Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Being honest

Recently, I have had both cause and opportunity to take a harder look at myself than I have done in a long time.

The opportunity: After finishing one of the larger work projects that I have taken on these last few years, suddenly there has been time to take stock. To ponder other things than work, while running a myriad of small errands that had been put on the back burner while The Project got finished. Like trimming the trees. Having the car serviced. So, I have been driving from the bank to the bike shop to the hardware store, thinking about me, myself and the people that I know.

And then there is the cause.

If I were one of those people that believe that the World revolves around them, I would probably think that its tolerance for me had just gone into short supply. It is not so much that I have been having a bad day. Or days. You know those days, when you take your old car to have the exhaust patched and they estimate it at $100 but it turns out to be $300, which incidentally did happen to me yesterday. No, this has been me, all me. Incidences that suggest that other people do not see me as I think they do. Or I would like them to. That what I mean to do is not coming across right. And that I just may not be as good a person as I think I am. It is not that I am just a misguided do-gooder, which I dislike, but I just might be somewhat of a selfish bastard. Which is atrocious.

It is not easy to own up to stuff like this, especially when the evidence is disparate and incidental. But I do crave honesty, and if I will not honestly connect the dots on my own, then how can I expect myself to be honest in interactions with other people? So here are the candid facts: Within the span of a few days, I have been told, by one of the most tolerant men I know, that I have become overbearing to him. And he is absolutely right. Granted, he did not categorize it that way. But that is still what has happened. And during another phonecall, the day before yesterday, I finally realized that my relationship with a dear friend was not the close, supportive, and sweet bond I thought it was. Instead, I have been taking advantage of that friend's weakness for kindness. Literally praying on it. And that breaks my heart. Plus, there is nothing left to do, once you have said you are sorry. Except to let time pass.

I don't know. I just do not know. Perhaps this is the test that I, as a human being, am put to every now and then. Life holds up this mirror to my face and I either flinch, or look straight into it. Not just to see what I mean to do. What I want to be. Like to see. Look past the benevolent intentions and righteous opinions, and actually see myself as the person I really am. And in that moment, let go of the primal urge to justify my actions. And then I am hopefully ready to change what I can change. And to accept, not expect, as someone kindly told me, many years ago.

The insiduous part of it all is that I feel no malice. I do not act out of malevolence to others. I harbor no black beast. I can honestly say that I bear no ill will to any of the people I interact with. Or more specifically, I have no interactions with people I do not like. That is my protective mechanism. I instinctly avoid people that I resent. We all do, to some degree, but I suspect that I may be more prone to such exclusions than other people. On the other hand, I am definitely more intimate to those that I do connect with. I invariably seek a deep connection with my friends. I yearn for truly connecting with other people, for bluntness and candor, for implicit trust. I feel literally none of the apprehension that normal people feel with getting to know someone 'too fast'. It has become quite apparent that I lack the fine-tuning of barriers that people generally erect between themselves and their friends. I have trouble creating that scale of fine granularity running from 'friends' all the way to 'close friends'. I seem to only have friends. And then other people, like acquaintances, colleagues, clients, etc. My friends get more or less the same of me. My attention, my time, my honesty, my support, my trust, my belief, my heart. But that is just my attitute, not a description of what friends 'ought' to do. Therefore, I have to be ever watchful that I not automatically expect the same unruly, even naïve, kind of friendship in return. This is especially true since quite many of my friends are rather private people, even reserved.

Take my best friend for example. My wife. We have been friends for twenty years. When we first met, back in 1985, she immediately 'got' me. She recognized my unrestrained nature, and just accepted it. Which is more than I could expect anyone to do. And we became friends right away. But she is in so many ways nothing like me. Although she has changed somewhat as the years have gone by, she is at heart a very private person. Despite her acceptance of my disposition, she lets few people near herself, and doesn't try to 'devour' her friends like I tend to do. She simply does not seem to need other people to the same degree that I do.

As I have said now and then on these pages, I crave communicating with other people. I am fascinated by them. Without subscribing to any sort of 'pinnacle of Creation'-ideas, I find man to be simply fascinating. And I do believe that each and every one of us is a precious universe in and by ourself. In my mind, it is an absolute privilege to be able to not only be alive, but to be alive with all these other people, and to be able to communicate with them. Connect with them. Experience this marvel of Life with them. To see our existence through their eyes. To see yourself reflected in them. It is in these truths that I find life to be truly too short. And that may also be the cause of my unruly attitute towards it. My lack of restraint when interacting with my friends. My clumsiness with correct labels for peoples relationships. My inability to pause, to relent, to find moderation, to step back and let time pass.

But I am going to stop here, because I believe that one can easily go in one continuous succession from seeing a problem, acknowledging it, to finding its causes, and then slide right into justifying it, and I want to stop just short of that.