How do you construct your world? Are you even aware that the world you occupy, how it sounds, smells, looks, feels, is all unique to you? That you are seeing life precisely as your experiences allow you to? How have you built your world? What occupies the most precious space in your existence? Your mother, your dog, your Facebook friends? Your children, your boss, your house?
My life has been in a constant state of flux for practically the last ten years. So many situations, people, circumstances and opportunities have come and gone that my answers to the above questions have always needed to be constantly updated. Not since I was 17 have I lived at the one address for longer than a year. Change has been my constant, and now, as I realise that I have lived at my current address for over a year, and that I am still wanting to be here, doing what I'm doing, I am trying to answer these existential questions for myself.
Life has already taught me that to live is to be a connected, social being. It's hard to be someone when no-one knows you and you know no-one - not on a meaningful level anyway. You just kind of exist for yourself, and after a while, you go mad. I've always marvelled at people who are content to stay in the same place, the same job, the same relationship. What about life? I would think. What about all that life going on out there that you aren't a part of? You are missing out, I would think. I still think that change is the one constant, and that gracefully adapting to change is a skill worth envying, however, I now want to try something new. I want to try staying physically still to dig deeper in to the people around me. That's right, I want to get my tentacles in to you. Uh oh.
Let me tell you a little about myself before I go reaching for your inner thoughts.
I am an introvert. A person that gets her strength and energy from being alone for a while. Being in my own little artistic creative world makes me happy, and when I emerge, I share that happy, creative shiny self with the people I know will enjoy it too. Having to elaborate, validate or over share myself with people who don't pick up on my ideas too readily in order to connect with them makes me grouchy, sullen and sarcastic. If I can't retreat back in to my own world fast enough, well then I'm just not pleasant to be around.
Lots of people will know what I mean, and lots of you won't. That's ok. I suggest Susan Cain's excellent book Quiet as a starting point. She also does a great TED talk on the introvert/extrovert dichotomy too. The point of all this self-confession is that I have reached the point where I don't know if only concentrating on those who do "get me" and ignoring or limiting my time with those who don't is a good thing to do or not. Surely everyone has something to offer me? I like to think that everyone I meet is part of the smorgasbord of prosaic wisdom offered up by the collective human condition, however, I find it hard to hold this point of view to be true all the time. Especially after a week like this one.
Religion has many flaws, it is true, but it does offer some enticing short cuts to keeping sane. Human beings, at least in my own experience, like to have certainties. We like to know what's right and wrong, and how to correct our mistakes. Anyone with an Anglo-Saxon Christian heritage will probably be familiar with the concept that through suffering, a higher realisation can be reached. Through doing something we don't like, or resisting the pull of something we do, we will ultimately improve ourselves, be a better person. How about: No pain, no gain. Resist temptation. Turn the other cheek. Sound familiar? The concept of suffering for a noble purpose is what I am struggling with in my quest to dig in and really connect with those around me. I do not suffer fools gladly, and can become quite frustrated quite quickly when I realise I am not understood and will not be understood by those around me without quite a lot of effort on my behalf. Most of the time, the effort required far outweighs the gravity of the situation. Shopping centres drive me batty, yet when everyone in the group wants to eat at the food court and I want to sit on the hill outside and eat my sandwich in peace, it's easier to go along with the status quo than try to change the course of the proverbial river. This still leaves me resentful, underneath, as I genuinely don't want to even be on the proverbial river, I want to get off the boat and go fly a kite. So when I meet someone who prefers kite flying to rivers, I pretty much want to devour them.
|What a lovely elephant you have there|
I am told that I have a strong personality, which is really just a nice way of saying that I speak my mind when others wish I would shut up. If there's an elephant in the room, you know I'm going to ask how long it's been there, what it's name is and why you decided to get an elephant in the first place. I am that person. Having not stayed in one place long enough to make lots of interconnected, deep rooted relationships before, being the elephant spotter has never been much of an issue before now. I have suffered no serious repercussions. I even enjoy exercising this part of me to some degree. People either feel relieved or horrified at my impertinence. Personally, it makes it easier to spot the kite flyers for me, so I haven't bothered adapting my technique much. What I am grieved about is giving myself permission not to persevere. To identify and then discard those that I don't click with. I am not religious, so I don't feel bound by dogma to struggle for the sake of my soul. Will I miss some vital learning by tuning out? Will I be a terrible person if I don't try and at least get to know these river boaters better?
The time has come to say no.
I am going to build my life around the kite flyers. They are the ones who make me feel alive, the ones who make me feel I am worth something to someone else. We are a small club, but every time I meet another kite flyer, I hold on tight. My good, close friends, the ones I haven't seen for years but will drop everything for at a moment's notice, they never live near me, but they are the ones worth travelling to see and creating beautiful Christmas cards for. Through my travels I found a few at university, one or two in the Air Force, a few overseas and a few found me. My Demi-Gods are a good example of what I look for in a kite flyer.
So now you know how I intend to pursue my grounded life. With those who add most meaning to it. The people with the crazy I can relate to, not the crazy I can't stand.
Before I end this treatise, I feel it is important that I add a little disclaimer: I still want to know the people I don't click with. They are still important and they add colour to my life. My point is that I am not going to beat myself up every time I don't click with someone. I am going to be ok with not being instantly liked by other people sometimes, because maybe they see me as a lonely figure on a hill holding on to a kite when all they want is to find their own tribe, their own little river boat crew to glide through life with. And that's ok too.