Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Antic Disposition

There's no easy way to put this:
Most people think I'm crazy. Not in the wonderful way, not in the bizarre way, and not in the impractical way (though that's a relief to me).

No, many people think I'm the mentally deranged, insane kind of crazy.

I don't blame them.
When I was in college, I had a Psychology professor who once told me, "If you ever think that you are nothing but completely sane...that's when you've become crazy." His words made complete sense (and in a side note, it was also apparently an old test in Psychology that if you believed you were totally sane then something was wrong.
We all have our moments that show our intricacies and our quirks.
Superstitions, for example, could be considered a form of insanity.
Can't step on a crack? What's wrong with you?
The papers have to be exactly square to the desk? Now we're getting somewhere.
You get the idea.
I confirmed this diagnosis at two points today. The first came while I was talking to a favorite student of mine. The other came during a department meeting.
The student came to visit me in my "office" while I was grading papers, and we began talking about the world (Ok, it was life, liberty, and the inane...shush!) at large. As the conversation continued, it turned to her and her life. Now I've known this student for a few years. She is not now, nor has she ever been, an open book. Much like me, she's very guarded. Yet, I can read her very easily. Unfortunately for her, she asked me what I know, and I told her my perceptions. As I went through my thoughts, I could see this look begin to build on her face. This is not a positive look. It's that moment when the brows knit together and the mouth begins to open a little. It's the moment when a person suddenly realizes that their soul, their true essence even, has been seen. I was given this look, and was asked simply, "How?"
The answer is the hard part. I read people VERY well, and it is really hard to explain. I put it this way. I can look at a person as well as listen to them and a tic list begins to form. As this person moves about their day or around me, the list continues to compile. My brain is not truly actively doing this, but it continues. As I look upon people, all I see (beyond them) is the tic list surrounding them. It makes crowded rooms difficult.
Let me give you an example of what I mean. There is a gal I went to college with living out here in Minnesota. I see her every once in a while when I'm in downtown Minneapolis (she works for Theatre de la Jeune Lune). Over the course of nine years, we've had many conversations, and I've been a part of many events in her life (not necessarily by choice). So when I see her, I know her body language. Her stance speaks to me, and the placement of her arms tells me her emotions. Beyond that, however, I see her issues and life surround her as we speak. When she talks relationships, I see all the information about the boyfriend who dumped her, the guy she cheated on, and more. It's weird, and it can really freak people out when you can remember this stuff without being prompted.
And then there are my colleagues who never see the true, calm Leab. In fact, unless I'm frantic with energy or bouncing around, they constantly ask me, "What's wrong?"
Few people have seen me as I really am . In some ways I turn into Hamlet when I'm work.
"Here, as before, never, so help you mercy,
How strange or odd some’er I bear myself
(As I perchance hereafter shall think meet
To put an antic disposition on)
That you, at such times seeing me, never shall note
That you know aught of me."
I am a believer that Hamlet fakes his insanity throughout the play (and causes Ophelia's true craziness), but that's neither here nor there.
When at work, I am energetic (when I can be) and slightly over-the-top (for lack of a better term). Partially I have to be (ever work with Freshmen?), but mostly it's because, like Hamlet, the crazy guy gets the ears. Sure, Mark Antony can give a rousing speech, but that crazy guy mumbling on the corner gets your fascination over the eloquent.
As for me, I admit that my antic disposition helps me greatly. Unfortunately I have stories to back up the perception of my madness. However I'm lucky that almost everyone I went to college with cannot find me.
When you're crazy, people will listen. It helps if you're loud too. My wife says I'm a foghorn in a library when I want people to listen to me. I also speak through my thoughts. An example:
If I start with Great Expectations, I can truly push the kids...but then I also set them up for failure. Yet I'm also underestimating them. That's silly, Leab, it makes sense. Does it? (Mind you this would be me talking out loud to myself and answering myself. Fun to watch, harder to comprehend.
The bottom line, however, is, as Norman Bates famously said, "We all go a little mad sometimes." We all have a bit of craziness in us. There are varying levels of course.
Some hear voices.
Some charge into Karaoke without a second thought.
Some can speak their mind (though most aren't Minnesotan. It's true, get over it!).
Some believe Abe Lincoln lives in their armpit.
And we all wear masks. The true essence of who we are scares us, so we feel it will scare others. Thus we act one way with family, another way with our spouse or partner or significant other, and even different way with friends, or colleagues, or etc. The hard part is when our masks begin to meld (like when a loved one meets a colleague).
It also doesn't hurt that most people believe that crazy and genius go hand in hand. If people think I'm brilliant, then I can accept being thought of as crazy. Only you (dear reader) know the truth. Keep it quiet, or the platypus on my shoulder will eat you. Just kidding...or am I?
Then again what do I know? Abe Lincoln, Jack Kerouac, Marie Curie, and I play Bridge on Tuesdays. I could be wrong.