It’s May. May Day. First of May. Labor Day in much of Europe, if not the rest of the world. Those of us in the States will need to wait till the end of the month for our Labor Day. We’ll just have to keep going.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I do what I do, what has worked, and what hasn’t. I wonder a lot about why I have difficulty with seemingly simple things, and I have to keep reminding myself that it’s often the simplest things that are the hardest for me to do.
Toss me into a pit of vipers with a grenade that’s just had the pin pulled out, and tell me I need to make a noon deadline or we’re all going down, and I’m fine.
But give me something easy to do and tell me to take care of it whenever I get a chance, and it may never get done. No matter how simple it is.
And I look around at the lives of people I know. I roam around Facebook and I look at the pictures of people I know — or am supposed to know — and I marvel at their lives. They seem to have so much going on. They seem so much farther ahead of me. They seem to have so much more accomplished, under their belts, or to their credit. They have kids and whole families and their own businesses and more. I know I shouldn’t compare myself to them, but I can’t help it. I have to wonder, is that how I was “supposed” to turn out?
According to my family, yes. That is how I was supposed to turn out. A pillar of the community with loving spouse and a handful of kids and a good job that I stayed in for the long haul.
But looking around, I’m not sure that anybody is like that, anymore. Even the people on Facebook who seem so, well, adult, compared to me.
The ones who really intrigue me are the people I know socially, whose official photos look like completely different people. They look so professional, so together. But I know different things about them — like how they called from the road, coming back from a trip to go see a sick family member in a different part of the country, and they were totally shaken by the experience because nobody from their family seems to understand them… or how when they’re not dressed up, they look completely different from how they look online — and they don’t act anything like they look.
Again, with the persona stuff. Again with the image we project to the rest of the world…
I wonder what kind of persona I project to others. I wonder if people see the Gaga-like force of nature, or the 10-year-old kid I still feel like, wondering what the hell is going on in the world.
Hard to say. Anyway, that’s a slippery slope, because the persona and the person are not always synonymous. They overlap and connect, sure, but each is just a collection of fragments that we assemble for whatever reason to serve whatever purpose.
Getting clear on which fragments I want to pull together, at this point in time, is my main concern.
Here, now, in this moment, who do I need to be, to be the best and truest me I can access?
It takes a lot of energy to get clear on this. It takes a certain presence of mind, as well as a certain consistency, to make a good go of this. If you keep projecting different aspects of yourself to the same people, they may never figure out who you are… or they’ll make up their own minds in ways that may not help you at all.
Like this friend of mine I’ve talked about a little before — the one who yelled at me and made fun of me when I couldn’t remember something they thought I should. This friend of mine is probably my longest-standing friendship, going back more than 15 years. We’ve been through ups and downs, and we fell out of touch for a while. But we got back in touch, and we had seen each other through some pretty challenging stuff, over the past year or so.
One thing has always bugged the crap out of me, however — this friend of mine does not treat me very well. They condescend to me because I haven’t got a couple of college degrees like them, and I’m not as “cultured” as they are. I won’t even go into how — when it comes to depth and breadth of immersion in culture — I’ve got them trumped all across the board. And as for that education stuff… well, I friggin’ grew up in the midst of academics and Ph.D.’s and MD’s and Esquires — from all over the world, thank you — and I learned a long time ago to not get too impressed by letters after someone’s name. Still, they have always insisted on “pulling rank” on me, as though their Ivy League credentials make them the superior being.
Can we please get real?
I think the thing that’s fed this dynamic has been my willingness to be real with them. To not put on airs, to not parade around like I’m God’s gift, to just be down to earth and not be all hoity-toity and overly impressed with myself. I think we can get into trouble real quick, if we start taking ourselves too seriously. Years ago, I met someone who was really into harlequins, court jesters, and the like, because they were the only ones who would actually tell the truth — all under the guise of humor and antics. It made sense to me, and I kind of picked up on that orientation.
Sadly, the world seems to be favorably inclined towards people who take themselves really seriously, which bodes well for people out in the working world, in general, where you almost have to overstate your importance, in order to catch — and keep — anyone’s attention. This interest of mine in seeing –and telling — the truth, doesn’t always work in my favor. I have scant expectations of climbing the corporate ladder, given this penchant. Unless, that is, the working world changes — or I can find an environment where honesty is rewarded, rather than shunned in horror.
But I digress. I really wanted to talk about how this issue with honesty and showing sides of yourself and people making up their minds about you carries over to this onetime friend of mine. Apparently, I gave them enough “fodder” over the years, to reach conclusions about me that are dismissive and demeaning, and make it okay for them to ridicule and diminish me. And part of me feels like I should have been more careful. I shouldn’t have been as real with them, as honest. I shouldn’t have revealed the soft underbelly I’ve got, and I definitely shouldn’t have told them about my TBIs. (Ironically, they’re in special education, so I thought they would understand, but it turns out, they still don’t get that you don’t treat people like they’re less-than, just because they’re different.)
I thought they’d be able to be supportive, or at least non-judgmental. But boy did I misjudge that. Now I have to go out and find other friends. Because this one really isn’t working out. Thinking back, some of the best years of our friendship were when we weren’t in regular contact with each other. So, what the hell have I been doing all these years, keeping the connection on life support?
It’s depressing. And now I’m looking at more work — having to step out in the world and find out where else I can find friends. And see if I can cultivate some better connections with people I already know. It takes time and attention and work. I’m not feeling really up to it, right now, but I’ll just keep on keepin’ on and see what comes of it.