19 October, 2010

The mirror

I think it would be fair to say that I do a lot of "projection." Enough so that I am not really sure even how much. Sometimes I catch myself doing it. But if you catch your cat digging in the potted plants, you can be damn sure that it's happening 20 times for every time you actually see the cat doing it. That's what alarms me. And there are a million reasons why it alarms me. Some of them are just plain paranoia, but others amount to something substantive about my perception of the world around me, and my place in it.

Let me give you an example.

Every time I go home to visit my friends from Boston, I always have a great time. These guys have made different choices than I've made in life. They've all got families, children, and live in the suburbs of the city where we grew up. In spite of the different path we've chosen, the connection is still there. And it feels like, essentially, we are the same people whom we've always been. That's not to say we haven't evolved. But just that we have not morphed into unrecognizable individuals.

But every time I go home, I experience the same anxiety. I think a series of thoughts...

They must think I'm crazy
They must think I'm a freak
They must wonder what my problem is
They must think it's pathetic that I can't keep a relationship
They must think I'm the kind of person who could never settle down
They must think I'm very unstable
They must think I'm inconsistent
They must think I am living an immature existence like some sort of teenager

The list goes on. With the central theme being "Things They Must Think."

But when I visit with them, I don't hear questions like that. I don't hear "What are you going to settle down?" or "How come you can't just pick something and stick with it like we did?"

What I hear is "How are things going with the band?" or "Are you seeing anyone new?" or "Do you still like living in Seattle?"

And occasionally, a comment comes at total odds with my inner talk: "We're living vicariously through you."

And it makes me stop and realize that the things "They Must Think" are not the things they think. Rather, they're the things I fear about my own life. Projected onto the people whose approval and respect I want. Sure, they know I'm different and maybe a bit eccentric, and unconventional. But, by and large, they look at it as something exciting. Because, in spite of the fact that they all seem to be happy with their choices, there's something interesting about still having so many questions unanswered, as I seem to have.

The real issue for me is the question of why I fear these things so much in myself. Obviously it's got to do with self-acceptance. On the one hand, I should be glad that I'm at least willing to make the choices that work for me. But it would be so much easier if I could go the extra step of accepting the choices I've made, rather than constantly beating myself up with a measuring stick.

1 comment:

  1. They Must Think there's not enough decent pizza in Seattle.