Today I am forty-three.
Most of my life I have believed that other people knew better than me, were smarter and more put together, were more rational and steady. I felt waves of emotional inconsistency in myself and found it a weakness. I was unsure of what I wanted from minute to minute and found myself lacking.
So when someone came along that seemed to know themselves, I believed them. I trusted that their self-awareness was superior, that their steadiness was safety and that their proclamations about who they were was gospel.
I didn’t realize that knowing how self-awareness worked was not the same thing as having it.
I didn’t realize that knowing how to say the words was not the same as meaning them.
I didn’t know that someone who was so adamant about honesty could lie to themselves so thoroughly.
Maybe this is the danger of being aggressively brilliant, the ability to rationalize unkindness and cruelty…. the ability to effectively pretend that clearly selfish motivations are really driven by a more refined understanding of reality.
I don’t know and perhaps the very fact that I don’t understand is a blessing. I’m too much a mess to pretend to be self-aware. I’m uncomfortable with my mess and hurting that my eyes are opened to how mistaken I was to trust so thoroughly.
I was complicit in this deception of course (aren’t we always), because it served me at the time. It made me feel safe and whole – secure and stable. Healing comes in small doses as I realize that unsafe and fractured, insecure and unstable aren’t terminal, I can survive feeling those ways sometimes .. I can go on.
And in the morning light on my forty-third birthday I can look at this piece and I can feel sympathy and understanding for the man trapped beneath his blindness and gagged by his own ego. I still care about him even though he believes that he is superior to everyone he hurts, perhaps because he is unwilling to feel hurt himself? My coffee steams at me wondering ‘why do you still care?’ and I have no sure answer.
Pain makes people do horrible things, I guess.