Picasso Portrait

I’m still in the Grove of Dreams, watching the childish outlines of trees morph and change with my thoughts. The image is a blur of motion, a smear of chalk or oil pastel rather than a detailed sketch. I’m trying to find some sense of self. I am a mish-mash of puzzle pieces, a fragmented Picasso portrait, an array of clashing colours. I suppose that’s part of my habit of defining myself by what I am not, I’m left with a negative image of myself. A blank space in a canvas with the background filled in.
There are more than two puzzles in the mixture. This blur of imagery is not simply Robin in my head and Robin in the world. There’s also Robin in writing. Emotion. Physical form. What matters in theory and what matters in reality. All these things exist, but in isolation from one another. Thoughts and actions don’t join up. Events and emotions disconnect.
I spend so much time guessing at what I should feel, because I don’t know how to decode what I do feel. It’s something I have tried to explain time and time again and the response is the one that seems logical ‘feel what you feel, don’t worry about putting a name to it.’ In principle, that’s an excellent idea. In practice, it’s a disaster. Why? Because if I don’t know how I feel, I don’t know if I’m comfortable with something. I don’t know if a relationship is moving too fast, if that decision is one I’m going to regret or if I’m minutes away from meltdown point. Not knowing what I feel isn’t a case of not knowing whether what I’m feeling is nervousness or excitement, it goes beyond that into not knowing that emotion is what’s causing me to act the way that I am. I have three basic emotional states: overwhelmed, hyper and oblivious. If I don’t have so much energy that I am literally bouncing and I’m not so anxious I’m tipping into meltdown mode, I don’t recognise what I’m feeling at all.
It’s hard to work out what my triggers are if I don’t recognise stress until I’m in meltdown mode. It’s hard to recognise depression rearing its ugly head when I don’t know what’s normal for grown up Robin. That you know how you feel about things is a basic assumption that people make. ‘Can you cope with that?’ ‘Are you looking forward to that?’ ‘Are you okay with that?’ ‘You’ll know when you’re ready.’ Suddenly, ‘I don’t know’ isn’t an acceptable answer. If I have enough information, I can make an educated guess. If there will be a lot of people and a lot of noise then even though the thought of it doesn’t agitate me out of oblivious state, the logical answer is probably ‘no, I can’t cope with that.’ Sometimes I still get it wrong, because sometimes there are conflicting experiences. The problem is bigger when I don’t have anything to base it on. It’s already been a problem at work. Why? Because my default answer is ‘yes’, because answering in the affirmative is usually what people want to hear and agreeing with people avoids confrontation and minimises socialising time.

 

Not knowing how I feel matters because not knowing how I feel is not the same as not feeling at all. Not knowing how I feel means my responses and my feelings don’t match up, so I can do things that I’m not okay with and not realise that I’m not okay with it until it’s far too late. People can take advantage of that. People do. My automatic assumption is that people will. That people don’t really like me, that I’m in the way, I’m an oddity to be put up with. I’ve been taught, that no, that’s just my lack of confidence talking, that it’s not really true, most people are nice, most people can be trusted. The problem with that is, now I don’t trust my instincts, I give people the benefit of the doubt when maybe it would be safer not to. The niggling thought that they don’t really like me is still there, but I mute it. If I don’t know how I feel, how can I trust my feelings?
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The Grove of Dreams

It’s been a while. Many things have happened. I’ve moved out again. I’ve started work. I’ve had a couple of major meltdowns. November has rolled around. I haven’t put myself in hospital. I feel like that’s progress.
The glass around my snow globe is so thick the world outside is a distorted blur. When things change, my mind distances itself, it retreats into the safety of my snow globe and reinforces the walls, deepening that disconcerting sense of nonreality. If the world isn’t real, if people aren’t real, if I’m not real, nothing really matters. Change is less scary, because it’s not real. None of this is happening. The world is far away. Arguably, Buddhism is not the best path for someone experiencing that kind of disconnection. It’s too easy to confuse dissociation with Emptiness.
I have left my Library and crossed the river, I need space. Across the river is a grove of trees, that appear like something a child might draw. Recognisably a tree, but with no distinctive features. This is the Grove of Dreams. If I stand at its heart, I can let my mind wander and watch my thoughts grow up as images around me. I picture a pool in front of me, my reflection, the pool is rippling, my reflection is shattered. As though several pictures have been stuck one on top of the other, not quite lined up properly.

 

I’ve said before that I feel as though I’m pieces of different jigsaws mashed together. It isn’t that I have pieces missing, how can I have pieces missing if I have no way of knowing which jigsaw is the original one? I feel like Robin in my head is one jigsaw and Robin in the world is a completely different one. When I was little, I used to talk about myself in the third person. I’d refer to myself by name instead of saying I or me. Until I was eighteen I referred to myself in the third person in my head still. I remember making a conscious effort to think in terms of ‘I’ in the hope that it would help bridge the gap between the two puzzles. It wasn’t as effective as I’d hoped. If anything, I’ve transitioned from third person to second. I talk to myself as though Robin in my head is talking to Robin in the world. I suppose Robin in my head is snow globe Robin and Robin in the world feels like a fictional character. A minor unimportant one that I don’t have all that much time for. I do more research into things that affect my fictional characters than I do into things that affect Robin in the world.