Apples and Oranges

A member of a musical duo I adore was chatting with me after one of their shows, which we have done many times before. He asked how I was doing and I replied that it had been a struggle of late.

As he put his hand on my upper arm, he intensely said, “You need to sit and really listen to the new CD. It’s all about that.”

I took it home. I sat. I listened. I did that pretty much every day for three weeks. I still couldn’t connect.

It wasn’t that the music lacked emotion or that something didn’t quite come together. It’s a great CD and the artists in question conveyed their message well. I just couldn’t identify with it. At all.

I had an extremely hard time with this fact. A musician I respected felt his work would speak to me. Why couldn’t I hear it?

It took five months for me to figure it out. They’re singing about apples while I’m trying to juggle oranges.

The music conveys the inner struggles around love and relationships, not so much about love gone wrong or love unrequited, but about how one’s thinking can keep you from finding love. Clearly someone went through emotional hell trying to discover why he longed for love but couldn’t quite embrace it. It has a more general message about hitting bottom emotionally and then finding your way through it discovering that the journey through the awful helps you better appreciate things. At it’s core, the music is about inner struggles to overcome internal obstacles.

My two ongoing issues are my medical complications and social isolation. Obviously the problems my body has developed cannot be solved by an emotional struggle. My esophageal muscles will not become strong because I searched my soul, figured out the problem in my head, and fixed it. In other words, it’s solution is not within myself to discover and implement. It requires doctors and tests and surgery and living with side effects and hoping it all works as advertised.

Social isolation seemingly has a more emotional basis for all I need to do is get out there, overcome my shyness or other maladaptive social behaviors, and I’ll meet people. That’s all within my control to fix, right?

What happens when you do all of that and the only result is frustration and a bone-deep belief that it’s not you? With every fiber of my being, I have come to believe that my social isolation is a factor of how others perceive me, social norms, societal beliefs, and how what we are consciously or unconsciously taught shapes our thinking. I could be Mother Teresa or Hitler and the bottom line wouldn’t change all that much.

In case you need a little bit of proof, I am more active in the world than I have been in probably twelve years, yet it has not had a perceivable impact on how many friends I have, the quality of those friendships, or dating. While it is true that many more people know who I am, that has not translated into meaningful human connection. In fact, in many ways being more socially engaged has only served to highlight my inherent aloneness.

So, while the musician was kind having the best of intentions to offer me solace, it didn’t work. They sing about apples and I juggle oranges –both fruit, but very different. American as orange pie? Fresh squeezed Florida apple juice? Okay, maybe the second one if Florida had the appropriate climate.

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