This morning’s prompt, borrowed from Oprah, was “one thing I know for sure.”
Soundtrack to this post: Music to paint to (an hourlong playlist I made for you!)
One thing I know for sure is I’m never going to be the kind of person I wanted to be in high school. What kind of person is that? I’ll make you a list:
- always confident, outgoing, and with it
- always put-together, well-dressed, fit, well-groomed, and stylish
- always elegant and courteous and classy
- attractive to everyone
- articulate and intelligent and original and interesting to everyone
What I’m finally understanding is it’s not the list of attributes that’s the problem, but the qualifiers: always, everyone. I could be a lot of these things — confident, outgoing, well-groomed — and in fact I often am; but the key thing is, not all the time. My confidence falters humiliatingly in the company of new people. Many days, my work is more important to me than taking a shower. I am rarely articulate after a session of painting. But even if I changed all this, even if I did manage to meet my own standards in all these qualities all the time, I would still not come across perfect to every single person I might meet. It’s just not possible. And it’s not my fault. What’s elegant and classy to a stylist in LA is not going to seem that way to a religious conservative. Some people don’t want articulate and intelligent in their party conversation, and some people are afraid of outgoing and original in their friends. I need to recognize this and I think I’m finally starting to. I cannot please all people all the time. As the rest of that saying goes: I might as well just please myself.
But I don’t actually know what pleases me. It changes from day to day, and when I’m going through major life changes, or major emotional/mental shifts, it changes even more dramatically. At the moment I am going through some growing pains related to IWL. My thoughts have moved into new orbits, my outlook is drastically expanded. I feel awesome. But I don’t think I project awesome, or even live it on a daily basis. The physical trappings, the active routines, of my life remain the same. It’s like losing thirty pounds but wearing the same old clothes. The sameness helps me feel stable and secure, but it also makes me feel trapped, like a teenager in her parents’ house or a fiftysomething suddenly realizing the life he’s built is not his. There’s a cognitive disconnect between external life and internal experience that is intensely frustrating.
We all know there are downsides to teenage rebellion and midlife crises. There is self-loathing, risky behavior, cutting; there are families left and savings frittered away. But I know what my trapped-ness means. It’s not about becoming a different person, but letting more of my real self come out. I feel like I dress too drably for my energy. I’m too shy and self-conscious to fully express the love and interest I feel for people I don’t know well. And I’m too cautious and careful to give way to my exuberant curiosity and interest in experimentation. I’ve felt the urge to cut my hair super-short and dye it pink, wear different clothes, go to parties, flirt with random guys. It’s true, this is the kind of frustration that drives people into moving to new countries or starting flings. To be honest, lately both those choices (and others less momentous) have sounded thrilling — as well as disastrous. I’m still me; dyeing my hair still seems unhealthy, parties still make me feel awkward, and flirting scares me. I love Erik and I love my life; I don’t want to replace it. I’m just tired of feeling itchy and constricted in my own skin. If I could expand into a fuller expression of myself, what would that look like?
One thing I’ve decided is I can try on new selves in small, controlled doses, in safe spaces with people I trust. My figure studio actually helps a lot with this; I can try on the life of a very focused artist, in a cool studio with cool music, with professional artists around me. I’ve been thinking I should look for some other classes too, maybe improv acting or belly dancing. I can exercise more. Writing gives me a outlet for fantasies. And I can spend more time on my own, just digesting life, figuring out what the full me looks like and sounds like and feels like. I sat in my happy chair yesterday afternoon and did just that, my legs bare and soaking in the sun. Just looked out the sliding glass doors up into the sky and the gently waving branches of the plum tree, heard the birds singing and the occasional siren wailing, and thought about what it is to be me.
And this afternoon I got a haircut.
Dear Lisa, it is a pleasure to feel the changes with you on your journey! It is wonderful to be conscious of the differences as they happen. The beauty is in the being 🙂
Thank you so much, Esther! It really feels like a beautiful gift to be conscious of what’s going on as it’s happening. It’s like watching a child learn about the world, except in this case the child is myself. 🙂
AHHHHH you remind me of my first short cut :DDDD my mom told me no, no NO, a short cut would never work with my face shape…but i finally got it cut the way I wanted and BOY IT FELT GOOOOOOD!
Yeah it feels wonderful to have short hair! The first time I chopped it off was 7 years ago in college: http://www.lisabug.net/Photos/6April/photos/photo_13.html (with the same stylist — which is partly why I trust her so much) and at that time it was a revelation I could do it with my face shape. 🙂
CUUUUUUTE! Lisa, I think you are so right. We can’t be everything to everyone. But what we can do is be the happiest, most confident and comfortable version of ourselves.
Thank you, Katie! It’s amazing how many times I need to learn this lesson, and in how many different ways. Your blog is a living testament to it. 🙂 Here’s to more happy learning! 🙂
LOVE it!!!! Your haircut looks so fab and summery! 🙂
And I know what you mean about growing pains and feeling trapped. Your post brought up a tangent that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, which is my propensity to change my mind, particularly when it comes to creative projects, how to focus my business and my life, etc., and I’m starting to wonder if the mind changing is actually something to be celebrated, because it generates so many new ideas. Perhaps if I were okay with letting go of this idea of myself as a coherent, definable entity who likes certain things and behaves certain ways, then these mood swings and other waves wouldn’t really cause negative tension, and if I feel shy in a situation today, that’s cool; if I feel like being more vulnerable with someone tomorrow, that’s cool too. I don’t know. It just feels like when I start going down the mental road of, “Oh my god, this new thing/desire/behavior means I will have to do this differently, and this other area of my life won’t really fit in anymore, and people who know me will think this is so out of character, and and and…” that’s when things get icky.
But if every new day is a chance to reevaluate how I feel and what I want right now, then I would be open to larger experiences, goals and dreams that might not even be possible for me to visualize from my current framework. In essence, if I’m always trying to figure out how everything fits into this concept of “me,” then I can only dream and expand as big as what I already know. Always interesting to think about. 🙂
Thank you, Mo!! It feels wonderfully summery, even though it’s still breezy and cool here — feels like spring.
Ahhh Mo, your comment totally resonates with me in so many ways. I’ve actually been thinking about these things a lot myself, particularly (a) switching around to lots of different ideas/projects, and (b) not having a solid “home” entity to return to. I have two blog posts in the works about these topics, in fact — which I now hope even more that I’ll be able to get to soon! As to “people who know me will think this is so out of character,” I’ve noticed that a lot of the people around me can roll with my changes, but for the people who have a tough time with it, I think it’s good to cloister ourselves sometimes. (And for me, it’s not even always that the other people have a hard time adjusting, but that I don’t know how to behave around them anymore, when the familiar conventions are removed.)
Wow, talk about synchronicity. I started reading A Hidden Wholeness last night, and on page four, I found a passage that immediately made me think of our conversation here. The author says, “I yearn to be whole, but dividedness often seems the easier choice. A “still, small voice” speaks the truth about me, my work, and my world. I hear it and yet act as if I do not. I withhold a personal gift that might serve a good end or commit myself to a project that I do not really believe in. I keep silent on an issue I should address or actively break faith with one of my own convictions…I pay a steep price when I live a divided life–I feel fraudulent, anxious about being found out, and depressed that I am denying my own selfhood…How can I affirm another’s identity when I deny my own? How can I trust another’s integrity when I defy my own?”
Whew. This book is really hitting me at the core.
Sounds like quite the reading experience — challenge as well as support! It’s interesting because my post on Monday is going to be about how dividedness (as some might call it) can actually be more intuitive and true to us than singlemindedness.
To me the gem of this post is where you say this is about letting more of your real self out. That’s it exactly. I’ve thought a great deal about this because of all the changes I see in myself post-menopause and post-cancer. (Started menopause early!) I do things now I would never have done three years ago. I let anger out, I cuss, I tell people exactly what I think. All things I was raised to not do. When telling my doctor about how I get angry now, he said, ‘and doesn’t it feel good?’ Yes! It does! It feels marvelous to let ourselves out. Not that I’m advocating rude behavior. But as the wonderful doctor said, when I want to cry, cry. When I want to yell, yell. It’s honest and good for the soul. But…I’m taking baby steps in letting the real me out. That training is still difficult to shed. So maybe it’s a matter of balance. You, as an artist of mulitple mediums, have, at your fingertips, (literally) many ways to release. And lovely haircut!
Thank you so much, Lisa! I love what you’re saying about letting more of yourself out, especially anger, cussing, and forthrightness. 🙂 Yes, the training is so ingrained. I’ve been polite for so long, I don’t even know what makes me truly angry anymore (besides political/social things that get my goat)… but I figure at some point it will come up and let me know. ;b
When a dear friend was going through a difficult time recently, she kept apologizing for being so sad all the time, and so angry, and so scared. I kept telling her to just feel what she was feeling! It’s amazing how much we’re conditioned to hide those emotions, for fear of offending, boring, or even touching other people.
new hair!!! we both changed our hair at the same time. what a coincidence 🙂
Summertime is such a good time to shed old things, including hair! 😉