Friday, January 13, 2012
I'm Still Seeking Wisdom. You?
Tonight's entry ought to be a bit different. I'm away from home visiting my in-laws including my wife's sister who is visiting from Florida. We have just returned from dinner out together and I have some thoughts about how different things are for me than they used to be. I might as well share those thoughts since the only other thing I can think of to talk about is the weather and who really wants to read 750 words about that?
I'm a man who had grown up with anxiety and taken it on as the only way to go. When meeting someone new I invariably forget that person's name as soon as it is told to me because I am too busy trying to think of something charming to say. My concern has always been to insure that the person likes me. It just never occurred to me that one of the best ways to get people to like me is to pay attention to them and know them instead of focusing on myself.
Tonight, my sister-in-law introduced us to her boyfriend for the first time. This was at the restaurant and I had a bourbon in hand, which often helps me relax, but which in this case was superfluous. I was already relaxed and okay with what was going to happen. I was simply there. I wasn't trying to impress. And because of this I was able to listen to the man and to my sister-in-law in a way that surprised me.
None of this is that new or intriguing, I would imagine, to most of the people reading this. I imagine that there are those people in the world, in fact, most people in the world, who do not approach conversations with as deep a concern as I often have felt. Instead, they are just pleased to meet someone. Me, I've rarely been that relaxed. I've been too wrapped up in myself to really be able to pay attention to the other person.
I think that the technical term for this is narcissism, but that sounds too depressing so I hope you won't mind if I skip over that right now.
My therapist and I are working on the idea of just being present. Accepting the situation as it comes. That was what I was practicing tonight and, for the most part, I'm happy with the progress I made. I didn't fixate on how I was being perceived. Just a year ago I wouldn't have been able to imagine how a reasonable person could enter a social situation _not_ thinking about how they were being perceived. It was all so foreign to me.
It occurs to me that I never expected to be so confused at forty-three years old. I thought that by now I would have a lot more of this living thing figured out. I thought that by now things would be clearer to me. In fact, I imagined that by now I would understand pretty much everything. I thought I would be wise.
Now, I see that wisdom is something that I won't ever achieve. It's a process not a product and, if I am to be wise in any way, I will work toward wisdom for all my years. I feel very pompous saying this, as if I'm some guru sitting on a high ledge on the side of a lonely mountain. There you are, just reaching my cliff, and I have dispensed my wisdom to you. That's a picture that makes me laugh.
I'm not a wise man but I'm not a fool either. I have been a fool. I have done things for which I am not proud and for which I am ashamed. But it occurs to me that we have all done these things to one degree or another. Sitting at the dinner table tonight, listening to the conversation, adding my two cents when it felt right, and no longer competing as if there was a spotlight searching for the most interesting person at the table, I once again saw that life isn't about standing out. It seems to me that life is more a process of being with. I don't want to be the center of attention so much as I want to stand hand-in-hand around the circumference with everyone else. I want to be a part, not the only part. And it has taken forty-three years to learn this simple lesson.
I'm at my in-laws house with my sister-in-law and her new boyfriend. My job isn't to entertain or stand out as something special. Instead, it's to be myself and to be present in this moment. There is so very much to be learned in every contact. So much to learn and so much about which to write on.