Wednesday, September 23, 2009

To Thine Own Self Be True

I was watching Fox's Glee earlier tonight and was reminded of how much we all crave acceptance. (The show, by the way, is okay. However, I think the pregnancy faking wife and the pregnant "abstinent" cheerleader story lines are kind of tired, in my opinion, and there was a point I was kind of waiting/hoping for Kanye West to show up during the many All the Single Ladies dance sequences.) Whether it's applying for jobs, meeting new 'networking contacts' (okay, that phrase alone gives me hives) or just fitting in, we all crave a level of acceptance. Even the people who are right now shaking their head saying "everyone else maybe, but not me..." want some level of acceptance and validation.

I guess what made me think of this was the young gay character on the show...he lied to his father and said he was working out and trying out to be the kicker on the football team. The football lie came from one of his fellow Glee-Clubbers and it was all an effort to impress and garner acceptance from his football loving straight father. At any rate, he turns out to be a real boon to the team and a good kicker as well. It all ends happily, father accepts gay son and son joyfully has pleased his father. (Sorry if it sounds cynical...but I'm summarizing here!)

This not-untried story line started me thinking about the lengths so many of us go to in the name of acceptance. This young man, a true 'glee-clubbing fabulous friend of Dorothy' went as far as trying out for the football team to carry out a ruse and in doing so gain his father's love/acceptance. In our every day lives, we often have to make sacrifices to fit in. Whether it's not mentioning the glaring error a colleague made or not owning your life and it's truths...we all do it. It can be covering your light with the proverbial basket so as not to outshine someone, or just living an untrue existence.

In pressure filled situations it is so easy to succumb to wanting to say or do what is expected. When someone asks why you're not married (this one is my particular favorite) it's so easy to give stock answers. The truth is for me that it's not important to me. It doesn't define the relationship my boyfriend and I have. We love each other and don't feel the need to be married. But given a social situation it's often simpler to comment on commitment issues, timing, or location. The few times I've actually said what I felt and what I wanted I was greeted with blank stares and polite smiles. (Seriously, the comment running through my head was more like: "Really, this is what interests you about me? Not what I'm doing in NY or what book I'm working on? This is your burning curiosity? As if...")

I'm an only child with great need for space and ME time--could that sound more selfish?? But in all honesty I'm not terribly outgoing or gregarious--I'm generally more at home being the scribbling observer. Don't get me wrong--I love being with my boyfriend, but don't need or want him here all the time. Not pretty, perhaps, but the truth. I'm fine with me and while I love our "US" time, we're both just fine doing what we need to do. I'm not sure my parents always understand this, but they are supportive and seem to have accepted that their daughter doesn't do things the conventional way. They'd likely tell you that I never have and while they'd probably prefer it was otherwise, they deal with my eccentricities pretty well, all things considered. Thanks for that, Mom and Dad.

As you've gleaned from my previous posts, I spent a lot of time in a job that I should have left. Had I really been faithful to my ideals and true to myself, I'd have looked after my interests much more closely. I wasn't my own best advocate and I'll always regret that. I look back at so many times where I should have said something or done something but I didn't because I was afraid of how it would look. Honestly, I roll my eyes just thinking about me then!

So what's the right answer? Tell people what they want to hear or announce your truth to the discomfort of others? Both, neither...you decide. I've begun to believe that our own personal truths have to become MORE self-evident. It's not worth it to try to tailor your life or feelings to someone else's agenda. Understand, I'm not saying anyone should just act out every thought or emotion--it's just fine to have unexpressed thoughts and emotions. I'm just saying that whenever possible--meaning whenever we don't damage or impinge upon the truth or life of another--we should be true to who we are, what we need to survive. (And by the way, we all have VERY different needs. What is okay for me won't fill your bill.)

I was a weird kid who took Latin and read the New Yorker and Town & Country...in a smallish town in Minnesota. I fell in love with medieval literature and studied the cathedral architecture of Europe. I'm not "normal." My friends and family love me for/in spite of all this. They know I love my cocktails and my odd little historical facts, and that I'm as happy in an 18th century French Chateau as I am at the beach...with books at both places, of course.

My mini-manifesto, with apologies to Jerry McGuire, is this:
1. I love writing, whether it's about horses, clothes, silly situations I get myself into or whatever else might cross my mind.
2. I need my alone time and am perfectly okay by myself.
3. I love going to the movies and watching some bad TV.
4. I think books are both transformative and transportive--they can change your life.
5. I love French table wine, good cheese and crisp, tart apples.
6. The only champagne I'm at all interested in is made by The Widow Clicquot, in a manner of speaking.
7. I admire Europeans for their slowness in eating and drinking and spending time with friends. I love Americans for their unbridled confidence and sense of possibility.
8. Ideas are among the most necessary and important things we have as a people.
9. Negative energy can kill almost anything.
10. Gin martinis, with extra olives, are one of the great bar-tending achievements of all time.
11. I will always want to know more.
12. There will never be enough time on horseback.
13. A part of me is always in France...my mind, my heart, my soul.
14. A part of me is always in Minnesota with my family and old friends.
15. A part of me cares what people who read this will think...a part of me doesn't.
16. I made it in NYC, for many years...you know how the song goes. I still think I can make it anywhere.
17. No time spent with horses is wasted time.
18. No time spent on the beach is wasted time.
19. No time spent on the NYT Sunday crossword is wasted time.
20. The 10 most important two-letter words: If it is to be, it is up to me.

There's other stuff of course, but hey, you should always leave an audience wanting more.

So be yourself...I'm going to. Want what you want, and ask for it. Need what you need, and ask for it. I'm not good at that part of it, but I'm getting better. I aspire to a wardrobe where I love everything in it. I aspire to be a good, solid rider. I want to work and make a difference, somewhere yet to be determined, I guess. I've had two amazing careers, one in museums and one in publishing and I'm not anywhere near done yet. There are things I still have to share with the world! (Or at least the two or three folks who read my ramblings regularly.)

I'll be wearing my Hermes scarves a bit jauntier this fall, and my lipstick a little darker. My nails are going to be matte in some cases and will likely be navy, gun metal gray or black. It's time for corduroys, suede, and Barbours. *Okay, waxed cotton is seasonless, but you get the idea*

On that note, go forth and enjoy yourself...I plan to have an exceptional autumn!

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