What would you do if you met yourself?
Would you like yourself? Would you be interested in hanging out with yourself, having a beer? Would the conversation be fascinating, or would you be bored in minutes? When the night was over, would you hope to see yourself again, or would you give anything to avoid that awkward situation?
Yes, I’m aware of the stunning amount of narcissism inherent in this line of thinking. Shut up.
After my first divorce, years and years and a lifetime gone by, I realized that I had a tenuous grasp of my own identity. I had spent so much time trying to make other people happy (thinking that that was the key to my own peace of mind) that, when left alone with no one else to please, I didn’t really know myself at all. I’ve spent the last fifteen or so years trying to understand myself — not just knowing who I am and what I like and don’t like, but the underlying reasons and causes for why I am who and what I am. I’ve tried to figure out the pieces of myself that I don’t like, and to discard those pieces.
And contrary to my above statement, I don’t really see this as a mark of vanity. I think understanding yourself, a sense of self-awareness, is incredibly important to understanding those around you, and your interactions and relationships with them. Of course, as always, the more I learn, the more I know I don’t know shit. Mileage may vary. Caveat emptor. Slow: falling rocks…
For me, over these past years, this self-examination has been largely key to my happiness and optimism (cynical though that optimism may be colored). I’m perfectly content being alone, which means that I’m not constantly on the hunt for validation through attention from others. When alone, I have plenty to do, and I enjoy my own company. When not alone, I don’t have to question the motivations of others, or of myself. There’s an honesty to my own behavior (and I think of those I choose to be around) that I can distinctly say was not there in my “other” life, pre-questioning.
They say that opposites attract. I get that, to a degree. There’s a lot you can learn (and I do so love learning, often) from someone different than you. But it seems so much more obvious to me that — in the long term, at least — having friends and lovers that are alike would make more sense. Not identical, obviously — you’ve already got one you to hang out with, from here until the day you are no more. But identical enough that there’s an inherent understand, shared passions, similar belief structures; a foundation upon which you can explore your differences and learn new things and experience the unfamiliar and (hopefully) unexpected.
Real self-awareness — the kind that is meaningful to yourself — requires that you ditch the rose-colored glasses. The side benefit of that is an ability to view life the same way, to admit that things aren’t perfect, to see the flaws. The important follow-up is realizing that, in your acceptance of your own imperfections, you can find the ability to accept and even embrace the imperfections of those around you. You become aware from the beginning that this isn’t some mirage or illusion, and the early acceptance of reality can keep that same reality from making a sudden sharp intrusion into your fantasy.
Kurt Vonnegut’s Timequake deals with the idea of having to relive, moment for moment, action for action, the past ten years as a passenger in your own body. Just as he posits that you might consider living your live in such as way that the unpleasant moments you would have to relive are kept to a minimum, it seems important to me that you become the kind of person you would be okay spending an evening, a week, a year, a lifetime with. Because that’s the reality of situation: no matter how much you may (even successfully) distract yourself, eventually it’s going to come down to you, yourself and you. Shouldn’t you be okay with that thought?
I know I’m not there, yet, but I’m getting closer every day.