Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hi! Nice to meet you.

One of the best things about getting older, for me, is that I get to know myself better every day.  Every time one of these realizations clicks into place, I feel a little bit relieved, similar to when you have been trying to remember a name from your past for weeks, and then suddenly, you're sitting at a stoplight and it pops into your head.  Phew!

For instance, I was sitting at a college football game this past Saturday.  It was supposed to be a fun outting, but I was really uncomfortable and not that happy to be there.  I couldn't figure out why I was not in a better mood; I was just watching the score clock, wishing it were 4th quarter already.  Suddenly, it hit me: I don't like to go to football games, or really most big sporting events.  There are too many people, and I start to freak out and wonder, what if I lost my balance and fell into this crowd?  I eavesdrop on all the conversations around me or get tranfixed by cheerleader stunts and hair bows, completely missing the most crucial play of the game.  I would so much rather watch football on TV.  I don't have to worry about the weather or the guy behind me who keeps kicking me accidentally, and when I have to go the bathroom, I don't have to say "excuse me, pardon me, sorry" one hundred times and wait in line for 25 minutes. 

This thought got me to thinking about the other times I find myself inexplicably in a bad mood when I am supposed to be doing something fun.  Here are some more thoughts I had:
  • I don't like cucumbers.  When I add them to my bowl at a salad bar, I find myself eating around them. 
  • I don't like to host parties; I stress too much about preparation, worry that everyone will be bored, and get too crabby about cleaning up afterward. 
  • I hate blow drying my hair; it's one of the reasons I have a hard time getting out of bed for work in the morning.
  • I am kind of a private person, and I don't like sharing details of my life in small talk when I am at the doctor's office or getting my hair done. 
  • I prefer to go to movies by myself.
  • I don't like to be in charge of outtings or events.  I feel so much responsiblity for everyone to have a good time that usually I can't have much fun myself.
Some of these are silly and certainly not life shattering.  I just find it funny how little I knew about my likes and dislikes, and that even after 30 years, there are things to learn.  And really, why be wasteful and put perfectly good cucumbers in your salad if you're not going to eat them? 

But some of these things bother me.  I see that I am often so anxious to be pleasing or fit in with a fun group outting that I do things and go places I don't like.  I take on social roles that people seem to expect out of me just to make them happy or (and how high school is this) to make them like me. 

It comes down to a lot of insecurities that I have clearly not outgrown.  I wonder if we ever outgrow the insecurity that we won't have friends if we don't do or say what people like or expect of us.  Maybe we just tuck those feelings away and try to ignore them or lie to ourselves about who we truly are because we are afraid of being alone. 

It's a little uncomfortable to peel away these layers.  But at the same time, I feel relief.  I am letting go of more and more things that are weighing me down and keeping me from being truly happy.  I also am finding that the better I get to know myself, my true self, the more I like that girl.

Friday, October 2, 2009

The David Factor

I have been thinking a lot lately of the things that inspire me.  Being inspired is about more than things or people that can cheer you up when you're having a bad day. An inspiration pushes you to be something better than you are; it forces you to see the magical things that we, as mere humans, are capable of.  It creates very strong emotions, but it also calls for action.  You can't just feel the bubble of euphoria or the glow of life that inspiration brings; you have to take it somewhere. It requires that you bravely take chances and explore ways that your talents can make your life or the world a better place.  Being inspired means stepping out of your everyday existence and seeking actualization, seeking a higher plane, and feeling connected to the energy that holds this planet together. 

My best touchstone for understanding true inspiration is what I experienced when I first saw Michaelangelo's David.  I was spending my last week of a semester abroad in Italy, and while I knew that Italy was a place that dream vacations were made of, I was just tired.  After four months of traveling and having surreal once-in-a-lifetime experiences, the tiresome feeling of homesickness had set in.  Rome was unbelievable, but I was reaching the end of my ability to absorb things, and I was really tired of sweaty, smelly European cities. Basically, I was being a grump.  Then we moved onto Florence, and one of the first places we went was the Gallery of the Accademia di Belle Arti, which houses the David.  I turned the corner, and entered the Tribuna, and there it was.  This statue, this creation, was in all honesty, the most beautiful piece of art I had ever seen.  (Keep in mind, that by this time I had toured the Louvre and Musee d'Orsay in Paris, so I had a good frame of reference.)  He stopped me dead in my tracks.  Every irritation and pang for home evaporated.  All that mattered in that moment was the magnificence of what genius can create.  I was absolutely transfixed, afraid to look away in case the feeling disappeared.  In fact, after a long time, one of my travelling companions had to come to my side and say, "Ok, I know you love him, but there are other things to see in Florence."  I couldn't imagine what else there was to see that could make me feel this way.  Nothing I had seen in every country I had traveled to had moved or inspired me the way that that sculpture did.  Even remembering it now, I feel a bit trembly and excited.

The problem is that Florence, Italy, is not accessible in my daily life.  And while photographs and art books are a wonderful thing, they just cannot do that precious work justice.  So I am learning that I need to find other things, things that are a part of my daily life and perhaps go unnoticed, because I shouldn't live my life totally devoid of that feeling, of the David Factor.  I accept, rationally, that I am no Michaelangelo, but I wonder what I could create if I could somehow maintain that feeling of wonder and amazement, the feeling that unfathomable things are possible if we can just fire up our talents and go.

So I thought I would make a list.  A list of the things in my life that inspire me.  The things listed here are moments or thoughts or anything that make my blood rush, my toes tingle, and my ears ring.  They make me fidgety and bubbly, and best of all, hopeful.  Most important for me, these things help me to write, because they help me to get in touch with who I really am.  So...
  1. Hearing new music.  Encountering a band or a singer that just clicks for me, whose talent completely takes me out of myself and my day.  It's like learning a really wonderul secret that you are dying to share, but you also want to keep to yourself.
  2. Crisp, sunny fall days.  Probably a product of 16 years of school, but when fall comes, and the breeze gets a bit chilly, I begin to feel excited, like a new year is starting and new things are possible. 
  3. The blessing of a really great book.  I can sometimes almost lose consiousness because I am so engrossed in an exceptional story or a character.  And when I finish a book like that?  I feel powerful and enlightened, charged up. 
  4. Hiking in the woods or walking on the back roads.  It's quiet, so quiet.  You never realize how noisy your life is until you walk into the woods for a distance and then just stop.  My brain almost sighs in relief, and then I will be flooded with ideas for stories or books.  It's like I can suddenly hear myself, because I turned down the volume on the things that don't really matter, but distract me just the same.
This is my list.  I have been working hard to keep these things as a regular part of my life, because they inspire what is the best in me: a desire to write and to create, and also a desire to connect with people and to know that life is about more than routine and completing tasks. 

Try making your own list.  What things make your heart pound or make you feel suddenly, and unreasonably, happy?  Imagine if you could incorporate those things into your everyday. Imagine how different your worldview would be if inspiration could find you a little more often.