What is it called when you assume all other humans engage with others and with life the same way as you (and you’re, like, really wrong, yet you continue to be surprised when you’re confronted with reality)? It’s not cognitive dissonance, it’s not confirmation bias, it’s… well, it’s something I seem to experience on the daily, whatever it’s called. And that’s neither here nor there, it’s just something I’ve been pondering. It would just be nice if I could bear in mind that everyone is different, as is how they choose to navigate life, and that my way isn’t necessarily better (or worse) – just different. It will be especially helpful to bear that in mind once I finish my MSW and (eventually) begin working with clients, since having any kind of expectation on how another person is able to traverse life’s mental/emotional obstacle course is nothing but frustration waiting to happen.
A lot of years ago, I was involved in a 12-step program wherein you’re encouraged to admit to yourself and others what you’re powerless over, become open to accepting help for that thing, do an honest personal inventory, right your wrongs as best you can to clear away the shame, do your best to keep your side of the street clean and avoid future shame, and help others do the same. While I am no longer participating in that program, there were (and are) a lot of really useful things about it I still carry with me. In particular, I am always looking at my side of the street to see what my part in things is, and I (usually) do my best to keep that clean and well-tended. I try to bear in mind how my behaviors affect others, and take good care with all of that.
I’ve been told I am unusual with all of the self-seeking and inventory-taking. That your average Jo(sephine) doesn’t do such things, really, and instead just operates on cruise control in relationships (friends, lovers, family, etc.). It’s possible most people are just better at relationships than I was/am, but I also think there’s some truth to some people not owning their own stuff, whether they can’t, or just won’t. And there’s also truth to a lot of people opting not to think so damn much, I suppose. :)
I’m nowhere near perfect at the self-reflection thing, and a lot of times it takes someone else’s perspective to show me where I’ve got room for improvement. Example: I am strongly averse to shows of passive-aggressive behaviors. Like, I get borderline angry about it sometimes. Unfortunately, because I grew up around it and have been surrounded by it and was modeled that behavior, I do it, too. (Man, I hate that.) And I don’t always recognize it when I do it.
A friend wrote a post not long ago about how it is we get annoyed or angry at things in others, when we ourselves do it, too, and how that requires double-extra self-checking. This is one of those things for me, and I think the problem is you can only do so much self-reflection and evaluation on your own before you start missing things. Outside perspective matters. I’ve said this before: you can claim yourself to be a paragon of virtue, patience, tolerance, and love, but if you’re living alone in the woods or on top of a mountain and never find yourself challenged by another human being, it’s way easier to say those things.
You find out who you really are when other people enter the picture (or, in some cases, when they leave).
Anyway. By doing all that inventory-taking and gaining insight into who you are and HOW you are in the world, you can change the trajectory of your life – at least, that’s this person’s humble opinion. If you find yourself constantly frustrated by the outcome of things, and you seem to experience the same or similar outcomes on a regular basis, then it may be time to take a look at your insides and see what, if anything, you can do to change. If you find yourself in relationships with similar (or hell, even completely different) people and none of them work out but you’d like them to, then digging a little deeper on the inside might help.
I started thinking about all of this because I know damn well all the stuff I carry around with me has led me to this point, where I am right now. WHO I am right now. What’s that pithy saying? Life is 10% what happens and 90% how you react to it? And I think once you take stock of what you’re carrying and take ownership of your part in things, rather than paying no attention at all or insisting on laying all the blame elsewhere instead, a much bigger world opens up. It just seems really important, not only for your own benefit, but for those around you. Again, with (two of) the Four Agreements: Be impeccable with your word, and always do your best.
It’s been a hell of a weekend. On the good side: I’ve been eating well, getting plenty of sleep, and went to the gym both days, and I went into the office today to get some work done while it was quiet. I also got to see a friendly/familiar face at the grocery store on my way home, which always makes me happy.
On the less than stellar side: I woke up to a dead bunny at the end of my driveway on Saturday (which felt a whole lot like an omen); the air-conditioning crapped out in my car on the hottest weekend of the year; a favorite employee at one of my local stores made a highly-inappropriate comment about my chest tattoo that embarrassed the hell out of me and made me not want to return; and Ninja and I have opted to call it quits.
I guess that’s the big one, and for many reasons I won’t get into, it’s for the best. Doesn’t make it suck much less, of course, but knowing it’s the right thing helps. I think the fact that we’ve been apart for a few months softened the blow a bit, too. So many good things came out of the past year that I can’t begrudge any of it; I just have to hope we both find whatever it is we’re looking for. We’ll see if friendship is possible down the road, once the dust has settled, but for now I’ll be disconnecting, for my own sake.
So, there’s that. Interestingly enough, it all coincides with my decision on Friday to finally get back to living life here in the present moment, instead of hanging my hat on some kind of future hope that really shouldn’t have ever been there in the first place. Funny how things work out.