Being Human

“This being human is a guest house. Every morning is a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor…Welcome and entertain them all. Treat each guest honorably. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond.”
Rumi

Three Tales of Social Connection

When I’ve taken the Myers-Brigg tests, I typically come up either as a ENTP or an ENFP.  The Thinking/Feeling part of me (T/P) is always on the cusp, whereas the other parts of me are far more weighted.  And when it comes to the ‘E’ part of me, the Extroverted part, no one now seems surprised.

I do get a kick of starting conversations with strangers that appear interesting. But in the past couple of months, I have felt the extroverted part of me worn thin.  Introvert or extrovert?  As a child, I was most definitely an introvert.  My parents have a picture of me in my 4-year-old preschool ‘graduation,’ crying my eyes out.  I still have the memory of it – my class, sitting in front, the parents exclaiming how cute we were, and I was terrified of walking in front of an audience to get my pseudo-diploma.  I wanted to be invisible.  I was afraid that attention to me would draw ridicule.  In fact, I felt like most people were laughing at me most of the time.  I hated people. When I was young, I could never control my crying.  I would cry if happy, if sad, if mad, if humiliated.  Really, any strong emotion would induce it.

As an adult, one of the things I am most proud is that I am far more capable of controlling my emotions.  Also, that my fear and hate of strangers has changed to curiosity.  In fact, the older I get, the more I realize and can empathize with the fact that we all have our own burdens to bear.  I wasn’t so unique in reality.  I was perhaps more honest, or less able to hide my true feelings – but I know now that we are all vulnerable.  And the greatest treasure I have ever possessed are my friends, my kindred spirits, sometimes of blood and sometimes not–but I love to find that connecting threads that binds our souls.

Because I am still yearn to make a positive difference and I’m not convinced that my mere existence is enough, sometimes I push myself to go out.  After all, I want connection above all else.  Not the false, shallow connections we call ‘networking,’ but the true nakedness and acceptance when people bare their souls.  I know my faults, my guilt pushes me to bare myself constantly.  Yet the funny thing is, the more I bare, the more I find people closer to me.  So it all works out.

Recently, I had the opportunity to go to a bellydance steampunk show.  Sounds awesome, doesn’t it?  I dithered about going because I would be going alone, but finally forced myself.  But it was not what I expected.  I expected seats, an actual show at the time they advertised – but it was a concert.  The ‘show’ was supposed to be at 8:00 pm, but there were opening acts and in fact, the headliner was not scheduled to go on until 11:30 pm. On a school night.

I hung around until 10:30 pm and then I decided that I had supported the show with my money and this sort of thing is not my thing.  I don’t like concerts or live music.  I’m lame and I accept that.  I like going to bed on time and I like having conversations without yelling.  But the highlight of the night was a local dancer who not only recognized me, but remembered I’ve been dancing for 10 years and exhorted me to perform at the local hafla.  It’s strange, I’m shy about my dance.  I love to dance for myself – but I am reluctant to perform.  I feel like I’m not quite good enough, but it’s really that I can choreograph in my head and I still struggle to perform in reality what I can imagine in my head.

A few days later I went to a wine-tasting soiree.  Unlike the bellydance-steampunk thing where I felt 20 years older than everyone else, here I felt a decade younger than everyone.  It was filled with professional women in their 30s to 50s.  Single professional men, if you want to meet women, go to a wine-tasting event.  That’s where all the single professional women are, looking for partners.  I felt a bit out of my element.  I love wine, especially red – but I felt a bit stifled, as that seemed the only connection between me and all these others.

I consider myself a single, professional woman – but I like to daydream and I love philosophy that breaks conventions.  I don’t want a conventional, ordinary life.  I want a life that defies expectations.  Luckily, I ended up meeting a couple further along than I (in their 50s, maybe?) who were very kind and struck up a conversation with me.  I also realized that I was one of the few that had the courage to attend alone.  Yes, I knew one of the hosts, but that was it.  I knew no one else and I went anyway.  It was a good night to practice asking questions of strangers and practice my listening skills, but sometimes that is all you can get.

Contrast those to a non-planned connection.  Rowan’s class had a field trip to a local German bakery.  I went only for her, she is so pleased when I chaperone one of these things.  I showed up to school to see about ten chaperones – say what you will, this school system had plenty of parental influence.  I felt like I needn’t have shown up, there are so many parents involved, and I could’ve gone to work and gotten stuff done.  But I especially liked one of the parents.  He had white hair and a British accent, with a tweed cap.  I couldn’t tell if it was my predisposition to love British accents, but I automatically liked the guy.  We ended up talking and he confessed that I reminded him of his step-daughter in my face and physique.

This happens a fair amount.  A stranger will tell me that I remind them of someone.  And separately, I end up liking someone, or feeling a kinship to someone without consciously knowing them beforehand (‘liking’ in this case does not necessarily mean a sexual thing).  I enjoy when accidental connections surprise me.  It was the highlight of my day, and one that is closer to my nature.  So I think the moral of the story is that you cannot force friendship, but you should always be open to new friendship from unexpected quarters.

The Why

hand

I was watching this video today, the Simon Sinek TED talk, Start with why.  I’ve seen it before and I think it’s very powerful. These were some thoughts I wrote down while watching it:

Why am I here? What is my why?

I believe in connection, that everyone has worth, that everyone is interesting and beautiful within.

I believe that Art, that the act of creation, the making of things, is a spark of divinity within humanity.

What can I do today that improves someone else’s life?

The goal is to do business with people who believe what we do.

But it’s not not just business, it’s also friendship and love.  I want a life where all that is intertwined.  That the worth of my time, as evidenced by my income, is inextricably linked with my why, with the reason that I’m here, with the people I push love out to.

I believe in freedom to pursue life on my own principles.

I believe in loyalty to ideals, not necessarily people.  Ideals trump individual people. I believe in integrity to my values.

What I do simply provides the proof of what I believe, my why.

This is my cat, telling you to vote.

kinoko

This is my cat, telling you to vote.

So these days, I only have the one cat.  When my co-parent and I divorced, we split the cats.  I wanted the whiny, middle one – Kinoko – and my ex was only too happy to part with her.  He’s a light sleeper, and she likes to caterwaul in the night.  For some reason, I never noticed, I slept through it all.  She is black, with these beautiful variegated chartreuse eyes.  (the green kind of Chartreuse, not the yellow kind).  I want to capture her eyes, and her ears.  Her ears have this weird squiggle at the base – the ear edge doesn’t just end at the base, at her skull.  It goes down, then goes up and follows a subtle flap, then up again, and then finally connects to the skull.

The thing about drawing is that when you start out, you realize how little you actually observe.  Humans are very, very good at filling in the blanks.  We see patterns – we see faces! – in random noise.  Some of the studies I’ve read suggest that this is because we take in so much information through all our senses that we have to throw away what we believe to be insignificant.  Otherwise, we would drown in information and it would all become meaningless.

Because we are cutting to the chase and looking for significance, we tend to zero out sameness, looking for change and anomalies.  Then we pay attention.  So cartoons, even ones like xkcd, can be minimalist and yet we still understand.

When I pick up a pencil and sketch something, I realize how little I actually see the world around me.  Want to know your lover?  Your child?  Draw them.  The difficulty and the frustration will lead to the realization that we fill in the patterns and story with only a few data points.  We don’t actually see.  When drawing and taking in the details, it looks wrong when in process.  You have to have faith that it will make sense in the end.  That the drawing will have a semblance of familiarity – but only at the end.  Likes threads in the back of a tapestry, it appears to be chaos at first.  Patience reveals the beauty and order that was always there.

Ah, November.

moon

I’ve been depressed.  Not super depressed, not to the part where I’m totally non-functional, just generally irritable and not wanting to out of bed.  I have been on the uncomfortable precipice where I just want to barf.  But here’s my problem – my emotions can fool me, and I know this.  So is the uncomfortableness here because I am trying to push past my boundaries – a good thing – or because something is genuinely wrong?  I don’t think anything is genuinely wrong.  Sometimes, my nature is lazy, and therefore an impedance.

It’s just that I want meaning in my life.  I want to add something positive to this world.  I love and enjoy my kids, but I hardly think that’s special.  They may be special to me, but that’s a personal thing.  I don’t feel special that yay, my uterus worked.  I want to feel like there’s something good I can do.  I know I owe my life and my happiness to people that cared about me.  I feel a need to pay that back.  I would give what I can, I’m just not sure that I have something valuable to give.  That’s not meant to be fake or looking for compliments.  I’m sure that I’m not the only one looking at my own mortality, my own small life and hoping I can add to something bigger than myself.  I think humanity is beautiful.  I love us.  Yes, we are weak and petty and there can be smallness and cruelty within, but I think good wins out.  I think love and compassion have more power.

So I write.  Some aspects to who I am may look unique, but I know I am just like anyone else.  Wanting to love and be loved.  Wanting to make a difference and be mourned when I am gone.  I don’t always know how to find people like me, but I write so others can find me.  Not knowing my full path, but knowing enough that I’m on it.  Wanting to open my heart and my eyes, and not sure if what I feel and see is real.