Saturday, September 12, 2009

Broken pictures

Sometimes you wake up and realise you are not who you thought you were, to the extent that being who you thought you were would mean pretending. It happened to me. I thought I was decent, loyal, reliable. And mostly I am, but mostly is not black and white. I thought I could be described in straight lines, but I found out I am more complicated than that.

I am better off though, or I will be, if I ever swim out of this rough sea and reach dry land. I think I am wiser for it. I have stopped wanting to hurt myself for falling short, and started to think about how I can build on the truth to make myself into someone I can admire.

I had a picture of myself that was flawed, and it was painful to try to make the world, and how I acted within it, fit that picture. For instance, I thought I would make a good father. I would learn from my own father's mistakes and I would do a good job of it. Well no. I am not very good at it. I'm lazy and inattentive, easily distracted, sometimes unable to take the positive approach that I know is right and occasionally unwilling to make the sacrifices that their long-term security demands.

But I do what I can within my limitations and I am able to accept that that is not going to make me wonderdad. But shouldn't I forgive myself for that? I forgive others for their failings. If I know they are doing what they are able, I am content to consider they are good people for it. I think when you have a certain view of morality, which I had and to some extent do have, it's easy to refuse yourself the standards you would readily allow others. You believe you have to be better so that you are able to consider yourself unique, important.

I like to think that I am good at helping others accept that they are not describable with a pencil sketch, that they are rather variegated, and if they can only accept what they consist of and are capable of, they will love themselves more for the beautifully coloured mess they are than the sharply defined lines they aim to make their reflection. But I rarely succeed. We like to imagine that underneath the splodges of rainbow are thin graphite lines that are the outline of who we really are. And then we start hacking away at what we consider doesn't fit, sometimes maiming those round us because they are part of the colour we are trying to expunge.

I know I have! Always in the pursuit of the "right thing", a mythical course of action that is both correct at the time and can only have good consequences. Yeah right. And agonising over it worked for me too. Accepting that you cannot figure out how your life will unwind if you choose this or that makes it a lot easier just to do what feels right and live with it. And I've found at least that I can avoid feeling I have to keep trying to cram everyone else into the "right" box as though those consequences can somehow be forced to be good.

So, right now, I have a couple of areas where I do not know what the right thing to do is, to say the least, in part because the right thing is often not something that can be set out in a single imperative, but is complicated enough that there can be several right things, each right in a different way. (Luckily, if I can use that word, it's pretty clear that in each area, whatever I do is going to end in tears, so I don't have the usual problem of trying to figure out which course won't be a disaster. I have the luxury of already being in the shit.)

And maybe I will have to accept that I am not a particularly pretty picture. Part of wanting to be calligraphy rather than Pollock is simple vanity. I think vanity is born out of lack of being loved, or the lack of being able to feel loved, however you come to lack it, and the consequently inability to love yourself. The vain care a lot about what picture others see when they look at them. So can I put vanity aside and accept that whatever has splashed on me now is me? I don't know but I know that I was not vain when I felt loved, and I suppose that was because I was reassured that someone who mattered to me thought that my picture was pleasant to look at and I was able to believe that they thought it better than the sketch.


At 2:30 am, Blogger Paula Light said...

I don't often comment on blogs these days, but I had to pop over to say ... beautiful post.


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