It’s been a long, long while since I’ve written a blog post on here without trying to write something that was innovative, insightful or that was going to shake the online world.
That kinda pressure equates to no writing.
Lots of thinking, though. One of my favorite professors on Semester At Sea (no surprise, she taught classes in writing) gave me a valuable insight which I still haven’t forgotten: Alex, she said, when you are thinking, you’re working.
This was so critical for me to hear. Because up to that point, I always would get down on myself if I wasn’t creating something. She freed me to stop beating myself up, and to see thinking as part of my process of writing.
So, what have I been thinking about lately?
Too much, might be the best answer.
I can’t complain. I have an incredible pad on the water in Ft. Lauderdale (thanks to my brother), few work responsibilities and ample time.
You would think that would be a great–make that epic–set-up for a writer, eh?
I am sure it is.
So, what’s been in my way?
The usual suspects: depression, feeling alone, feeling (too) different in Florida; feeling like nobody talks about real shit here.
But when I can back up a few steps and take a more objective view, the scene starts to change.
Though I’m lacking those kind of friends who really get me, the people here are wonderful. They are some of the kindest, most giving people I’ve ever come across. And when I really sit down with them, instead of making this mental decision that spending time with them is avoiding the real work I’m supposed to be doing, something quite magical happens.
So, it’s not that these people aren’t deep enough to get me; it’s more that I’m just not giving them much of a chance.
I’ve been expecting, again quite magically, to relate to people in some profound way from moment one.
The way it works in Ft. Lauderdale is that you sit out on the porch with a neighbor, right on the water, they serve you a drink, and you just start, you know, talking. But it feels different than what I’d normally consider to be small talk.
Many of you reading this might be in a deer-in-headlights kinda position right now. Yes, Alex, this is how people relate to each other.
I guess for me, though, there has always been this pressure on my back to do something…
I was having a conversation with a new friend, Robin, who lives upstairs from me. He introduced me to the Enneagram (personality typing). Many of you might remember that this last year I’ve been big on a guy named Gurdjieff. He is most famous, perhaps, for writing Meetings with Remarkable Men–and, he also helped develop the Enneagram.
Anyhow, when Robin started to explain the types to me, of which there are nine. At first I thought I was a seven. But then he told me about four–and I immediately realized: I AM A 4!
In the book I bought to do some research, the 4 is listed as the tragic romantic. Melancholic type, moody, emotional. I actually haven’t read it yet, but I already get it. The person in the family around which everyone has to continually make concessions because of their endless sensitivities.
And I’m not saying that to make fun of 4’s. Not entirely, at least. It’s ok to be sensitive. But I think we 4’s also owe it to others to expand our sensitivities to include those people always catering to us.
But that’s a side point to this idea of wanting (needing might be a better word) to contribute something special.
It has me mentally always judging my actual and potential interactions with others: will this interaction serve my ability to contribute something special?
If not, the answer is spend more time alone in my apartment.
So, you might start to see how limiting this specialness is. More than limiting, it’s actually sad and prevents me from having a lot of authentic interactions with people; from letting my guard down and really letting people into my world.
Because the lie has been that people aren’t interested in having real conversations.
The truth is that I just haven’t been giving people a real chance.
So, where now?
In my life… and in this post.
Well, I started therapy again–with an art therapist–to look at past trauma. She’s cool, in her early 30’s, from Serbia, and she can spar with me, philosophically, which earned my respect.
I realize that it’s always hard when you move somewhere new; making friends, etc. And so I’m just trying to relax about the whole situation. It’s not like my life is all bad or anything. I just have felt like I’m purposeless down here.
Why am I here?
Well, I think the whole special thing has been in my way for way too long. And the only way to actually be at ease (opposite of dis-ease) within myself is to kill the specialness.
Not that I’m special, per say. I no longer feel that way (except for when I do…). But just the feeling that I have something devastatingly special to share with the world.
I’m making the mistake–which I make time and time again–of making something a big deal. My friend, Ari-Moshe, who is an incredible evolutionary astrologist, taught me that in one of his blog posts.
What is special? What does it mean to be special?
I think most of us want to be special to someone. We want to know that we matter. I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong with that, either. But it’s a problem when it’s self-defeating (or self-inflating).
If we are special–all of us, not just some of us–then it should express itself outwardly, not just inwardly; in other words, it should be a contribution to others, as well as ourselves.
The problem with special, for me, is that it’s deeply rooted in my sense of self. On some level, if I am not actively on the path toward doing something special, then I have no meaning, no value.
My sense of worth is inextricably bound to this venture, which is why I take it–and life–so seriously.
It’s not just a goal for me, it’s my identity. And it’s like the grip of a lover around my neck, threatening to kill me.
(And the lover is me.)
I think the real problem is confusing specialness with uniqueness. Everyone is unique, and that uniqueness should be celebrated, as a matter of fact! But I think many of us are scared to express our uniqueness for fear of being judged.
Perhaps judged for thinking that we’re special?
So, we try to downplay it. We try not to stand out too much.
And that’s the real issue here.
It’s a narrow bridge: on one side, leading us to our metaphorical death, is believing our own bullshit so much that we think we’re special, constantly taking us on bouts of either depression or megalomania; on the other side, is the slower, comfortable more innocuous-looking threat of death by living a life in relative hiding, afraid to show people who we really are for fear of being judged as arrogant.
By the way, I saw Chris Rock last night. Behind him were the words in neon red, COMFORT IS POISON.
So, what’s the infamous middle way?
For most of us, I think we find a partner and a few close friends with whom we can truly be ourselves. And we let our crazy out with them!
For me, it seems, the middle way is to allow my uniqueness into the world, a bit at a time, without making it any big deal.
Thanks for reading and accompanying me on this journey.
Happy New Year.