At the risk of running a severe oversimplification, there seem to be two different kinds of people in the world. There are those who are, as the saying goes, all of a piece, fully integrated into the cosmic grid, in tune with their karma and in step with their dharma. You know, the ones who float through life and make it all seem so eminently effortless as they bounce along on their path of life. There’s no split in these psyches, no rifts in these mental wardrobes. Their identities are as whole and as wholesome as homemade pumpernickel bread, perfectly round dowels in their perfectly drilled round holes. They serve a function, I suppose, in keeping the other types from completely discombobulating. Or so they may fondly think, if they stop to think about it at all.
And then, there are – the other ones. The ones who move through their lives feeling like badly fragmented hard drives. The malcontents, the misfits, the resolutely square pegs that never will fit into any kind of round holes, or indeed any kind of context they haven’t defined for themselves. The artists, the crazies, the moonstruck looney tunes who never did integrate properly. The ones you used to whisper about in high school. “Ssshhh – don’t talk to them. They’re weird.”
The ones who never did grow up, not after school, not after college, not after voting and marrying – sometimes more than once – and not even parenthood. These are the people who question everything. These are the people who can value anything for at least ten minutes – or however long it takes before the questions take over.
They live their whole lives as perpetual five-year-olds, in a permanent state of identity-crisis “what if?”. “How come?” “Why not?”
Or the big one – “Why?”
And in that permanent state of inquisitive insecurity, there’s a lot of growth potential. It can be mined for fun and profit. Books can grow, music composed, paintings splashed across a canvas. So long as they keep questioning, and keep questing – for that perfectly pitched tune, that effortless turn of phrase, that metaphorical epic sweep of vermilion paint across a pristine canvas of limitless possibility. Which is what they’re all hoping for, and very likely why they keep trying. It might happen. You never know.
Unfortunately, there’s a flip side. A winter of these malcontents, if you will. The price they pay for their ability to tap into that quantum wellspring of human creativity called uncertainty.
I call it Grand Central Dissociation Disorder.
Grand Central Dissociation Disorder – let’s call it GCDD, for short – can manifest at any time. It often occurs in greater or lesser degrees in adolescence, which in the case of the maladjusted often doesn’t start in earnest until their forties. A medium-sized midlife crisis can also trigger GCDD. It can be found about equally in both genders, although given the male propensity to voicing its opinions to the exclusion of everyone else’s, one might make the erroneous impression that it predominates in the male variety of Homo Sapiens.
This is not the case. It’s just that more often than not, women simply don’t have the time for that much solipcism, except at 3 AM. That can’t be healthy.
It can manifest in many guises, but a prevailing characteristic seems to be an inability to:
a) relate to other people in meaningful ways and establish new and lasting friendships.
b) relate to immediate surroundings, or indeed find any kind of meaning or purpose in current societal trends, or even find some comfortable breathing space in what passes for “society”.
c) An increasing sense of dissociation – in other words, it gets harder and harder to find or establish any social context in which to fit.
I have, in the time it has taken to suffer through one of the worst colds to hit me in recent memory, come to the rather startling conclusion that I’ve likely always been suffering from it. Either I was too strange for other people, or they were waaay too – dare I write it?? – normal for me. As I’ve grown older, it’s only gotten worse. I could relate just fine in my time in the US. More often than not, though – such is the fate of the hardcore rock chick – men were easier to talk to. Or relate to, which in most cases amounted to the same thing.
But since returning to my native country – where I was born, after all, and where I have spent most of my sorry and sordid life – I really have GCDD. Or chronic alienation. Possibly both.
Now, I’ve spent most of my 45 years feeling a vast shade of “different”. In my US childhood, I was different for being Scandinavian-born. Back in Denmark, around the time puberty hit, I was different, all right – I didn’t speak the language. I knew how to handle barracudas in their natural element and how to open coconuts, but I did not know how to handle 12 year-olds hurling rocks at me yelling “Yankee go home!”
Eventually, I tried to come to terms with the category label called “other”. It never felt entirely comfortable, but I learned by necessity to gravitate toward other misfits like myself. They were more fun to be with, anyway. My identity as a Dane, if I thought about it at all, became a given, not least because of those rocks in the schoolyard. If being “other” was that bad, I surmised, then I had to learn the fine art of social camouflage pronto, and that meant learning to speak, read and write a language – and act a culture – that struck me as limited and listless flawlessly.
Years and years later, I met and fell violently in love with a redheaded, blue-eyed, 6’5 1/2″ Viking. That he was, in fact, only a quarter Swedish was beside the point. That he lived in New Mexico was irrelevant. That we ended up in Denmark, a few years and many tribulations later, was the supreme irony. Or else it was that he is in all respects every bit as much a misfit and a malcontent as myself.
I returned from my four-year US sojourn utterly alienated and dissociated and it’s only gotten worse.
I can’t relate to Danish TV. The news is about all I can handle, and only once a week or so. I’ve been excluded from water-cooler conversations of the “American Idol” variety since the beginning. Girlfriends are what other people have. I have admirers in five countries, and old friends four and five thousand miles away. I also happen to live in a town with the greatest density of outright snobs outside of France.
Not so long ago, I thought I had friends, but alas, like most twenty-something dudes, they flaked out. Which nearly broke my heart, not for any ulterior dirty-minded motives, but because I don’t give away my friendship lightly. I am reminded of that old saying – “For true friends,only trust someone your own age or older.”
I’m working on that.
I’m working on coming to terms with my own sense of maladjustment, of blending in in many places and fitting in in none of them. I find no small comfort that I’m not the only one. Edgar Allan Poe was another.
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were; I have not seen
As others saw; I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I loved, I loved alone.
The Viking, I still have. I still have the SS posterchild we made. And last, but not least, I still have enough of my former punk-rocker attitude to think to all those smoothly rounded round pegs in ditto holes:
Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke!
Malcontents and misfits of the world – unite! You have nothing to lose, since you lost your sanity so very long ago.