November 30, 2015

Integration Phase

Yesterday I worked on finishing a painting, the subject of which was an old friend. The work was fueled by my own recognition of her as someone who is not well emotionally, and/or psychologically, and by the further recognition that she has, most likely, never been. I just had not seen it until now. Which maybe says something ominous about my own ability to see people for who they actually are, or says something wonderful about her ability to manage and perform in a way that conveys to others, especially new acquaintances, that she is ok. Possibly both.

Seeing things, people, patterns, places for what they are is difficult if one is trudging through the world making your own meaning. There is always the temptation (or perhaps it is just the habit, after all this time) to fit perceptions into your self-made structure. Maybe it is easier for folks who have a ready-made structure or system to rely on, an external system that filters and organizes meaning for you? Then again, their commitment to this type of structured thinking seems to task them; life seems to be a continual stress test, for believers, to stay true to the language and rules of their chosen system. I can see why people are concerned that Donald Trump may blow a gasket at some point.

I suppose the upside of a commitment to the ready-made is that you are socially knowable, since most of what you communicate are signals and signifiers to others in your group. And yes, those of us outside your group can read your signals, too. So you can be seen clearly for who you are, because you have allowed this idea of self to be defined by the belief system you adhere to and promote. And, speaking of Trump (and speaking with no authority on the subject other than a childhood spent around exclusive rich white narcissists who were motivated by the acquisition and promotion of wealth) there is truly nothing else there.

But my old friend has not adhered to one system or structure outside of herself for her identity, and I do not either. So our intermittent engagement with each other has been one of slow-motion discovery, as if we were binary stars rotating around a shared past experience but not really interacting with it or each other, and so never seeing the full surface at any time. She is both lovely and strange, and I realize now that her self-perception scares me too. Perhaps it always did, but I had not created enough of myself yet, way back then, to recognize that.

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