Have you ever been minding your own business and someone decides they don’t like your haircut? And they tell you that instant as though they are doing you a favor? Or perhaps you are sitting at a table at Barnes and Noble reading, oh I don’t know, the Writer’s Digest. Someone saunters in and orders a coffee. They see your magazine cover and decide to give you their two cents, something along the lines of, “Writing is stupid.” Like a mean little sister driving by and telling you of the inadequacies they’ve noticed in the years they’ve witnessed you in their existence. This person just inflicted themself on you for no good reason at all. Probably putting a damper on your day.
Imagine another scenario. You are a young pimple faced seventeen year old. You just left an awesome first date with a pretty sophomore. You can’t help but sing loudly at a stop light. Possibly there is some wild gesturing and emphatic face making involved. You are unself-conscious in your first kiss delirium. To your left at this stop light there is an embittered soul who deigns to make fun of you until you look, self-consciously, in their direction. Turning down the music and regarding yourself as somewhat of a loser, suddenly, there is a quiet resolve never to sing in your car again. This person inflicted themself on you, possibly putting a damper on your day.
There was an asshole who decided to fire a twelve gauge shotgun behind my house tonight. That guy inflicted himself on me and sort of put a damper on my night. Maybe I even hate him, which pisses me off given that I spend a whole hell of a lot of my time trying to be a calm and peaceful sort of person. If it was a suicide, then it was doubly an asshole move because someone has to clean that guy up. I’m just saying. I’m tired of people inflicting themselves on other people.
How about that moment at Christmas dinner when Uncle Larry decides to mention the horrid mole little Susy had removed before her fifteenth birthday. Lucky little Susy, her new boyfriend is there to hear the whole sordid tale. That’s not nice Uncle Larry, or anyone who decides to explain to another person how stupid / annoying / wrong they are to make themselves feel special. This is just not very nice, twelve gauge shotguns not withstanding, as firing those in residential neighborhoods is never nice at all. This is just pushing up on someone else’s existence, and that is with what I have issue.
When I opened this blog I was white-knuckling life. Everything seemed fine on the outside, even to me. But something inside me was holding on for dear life, as though I found myself on some awful fair ride, and I don’t care for fair rides too much anyway. Anything put together by a carnie between the hours of mid-night and four am can’t be all too safe. Somehow, there’s a carnie in my guts and he’s managed to rig some awful version of a spinning, twirling iron maiden and I’m on it. I don’t want anyone else to notice, but it’s always the person with the least amount of decency who points out someone’s personal torture device.
I overcompensate for being self-conscious, then. Icy Exhale….Defrosting the Human Condition. It’s packaged fairly nice for my very first venture into blogging. That’s a pretty good concept, too, given that it is the human condition with which I seem to be taking exception. Not that I don’t like being human. But the truth is that one has to already be made of very strong stuff to even be born a human in the first place. We forget this strong energy from which we are made. We go about life letting other people tilt-o-whirl their feelings about us onto us, and we become fragile.
The last time I was shopping my writing around my ego took a hard hit. I print the work and send it off in an envelope. But in this envelope there is a contest fee from which the winner will be paid. I’m not talking about some half-assed unheard of literary magazine; I’m talking about Tin House, The Sun and Glimmer Train. In this envelope with my writing that I have labored over as though I bore it from my own womb is a return envelope with enough postage to bring my writing home to me should it not be selected. Time and again I receive a form rejection letter without hide nor hair of my own writing among the contents. And there is always someone there to console me, telling me that maybe I should write more relatable material, possibly involving family life and the care and maintenance of bulldogs.
I let the ideas and opinions of others mold me for a long time. When I opened this blog I was still allowing others to mold and inform my opinion of myself even as I vehemently react against others inflicting themselves on me. My sense of worth, whether I was aware of it or not, hinged on this blog. Only for a moment. But the impetus behind it is that I am going to write and be read if it hairlips everyone in town. I’m gonna do whatever in the hell I want.
Since this time I have softened and my skin has become thinner with an elegance that allows room for puncture and performance in the same swift movement. It is easy to value the thoughts and feelings of others when we don’t see ourselves for who we are. There comes a time in everyone’s life in which they begin to see themselves for everything they are and more importantly for everything they are not. It is the “not” part that is the most sacred. It is in this space that we can begin to develop space for what is, no longer wasting time and energy on the things we are not meant to become.
Consider the people who most succeeded in spite of a harsh opinion of themselves inflicted on them by another. Think of the people who have fostered healthy self-interest and tattooed their stories on their arms without regard for thwarted passions of people who don’t understand; people who are afraid to go under the needle and fill themselves with rainbow-colored ink. I ask you, Reader, who would you be if the opinions of others didn’t matter? I ask myself this question everyday, perhaps basing decisions on the very answer I am frightened to give. Who would have you airbrush the days of your life like an infatuated centerfold. Who would you be if you just smoothed out the creases of criticism from the glossy pages of your being?