Or, as Wavy Gravy put it, we’re all just bozos on the bus, so we might as well sit back and enjoy the ride.
That’s all well and good in theory (and coming from the man who gave brown acid a bad name–and ice cream a good one), but who wants to admit to being a bozo? We have images to uphold here! Whether that of some iconic self–the indie artist with no interest in the mainstream or the serious writer with no time for fashion or the free-spiritied adventurer with not a care in the world, or that of the superwoman who has it all–and has it all together. Whatever your role, the performance is remarkably similar. Someone asks how you’re doing; you say fine. You ask her; she says fine. Fine, then! We worry what other people think (though we’d never admit it), and, of course, we want to be happy, confident, competent, and successful. So we pretend we are. And, compounding the issue is the fact that the happy, confident, competent, successful self is the self everyone else shows to us, too, which compels us to keep our dirty little secret under even deeper wraps. If she (and she and she) has it together, what the hell is the matter with me??
It’s the open secret Rumi wrote about (and to which Elizabeth Lesser makes beautiful reference here), yet, centuries later, we still feel compelled to keep. And that’s understandable. Who wants to admit to being afraid, uncertain, overwhelmed, clumsy, neurotic, or prone to saying the wrong thing? The thing is, though, all of those things are part of the human condition–and those things and the good things aren’t mutually exclusive. And so why should claiming them be a negative? On the contrary: I think there’s a promise of something pretty awesome that comes when we’re able to own it all. The sky doesn’t fall, but, like the curtain hiding the Wizard of Oz, the blinders do.
And then what might we see? Well, for one thing, maybe a willingness to own our complex, dualistic, not always delightful but utterly human nature can make our choices a little bit clearer. With no one to impress, no images to uphold, we’ve got a lot less to factor in. There’s a freedom there. (We can be an indie artist AND a Hills junkie. A serious writer AND a fashion slut. A superwoman who has it all AND is totally overwhelmed.) And power, too: because when we are willing to come out of the I’m Fine! closet, maybe our friends will join us.
In fact, while writing this post (multitasking, of course), I was g-chatting with a friend. “I’m currently writing a post entitled, ‘I’m a Mess; You’re A Mess,’” I typed.
Her reply? “I hope you’re not naming names.”