Who is Your Authentic Self?

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I don’t know if I should have a sense of shame about this (I don’t), but back in college I took a Lit course from a grad student whose initials were BS.  That’s irrelevant.

Some of the books listed were comic books.  It’s how I discovered Maus, a comic that took on the Holocaust.  I highly recommend this comic, if you haven’t read it. It’s beautifully told and composed.  Now that I have that out of the way, I can get back to more important topics.

I thought that I had conceived a completely original idea. I was trying to impress BS to get an A, and we were discussing the Batman comic, one of the stories written by Frank Miller. He went over my writing, pointing out:”so here you have Bruce Wayne assuming the character of Batman” and I, like a smartass, contradicted him. “No. It’s the other way around. Batman is the real person, and he’s assuming the character of Bruce Wayne.”

That idea still fascinates me. I often feel that there are many selves that I have to assume to survive in the everyday world. There is my Professional Self, my Daughter Self, my Social Self, my Other Social Self, my Sarcastic Self, etc. and so on.  All these selves vary, according to who it is that I happen to be associating with.  I think everyone wears masks, to a certain degree. Now the question is, which one of these is the real, authentic self?

My working theory is that the Self who is truly happy is your authentic representation. There can be more than one. There are no rules. It takes a certain degree of self awareness to recognize who you are in relation to others, who you become.  And it takes a different kind of awareness, to know in the heart of your soul, if you truly enjoy being that person.

GEOMETRIC WALL SHAPES

Honestly WTF

There are a number of ways to personalize your space on the cheap, such as painting a basic shape on your wall, and then pressing a large blob of paper next to it. I like these two complementary colors, and like every DIY, it’s a choose your own adventure, so choose your own contrasting color scheme…choose your own shape.

Happy Doesn’t Give a Damn

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Happy is a dog.

At times I speak broadly in metaphors, but once a blue moon I am literal. Happy is gone now, chasing squirrels in the sky gone. I will say this one small thing, which I hold among many dear memories, and that is this: like Rhett Butler, Happy didn’t give a damn.

By the time I knew her, she was in her dotage. And she was doing whatever she wanted. She spit vegetables on the floor, but ate the good stuff.  If she wanted a pet, she came up to you and demanded it. If she didn’t feel like it, she up and left your hand floating in the air.

When we went out, she often had her own agenda, which may or may not have aligned with yours. I found this endearing. It may even have been mutual.

She lived life on her own terms, a smaller, condensed, and furrier version of how I would like to go about my own.

 

 

On Stoicism

“When Stoics contemplate their own death, it is not because they long for death but because they want to get the most out of life.  As we have seen someone who think he will live forever is far more likely to waste his days than someone who fully understands that his days are numbered, and one way to gain this understanding is periodically to contemplate his own death…[in order to] to extract the full value of that day – and, hopefully, the days that follow it.”

A Guide to the Good Life, William Irvine

I’ve mentioned Stoicism before, and once I reformat an old posts, I’ll re-mention it again with a link.  I have a fear of wasting my life.  Focusing on the mundane and not living according to my own values.  Stoicism, in practice, has a way of thinking has a way of clearing away the clutter.  It’s like Marie Kondo, but for your mind.

Starting Over Again (and Again)

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It’s been a long while since I’ve posted.  I’ve fallen off the writing wagon again.  I always do, even when I have a good rhythm going.  I haven’t written anything in any form, and that usually means I’m in a tough spot.  There are reasons.  Good reasons.  There are always good reasons not to do something – if that’s how you’d like to spend your mental energy.

My life’s been all over the place, and it’s almost just settling back down: new job, new commute, new home, new dog, new exercise regimen.  There has been nothing solid to hold onto.  I usually embrace change, but a lot of change takes a toll mentally.  I injured my shoulder a while back, and now I can no longer do yoga.  That used to be my center.  It was exercise and mediation all in one.  Now both are gone.  I used to be able to do that before going to work, and that meant I could start my day in a state of calm.  Gone and gone.  To be replaced by a nice long commute into a different city with a high crime rate.

I’ve started a new job and a new hobby, so I’m at the bottom of the learning curve again.  On the one hand, it’s nice not to have expectations put on you – no one can fault you for being bad at something you’ve just started.  At the same time, every day is an exercise in frustration management.  Or here’s another analogy: bobbing around in a sea of uncertainty.

This isn’t supposed to be a complaint post, I think those serve no purpose.  I’m hashing thoughts into words, like I used to do.  Writing can be therapeutic, a way of finding your way back to yourself, or back to the person you know you can be.  I don’t always write as the person I am in the moment – usually a combination of frustrated, hormonal, and slightly depressed (let’s be honest) – I like to write in the voice of my ideal self.  I find that person much more interesting.

To Try in 2016: Mount Dana

2015-08-28 15.57.27 Do not do this for the view.  When you peak, you look down, you will not be impressed. There, I said it.

But…if you just want to know if you could do it, just casually walk up 13,000 feet in three miles. Just to try.  Just to see.  What if? Before you go to Peru and tackle Machu Picchu, wouldn’t you like to know how you body reacts to altitude?  A friend’s daughter had to be air lifted back down on her way to Everest Base Camp. Her brain and started swelling inside her skull. Better to know beforehand if you have this problem, I say.

Mount Dana is located just outside Yosemite National Park.  You start at about 9,000 feet and get going until you reach 13,000.  You can do it in a few hours. It takes no technical climbing skills, just pacing, leg work, and the stubborn kick of a mule.

The driving question behind this, behind a lot of backpacking trips is this: can I do this? And there is really only one way of knowing for certain.

It’s a new year, it’s time for new things.

 

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Traveling to Capture Moments in Time

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I took three shots of this ship as it passed me by: a beginning, a middle, and an end.  I was standing on the dock in Port Douglas, in Cairns, Australia.  Taking pictures is one of many ways I try to maintain a death grip on happy memories.  Some other times, it’s just to prove a simple point: I was here.  One of my good friends makes sure to take a proof of life selfie next to a landmark to prove she was there.  I am an abomination in selfies, and that is the only reason I don’t take them.

What I’ve started stocking up on in my travels, is single moments when my life and my idea of perfection happen to coincide.  They come in little spurts: taking that first bite of nutella french toast, snorkeling for the first time without a life vest and not sinking to my death as I’d imagined I would (water and I have never been friends), watching the sun slowly dip down over the water, and practically every night I was skipping around the Nepal wilderness, thinking “This is my life!”

It’s odd how my everyday work life doesn’t feel like my authentic life.  It may just be that my career doesn’t offer many opportunities for joy.  My authentic life seems to be when I’m running around elsewhere: writing, running (literally, for exercise), traveling.  Basically, any time when I wish I had my camera around, trying desperately to capture time.

The Sacrificial Leaf

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The trees in the background are mangrove trees.  It’s a tree I’ve read about but never seen.  Their roots dig right into the saltwater.  A guide explained to me that for the mangrove tree to survive in saltwater, they funnel all the salt they take in through their roots, and deposit it onto a single, sacrificial leaf, that then withers and falls off the tree.

I know a leaf is not a person.  A leaf is a leaf.  But I find that explanation touching all the same.

Why I Go Outdoors

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Going outdoors is suffering. Let me just get that out of the way.

At least the way I go about it. I car camp, I backpack, I hike extended distances, sometimes just to make sure I’m dead tired at the end. At times, I wonder if I’m even enjoying myself. (The answer as I’m driving home, dirty and sore, is always yes). I’ll post sometime soon about a good hike for stamina.

This is not, however, a post about how people should spend time outdoors, or about the redeeming quality of nature. I will say this instead: being outdoors is the thing that saved me. Every now and again you may find that you have to save yourself. I don’t believe in white knights and swooning maidens, someone riding in and taking my chaos away. I believe in self salvation.

There may come time when you come unmoored, a time when everything that you built your life on comes undone and takes you right along with it. At that time you have to find the thing that pulls you back down and grounds you.

A second scenario: you change. Time moves forward, and you become another person, and the things you enjoy become things you enjoyed, past tense. You have to find yourself anew.

Going outdoors in the middle of nowhere used to scare me, but walking into my fear and hiking across it’s surface, is now a source of great joy.

Calm in the Face of Horror

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I have been out of the country, turned on the television (something I promise myself to never do) and found that Paris and Beirut had broken apart.

There seems to be a void that opens in the aftermath of horror, and it is up to individual people to fill that void with either love or hatred, calm or fear. Here are a few moments that I managed to capture on my camera recently, of moments that gave me joy. I’ll throw that into the mix, alongside the confusion, the fear, the fortitude, and hope that we as people emerge from events more resilient and caring of each other than before.

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