Saturday, August 23, 2008

Who Are We, Anyway?

I've been giving some thought to this. I've been having a lot of thoughts, lately, about bigger issues than I usually deal with. Maybe it's The Show. Maybe it's having my daughter around more and watching her deal with issues that I realize are still unresolved in my own life. Maybe it's all the reading I'm doing. Maybe it's living with another human being, one whose neuroses and complexities often are mirrors of my own.

Anyway, this week I had a conference call with two former hosts of The Show, as it's approaching its 1000th show. It's taken 19 years to get there. And as I listened to them talk about how The Show changed them and how they changed it, I heard echoes of my own experiences. I've had to think hard about what 'women's issues' are. I've had to examine my own opinions about issues, my philosophy of life, what attracts me, what repels me. They're things we take for granted, a lens through which we see the world without usually checking it for cracks, distortions or clouds.

My filter is a firm belief that everyone has rights, everyone has potential, that humanity has an essential goodness that needs only to be encouraged. I've confessed before to having a large Pollyanna streak. But my filter also is clouded by a need to be liked, accepted, considered capable, interesting and attractive...a need to please. I'm not crazy about that realization, but it's true.

I read books about today's young women, driven not to be just 'good', but 'effortlessly perfect.' I see it in my daughter and she sees it in herself. It's an unattainable goal and one that leaves them constantly dissatisfied with themselves. Courtney Martin's "Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters" is an excellent discussion on the topic and I'm giving it to my daughter as soon as I've finished it. I see no answers, but perhaps even being aware of the universality of the problem is a first step toward finding a solution.

But it goes deeper than that: we, as humans, choose - no, NEED, to be with others. We can live alone. But we miss than connection, that sharing of experience with another. And when we live together, we are immediately in an intricate, unrehearsed dance as we step around each other's neuroses and 'hot buttons'. We find outselves twisting ourselves into a new shape that doesn't rock the boat. And if we twist too far, we break. The relationship ends. This isn't a women's issue exclusively - men do it, too.

So what's the answer? How do we have a relationship that allows each of us to be who and what we are without compromise? Is there such a thing? And if we had that space, would we even know how to do it?

Welcome to my head. I think I need a vacation.

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