If you’re one of the weird-ones… a person who doesn’t FIT… or if you have a child who just doesn’t FIT… this little story is for you:
When I was about twelve, I remember overhearing some of my mother’s church friends speaking in hushed tones about a six-year-old boy called Jeremy and his best friend, Ben-Michael.
Jeremy loved his friend and the two of them would chat and play happily together every single day. Occasionally, they’d argue… but their disagreements were rare and short-lived. Jeremy and Ben-Michael were inseparable.
There was only one ‘problem’; Ben-Michael was invisible. The only person who could see or hear him… was Jeremy.
Now, this suited Jeremy just fine. He quite liked having Ben-Michael all to himself and wasn’t particularly bothered that nobody else could see or hear his friend. But Jeremy’s “imaginary friend” made some of the adults in his life deeply uncomfortable.
They were concerned. What if something was wrong with the boy? Was he lying about Ben-Michael in order to garner attention? Was he mentally impaired? Did he need a stern rebuke for telling fibs? Should he be sent to a psychiatrist? Perhaps special medication could cure the boy of his hallucinations. One of the church ladies suggested that Ben-Michael was a demon disguised as a boy – intent on deceiving Jeremy and leading him astray. She believed that prayer and a pastor were what was really needed to deliver the boy from his invisible friend.
But whatever (or whoever) Ben-Michael was… and whatever the cause or the reason… the grown-up’s all seemed to agree on one thing: Ben-Michael was wrong!
Normal-children don’t pretend to have best friends who don’t actually exist. Normal-children don’t invite the figments of their imagination to the dinner table and argue with them in the car on the way to school. Normal-kids (and indeed, normal-adults)… have the wherewithal to know what’s real… and what’s not.
And I learned a couple of important lessons while listening to those concerned conversations about Jeremy and Ben-Michael:
Most people hold very firm beliefs on what constitutes “Real”. And if your experience happens to bleed across the boundaries of their understanding… they will often conclude that:
- you’re wrong…
- you’re telling lies…
- you’re deluded or deceived…
- you’re seeking attention…
- you’re stupid…
- you’re sick or insane…
- you’re demonically influenced (or whatever)…
And see… here’s the thing: I had something in common with Jeremy. I also saw things that were invisible to other people. And I didn’t just have one Ben-Michael, I had an entire imaginary world… stuffed full of of colourful creatures and characters! And I quickly learned that it was probably an act of self-preservation to bite my tongue and keep any kind of unconventional beliefs or experiences to myself!
Because it’s not about whether or not we actually are abnormal or mad. Life is about convincing others that we’re not!
Let me repeat: life is about convincing other people that we’re eligible for acceptance.
We learn from an early age (as I did) that it’s dangerous to make our unconventional opinions and ideas known. It gets us into all sorts of trouble with all sorts of people. We learn that if we want to be accepted… and if we want to fit-in… and if we want to avoid arguments…. and if we don’t want to be shunned, shamed or ridiculed… then we need to wear a mask. We need to pretend. We need to morph ourselves into shapes that others will accept and understand.
Because being seen for who you TRULY ARE… and speaking your truth is often a very lonely journey. And especially for those who are… different. Especially for the outsiders… the creative-creatures… the imagineers… the geeks… the visionaries… the inventors… those of us who see things that others don’t see. Or hear things that others don’t hear. Or feel things that others don’t feel…
I never liked Jim Carrey.
Or rather… it’s not Jim Carrey himself that I didn’t like, it was his particular style of comedy that didn’t appeal. I’m not a fan of over-the-top, loud, slapstick, face-pulling comedy. I hated Dumb and Dumber… Liar Liar… and the one with the animal ranger guy.
The reason I mention Jim Carrey is because I recently watched a documentary on Netflix which features Jim speaking very frankly and very openly about his acting journey – and specifically about the film “Man on the Moon” in which he portrays the late comedian, Andy Kauffman.
Jim’s… on-set experiences… (which many folk find… tough… to understand or accept) reminded me so much of Jeremy and Ben-Michael. So much of myself…
After watching that doccie, I remember feeling a deep resonance… and I remember saying to Nick: “I get Jim Carrey. Everything he says makes sense to me”.
I had that same feeling while wandering around the Owl House in the little village of Nieu Bethesda a few weeks ago. Helen Martins was an artist who lived her life in a way that seemed completely at odds with the rest of the word. People thought she was strange… and weird… and that her creations were downright creepy. People still believe that her marvellous, light-infused Owl House is a “dark” place… (sigh) …
I think the only human who got Helen (during her lifetime) was Koos Malgas, the man who helped bring all of her concrete and glass visions to life.
And y’know… it’s shitty not being got. It’s lonely when people think you’re a freak.
But I truly believe that it’s WORSE to live a fake-life (as I did). The mask-wearing, self-betrayal and pretend-games will drain the much’ness from you far quicker than the catty criticism of random strangers!!
Don’t be ashamed of your “Hat”… your inner-muse… your Much’ness… your weirdness, your geek’ness, your quirky oddities or the conversations you have with your Ben-Michael! Don’t try and squeeze yourself into moulds that don’t fit… or shrink to please others, or hide your light, or tone yourself down… don’t diminish!!
PLEASE don’t diminish!!!
I actually have so much to say about this… it’s something I’m deeply passionate about… but I’ll end with this quote from Friedrich Nietzsche;
And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
Sure… some folk may think you’re a nutter. A fruitcake. A loon.
It doesn’t matter!
Because there’s a whole bunch of us who can also hear the music… and we’re dancing with you!! Open your eyes. You’re not alone.