A dear friend of Eva's--which makes her a dear friend of mine--sent this to me the other day:
I have to admit, I stared at it for a while, not entirely sure what to make of it. Many of those things are personal bugaboos of mine, little insecurity traps. I feel some pretty intense guilt over one of them, defiance over a couple of others, and I probably spend far too much time thinking about almost all of those things as a group.
Check that, all of them.
This is supposed to be a liberating poster, something to take to heart. I'm supposed to let go of the need to justify each of these things, because they're none of anybody's business.
And yet I still looked at that first poster and thought, she's telling me to shut up about all of this stuff.
Apparently I still care too much about what others think.
I don't have to explain any of this...except sometimes to myself. And in doing so, you, dear reader, get to ride shotgun. Ready?
1) One of the biggest regrets, if not the biggest regret of my entire life is my having taken the wrong degree. Not so much my dropping out--I don't think I would have dropped out at all had I taken something a little more...relevant than Honours English, Language and Literature (abbreviated as you'd expect). I took English because it seemed to be the path of least resistance, and because I loved stories. Or at least that's the story I tell myself.
What I should have done was mapped out a career goal and followed a path straight to it. What career? Given my proclivities and my idealism, three spring to mind: politics, law, or psychology. Those are three places where I'd have made a tangible difference. Probably not electoral politics--I doubt I could get myself elected to anything--but the elected people are just figureheads anyway. Law: I have a very strong interest in the interplay between justice and mercy, and it would be a source of unending joy to fight for both of those things. Psychology is obvious, when it seems like every person with a crisis homes right in on me (and I love the feeling I get when that crisis is averted or overcome)...but I'm not as sold on it. I care too damned much. If (when) I lost a patient I'd go off the deep end myself.
I'm more than halfway through my working life: it's far too late to start from scratch now. So I make the best of what I do, and save my "making a difference" impulse for things outside my career, and hope like hell I do. Make a difference, I mean.
2) Where I live. Also, truth be told, not where I want to live. I feel very much, even now, like this is a "starter" house, not the kind of place you spend twelve, let alone twenty or thirty, years in. It doesn't help that we specifically picked this place out with children in mind, children who never materialized.
Again, we make the best of it. There are advantages. The house has more than doubled in value since we bought it and the carrying costs are more reasonable than rent. We deliberately bought less house than we could afford, reasoning that interest rates would go up again. Silly decision, in that light alone, but it's never stupid NOT to waste money.
3) My appearance--I couldn't explain this if I wanted to. You get enough people telling you how ugly you are and you believe it, even when one person comes along and says otherwise. I know that I look better in a suit and tie...and I defiantly choose not to wear suits and ties because I am who I am, not what I look like. I cling to that. I have to.
4) My political views. Nobody wants to talk politics--it's right up there with 5) and 7) as hot-button issues. This confuses me to no end. If you hold a political view--no matter what it is--by definition you think the world would be a better place if other people held it too. At the same time, it's always good to hear dissenting views: they may force you to re-evaluate your beliefs (grow, in other words). So respectfully talking politics is something I enjoy, and I wish more people enjoyed with me.
5) Religion is the politics of the afterlife. I do believe in an afterlife:
paraphrasing Jodie Foster in Contact,
I'll tell you one thing about Time, though. Time is a pretty long time. It's longer than anything anyone has ever dreamed of before. So if it's just this... seems like an awful waste of time. Right?
I most emphatically do not believe in God as He is commonly portrayed. Way, way too limiting: why only male (don't answer that, it's too obvious)? Why does He act so...human (the answer to that is just as obvious, as far as I'm concerned)? But again, as with politics, I'm more than willing to listen to dissenting views. Not so as to "convert" me, mind you. Evangelization is the mark of a superiority complex, and nothing turns me off faster than people feeling they're superior to other people. No: I'm just interested in what people believe, and why they believe it. Points if the answer to 'why' is something other than "because it says so in this book, here". I like exploring the commonalities between religions (strip away dross and ritual and you'll find, as Stephen Gaskin once said,
Religions only look different if you get 'em from a retailer. If you go to a wholesaler, you'll find they all get it from the same distributor.
Atheism and a host of civil religions (such as the blind faith in the Great God Progress) are just as likely to invoke that superiority complex: indeed, there is nothing quite so annoying as a militant atheist who mocks everything he can't see or touch. Anybody using science to disprove a holy text, OR a holy text to disprove science, misunderstands the purpose of both.
You are special, every one of you...but you are no more special than anyone else.
6) My alone time -- I'm never alone. That's something I've learned, finally, in the last year or so, to my incalculable relief. Before that I felt alone in a crowded room: cut off, isolated, often completely invisible.
But what I've learned is that if I close my eyes
and speak your name, you're right there beside me, ready to catch me when I fall. There are a lot of you out there (in here) and I love you all.
7) Life and relationship choices: actually, I do owe people an explanation for these. Not for myself: I'm far beyond caring what uncharitable thoughts you harbour about polyamory, because I know they're based on incorrect assumptions. I owe people an explanation for my polyamory because I'm not the only poly person out there. Until it has the legitimacy it deserves, I'm going to fight for unlimited love, because I believe it's something worth fighting for. Being as unlimited love is so counter to the way the world works (and hey, it starts with big ol' #5, Who loves you "unconditionally" but still somehow judges, condemns, and damns you)--there's often a lot of explanation that has to be done.
That friend added this:
Feel free to opine, just don't expect agreement and you won't be disappointed...
I don't expect agreement. I don't expect ANYTHING from people if I can at all help it, because people have a habit of not living up to expectations (and I'm a people, too). What I hope for is understanding and acceptance, from myself and from others. You don't have to agree with me -- what a boring world it would be if we all agreed with each other, all the time! -- but I'm learning to accept myself and I hope you can, too.