Monday, April 27, 2009

Creating Myself

Mt Ranier
Originally uploaded by HDRob
When I was just starting to get over my depression, I went to a lecture where the speaker asked us, “What do you want to create”? Instantly, my soul responded, “I want to create myself.” For some reason, I sensed that I had been living a life that wasn’t a true representation of my desires and my needs. I’d been living my life the way I thought other people wanted me to live it and ignoring what I wanted to do.

I decided the labels of the past were no longer relevant. I wasn’t going to be “strong” or “outgoing” or “tough.” I’d assumed those mantles as a way to protect myself, and just because I’d acted a certain way at some point in my life didn’t mean I had to be that way forever. I, like you, are infinitely more complicated than a few labels, and I decided to claim that complexity for myself.

Then came the fun part. I got to decide what I am. I’d never liked poetry very much, but the day I started thinking about creating myself, I thumbed through O Magazine, and found a blurb about having free poetry emailed to you--a new poem every day for the month of April.

"Oh," I thought immediately, "I don't like poetry."

But then I realized I'm creating myself. Maybe I DO like poetry. I signed up for the email and read every poem that I received that month. Guess what? I do like poetry. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite thing ever, but some poems are beautiful and inspiring, and I enjoyed the process very much.

I quit having expectations about who I was. I remember how I always used to surround myself with people. It was a lot of fun at the time, but that wasn’t what I wanted now. I may have been outgoing then, but right now at this moment, I want some alone time. Tomorrow might be different.

I'm afraid that we've become a society that ignores our fun, independent side. We “can’t” take an art class because we don’t have time. You know, because we're so busy doing things that a month from now aren't going to make a bit of difference to anyone. We refuse to set boundaries and ask people to respect those boundaries. We wear clothes that fashion magazines say are in style or decorate our homes and yards in a manner that's currently in vogue, all the while ignoring our desire to have a living room with purple walls or pink flamingos on the yard. What does that get us, really? Does it matter if our guests go home after a party whispering about our purple walls or pink lawn ornaments? If it’s something that makes us happy and doesn’t hurt others, we should feel free to express ourselves any way we want.

About eight years ago, I read an article that disparaged those decorative flags we hang outside our house. The author of the piece thought they were tacky, and I took her assessment to heart. I got rid of my entire collection because I didn’t want someone to think I was tacky. Never mind the fact that I’d proudly accumulated a flag for every major holiday and season, and that I really enjoyed seeing them flutter outside my house. Nope. Someone I’d never met thought it was a horrible decorating move, so I need to get rid of them.

Finally, this year, I came to my senses. I still like those flags, and I miss the effortless way they decorate my house to match the seasons. So, I went to the store and bought myself a lovely pole and three starter flags. And you know what? Every time I pull into my driveway, I smile at my beautiful fluttering flag. It’s so ridiculous that I deprived myself of that simple pleasure for so long just because I wanted to please others.

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