Friday, August 3, 2012

Unlikely Inspiration

I have had the good fortune over the last few weeks of being really obnoxious and stirring up misunderstandings with several people about whom I care a great deal.

You know how sometimes you're grumpy and you think, "Why is everyone in the whole world so stupid and annoying?!" and then you have a quiet moment to sit and reflect and realize that it can't possibly be everyone in the whole world, so it's probably you? Well, it's been kind of like that.

How can all these people who know I love them take what I say so wrong?! Chances are it's because I'm saying it wrong, or I'm saying things I don't need to, or because I'm running off at the mouth without thinking things all the way through.

I have a host of excuses that come and pat me on the back and cluck their tongues and sympathize with me: You're tired, you poor dear. You didn't really mean that. Everyone has bad days. There were extenuating circumstances. You are a rare and unique snowflake who is frequently misunderstood. You had good intentions. You are only human. And any other number of gentle self-bolstering murmurings. It's not that these things are not true. But what does it matter if my intentions were good when my ill-chosen words (or seriously, complete diatribes) hurt someone else?

You know that feeling of not knowing the snappy comeback and then later you think of all of these marvelously wicked things you could have said? I almost never have that feeling. Not because I am so nice. Because I can almost always think of the snappy comeback. I can flatten someone with words if I feel cornered, insulted, or even just mildly irritated. It is a far worse feeling to have flattened someone than to have stood speechless and blinking. But this is not the sort of thing I'm talking about, really. I don't often get into verbal confrontations like that any more.

No, sadly, I'm talking about the sort of well-reasoned, articulate, contemplated blowing of hot air from atop a self-designed pedestal that deflates people. Not on purpose. But because my purpose was unclear, or because my own ego decided to come and do a little jig in the forefront of my brain, drowning out anything anyone else was saying. Where I allow the part of myself that fears itself and other people to do the talking for me. The kind of thing where I project the nonsense of my own neuroses onto a screen of other people's lives and superimpose my perspective over everything like some kind of grainy, B-grade horror flick. And not the "so bad it's good" kind, not the cult classic. Nope. It's the kind that leaves people groaning and outraged that they've wasted their time with it. The kind that has people looking for their car keys and trying to make a hasty egress halfway through.

You may have spotted up there that I said "good fortune". I was not being sarcastic. This month I am writing about the things that inspire me from day to day. If I am completely honest with myself, a major source of inspiration for me both in life and in writing is to stop and reflect on my own bad behavior. There are things that I struggle with constantly. There are elements of my personality that I detest. I gave up worrying over a less-than-supermodel appearance years ago. When people ask what I would change about myself, I never think of my love handles. I think of my tongue. For every gift, there is a light and a dark side. For everything we do well and naturally, there is an abuse of the talent.

I have been blessed with a certain amount of ability to express myself with words. I can't dance, I don't draw or paint well, I will only ever be a moderate to poor musician, but I can sometimes turn a phrase. I take this for granted. I assume that it comes naturally to other people. It is not usually a difficult or arduous task to sit and think of things to say or write or imagine. I like words, I like to play with them and see what they will do. I live intentionally to try to use those words for building up, drawing closer or describing a common condition. I have my own personalized paving stones in the road to hell in this particular regard. Sometimes, because they flow so easily, because I have practiced commanding them, I get emotionally lazy or careless or just plain arrogant and forget or ignore the effect they can have. Sometimes they tear down, push away, and attempt to define myself outside a certain boundary. This is not a source of pride for me. It is a misuse of ability and really just generally obnoxious and tiresome.

Why is this inspiring to me? Because these brushes with my darker nature, my egregious missteps, these confrontations with the ugly things within me spur me on to do better, to be better, to live better. I compete and contend with these demons every day. It is through this acknowledgement of my own shortcomings that I push myself further to learn how to love better, how to relate better, how to soften the edges and recognize the gaping holes. I'm still learning. Every day I fail at something in one way or another. Sometimes more spectacularly than others. I accept this. I am, after all, only human. But being human does not excuse me from trying to be a better human. This is my inspiration: the gifts of growth, of humbling experiences, the gift of a chance to learn and move onward, upward, outward some more.


  1. This morning I got up an hour earlier than I usually do because I really just needed some quiet time to myself to read pieces of some books I felt would be inspirational. To soak in them. They were good for me to ponder, but invariably the thought I've been hugging to myself since then has been something like this: "How can I succeed when I feel so full of weaknesses?" Uncanny that you should write this post today. Thank you.

  2. Your post could not have been better timed. I've had a full week of battling my darker nature and trying to do better. I too will try again tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after that....

    1. Embrace your evil self! You know - 'the only way to be rid of temptation is to yield to it'...and I had a dream once (takes breath) where I was confronted with my evil self which was the image of a witch and looked just like the girl who bullied me in high school (takes breath) I hugged her and she and I became one (takes breath) and then and then and then (takes breath) I woke up.

  3. The recognition, acknowledgement and wish to improve on our flaws is what makes us better people. If we were perfect all the time we wouldn't be as interesting to know!!

    Keep up the battling and my war will rage on also.

  4. Well, if I was charged every time I have sprayed "beautiful" on the concrete wall of this blog, I would be very poor, but I have to do it again. Beautiful. It's really the only word.

    I am writing a whole book that is nothing but what you are describing. It is the litany of a hundred missteps and arrogant assumptions and, inside each, the seed of who I have become. It inspires the Hell out of me. Almost as much as you do.

  5. I do that ALL. THE. TIME. But that's how you get to tell your good friends from the ones who aren't :)

  6. It's weird to wander the internet and see some of the contents of my soul spilled out by a person I've never even met...Weird and gratifying and ultimately comforting. Thanks.


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