Thursday, December 15, 2005

Have You Looked Behind the Couch?

When someone’s dumping you, or you’re dumping someone, have you ever heard or said, “I just need to find myself?” Come on, let’s see some hands. That’s better. Okay, now let’s just see the people who have actually said it. I notice there are a few. Good. Could one of you please, please, tell me what that means?

I have no head for science yet there are snippets of the Theory of Relativity that I understand better. Okay sure, until recently I was much heavier. A big guy. Maybe at that size “finding myself” didn’t present a problem. I was hard to miss. To steal a phrase, wherever I went, there I was. So, is this just something that petite, svelte people have an issue with?

Honestly, when someone looks at me and utters that phrase, I’m truly perplexed. I have to fight back the urge to reply, “but you’re right here.” Maybe I’m dense. I don’t understand. Even if I make the leap of faith that “something’s clearly wrong,” I struggle to try and picture the journey that lies ahead of the speaker of that phrase. Where do you start? We all have junk rooms where we live. Or a junk closet. In my case, it’s my garage. No room for cars in there; too much bric-a-brac. If I was lost somewhere in my garage, it could truly take years to find myself. And because it’s creepy and full of spiders, I might as well just give up the hunt before it begins.

I’m not generally the kind of person who rejects others’ experiences simply because I can’t relate. But I’ll confess (please keep this amongst yourselves) that I don’t believe that there’s ever been a human being on this planet who really had an urgent need to find themselves. When ending a relationship, I think it’s a simple translation to, “I don’t wanna hang out with your sorry butt anymore.” But, admittedly, that doesn’t have a lofty ring to it.

Oh sure, sometimes we all need periods of quiet where we can reflect. I’ve never found that too useful; I always end up thinking about food or the waitress that served it to me. Still, it might come in handy.

As I’ve aged, I’ve certainly learned more about myself and do what I can to apply the best of the lessons I’ve learned. I just don’t know how I could’ve gone out and done that on purpose. Who knows. Maybe there’s a club somewhere, where this magical experience can occur in a truncated period of time.

It also seems contradictory that one would better find themselves outside of a relationship. I always thought that a good relationship was central to finding ourselves. Isn’t it in our interactions with other people that we discover who we are?

I suppose I’m revealing myself as not the kind of person who would travel to sit on a mountaintop and meditate. After all, it’d just make me hungry and there’re no drive-thrus in Nepal.

I have a close friend who, years ago, was hooked, lock, stock and libido, on an attractive younger woman. It was torrid. As she struggled to get away from him, she assured him that she simply, desperately, needed to find herself. The sad part was that he related this to me as if it all made perfect sense. He got upset with me when I chortled. (Ah, he was hurting, I don’t blame him.) “Hey, not everyone is like us,” he said. “They haven’t spent as much time inside themselves.” (And here, all along, all I thought I wanted was to get inside someone else. Oh well.) He chided me and accepted her explanation as valid and significant. In the end, he accepted her exit. Ah, love! The things it can make us believe!

My friend is a passionate, talented artist. A hermit and an iconoclast. Years later he discovered that the object of his affection was unhappily married, with two children, living in suburban hell. I’ll tell you, she should’ve looked in my garage first. Far less daunting and she might’ve found a better self behind the discarded tire, near the box full of my old 8-track tapes.

So here I am, unsure whether or not I’m simply being unfair or truly seeing things for what they are. I suppose I won’t really have an answer until I find myself. Maybe I’ll start in the hall closet.


Blogger Mark said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

Is it that sometimes maybe one can get so entrenched in a relationship that they lose their sense of self? Deep in the world of compromise and living the "I before WE except after US", is it possible to feel so disconnected from the things that make you tick that there is almost a period required to find that again? I think there sometimes is. In my idea of a perfect world a healthy relationship (of any form) helps one in becoming more of who they are; hurtling past the blocks that may have limited them. But more so often we settle for dynamics that constrain us, we balance pros and cons and opt for the security of insecurity. After getting out of a 7+ year relationship, I know I needed to reflect on who I had become. Embarking on my own I had to accept or reject many of the habits & dynamics I had adopted along the way. I'd call that a period of "finding myself." I feel the better for it. I'm still the same guy to some extent. I'm sure I'll continue to make many of the same mistakes. But if experience is any kind of teacher hopefully I will grow, not seek out similar dysfunction to what brought an end to my previous relationship. Hopefully I will recognize the patterns and align myself with those that resonate with the better things in me. Just as you share you thoughts with us, creating a catalyst for reflection, an opportunity to expand ones perspective, any relationship becomes that opportunity. What got lost as you bumped uglies on the couch? What slipped unnoticed from your pocket as you night after night imbibed a steady diet of Netflix? What of value still sits in your garage a home to spiders? Or is it time to do a little house cleaning? Is time to make some space available for something new? Yet sometimes "I just need to find myself" is a nice way of saying "I just need to find myself without you."

10:54 AM  
Blogger Larry Hertzog said...

Mark -- you pretty much make my point. Of course I said *good* relationships should help us discover more about ourselves, not dysfunctional ones.

And it's to those dysfunctional ones that we really need to say, "I'm tired of hanging out with your sorry butt."

I agree that, in some smothering relationships, one doesn't have "room" for growth, etc. Still, as you know, I'm always right.

2:07 PM  
Blogger knowwhereman said...

The words “I just need to find myself" can be assigned to the junkpile of life along with "But can't we still be friends?" and
"It's not about YOU it's about ME"
and "I love you, just not in THAT way" and my all-time favorite, "I'm
SORRY". These are empty words spoken from a spirit of cowardise and deception. We never mean any of these things (OK, maybe "I'm Sorry" once in a great while).

Having said that, the journey of
"finding yourself" in its honest
sense is part of our great lifetime
destiny of self-identity, self-understanding and actualization in life. But since we don't ever have a good handle on who "we" are, most of the time we likewise can't know the best way to "find" something we don't understand and can't locate in the first place. But much like looking for lost
keys, we may never find where we
actually laid the object of our search but we can identify some places where we know the keys are NOT.

Also, "I need to find myself" can
also mean peeling away a few layers
of the onion that is our being.
Sometimes we tire of living in those outside layers of ourselves that the world and most of its
inhabitants see. Sometimes we long to peel away a few layers to
see what's beneath them. And
what's inside there? YOU are, the essential you. But beware of this process. During the search we
might find out we're not the most perfect, lovable, talented, caring person that's ever been born. And that's a tough one to swallow. If
we're going to start "cleaning out the garage" we'd better not be
afraid of working in the dark.

7:50 PM  
Blogger Larry Hertzog said...

"During the search we
might find out we're not the most perfect, lovable, talented, caring person that's ever been born.

Now you tell me.

11:14 AM  

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