Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Beneath The Surface

None of us is exactly one thing and nothing else. We all have facets, different elements of our personalities that don’t always line up and may even, at times, seem to be contradictory. The more effort you put into mindful living, the less likely it is that there will be actual contradictions - an honest awareness of what you do and why tends to prevent this - but even that is often just internal. I may know why I do things and so know that there is no contradiction, but that doesn’t mean that you know why I do things. I might seem to be a walking contradiction to the outside observer, no matter how much sense I make to me, even with consistent internal rules. What we keep beneath the surface can change the context completely.

The subject has been coming up a bit more often lately, and I’ve been struggling a little with how to answer it. If your knowledge of me comes entirely from Frequently Interrupted then you are familiar with one facet, but it’s easy to mistake that facet for the whole. I’ve put a lot into that facet, and it’s a fairly large facet. It’s still not the whole, though. Those who have known me for years are even more familiar with other facets, while those who know me outside of Frequently Interrupted but not as well or without the extended history might be confused. Correcting some of that confusion is part of what I want to talk about now.

I will need you to bear with me, though. Correcting confusion about me is not something I am accustomed to doing. I’ve spent most of my life embracing the misconceptions other people have held of me because doing so was easier or less frustrating than the alternative. To put it bluntly, I have had a “bad reputation” for most of my life, and I have often allowed that reputation to flourish - even encouraged it - because doing so meant that people left me alone. Being left alone was a wonderful option when the alternatives were far less pleasant. If that meant being a “bad guy” to people whose opinions weren’t terribly important to me in the first place, that was a small price to pay for some peace and quiet.

I have a preference for peace and quiet. Don’t we all? Maybe not all, but it’s certainly not rare. I also have a preference for doing things on my own terms (and yes, I just heard that collective groan from everyone who knows me at the use of so mild a term as “preference”). Again, this is not exactly unusual, but those two preferences do have a way of coming in conflict with each other. It’s pretty common to have to give up one for the other, but there are ways to get around that.

Picking your battles is one way. I do things my way, but I don’t have to be loud about it. I don’t have to get in your face because I have a different way of doing things. I’m not talking about hiding anything. There is loads of space between hiding and highlighting, and a clever person can fit plenty of life into that space. More life than the average person ever uses, to be honest. I don’t need to tell you what color my socks are in order to be happy with my choice of apparel. There are battles that need to be fought - fight them with all of the passion they require - but don’t waste energy on useless fights, and certainly not on fights that are actually interfering with your own preferences. You might be amazed at how often you can get away with “breaking the rules” by just doing it like it’s the normal thing to do.

Skipping the battle completely, though, can be even better, and often comes with its own amusements. Think about it. How much time do we waste trying to appeal to people we don’t even find very appealing? Why do we put so much effort into being who someone else likes than in being someone we like? It’s all about balancing priorities, and there are often compromises we do need to make, but it’s never a good idea to compromise away your own identity. Don’t become someone you don’t like to please people you also don’t like. It sounds simple when put in words like that, but it is a common mistake that people make every day.

I mentioned that I’ve often had a bad reputation, but let’s be honest here. That reputation was usually with people whose opinions didn’t matter to me in the first place. To me, the people who mattered would take the time to learn the truth, and the people who thought poorly of me … Well, odds were pretty good that the feeling was mutual. If you and I have opposing moral philosophies then your belief that I am a bad person actually indicates that I am a good person, by my own standards. Funny how that works, but not quite as funny how often we forget to consider it in that context. We spend too much time trying to please everyone, instead of considering what pleasing those people means in a larger sense.

There are things that I don’t talk about and there are things that I don’t often talk about. Sometimes the apparent oversight can lead people to draw incorrect conclusions. While I have usually been fine with allowing those incorrect conclusions throughout my life, sometimes they can get in the way. It’s important to remember that the original and primary purpose of Frequently Interrupted was for self-therapy, which means I’m going to naturally lean more heavily on areas where I believe I need more work. Don’t ever make the mistake of believing that, because I spend more time talking about certain subjects, those are the only subjects that matter to me or are all I’m concerned with. The truth is closer to the idea that those are simply the subjects I struggle with the most. I’m trying to find my own blind spots here, and hoping to present some useful and helpful information along the way.

We all have a face that we present to the public which isn’t necessarily indicative of all that we are. It isn’t that we’re being dishonest or hiding anything. There is just often more beneath the surface than we are able to present to all people all of the time. I know this about me. You probably know this about you. We often forget, however, that the same is true for everyone else. Never assume that what you see on the surface is all there is to know. I’ll work on correcting some confusion on my end as we go, but remember, I don’t always even realize that it’s there. Old habits run deep, and there are many parts of who I am that I am just used to. If you have any questions, let me know and I’ll be happy to see what I can do about answering. I don’t promise to answer all questions, mind you, but I will take all questions under advisement. I look forward to hearing from you.

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