairness, injustice, arbitrary decision making, inconsistency, inexactitude and arse in the world around me. I have felt humiliated by my own incompetence making me look like less than I should be, frustrated by other people's making my life more difficult, and I have found myself playing devil's advocate to things I never would have before simply because I felt so insensed at the lack of consistency or application that my frustration boiled over and I felt compelled to act. Every time I see it, in my professional life, in my personal life, in my social life, I feel motivated to question why, who made that decision, why should this person get away with what I can't, why did I get away with what someone else wouldn't or didn't.

The message is always the same.  Don't cause a fuss.  Don't be such a pedant.  Stop drawing attention to my flaws.  Friends wouldn't do that to each other.  The people who matter don't mind, and the people who mind don't matter.

Does that mean that I don't matter to myself?

I hate my inexactitudes, my incompetencies, my mistakes, limitations and imperfections, far more than I hate them in anyone else.  I try to use them to make myself more precise, more competent, more consistent, to push my boundaries further and to get better at what I do.  My failure matters, far more than my success does.  All my success leads to is complacency, laziness, and consequently greater failures that risk my relationships, my career, and even my life.  Nearly killing my wife because I thought myself competent at driving.  Nearly getting sacked because I thought myself competent at my job.  Nearly being kicked off my degree because I thought I could handle the workload with only a portion of my attention.  Missing out on opportunities becuase I didn't get round to them in time, or because I feared the consequences too much.

My successes pale so poorly in comparison to my failures (which you strangely never mention) that they are functionally negligible.  You think you are helping me by pretending that my faults are unimportant?  The hurt and humilation I feel by having them drawn attention to is so much less than the humiliation and frustration I feel at their being glossed over.  Yes, I am already aware of them, but it doesn't hurt nearly as much to have someone agree that they are present as it does to have them disagree that they're a problem.

When I ask the world around me the same questions I ask myself, it is me that is vilified in the eyes of those being asked.  If I draw attention to someone's inconsistency, and make them analyse their own failings, the ill feeling lies with me, not with them, and yet it wasn't me who made the mistake.  The reply is indignant, or confused, or dismissive: It's not important, don't worry about it; what you're describing would never happen, stop worrying about it; you came off best, don't worry about it; it's alright, stop worrying about it.

It is, it could, so bloody what, and no it fucking isn't.  I worry enough about my own mistakes - who the hell are you to tell me to stop worrying about yours?  What will your inconsistency cost the innocent?  What will it cost you?  What will it cost me?

How dare I point out your incompetence?  I'm sorry, I couldn't hear you over the sound of my brain burning.

And yet, your indignance makes it worse. Not because your indignance is wrong, but because it is right.  The world would be a better place if I could let these things go and be more laid-back.  If I cared less about what other people think and not worry about my own mistakes. Why can't I just do that instead?  The shame and humiliation I feel for having been such a stickler, a devil's advocate, a pedant, eats away at me as yet another failure.  One of the biggest of all.

By way of example, let's look at today's frustrations.  In case you are thinking this is a flash in the pan, I could have written the same yesterday, and could write the same tomorrow (and don't even get me started about how long this list would be after having attended a LARP on a Sunday). This is why I hardly update my LJ - reading a litany of what sucks about my day is hardly engaging material.

  • This morning, I planned to get up at 07:00, so I could be out of the shower in time to re-stack the dishwasher before I left for work.  I was too lazy to do so, spending the extra fifteen minutes in bed, so I missed out on doing that load, and will instead have stuff I will either have to hand wash or leave until tomorrow.  Lazy and inefficient of me.

  • On the drive to work, I let a driver who had gotten themselves in the wrong lane at the main roundabout out of town in to the correct lane.  They weren't a learner, and were driving a big enough car with clearly sufficient confidence that they should have known better.  Incompetent and rage inducing on their part, following by irritating on mine for having felt that way about something so trivial, when there are plenty of good reasons why that may have been the only time that driver has ever been out of position, and that they are out of position so much more rarely than me.

  • I failed to send Amy morning kisses until gone midday - four hours late with a simple text message.  It's so negligent on a topic that is so important.

  • At work, I received an email from a customer I have instructed on a certain topic on three occasions before.  They asked exactly the same question today.  This is a doubly infuriating - not only did they not take what I told them on board, making their ignorance and apathy massively annoying, but it also means that I wasn't sufficiently interesting to engage their attention when I told them.  Had I been more competent at passing along knowledge, they would have been motivated to not only listen but to acede to my suggestions, and so wouldn't have felt the need to ask the same damned question again.  How incompetent do I have to be to be literally beneath someone's attention in on-on-one correspondence?  How incompetent do they have to be to need to ask the same question four times?

  • I realised that my member subs for WODS were overdue, despite having been reminded about it twice, so I had to pay it with an apology for it being so late.  How negligent do I have to be to overlook paying my membership not once, but twice? Why aren't I penalised for this?  What is the point of sending out the reminders if there is no penalty for not getting it done?

  • It is my job to pack the equipment for the major exhibition in Germany this month.  The office administrator tidied and ordered all of the stuff last week, to make my job easier.  Or, she did so to illustrate that I hadn't done so already, indicating such negligence and incompetence on my part that she had to step in and do it for me, making me superfluous to requirements and reducing my employability and perceptions of capability within my job role.  Had I gotten to it sooner, regardless of what I was doing in the first place, parachuted assistance wouldn't have been necessary.  It's so humiliating to resent someone else excelling, and doubly so when you realise you only resent their success because you weren't good enough to get it yourself.  You think it's ridiculous resenting that between everyone you know, you're not the best at anything?  Try adding in how pathetic it feels to realise that this is exactly what you feel.

  • I received a quote for repairing the dents and scuffs in my car bodywork, and I can't afford it.  That means the world gets to go on seeing the evidence of my incompetent driving every time they look at my nearside.  Had I been paying more attention (all of the marks are documentably my fault, though thankfully did no damage to any other vehicles), my car would not be such an embarrassment to me.

  • Emma found a property online that very much matches our criteria, and I called up about arrangeing a viewing, being promised a callback from the salesman.  It turns out that the salesman couldn't call me back becuase he had to go and do a viewing with someone.  So, why either the deception (which is dishonest) or the mistake (which is incompetent) on the part of the person who took the call?  Why did I have to call back to get to talk to the salesman?  Where was the apology for the poor service that was provided?  If I screwed up like that, I'd have to apologise to the person I made the mistake with - why don't they have to go through that emabarrassment?

  • Writing this today cost me over 60 minutes of my time at work, meaning that I am still at work because I haven't finished my actual work yet. What kind of crap prioritising is that?

  • I have underlying resentment for those who got to attend the 24hr, and doubly so because they all appeared to have such a good time.  I try to remember the last time such a good time was had at a game where I was present.  The link is insidious, and depressing.  I feel further depressed for having missed so much this year already, with more to be missed in the remainder of the season.

  • I realised that these are such first-world problems, and I have less right to complain than more than 99% of the population of the world.  How pathetic am I for not rejoicing every day how lucky I am? How come I don't feel lucky? How privileged am I?

  • I have underlying self-loathing for the lack of communication I maintain that leads to my missing so much, doubly so because I wonder what is being said about me while I am not there to do anything about it, triply so when I realise probably not a lot and how pathetic I feel for assuming I am discussed, quadruply so when I know that any drive I made to talk to people online more often would ultimately fizzle and die due to my terminal negligence towards my social presence in favour of sitting in front of the TV, and quintuply so when I realised I had four specific reasons to be pissed off at myself for one ongoing fault.

Given that the above is a fairly typical day in the life, is it any surprise that I feel so frustrated at every LARP I show up to, when inexactitude, inconsistency and whatever-as-long-as-it's-fun is the order of the day?  You can get away with anything you like (breaking the law, acting like an incompetent muppet, forgetting your stats, breaking the rules etc.) provided its funny and gives the wider club a laugh and a good time.  You can't argue the toss that this behaviour should be penalised, though, either at the time or after the fact, because then you're putting a downer on things.  You're the one at fault, even if you have logic/the rules/moral tenability on your side, because you're making people consider the failures that were glossed over because 'it was fun'.  Watching someone get away either IC or OOC with something they shouldn't according to the IC or OOC rules, or I wouldn't (because I would cite myself for it even if no-one else did), or seeing myself get away with something someone else wouldn't (because I am trusted and, for some reason, they aren't), puts a downer on me, but that's on me to deal with, apparently.  As long as you're popular enough, you're fine.  Break all of the IC and OOC rules you like, particularly if you don't mean to, and it will be my fault if I dare to point it out.  No-one gets penalised.  No-one has to dwell on their failure.  No-one has to learn from their mistakes.  No character gets truly banned from patrolling.  Next to no negatives are handed out.  To buggery with what should happen - this is what does happen, in the name of not hurting people's feelings.  Pardon me while I decorate this stone over here with the inside of my cranium.

My choice is to either be really free in telling everyone I see where their inconsistency of behaviour is irritating me, and become that particular jerk who makes you feel self-conscious, or I bite my tongue and try to get along with it, hiding my feelings and trying to be like everyone else.  This works until the irritation goes beyond my ability to hide it, and I have a full-on meltdown at whoever happens to be the straw that broke the camel's back, and thus be the jerk that makes that one person massively self-conscious, either leading to anxiety or anger on their part.

I'm going to be a jerk whichever way I turn.  I'm either going to be one to everyone directly if I spread it around, or I am going to be one to everyone indirectly if I bottle it up until I explode.  The world's imperfections are celebrated so hard that mine are thrown into such sharp relief I want to cry with the rage the dissonance induces.

There is no enjoyment there.  First world problems indeed.


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Doug Millington-Smith

June 2017

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