Tuesday, November 21, 2006


If The Universe used del.icio.us my tags might include: daughter, sister, wife, friend, catmom. (I guess it would depend on The Universe's tagging preferences - the tags could also be more specific, like DOSsister or DLangwife.) I might be able to browse The Universe's items and tags and look at all the items tagged "redhead" or "SirrahBFF," and I'd certainly have some expectation of what an item with any given tag would be like.

Lately I've had a lot of expectations of myself in different areas of my life. Obviously, we all do, and that's OK. What I realized, thanks in no small part to therapy (to which I should probably just devote one whole entry because being in therapy has been such an interesting experience), is that the real conundrum happens when I try to meet other peoples' expectations about who I should be.

To wit: Last week, I glumly told my therapist that I'm afraid I'm not going to be the person that other people want me to be, to which he enthusiastically replied, "That's great!" I laughed and asked him what he meant. He said, "Can you imagine the pressure of trying to be who someone else wants you to be?!"

Later in the same session, he asked, "What if you were afraid of not being the person that *you* want to be?"

It was a total "Aha!" moment, the kind that makes me keep going to therapy even though for the rest of the year it's costing me $125 per session OUT OF POCKET because my awesome health care plan is sure that any mental health problem I might have can be neatly resolved in 30 sessions per calendar year. Thanks Oxford, and whatever.

Anyway, thinking about self reminded me of 2 things. One is about my friend C, whose husband taught her the mantra, "I'm C, who the fuck are you?" It's a lot less Stuart Smalley when you put it that way.

The second thing is a Cary Tennis column I read earlier this year about self:

There are many ways to describe a self: As a set of memories, for instance. You are the storehouse of all that has occurred; you are the repository of and expert on all events occurring to you, a curator of memories, a collector.

Then there are your talents and abilities, the things you do with particular relish or style. Most interesting to me, though, is your collection of incidents of maximum impact, moments of insight, life-changing events: Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, the thing that has made all the difference. Some of these things involve unknowing knowledge, unsayable understandings. Certain things work for us: certain painters, certain tunes. That we can know dependably what works for us is also a measure of self.

I've said this about a zillion times and it seems like right now I need to remind myself about it: Sometimes I look to other people for validation of myself. The interesting thing about that is, if someone looks to me to validate him- or herself, does that automatically give me credibility and/or validation? And if so, then why not just take that other person out of the loop altogether and believe in whatever I believe in?

In other words: I'm Gillian. Who the fuck are you?

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