I have met people, a lot of people actually, who are really, really good at fooling themselves. For various reasons. These are coworkers or family or friends, or the orbiting wackos in our lives. It takes a lot of effort to keep fooling yourself. We all fool ourselves, in varying degrees, out of self preservation. Otherwise liquor stores would run out of bourbon, the offices and cube farms of the world would empty, and no one would show up for family reunions.
But some people make fooling themselves into their life’s work. Some pretend they are smart, others pretend they are dumb. Some pretend to be strong, others pretend to be victims. Some pretend they are capable, others pretend that despite all evidence, that everyone else in their life is crazy.
We know these people well. And for the most part, it’s fine when someone wants to fool themselves. They are exhausting types to be around, but most often, the harm they may cause is largely to themselves.
The trouble starts when they think they are fooling you too. When they ask you to come play their game with them. It might start out with a tiny, almost imperceptible invitation. It could be your boss asking you to fetch her copies off the printer. It could be a friend’s sad story about his last relationship. It could be a mom’s frozen smile when talking about how well her son is doing now that he’s out of jail. It could be an odd boundary violation from someone you don’t know well. Whether we realize it our not, these are little invitations to Crazytown.
When I was younger, I loooved these types of people. I was in my twenties, I had a lot of energy. I loved needy people because I wanted to be needed. I seemed to collect them like a humane society for malfunctioning people. I picked up fixer-uppers, and figured I’d dust them off, grease the wheels, polish them up, and when they were all shipshape, they’d be grateful and they’d love me endlessly for fixing their lives. And we’d be happy, well-adjusted friends/lovers/coworkers forever.
Surprisingly, that strategy crashed and burned a number of times. A remarkable number of times. It happened over and over until I was exhausted and I began to wonder, why are all the people in my life so crazy?
I did eventually learn, and my interest in fucked up people began to wane. I’m a bit older now, and I’m getting pretty good at swerving and avoiding people who make a habit of fooling themselves. I can sometimes still see people extending those tiny invitations, and sometimes I can almost hear them say, “Come with me to Crazytown. I’m taking Chaos Road over the Drama River. I’m meeting my mom for lunch.”
Um, no thanks. My life over here in Bizarroworld suits me just fine.