For those of you who are starting to follow this blog but don’t know me personally, I feel it’s important to fess up to my primary personal flaw, before you read something here that I accidentally let slip by in the editing process, or in the event that I carelessly slip into ranting mode (I promise, I’m trying really, really hard not to do that.)
I have the self righteous gene.
You know those people who can get on their high horse and start judging others or a circumstance or anything, really? That’s me. Let me give you an example: I have gotten into multiple imaginary arguments with Eizabeth Gilbert (yes, the one of “Eat, Pray, Love” fame) over her choices in life. Now, it’s important to be clear that I don’t actually know Elizabeth Gilbert. We’ve never met, and I’m positive she is completely unaware of my existence. That hasn’t stopped me. Our imaginary battles sound something like this:
Oh that Elizabeth Gilbert! Who does she think she is galavanting around the world eating, praying and loving while the rest of us are here at home WORKING and PAYING THE BILLS and TAKING CARE OF OUR CHILDREN. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all just take off for a year and go MARVEL at something! That Elizabeth Gilbert is SO SELFISH!!!!
Ew. Do you see what happened there? My self righteous gene took a perfectly lovely book (and movie) and made it about me, and what a martyr am I, and oh how I suffer and therefore get to judge. When you stand back and watch, it’s not pretty, and it lands with everyone around me like a sour flavored stab in the eye. I have hurt people over the years with my behavior when it’s motivated by the self righteous gene. I have tried to cover that up by claiming I just have a really fine tuned sense of fairness (true, but that’s not what this is), or that we all have to take a stand sometimes (also true, and also not what this is), or sometimes I have just blindly not seen it. It took me many years, and the input of a very good coach, to finally get me to realize that this dark part of my personality is actually very detrimental to both my happiness and my relationships. It’s also typically ancestral, and in my case I believe it has a paternal lineage.
I’m telling you this because I believe that writing requires vulnerability and honesty if it’s going to be worth reading (and yes, blogging is a valid form of writing) . If I’m going to share with you my experiences on the road, I have to allow for that. I also have to allow time for things that I write to sit for a bit, so that I can come back and look at them with a critical eye to see if what I’m writing is actually interesting, and to watch carefully to see if my self righteous gene is trying to take over so that instead of writing, I’m ranting. I don’t want to rant. I might rant. I’m going to try very, very hard not to.
The good news is that I am aware of it, and of how destructive it is. Awareness has led to my learning how to press the pause button in order to stop my mouth from saying or my fingers from typing something I don’t really mean after a more thoughtful assessment. I will likely still judge (as all people do), but it will be a more constructive process, and one that tries to see different perspectives. When I am tired, or feel passionately about a topic, or I’m just generally frustrated, the pause button doesn’t always work as well, and so if you are following along here, I’m giving you a heads up that will sometimes happen. If it does, I will try to pause, edit and reflect. The nature of some of the places I plan to visit will be charged for me, because I feel strongly about the ways people in this country have been marginalized and I want to be honest about what I see. Despite that, I also don’t want to dump a self righteous rant into this space, so it will be a process of finding the balance.
The beauty of awareness is that it shifts things, so that your perspective can also shift. In the case of my relationship with the unknown-to-me Elizabeth Gilbert, a new balance has developed between us. I now appreciate where she was coming from during her year of travel and writing, and I agree that there are times in your life when it’s essential to pause and marvel at things. Fortunately, it’s a lot easier to see that now that my life circumstances are different, and I’m not spread so thin and perpetually sleep deprived. It also made it more enjoyable for me to read her book, “Big Magic”, which has one of the funniest stories I’ve ever read in my life, about an elk caller and the perils of mocking someone else’s offerings. I encourage you to check it out. And to Ms. Gilbert, who I really know nothing about; my apologies. I’m working on it.