Navel-Gazing, The Top Ten List

Disclaimer Part Deux: I’m still indulging in All About Me time. This is my blog, after all. These are my thoughts, my musings, my insights. Me, me, me. The whole idea of a blog is narcissistic at its foundation, when you think about it.

No one is forcing your eyes to travel across the screen. I hope. (If I’m wrong, if you’re sitting there a la Clockwork Orange, involuntarily eyeballing these words, then you have my sympathies, but I can hardly intervene…ANYway…)

My point is, you can stop at any time. Still there? Okay, then.

I”m approaching the half-century mark, which somehow sounds smaller than “fifty” but longer at the same time. I’m still learning things about myself, the world, and life in general.  I’ll stop learning when I stop living, I suppose. Or vice-versa. Anyhow, I feel like list-making today, so here’s a list of 10 new or recently-refreshed bits of self-knowledge. Some of these insights make me uncomfortable. Some of them frustrate me. They’re all me.
1) Work is better than play. By this I mean I prefer being in front of a group, behind a podium, at the counter, or staffing a desk, to running free with the herd. The world is scary and full of chaotic interactions that I find difficult to navigate. There’s a comfort factor in having a name tag, a uniform, or other props. They create a formal scaffold between self and world. It’s a crutch to identity too–a convenient categorization. I’m going to be labeled, boxed, defined and limited anyway. That’s what human beings do. By defining my own role, I gain some control over that process.  
2) I’m more comfortable shouting from a rooftop than conversing in an intimate setting. Case in point: I spill all kinds of truths in this blog that I could never otherwise articulate. Knowledge is only power in the hands of those who can use it against you. I don’t care what strangers think. Yes, people I know and love might read this (although I suspect not)  but once into the ether it’s out of my hands. Crying into the wind creates a useful emotional distance between self-self and social-self. I’m not saying any of this to someone. I”m saying it to everyone. It’s all on me. No blame falls elsewhere. No guilt. 
3) I don’t think sequentially, nor coherently.  That’s part of the appeal of communicating through the written word. When typing, I can set down my thoughts as they come and re-order them into a chain that others can follow without strain. What may look like a logical presentation on the page is not, by any stretch, how the ideas form in my mind. People who know me well become adept at translating my non sequiturs and tangential comments. (Or mask their confusion really well.)  I inevitably encounter puzzled expressions and careful questions in conversation with new acquaintances, because I slip and say what I’m thinking…and my thoughts have wandered in a totally different direction than everyone else’s, far off topic. Embarrassing and awkward for everyone, and utterly exhausting for me. (See #2, above. These two points are tightly related.) 
4) I see congruences far more readily than contrasts. I recall having the easiest time with “Find the hidden object” puzzles as a child, but struggling mightily over the ones titled “What’s different about these pictures?” I spot environmental changes immediately if they disrupt known patterns–a chair moved, a new item on the table, a missing piece of clothing–but if you take away an object and replace it with a similar one, I might not ever notice. I have learned to differentiate between specimens in certain fields of study: horticulture, aquaculture and agriculture, mostly. I can tell the an Arabian horse from a Morgan at a glance, I recognize a zillion weed species with precision, and I know my tiger barbs from my neon tetras. But cars? Pfft. Four wheels. Big, fast, loud.
5) My facial recognition software is faulty.  I marvel at people who spot me on the street and say, “Hey, I know you from…” I know no one in a public setting. I have lost sight of my own husband at a distance of three feet in a crowd. Not often, but it’s panic-inducing when it happens. Combine that quirk with #4, and I see people who look like other people everywhere I go. My ability to identify someone out of context is nil. Add my inability to remember names, and voilá! Social disaster.  I gave up on polite fictions before I hit thirty. It’s less tiring to admit fault up front.  If people get offended because I didn’t remember their names — or because I “ignore” them (i.e.,  I didn’t recognize them)  then clearly they don’t know me well enough for me to care whether they’re offended. 
6) Humanity fascinates and delights me. I find almost everyone I meet to be likable and admirable in some way. I also assume that the intelligence & expertise of others is at least equal to my own.  It’s taken me decades to realize that this isn’t normal, and that the second two assumptions might be optimistic, but it’s an instinctive response, not a rational one. I don’t work at liking people. It just happens.  (This one may come as a surprise to some folks, because…#7)

7)There is often a huge disparity between my emotions and my presentation. My favorite Calvin & Hobbes comic is one in which Calvin is snarling at everyone through the first few panels, and in the last one he’s all forlorn and asking Hobbes, “Why can’t anybody see that I need a hug?”  I try, God knows, but I have zero native talent for self-aware communication. I’ve learned to spot particular cues that I’m aggravating, but subtext is tricky. Basically, I live in fear of chewing off both feet at the ankle every time I open my mouth. When I mentally review conversations afterwards (and yes, I do, all the time)  I constantly wonder if I was accidentally insulting, inadvertently appeared arrogant, or came off as dismissive. Usually I conclude: yes. I’m perpetually puzzled that anyone would enjoy my company. 

Side note: this self-doubt doesn’t stop me from talking all the time, about everything, but it makes me a social anemone.  I love to wave my showy tendrils everywhere, yes, but only until the first sign of disapproval. That deflates all my confidence, and then I retreat into a hard, closed lump that takes forever to pump itself back up to normal again. Poke me too many times, and I retreat permanently.
8) I am not a positive person. Cheery, peppy, perky, excitable bright-siding will always rub me wrong.  I have no tolerance for magical happy-thinks. Nope, nope, nope. I can almost always see the silver linings. I do not want to focus on them. Happy does not need my help.  I feel obligated to complain the hell out of things when other people get perky about them. Call me an optimistic pessimist. I prefer to expect the worst so that I can be pleasantly surprised if I’m wrong.

9) I love new things with the passion of a toddler. I am a cheerleader for change. I move my damned furniture around because I can. That said, my typical way of expressing this love is by bitching and nitpicking and grousing about all the flaws and problems and difficulties. How can I learn to love all the rough edges of a new thing unless I polish them? This is  hard to explain to someone who’s just given you a present. It’s harder still to explain to a boss or co-worker that I’m not complaining, I’m excited about a new thing, and I want it to work, so I want to fix all the possible issues right away. Brightsiders do not understand at all. Ever. Curiosity is my core trait.  I always want to know what’s going on in every aspect of the lives of every single fascinating person I meet, not for any particular reason, not that I plan to do anything with the information, or act on it in any way. No, I just feel included if I’m in the  know, in the center of everything, quietly doing nothing at all. I like to know, just because.

Yup, I’m a cat. An anemone-cat. Good luck finding a picture of that on the interwebz. I looked.

10) I’m not a boss. I get no thrill out of imposing my will on others. I enjoy leading, if I have clear goals and a specific role to fulfill (See #1, way up there on the list) but I don’t get any ego boost from power for power’s sake. I know others do, on an intellectual level, I’ve observed its poisonous effects, but I simply do not grasp it on a gut level. I probably never will, and I’m okay with that.

Here endeth the navel-gazing. Next up: writing tips, book & movie reviews, and a convention summary, not necessarily in that order.