:: WHY WE BE ::

Boo to false, self-imposed limits, we say. These champion oracles want to live enthusiastically. Follow our trip through projects that challenge, frustrate, and/or scare us. In the end (which is really the middle) we want to live like big bright free and authentically awesome people.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hmmmm.... (Becky)

So I’ve been a little stumped ever since the balance exercise from my last blog. And that balance exercise was much harder than tree pose or half moon pose, yet nowhere near as hard as the WTF?! pose, I’m sure! (and I apologize for the bad yoga humor). Anyway, it seems that I’m ok with the tangible stuff. The first four categories… job, house, money, health… you either have it or you don’t. Sure it’s fragile and can be fleeting and temporary, but it is all stuff that’s pretty easy on which one can rely only on oneself, no? On the other hand, the next 4 categories… social outlets, family, friends, lovers, a higher power... seem to involve intimacy and community. They are essentially about RELATIONSHIPS. You have to depend on other PEOPLE (or powers) for satisfaction in those areas. You can’t do that stuff alone.

But I’m surprised that my wheel came out skewed in this way. That’s not how I thought of myself. I’ve always believed I’ve been able to get my energy from other people; always thought I worked better in groups. I imagine people would describe me as flexible, forgiving, willing to compromise, non-judgmental, basically pretty easy to get along with and even fun to have around. I used to consider myself a fairly social, well-liked person that most people thought was a good addition to almost any social gathering. I used to like to be in the middle of the action, always hated to feel like I was missing out on something. My college roommates still me tease me about missing stuff just so they can see me get riled up. But the thing is… I don’t get so riled up anymore. I seem to be going through a... phase?... where I don’t so much like people. They disappoint. I know this is not a good place to be nor is it a good thing to admit on a public blog. When did I become a cynical introvert? And why? And what do I need that I’m not getting and how do I get it? I understand it’s probably more my issue than anybody else’s.

I think American society is interesting and weird. Our need for privacy and solitude and independence is very foreign to so many other cultures around the world. When I lived in Madagascar, I was never alone. No one was ever alone. It just didn’t happen. There was no translation for the word--let alone the concept--of privacy. Yet here, living on your own is highly valued. Someone in their 30s living with their parents or other extended family members? Loser!! But this is the norm many other places. I'm not saying one is better than the other, just different. Both have their place, their pros and cons.

I live alone and own all the things one needs to live alone (dishes, car, shelter, etc.). One of my friends lives alone around the corner, my brother lives alone a mile away, I have at least three other friends who live alone less than 10 miles away. I am NOT saying I want to live in a commune with all these people, yet it does seem impractical and a waste of resources. But I wouldn't give up my space, my freedom, my independence. Solitude is a good thing. I just think it’s interesting that our society is set up this way. And I’m trying to figure out what it means that I’m often lonelier when I’m around people than when I’m by myself.

I don’t have much of a point for today’s blog, just confused ramblings. Did any of it make any sense to anyone? Later COFFEE sisters. Until next time…


Wendy said...

Becky, this is really thought-provoking. You're totally right that we have created a loner society and it's so true - it IS a waste, not only of our material resources, but personal as well.

As to why we feel more alone in a room full of people... I read an Anne Lammott quote the other day where she said something along the lines of "I've learned that the secret of life is to always keep your expectations low." This sounds bleak, but I think it's actually dead-on, and not bleak at all, but more about going with the flow - about accepting other people's foibles and flaws (and our own). I DEFINITELY struggle with reclusiveness too, and I think that cynicism is brought on by, ironically, overblown expectations, even tho they manifest as the opposite.

Anyway, great thoughts, B.

PS. I'd love to hear more about your time in Madagascar!

Katie said...

Becky, I really appreciate this post, and it made a lot of sense to me. They say no man is an island, but it sure can feel like you're marooned on one sometimes, even in the midst of a crowd. Sometimes ESPECIALLY in a crowd. You are describing a time that feels very familiar to me, when I lived by myself for all those years (6). It was a frame of mind that crept up on me over time, but I would do all the healthy things people say to do - go out with other people, take trips, stay in touch on the phone, exercise, take classes to stay intellectually challenged; my work was really fulfilling. But as time went on, I was becoming more and more cynical and less and less uncomplicatedly happy. It wasn't a linear progression, but felt like a little chipping away process. And I was an introvert to begin with, it sounds like you at least started as an extrovert! But I had always felt like an optimistic person, and so these changes were troubling to me.

American society IS interesting (and my husband says it's weird ALL the time.). I haven't traveled anywhere that wasn't a westernized society, so I admire your ability to put aside your American notions of boundaries and propriety, but I also think even among westernized cultures we are unique in how our relationships function. I think part of the Americanized concept of solitude is the idealization of self-sufficiency. That concept is so highly esteemed that it becomes character-defining, and I feel like people who struggle with self-sufficiency, for whatever reason, are sometimes seen as less than; different. Worthy of pity.

I don't think you struggle with self-sufficiency. In fact, if I ever AM marooned on an island, I think you would be the perfect companion because I have the feeling you would know just what to do with four coconuts and a shoelace.

I guess I'm saying I understand when physically and outwardly we do all the right and healthy things, but emotionally and mentally it's not matching up.

I think I have erased and rewritten this comment 10 times, because all I really want to say is that I'm sorry you're having a hard time and that I think you're a pretty amazing woman. It just comes out all wordy.

patresa said...

great note on cultural differences in individualism vs. collectivism. yes. so true! i wonder what it must feel like to grow up in a culture that was truly "good of the whole" and then to come here. that must be alarming and feel very isolating.

i like the idea of living communally. i imagine there is a way to balance this with quiet solitude.

i think what's weird about relationships (at least as i've experienced them)--and i don't know if this is my mainstream american mindset--is that the happier i am independently, the more fulfilling my relationships are. i have guesses about that, but they aren't fully developed yet. and i don't know if they're universal. but i do think it means that, generally (barring obvious human violations) we have a lot more control over how fulfilled we are in our romantic relationships, friendships, and family ties than we sometimes expect. i like that, because i really like being IN CONTROL AT ALL TIMES.

finally, I WANT TO HEAR MORE ABOUT MADAGASCAR, TOO! i demand photos and narration. i think there's an important thing in there.

amy said...

Me three on the "more about Madagascar!!" demands, Becky. Let's just get that out of the way asap. I'm all about living vicariously through others who've traveled to faraway lands and fully experienced different cultures.

Speaking of--when I'm out and about, I get so annoyed (SO! Annoyed!) when some stranger enters my personal space. I have about 3 feet circumference around me that is MY area. You get out of my area--yours is over there. People—particularly strangers—can be so annoying.

And yet if those same strangers told me they thought I looked real cute that day and gave me a big hug, I'd have a huge smile on my face all day.

Which just exemplifies why Katie's man (and many of my not-from-these-parts-of-the-world friends) are indeed right: Americans ARE weird.

But we're so dang loveable (unless we're bombing you).

Anyway! I deeply identify with all you've said, but maybe from the other side of it: I love alone time. One of the first things Charles learned about me when we met was that I find comfort/renewal in solitary activities—reading, writing, sleeping without the television on…(it was a point of contention for awhile) (he won). Which is so hard to get with a 2 year old, by the way, this solitude, and so when I do have a chance to take me on a self-date to the movies, or relax in a coffee house with my laptop and a latte, or go on a walkabout somewhere quiet, these are things that fulfill and center me.

And yet, I deeply love social outings. I like that connection to other people, and knowing I'm not the only odd bird in the universe. I always feel better about myself, and excited about life and my place in it after hanging out with positive people (offline and online, at places and amongst people like your sweet self).

On the other hand, if people were constantly calling me up to request I join them on their social outings? Oh man! Eventually I'd get so off balance with all the social stuff and then I’d become so belligerent and then I’d begin to resemble the grumpy old troll who lives under the bridge. And nobody wants that.

Basically, what I'm saying (in a really long-winded and pointless way) is that, yes, yes, yes--what you said, Becky! About balance. And America being such an oddly individual culture. Balance is important—I’d love to find a retreat full of people of different cultures and worldviews so we could all learn from each other (kumbaya), as I’m fairly certain this would bring everyone peace and a total seismic shift of magnitudinous proportions.

My brain’s abuzz, which is always a good thing! I’m so glad you wrote this, B.

Tanner May (Tanya) said...

Solitude is maybe a little catchy at times? I have actually been thinking A LOT lately how this is really the first time in my life I've ever lived alone more than 6 months. And it's been way longer than 6 months this time, which also makes me wonder how to revert back to living with someone else one day.... should that ever happen. I actually crave alone time sometimes, and as previously mentioned, sometimes couldn't be happier to just sit at home and talk to my dogs all night. But.... like you, I see myself as someone much more extroverted and social.... and someone who thrives on connection. Frankly, sometimes I think it would be a total hoot and AWESOME to live with my dad for the matter. Sometimes, this independent American culture really does seem to have its downsides.

Anyway, keep on with the self introspection and the balance. I also agree with all the awesome above comments! Rock on Becky Bend-y Coffee! :)

Steph said...

Isn't it funny that several of us fancy ourselves extroverts and social divas but really crave the solitude and just get annoyed in general by people??? Hmmmm......
I have to jump on the "MORE MADAGASCAR INFO" bandwagon. Please! Do share! As someone who's most exotic destination was Cancun for Spring Break (1994, btw), I crave stories about other places and such. PLEASE SHARE!
I don't think this post was "just confused ramblings" at all; I'd call it insightful introspection. And I loved every word of it.