Not That Kind of Life

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There are a lot of things I could write about today. Part of why I didn’t write yesterday is because I just could not decide what to write about. How vulnerable do I get? What exactly do I address right now? So I think I have decided to hold off on a couple of things and talk about something that is related in a way to everything but is not any of the things I had initially planned on writing about. Confusing enough yet? How exciting. Also, sadly you all get no pictures this week because everything seemed too trite or too inspiring in a weird way to me.

I have been thinking about the concept of saying “I’m not the kind of person who…” I have tried to get rid of a lot of those in my life. I usually equate it to something like saying “I’m not that kind of girl.” It’s sort-of hateful at it’s core, even when it is ostensibly not supposed to be. Generally you are implying that you are better than that “type” of girl (or person of varying gender).

However, there’s another use for this type of phrase that I have been thinking about a lot recently, which is to deny what is currently happening to us (this does not actually discount the other meaning, they can definitely both work at the same time, but we’re just going to focus on this for now). An example might be “I’m not depressed, I’m not the type of person who gets depressed” or “I am not the type of person who has trouble sleeping because of anxiety” or “I am not the sort of person who gets jealous.” None of these are particularly related to current concerns of my own, by the way, but they are all ways we can try to deny our current experiences.

I found myself thinking a lot about this in the past couple of days. I have been thinking about it particularly in connection to my Psychology of Mindfulness class last quarter. The problem is that what we are actually saying when this happens is that we don’t perceive ourselves that way. What is currently happening in our lives is going against our self-narrative, against the story we tell to define who we are. But even though we have a very good source for that story, we still have blind spots. In fact, the story itself causes more blind spots.

I’ve been thinking about the ways in which religious stories give specific sets of blind spots. But that is perhaps a different post, and more than that I’ve been thinking about how all of it rests on the idea that we are any single thing or set of things at any one time. I struggled a lot with this concept in class last quarter but just now I feel like I am starting to come around to it. Five years ago or five minutes ago, I did not experience things in the same way I do right now. Over my lifetime I have taken a set of those feelings or reactions, usually ones I liked, sometimes ones I just felt like were too ingrained to move away from, and I have said, “This is the type of person I am. This is the set of experiences I have.”

Except of course that’s not true. Like everyone else, who I am is a constantly fluid concept. It shifts with age, circumstance, experience, and any number of other factors. It is not inherently good or bad. When I try to think of what the things are that make up who I am without question, I can think of a lot of things but most of those things have changed over the last 10 years. Some of them have completely altered, some of them have just matured or shifted focus. But none of them are the same. Probably that is what growing up is. Possibly that is the whole point of the living in the moment idea.

So I suppose the point is that I have had a lot of thoughts lately about all of the things that I am experiencing that go against what I consider my story to be, or at least parts of it, and just having that dissonance is enough to cause some anxiety. Maybe the most important thing isn’t trying to bend my experience to fit my story, but to make my story flexible enough to encompass whatever the experience might be.

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