again from Mountain Mecca and Hippie Heaven!
I? No, this isn’t a game of 20 Questions. This is a question I, (and most
everyone else, I suspect), have asked myself periodically over the years. Who
am I? What do I believe in? What is good about me? What is bad? How happy am I
with who I am? Am I the person I thought I would be? Am I the person I want to
be? What do other people see when they look at me?
questions to answer, especially if you try to answer them honestly.
two moments, recently, when I’ve had to re-examine my answers to these
questions. But first, let me tell you how I answer the question: Who am I?
I am relatively open-minded and tolerant. I struggle to be a better person and
it isn’t always easy given that I am fairly selfish by nature. My tolerance for
flakiness and fluff is low…and gets lower every year. I hold grudges, but way
down, deep inside where no one can see. If I enter a room with 30 people in it
and one cat, I will want to go see the cat first, but I’ve learned to be polite
and delay my animal-fix until I’ve greeted all the humans. I can’t pass a
mirror without looking at myself. My skin is thick but there are holes in my
armour which those people I love can easily penetrate, and my wounds can remain
open for years. I like to believe I practice critical thinking but I know this
isn’t always true. Self esteem is always an issue but I’ve gotten way better
and continue to improve. I LOVE to laugh; if you make me laugh, I can forgive
almost anything. I rarely cry in public. To spend a day writing or reading is
heaven. I worry too much. My communication skills are above average but I think
I’d trade them for a killer singing voice. I’m a rule follower and that really
bothers me sometimes. I love my husband more than anyone or anything in the
could go on and on, (did I mention I’m a little self-absorbed?), but I think
that’s a pretty good Polaroid of me from my perspective.
here’s where it gets interesting, what matters more: how I see myself, or how
others see me? Let’s say, for example, you think you are a really helpful
person, always trying to show people a better way to do something or improve
their skills somehow, but other people see you as a pushy, know-it-all who doesn’t
respect them. Whose view is correct? I mean, if your intention is to help
people and your motivation is genuine, is that a bad thing? Hmmmmm.
on the phone the other day having a gab fix with my friend CS – who always
makes me laugh, FYI – and somehow the conversation comes around to “criticism”.
Well, CS tells me, quite gently, that I am a very critical person. And that I
can, in fact, bring others to tears with my words. Really? Now, I know I can be
critical of others but I thought I did a pretty good job of keeping it to
myself. But the more we talked, the more I contemplated her words, the more
some stuff started to make sense.
If I am
good at taking criticism, it is because of my mom, (who I loved dearly), who
always gave me the distinct impression I was just not good enough. (Don’t
worry; I’ve dealt with this baggage). Anyway, you take enough criticism, you
kind of become immune to it. Ten years in the film business, where there is no
shortage of folks waiting to point out your many flaws, also helps. And when it
comes to my writing, I want criticism; I want to know what’s wrong with
it so I can improve.
it comes to giving criticism, I tend to dole it out only to people I care about
most, or those who I think can handle it. The logic behind this being that I’m
not going to waste my time trying to “help” people I don’t care about. From my
perspective, if I give you criticism, you should take it as a compliment – if I
tell you what’s wrong with you, it must mean you’re special to me, or I think
you’re a really tough person. Ha! Funny, huh? Yeah, that’s a pretty mental
thought train when you look at it objectively.
probably given CS boat loads of criticism over the years, both because I cared
about her and because I thought she was one tough cookie. I’m sure I’ve also
cut down or otherwise maligned things she believed in or held dear. Some
friend. It must have been terrible to have someone you love pointing out your
flaws and ridiculing your beliefs.
view is correct? Not mine. No matter how noble my motivation, a real friend
should put the feelings of the other person first. Unless she comes to me and
says, “Hey Princess what do you think about ___________________?”, I
should keep my opinions to myself (and even if she does ask for my opinion,
diplomacy is always best).
all individuals and it is not up to me to decide what’s good or bad for other
people, (although I really would remove all reality TV from the face of the
earth if I had the chance – well, except for “So You Think You Can Dance” but
only because, aside from singing, I desperately, secretly wish I could have
been a talented dancer…but that’s me being selfish again).
second instance of “Who am I?” introspection, came just yesterday when I had a
mini-reunion with Rad, a friend I hadn’t seen in almost 20 years.
to my school in grade 6…from Nelson, oddly enough. She was a smart-alec, animal
lover, with a good sense of humor; we hit it off instantly. We used to make
paper martini glasses in class, pretend we were Hawkeye and BJ Honeycutt from
the TV series “M*A*S*H”, and make wisecracks to the kids sitting around us. We
thought we were hysterical, but I’m sure we were mostly just a pain in the
story brief, I ended up dating Rad’s brother a few years later…and you can
probably guess how things fell apart from there.
life gives us second chances and so when Rad told me she’d be passing through
Nelson and would I be interested in meeting up for a few hours, I didn’t hesitate
with my “yes”. Seeing someone after such
a long absence, after the history that has passed between you, after your lives
have branched off in very different directions, is strange. Would she be the
same girl with whom I walked endless loops around Guildford Mall, shared
Slurpees with, and helped capture an injured crow to rescue? Would the laughter
which once came so naturally to us still be there, or would we share an awkward
silence as we stared across the table at a stranger?
our reunion was one of those “pick up right where we left off” kind of deals,
and the laughter was still very much alive and kicking. The experience was
surreal, staring into the face of someone you know so well and yet not at all. Rad
turned out to be a pretty damn cool person. And though she probably wouldn’t
agree with me, I am blown away by her capacity for caring and understanding.
found most interesting was hearing Rad’s version of me, and our time together
as friends. She seemed shocked that I had ever considered myself a “loser”. She
told me if I had any self-confidence problems, they certainly didn’t show. I
wondered how that could be possible; I’ve always imagined all my classmates saw
my short-comings and insecurities as bright as a neon billboard.
I had seen in her as strength, sometimes, perhaps, bordering on cruelty, was no more, she
explained, than her attempt to deal with the sorrow of a lost friend. How I saw
her and how she saw me, was not how we saw ourselves. Interesting. And, in the
end, it’s almost as if we have swapped identities. If you had told my
13-year-old self that Rad would be the one racking up the university degrees,
becoming a teacher, and living a relatively conservative life while I would end
up as the gypsy rover, ex-stunt person, I would have laughed (hard) right in
musical, “Les Miserables”, protagonist Jean Valjean is an escaped criminal who
turns his life around, and, under an assumed identity, becomes a leader of men,
a hero of sorts. When another man is mistaken for the wanted criminal and
jailed, Valjean must search his conscience and decide whether he should
continue to lie and serve the people who depend on him, or tell the truth and
free an innocent man. He asks himself…
I conceal myself forever more?
I’m not the man I was before?
must my name until I die, be no more than alibi?
only who we are now, or are we the sum of our parts? Was Valjean a hero or a
truly ever answer that question? Is it necessary to answer it? We are, I
believe, works in progress, shifting, changing, realigning. Sometimes we will
surprise ourselves, and sometimes disappoint. Sometimes our greatest efforts to
help a friend, such as CS, will cause the most harm. Other times, friends like
Rad will tell us we were pretty cool, that we were loved, when we thought we
were the biggest dweeb on the planet.
end, Valjean reveals his true identity and his captor, Javert, must face the
reality that a man can be both a criminal and a hero. Because who we are
is never as important as what we do.
Who are you?
next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy, & lovin’ life!