Tag Archives: truth

5 Things That Define Me

(I’m taking this idea/suggestion from a post on Story Time With John)

1. Humor. Looking for the humor in things, both wanting always to be amused whether by books, movies, or people; as well as being funny to entertain myself and others. I’ve said it before, but I know when I lose my humor – about anything, whether it’s a person or a situation – it’s a huge red flag to me that things are seriously out-of-whack. Humor makes life tolerable.

2. Nature. I feel like I am my best self when I’m outdoors, in nature. When I first heard of Thoreau and Emerson in a college literature class, I felt these are my boys. I’d never heard of transcendentalism before then but immediately recognized I’d had that experience – sublime moments in nature where everything seems to come together, the purpose is clear, and all is right with the world. (This doesn’t happen a lot but even lesser experiences are well worth it to me. Being in nature is both immensely calming and invigorating. It suits my strong desire to be unrestricted, unhampered, “free” if you will.)

3. Connection. A powerful drive to have meaningful, substantial connections with other people. I can experiences actual “highs” from being with other people – specific people that is – that leave me feeling euphoric and uplifted; my mind buzzing away with thoughts and ideas. That is the best.

4. Understanding, characterized by a lifelong penchant for asking questions. I have a real need to find meaning in life, in events that have happened, in relationships I’ve had, and what we’re all doing here. I want truth.

5. Creativity and expression. I’ve been making stuff since I first had crayons and construction paper. The materials have changed but the desire to transform materials, whether for usefulness or art, is one of the things which makes me happiest. I include writing here because it’s my rawest, truest form of self-expression (I think so anyway).

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Disagreeing with “the herd” over a member

It works my good nerves when other people insist on telling me about someone I know well. The specific players and subject change, but this has always been part of my experience. It’s particularly galling when there’s sound, obvious evidence that I DO know the person.

Supposing, for example, I know that Person X has a hair-trigger temper. Yet other people are compelled to tell me how calm, laid-back, and unflappable Person X is. Really?? If I offer a contrary, only easing-into-the-waters response like, “That hasn’t been my experience,” they appear not to hear. If I then ratchet it up, perhaps with “I’ve seen Person X lose control,” they argue with me! Argue?! “Oh no,” they’ll say, “Person X would never do that.” They wouldn’t? Well, that’s funny. My mind is still pretty sound, and I’m damn sure I saw Person X blow their top a half-dozen times! (Can you tell these scenarios aggravate me??)

And why does it get to me so much? Because the person who has seen and claims different, is now the crazy one, the problematic one. If other people don’t see it, it doesn’t exist! Grrr. I’ve tried to become less affected and invested when this happens, but the problem is there can be repercussions for taking a passive approach, for the other people involved and for me. And it’s a real nuisance in situations where it’s necessary to keep dealing with all the parties.

Still, how much effort is worthwhile to try to convince other people of things you know? My own answer is “less” than it used to be. It’s not my most generous response, but at times I figure, let people hang themselves. And just proceed for myself based on what I know. In part, it comes back to a long-running theme in my life, namely just how much responsibility to try to take for other people. The other part, I’m sure, is image-control. Stepping away from the herd, in this case with a contradictory opinion over someone such as our “Person X”, can result in becoming the target of criticism and backlash. Holding an unpopular opinion, especially about someone other people apparently need to think of in a certain light, isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Even so, when I know I’m right, when my direct – not rumored or speculated – experience with a person tells me something important, I’m going to put my faith in me. And let the others go where they will.

Should I believe what people say about themselves?

I don’t generally consider myself naive or gullible, and I know I’m not lacking in critical thinking skills, yet I have a history of believing the things people tell me about themselves, especially if they’re emphatic about them. As in: “I’m very honest.” “I always pay my bills.” “I love people.” “I’m good at my job.” “I have a beer or two when I go out.” “I’m on a good mood all the time.” “I don’t let things worry me.” “I am always there for people I care about.”

So what’s wrong with believing statements such as those? Well, numerous times, I have come to find out assertions like these from various people weren’t true. And I got bit. I prefer to be operating, in life and with people, on the truth or damn good approximations of the truth. To be believing A when in fact Q is reality, can throw me off my game and screw me over. I don’t enjoy that.

But you or at least I, want to be able to believe what people say about themselves, particularly when we have little or nothing else to go on. The things told in casual conversation aren’t necessarily things that can be easily confirmed or disproved. You can ask around but other people’s biases or even one out-of-character incident could skew the answers. Googling might reveal if someone is a felon, but it won’t prove the veracity of more abstract personal revelations. So, unless and until there’s a better way, personal judgement is all we’ve got.

Questioning and doubting everyone’s personal revelations and proclamations could be exhausting. I don’t need or want to do that. The key for me was/has been becoming aware that I had this vulnerability (common as it may be, I still think it could be called that). Not to be so auto-pilot when someone describes themselves. To pay more, or at least equal attention, to how someone acts over time. If a person has made a big deal about a specific trait they have – “I’m a giver” or “I never cheat” or “I make the decisions in my family” or “People know not to mess with me” or “I talk things out calmly instead of getting angry” or “I’m a leader” or “I’m friends with all my ex’s” – I pay more attention to future information to either back up or dismantle those claims.

I feel like I was born knowing certain things

There are concepts or ideas I feel I was born knowing. It’s been quite awhile, but when I went to college I took plenty of Social Sciences classes where I studied the basic theories and philosophies of personality/character development. None of them truly addressed what I mean.

I have long been profoundly interested in the ideas of truth and fairness. We can rule out these being emphasized in my childhood at home or school, because they weren’t, not really – I heard oodles of rhetoric and dogma, but in relatively short order saw and experienced the hollowness of both. I didn’t know the word then, but had a front seat and a bowl of popcorn for repeated viewings of Hypocrisy 101. Even though I was a child, many things I saw didn’t sit right.

A second obvious possibility is that I became interested in truth and fairness as a reaction to their absence, i.e., I witnessed or felt impacted by their lack, and so made the search for them my life’s mission. I’m not going to toss anyone out of the room for suggesting as much because there IS an element or three of that at work in my psyche. I experienced things then that I’m still trying to correct now as I go about my life in the greater world.

What I’m talking about however, transcends mere reactionary railing against perceived wrongs, whether against me or others. There are just certain…things, for lack of a more eloquent, spot-on word, I feel I’ve always known. For some readers, that assertion could skew too closely to Mysticism or New Age beliefs. I don’t think of myself in those terms and don’t typically relate to much of what I hear from their respective camps. (If nothing else, my skeptical, smart-assery and irreverent natures would deny my membership.)

Whatever that quality was in me, whatever I was born knowing or being, I can tell you there was no guile in it. I was like a little laser when it came to all things true and fair, and it never occurred to me to hide it or otherwise be manipulative. My life probably would have gone smoother if I had been slicker because adults, the ones I dealt with anyway, were not so enamored of these particular qualities. Let me revisit that last statement. The adults were okay with it so long as they thought I was reflecting their mantras and dogmas, so long as my qualities, including this profound attraction to truth and fairness, “passed” if you will, for something that fit into their schematic. The older I got and the more I threw off the (artificial to me) belief systems that I was surrounded by, the more obvious it became that this kid isn’t like us (and is therefore wrong). I never believed it. The power of feeling you’ve always known something, were born knowing something both right and good, is sturdy stuff.