I find it fascinating how little I know about myself. Those who know me might be similarly bemused by this statement, knowing the reflective soul I am. But I find myself wondering tonight if it’s the same for everyone. After all, it only really occurred to me two or three years ago that I was not the other people around me, so maybe I am alone on this fascination island. Or, is our larger cultural intolerance for mystery based on the fact that we’re all dumbfounded just keeping up with the changes of me, myself, and I?
I know many of my more enlightened friends would say there is no self, and while I increasingly see separateness for the fake-out that it is, I am not at that point yet. I still believe in a separate self–currently manifesting physically as a Kleenex graveyard on my living room floor and highly pressurized right ear drum. I am here–warts, wishes, and all. And it is in these times of heightened joy or stress that I find myself tilting my head at the mirror and saying, “Huh?”
I, like many, am a big baby when sick. Fortunately for me (insert sarcasm here), my switch from medium sized to little kids has put me in contact with a whole host of germs I have no immunity for yet–fucked up, steroid popping, rob-your-house-run-over-your-cat type germs. And, not that I expect them to, but they have no hygiene knowledge yet (okay, I lied, I expect them to a little bit). Last week, a fourteen month old sneezed in my eye after his not-even-guilty mother lured me over without mentioning his sickness, and then promptly snuck out the back door. Now, I don’t know if you have ever had someone sneeze in your eye, to where you can actually feel the spittle land in your eyeball, but it really makes you question your life choices. This ushered in my fourth cold in four months.
And I’m surprised, not by my whininess, but how inflexible and young so much of my thinking still is. “I’m going to be sick forever!!!” I exclaimed to myself with true conviction at somewhere around 3am this morning, and even in my groggy state, I knew I meant it. Something that had been happening for a little less than a week, was clearly going to happen FOREVER. The darkness of my thoughts, relative to my actual condition, also catch me off guard–‘you are stupid to be sick again, you are failing at being an adult, people are tired of putting up with you.’ Again, not cancer, not loss of a limb, but all my shadows seem to have full reign during these last four colds. Is the boundary between me and them really so thin? They don’t feel this close in my non-couchbound life.
I’ve also been startled by my joys lately. I set out to enjoy every day in March this year in order to make up for all those March’s as a teacher where I was stressed out and exhausted. It’s been tantalizing and sweet so far, besides the whole getting sick part, but it occurs to me I don’t even know what brings me pleasure as well as I thought. Walking home after a day full of delicious meandering last week, the thing that brought me the most pleasure was noticing a tree branch that was dripping water on a bone dry day. It was literally oozing with the recent collection of rain. I stood and took picture after picture of the water collecting and falling from the green branch tip. I even managed to catch one drop in mid-air. After sleeping in, making breakfast, catching good tunes on Pandora, a walk, a pastry and coffee, coloring, people watching, and park going–that branch topped all of them. I can safely say it equaled my joy in the whole rest of the day.
And so maybe limited self-knowledge is necessary, both for continued knowledge and for yummy surprises. It must definitely be a component of deeper compassion, both for myself and others. If we knew how little we knew….I wonder what else would be possible? As a three year old asked me recently when I said that we could grow the ingredients for stew, but not actually stew, in her mom’s garden: “Are you sure about that?”