Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Not Knowing My Own “Strength”

Originally posted on January 15, 2014

On reflection, I’ve realized that a source of trouble in my life has been that I truly have not realized that I’m so smart that I confuse people. I haven’t meant to do this, but I really didn’t know. I was bewildered by the responses.

I remembered the movie, “Of Mice and Men,” in which the slow-witted Lenny “loved” a little puppy so much that he hugged it to death. Ah.  My strength was in the rapidity and breadth of my mind, which I really didn’t know was anywhere near as “strong” as it was. My family thought of me as either obnoxious or a “smart aleck.” Ah, the power of a misleading “diagnosis”! I knew there was something wrong with me, that I was somehow bad, tiresome, but it never occurred to me that what they were labeling was the only way they knew how to interpret my intensity and occasional naïve over-exuberance. What never occurred to me was the possibility that I might actually be smarter than they were. I mean, I knew I wasn’t that smart compared to all that I knew I didn’t know, such as how to get people to like me. Could it be that they weren’t all that smart?? Nah. Well, now, maybe.

Looking back, not knowing I was very smart and that consequently I needed to tone myself down has been part of a number of my failures or problems in life: I was overly exuberant and didn’t realize how much this pushed the buttons of those who were more low key. How could I be so evidently bright and yet so insensitive? Thinking either-or, they figured that I meant to be a bit cruel.

What I didn’t know was how defensive, lonely, disoriented and tight most humans were, and I didn’t see that they were temperamentally more reserved. One of my supervisors was right when he said that I didn’t seem to know how sick some patients were, but on reflection I realize he was also talking about the professional staff that were put off by exuberance. It was also confusing because it seemed that in many other settings my positive attitude evoked more healing than a more negative or neutral attitude.

It was a foolish mistake, I now realize, but understandable, because people didn’t tell me straight that they were confused by me. I suspect that they weren’t conscious of why they were put off. Now I see that I was indeed “too much,” too cheerful, too intense. I don’t blame them for being annoyed, but I really didn’t understand what I was doing wrong until much later. I thought most folks were like me, but perhaps just a bit shy about showing it. Wrong. Ah, well, life lessons sometimes take decades to get right.

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