I feel like a lot of my posts recently have been inspired by a few of my favorite quotes, but I think my mind has just been on over drive the past few weeks and they help to organize my thoughts so today I’m continuing that trend. I was once told that I was a “whirling mass of contradictions” and that phrase has always stuck with me. It was uttered as a disparaging remark on one of my less than stellar first dates, but I took it as a compliment because it reminded me of one of my favorite quotes by Walt Whitman:
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”
I’ve never fit into one box very easily. It’s a bit of a double edged sword because some of the things I love most about myself are part of what make me that whirling mass of contradictions, but it can also leave me feeling very lonely at times, or leave me questioning if I’m just crazy. I’ve felt this keenly in the last year or so. A little more lonely- like I don’t really fit in anywhere. At first I thought maybe it was just the pregnancy and post partum hormones talking, but after my daughter turned a year old I started to wonder if maybe this was just my new normal.
Then I read Brené Brown’s most recent book Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone and I can’t tell you how many times throughout the book it made me want to say AMEN! and start weeping all at once. One of the things the book touched on was that the more we sort ourselves into factions and try to use those factions to define us, the more lonely and disconnected we become. She explained people start to cling to those one dimensional identities because they fear that showing their more complex selves will mean they will be rejected- and boy do I hear that. But the hope in her book, and the hope it reminded me of, is that if we can start to be ourselves a little more, then maybe we’ll go back to feeling a little less lonely… but to do that requires an incredible amount of bravery sometimes.
About a year ago, I found out I don’t even fit my own familial/cultural narrative I believed my whole life. Thanks to the technology of 23 and Me we found out that the man we thought was my grandpa was not my mom’s biological father (but he will still ALWAYS be my grandpa) and that really threw me (and my whole family) for an identity loop. My mom went from thinking she was 100% Italian to finding out that was only 50% true.
Additionally, the past few years I’ve been reminded that I am a misfit for both political parties. Too pro-life and religious for your conventional democrat, too anti-death penalty and pro-social justice for republicans (this I have felt more acutely given the current republicans in power…) and I’ve been terrified to speak out sometimes for fear of being left alone in the middle of the political spectrum with only contempt on each side. But you know what? That. was. exhausting. and not helpful. And it began to feel like cowardly betrayal of my beliefs. So I’ve started speaking up. And while I’m going to try really hard to keep focused on standing up for what I love and believe in, there are some things I find truly despicable that deserve to be called out as something I will not tolerate.
Politics isn’t the only catalyst for this post either… I still often feel a little too crunchy for my academic friends, but too traditional for my progressive or hippie friends; a little too ridiculous for my seriously religious friends, and a little too structured for my more adventurous fly by the seat of their pants, anything for a laugh and a good story friends. “A little too” and “not enough” are phrases that run through my head over and over again and I’ve decided to do my best to stop making those judgements and just speak my truth, be willing to learn and listen, and accept the love I’m given without qualifiers and without fear that I’m going to be abandoned. After all, I have friends that have known me for decades and stuck by my side through ups and downs and my whirling mass of contradictions haven’t scared them away yet. Plus, my husband made vows to be stuck with all my crazy quirks so at the very least I have one person who will stand by me even if he doesn’t agree with me, right? Also, maybe my friends are thinking the same and afraid to show me some of their complexities and I don’t want to contribute to that anxiety.
All that to say… brace yourself if alongside the adventures and goal getting and pictures of adorable children you suddenly get a few more serious posts. I’ve just taken a lot to heart recently about how damaging silence can be. I’ll close out with one more quote, this one from a different Brené Brown book: “When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story, we can write a brave new ending.”
OK readers, you’ve all been warned…