Rethinking, Hamlet-like

Posted on May 23, 2010

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I’ve been analyzing dreams for going on two decades, and have developed a good feel for when my subconscious has something to say to me. Today I woke up earlier than my usual seven and a half hours (when my backbone has fused and I need to either get up or stay in bed and later walk around like Frankenstein) at the end of a dream. That’s a pretty good sign it was meant to be thought about, so I did. Then I went back to sleep and had another iteration of the theme, waking up again, this time as Frankenstein.

I have to admit, because of the dreams, I wasn’t sure I should write, or speak, or in any way draw any attention to myself, for a considerable long while. The intent seemed to be that my vantage point works for me, but isn’t going to work for anyone else. My father’s words are drilled into me through a formative lifetime of repetition: “Don’t tell everything you know” and “don’t talk just to hear yourself talking.”

It’s a caveat that, believe it or not, is one of those tent stakes in my soul (I would talk WAY more without that one in there.) It’s valuable, because we all need checks on who we are to keep from being too much. I think most people have those kinds of checks.

On the flip side, those checks are crippling when taken too far. I’m a little weepy, from a series of interactions today that could offend me. I’m determined to sleep and forget, and be who I am tomorrow, not a shadow of myself timed and measured to be inoffensive.

My best friend and I were talking about that tonight: the fact that we really have no idea how others view us. We are a package, all wrapped up with papers of our own choosing, but with no idea what it looks like to someone else. It stemmed from a hilarious discussion I had last week with a fantastic family, the oldest daughter of which dropped one of the most succinctly worded ironies.

“I totally didn’t trust you for, like, three weeks, because you were so well-dressed.” It was magnificent, with a lovely reference to “fine-twined linens” from a very bright and witty young woman, and we laughed and laughed. I couldn’t have been more surprised, though I was completely unoffended. It was ironic to me, much more than to her, because she didn’t know my history: geeky, awkward, lacking confidence, having been rejected by not one but two husbands, and actually keeping rather a lid on some of my more flamboyant inner whims. I would never so self-describe, and had no idea how I came across. But it had such a ring of truth: trust, linked with impression.

I’ve thought about that today as I’ve considered the things people say, the way they look at you, the way they feel about how you do your job, and perhaps someone turning and walking away rather than responding to something you say. We really have no idea what they think of us, and they likely have no idea what their behavior makes us think of them. And it probably isn’t good to think too much on it either way.

One of the unfortunate side-effects to growing up with people who were perpetually angry with one another is a rather morbid fascination with what people feel and why. A counselor for my parents once called me the “barometer” of their relationship. I’m way beyond blaming my parents for anything, because I’m really deeply grateful for the life and gifts they gave me. But I have some tics and hiccups that are mine to overcome. One of them is codependency. I’m too old to be anyone’s barometer.

My young, witty friend taught a class today, described to me later. She was magnificent, with the unadulterated truth-telling of someone who has not grown up afraid to describe what she sees. I held my breath to hear how people responded to her wrapping paper, and was relieved that those listening, appreciated. It was exactly what I needed to hear, to keep me from being too careful with my words after those dreams.

I don’t know what my wrapping paper looks like, and that’s not likely to change. I welcome your feedback, have no illusions that my vantage point is the best, don’t especially need a pat on the head, and probably, will still keep talking.

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