The strangers.

The door was at the end of a long cobblestone alleyway. There were other doorways along this narrow path, and other windows above. Each door, ornately decorated with carvings and inlay, had no peephole. It was seen as a distraction from the aesthetic of the whole, and was in line with the beliefs of the culture.

Most of the citizens lived on the second floor, so when caller rang the tiny bell by the door, they would peer out at who was below. If they were interested in company, they would saunter downstairs and admit the visitor. Strangers were rarely allowed inside, so there were no solicitors in this town. The faithful had to find other ways to lure people to their gatherings.

This town had been rebuilt of stone after the second flood a century ago. Sure, the members of the fledgling town could have read the signs and chosen to relocate, but they had come to love the easy access to water for their entertainment and cuisine. There was nothing like a day by the shore and a grilled halibut to make a life complete. They weren’t willing to give this life up, in spite of the risk that came with a town so close to water. Plus they enjoyed being able to travel on a “road” they didn’t have to build to see other cities and other cultures.

For you see, they were perfectly happy visiting strange exotic people who lived a few leagues away, but weren’t interested in having anyone strange come visit them. Strangers weren’t seen as dangerous, or even odd – just simply not like them. And that kind of person might cause more trouble than it was worth.

The townsfolk were too polite to explain the rules to strangers, and in many cases they might not even fully understand them. Rules and customs had the force of law here, and like laws they sometimes made no sense but people followed them anyway.

It served no purpose to explain their particular rules to strangers – they had no desire to allow them into their lives. Strangers were shunned to the extent that they weren’t even allowed to become members of the community by any means. You could not marry into the town, or seek to transfer citizenship, or even own property if you were a stranger.

But then there were others, people who were not born in the town, people who visited, who were welcome with open doors and open arms. What was the difference? Somehow they knew the rules. They were seen as part of the community simply because of how they acted. You either got it or you didn’t, and if you were in you were in for life without question.

Jealousy by mail

I was super stoked about my postcard from a person who is a member of an online group I belong to.  It was a surprise – we’d not been in communication.  There is a file where group members can share their addresses if they would like to get mail, so I left mine.  (I’ve covered up our addresses here with cough drops).

I thought it was really cute and inventive. The postcard has washi tape with botanical images on it, and rubber stamp markings. There is also a tiny envelope! How creative!

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This is what was inside.

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The cleverly designed thing folds out into a strip with washi tape with constellations on it.

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…but now I feel left out because of all that this person got.  She posted it on the group page and tagged her, so I know it is from her.

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…and here is a picture from another person – more stuff that she got from this member.

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Both say it was a surprise – that they weren’t already friends with her.

I’m really jealous.

Which is a terrible thing to feel because it wasn’t like she promised me anything at all.  I should be grateful, but in comparison to the other people’s mail, I feel sad and jealous.  And I hate feeling like that.

They had no way of knowing that there was any inequality.  But I’m sure there are others in the group who didn’t get a letter and they are wondering “why not me?”

It is something I wrestle with on my personal page.  Do I share pictures of a party I went to where some friends weren’t invited? They will know they were left out.

I remember in school we were told to bring enough (of whatever) for the rest of the class – or don’t bring it to share at all. We had to include everyone.

I hate it when my friends invite people in a shared group to go to a new restaurant or experience, and don’t invite me.  I know they didn’t invite me because they either don’t tag me on the invite – which I can see because I am friends with them, or because they post pictures of the “good times with good friends”, and I wasn’t there.

I hate it.  And it keeps happening. It happened all the time with the SCA “household” I was a part of. It is part of why I finally left. It made no sense for the head of the household to question why I wasn’t hanging out with the others. He implied that my husband was controlling me, that there was something ugly going on. Yes, there was something ugly going on. The head – and his wife – and other members of the household – didn’t invite me to these gatherings. Over and over and over. How could I hang out with them if they didn’t let me know? I was especially hurt when they decided to take a jewelry making class together and didn’t invite me – knowing that was one of my interests. But to then think that I wasn’t social with them because I was in an abusive relationship? Insane.  

And last night I’d finally had it and cried big ugly tears and I still don’t feel better about it.

Social media isn’t social sometimes.  Sometimes it just lets you know how much you are missing out on.  It feels like bullying.

Think before you post. Think about the feelings that will get hurt. Think about who you are excluding. You don’t have to share everything.

Do I invite everyone to events? No. But I’m discrete about it. You don’t have to invite a whole group to some happening. You may not want a large group. You may like certain people in the group more. But be mindful that you don’t let the people who were left out know that they were left out.

Now, I can’t control if other people who were invited tell them inadvertently and thoughtlessly. But I try to do my part.

Feeling lonely can be helpful.

“The first to help you up are the ones who know how it feels to fall down” – from the website “Soul Gazing”.

I often feel alone. I often feel as if I am by myself. Sometimes I really am by myself.

Sometimes I’m in a group of people and when we choose places to sit it turns out that there are three to a table and end I’m one to a table. It hurts. I didn’t choose to sit alone, but I am. It is like I lost at “musical chairs”.

Sometimes I overshare, and I’m a little hard to deal with. Sometimes being my full expression of myself is a bit too much for people. Sometimes that means I get excluded.

I’m starting to understand I’ve been made this way, this being different, this being separate. Because I’m different and separate, I can understand others who are different and separate.

It’s empathy, not sympathy.

Because I understand their exclusion I can include them.

I’ve come to realize that what I have to bring to the world requires that feeling, that sense of alone-ness, of alienation. That way I can “see” others who are also alone, and make a bridge.

It doesn’t make it easier, really. It is still hard. I’d love to feel like I was understood, that people “got” me.

I’m starting to feel that we all have that feeling every now and then. I’m starting to feel that many of us who are “in” are just faking it.

I’m tired of faking it. I’m tired of hiding who I am. I’m tired of conforming. The more I try to fit into someone else’s box, the more I stunt my own growth.

I think that when I’m honestly myself, my true self, I give other people the permission to be themselves too. It is my experiences of alienation and exclusion that have taught me this.

I could have felt forced to comply, to submit, to blend in. Instead, I’m going the other direction – and calling others to join me.