Emotional Attachments

I finished my last weekend of work this weekend and the experience was something of a mixed bag. It was much more emotional than probably any job I’ve left before because I wasn’t leaving in a huff. I’ve genuinely enjoyed working with my boss, and the result was that we were both doing this funny emotional tap-dance filled with feelings of joy, sadness, nostalgia, and attachment.

Of course, it really helped when those feelings of frustration I’ve been having the last few weeks about other things involved at work would surface from time to time with the reminder that this is for your own good so don’t get soft on me now!

As I thought about the attachment I’ve developed for my boss, it led me to thinking about the sorts of emotional attachments I get for other people in general. The reflection was somewhat odd, because it is the first time I’ve probably considered the the attachments I have as, well, odd.

My attachment to my boss is, I think, completely normal and natural. She is a strong female role model, and somehow managed to act as a boss and friend at the same time (which is something I’ve been told was impossible by others). It seems only natural I’d like her!

My emotional attachment to people who are no longer in my life, however, is the thing I find the most odd. Or, the people who have played very small roles, but somehow manage to retain big roles of importance in my head. People from elementary school who remain children in my head (despite growing up). The bag boy I had a crush on at Safeway who I was having a secret love affair with in my head. People who got close to me and then hurt me very badly, but I still somehow imagine our friendship the way it was in the height of its perfection.

Sometimes I try to conjure these people back into my immediate life but the gap between the person I’ve built in my head and become attached to is almost never the person who shows up.

I think it is the same sort of thing people do with celebrities. They see someone in a movie and imagine knowing that person, and in the rare event they actually meet the celebrity in real life, there is no way you can expect the two to be the same person!

What also baffles me is when I have some kind of attachment to people who want nothing to do with me. A group of co-workers, for example, who don’t talk to me might wind up being just the sort of people I like and get really attached to being around, even though they don’t talk to me.

Is it empathy? Is it a vivid imagination? Is it a mental clinginess? Is it an addiction to attachment? Is it just fantasy?

The most two dimensional person I see on the street can take on a whole three dimensional life in my life, without me ever seeing them again.

The screaming lady who sits in the same place in front of the offices on 2nd & Lenora shaking a cup with change in it is someone I feel a connection to. If someone plucked her up out of downtown and she disappeared, part of me would be distressed.

The world in my head is populated with real people leading fictional lives.

Maybe this is normal. Maybe there is a spectrum. Maybe it isn’t normal. But it can be disconcerting, at times, when one world is laid on top of the other and they don’t quite match up.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of places they don’t match up. There are many people who can’t talk to me in real life because of something twisted that has happened in the past, but are friendly and loving and give me high-fives in my imagination. I always thought my ability to refer back to this imaginary world and feel good about my relationship with any person, feel optimistic about our interaction was a good thing. 

I am learning, though, that in these situations where two people may have traumatized one another in some way, my ability to push a reset button and go back to feeling the way I imagine things to be (rather than the way they actually are) is doing a hell of a lot more harm than good.

It has baffled me for a long time that other people do not have this skill, but apparently it a skill derived from being hurt a lot. I wear it like an honorable badge, but apparently it is something more like a scar.

The world in my head is only very loosely based on reality. The characters act the way I’d hope them to, so it has bypassed a lot of anger and hate and suffering for romps through green fields and playing pranks and being hugged. Now that I’ve started looking more directly at my past and the sorts of trauma I’ve faced, it is chipping away at the foundation of this lovely place I’ve created.

A place where I’m the king.

So now, there is the emotional attachment I have with my (now previous) boss. I have to look hard at it and ask if I’m just fooling myself. Luckily, though, I am certain that I’m not.

After all, she bought me ice cream.

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4 responses to “Emotional Attachments

  1. Know what you mean. One attachment I have is that every time I head west over the i-90 bridge I flip the bird to a point a little north. This is where an ex lived before he moved.

    Strange thing though, I still flip the bird in that direction even though he’s no longer there.

    I’m ‘birding’ far less these days, because I’ve finally changed my anger to pity. Pity is far worse in my book and makes the person an untouchable, unthinkable. He’s just shy of moving out of my brain where he’s been living rent free for a good while. A good thing.

  2. Favorite sentence ever: “The world in my head is populated with real people leading fictional lives.”!

    I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything quite as intense as what you describe, but I remember one summer I was living in NOLA, dirt broke and homeless, and I remember feeling exceptionally close to the strangers on the bus. Even four years later, I think of them often and have written poems about them. Maybe that connection also comes out of being very receptive. I often feel that past trauma has left me as sort of an emotional lighting rod as a survival strategy.

    And please don’t take this the wrong way, but as I was reading it also reminded me of this story my little sister (who works at a vet hospital) told me about this dog whose owner shot and buried him, but the dog was not dead and found its way back to the porch. He kept wagging his tail. He was still happy to see that creep. Again, I think it is a coping mechanism for dealing with particularly horrible things. Whenever I have to be nice to a certain person because I need a ride or help with my junk car, I always feel like that dog…wagging and wagging.

    • Sarah @ bi[polar] curious

      I spent some time homeless as well, I suppose realistically that could have something to do with feeling so connected to the homeless population here.

      Survival, yes.

      What this has done is make me a seriously resilient person. I get knocked down, dragged around, and then get up again as if everything is fine.

      Unfortunately, that same skill has led me to get up and walk into the ring over, and over, and over again with no regard to my own safety. I am the wagging dog.

      Now, if I could just learn to get knocked down, dragged around, get up, and then give the person who knocked me down the finger before walking away, things would be peachy!

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