Saturday, December 10, 2005

Who am I really?

This evening, I got this e-mail from my friend and co-worker:

"Your blog is your public persona, but it is not the you I know from your years of grousing at work, your angry outbursts, etc. I am sure your blog is therapeutic, but you need real therapy -- someone to talk to and help you work out all the dysfunctional aspects of your life -- from your finances to your pathetic diet."

This is true. I have a public persona, as reflected in my blog. And among those people I see and interact with on a frequent basis, I reveal more of myself -- or maybe not necessarily more, but a different side. It isn't always pretty. But it's me.
I call this being human.
I can be judgmental, temperamental, stubborn, mean-spirited, impatient, critical, and a bunch of other downright nasty things. I can also be the exact opposite of each of these traits.
But who can't?

My response to my friend (a very honest, perceptive person and my closest friend at work) included my observation that "dysfunctional" is one of the most abused and overused words in our language. I don't like this word when it is applied to people (and I'm guilty of that myself) because it implies that there's a perfect state of being against which everything else is compared. It's very easy to bandy this dismissive term. I think its message is that a behavior is EITHER normal OR abnormal, functional OR dysfunctional -- one or the other, instead of recognizing the behavior and its opposite as different aspects of the same thing.

If this is true and if I'm not full of shit, then how can I be anything but dysfunctional, because in a battle with perfection (if it exists), imperfection always loses. Maybe I'm just rationalizing and justifying and trying to deflect a very well-aimed arrow. Some of that surely is going on.

I want to bathe in my many imperfections, accept that I have them and deal with those that I can. When I know better, I'll do better.

Meanwhile, I think we all act as mirrors for one another. The trick is in being able to see the reflection, the same potential for perfection and imperfection in ourselves that we often see more easily in others.

To put it another way: I know I am, but what are you?

To put it still another way, "If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where do you expect to find it?"

Mea culpa.


g said...

This is an incredible post. You are probably right about the word dysfunctional being misused and abused, but that is not the point. Words are words. We use them to aim at something, and your friend is saying you ought to look at your finances and your diet.

So what is it with your diet?

Michael said...

Hi g,

Well, in a word, my diet is lousy. I eat lots of junk food and not nearly enough healthy things. My diet is nearly devoid of vegetables, for example.
Luckily, because I work out regularly, I'm slender. But that's not the point: "Garbage in, garbage out," as the old computer science adage goes.
I think my friend's concern is that someone who has the health problems I have should be more mindful of diet, and that's a point with which I can't argue.
You're right, words are just words. The fact is, critical words uttered by someone who doesn't look at himself with the same honest and discriminating eye doesn't mean that that person's criticisms are invalid.
It's just that, speaking for myself, if I'm going to take someone to task for something, I need to thoroughly examine myself for those same or similar tendencies.
I'm aware that I need to do this. Now, I must turn awareness into action.
Wish me luck... :)

Jo said...

Hey, I know I am too and honestly I've always figured it was better to be dysfunctional than normal. ANYBODY can be normal but it takes an intelligent and odd sort of person to be dysfunctional. ;)

Seriously though, with the health problems that each of us have do people really expect us to be the societal version of normal? I dare anybody to go through the crap we go through on almost a daily basis and THEN tell us to be more normal. I think I would go completely insane if I dealt with my daily life without some form of dysfunctionality (is that even a word? :) ) in it. My kids call it being goofy and I think I like that very much.

Oh and my diet stinks too. I figure that if I have to put up with the cancer and surgeries then by george I'm going to enjoy SOMETHING! Of course, if you're anything like me your diet makes you sick as a dog half the time. LOL. I am trying to give up drinking a 2liter of soda a day though so that is enough of a diet change for right now. Tell you what, we'll each eat a carrot stick and then nobody can say we don't eat our veggies. Deal?


anu said...

Dear Michael

I think we can be very aware and yet highly sensitive to any critisicm.

Sometimes our very 'self-awareness' makes us hyper sensitive.

I am one of them. I oscilate between high self-awareness and hyper sensitivity. And when i am most aware i am generally most vulnerable and sensitive, becoz i am watching myself and being who i think i am at the same time.

Having said that, maybe we portray a particular image on the blog and another one in the real world. That does not mean we are fake and unreal. They are aspects of us...all equally valid. Some are more stronger and evident than the others in certain places and spaces.

I think as we keep working on ourselves, these aspects will merge and we will develop a more integrated personality with more balance.

Becoz an extreme
is either reaching
top (heights) or rock bottom
and it is balance
and equilibrium
which sustains and
gives us joy.

But i also believe
that balance is truely
understood only after
climbing to the top
and diving into the valley
more than once.

Till we have done it
so many times that
we automatically
float in between with
effortless ease.


BTW, i am struggling too maintaing a decent diet. I break it every two days and eat some junk. And that is so so harmful for my health.

g said...

Diet. I don't like the words "junk food" - if I were stranded on an island I would greatly appreciate a case of Doritos.

But the phrase "garbage in, garbage out" does point us to step one in considerations of diet.

We are making new cells all the time and managing the old, with whatever materials we have on hand. Why not try to provide the best materials.

But it generally doesn't work to label something junk food, and then condemn yourself for eating it.

g said...

In regards to the last post. I probably should have said a "bag" of doritos. A case is too much.

Michael said...


I know exactly what you mean about needing some compensation for going through all this medical crap.
And as for being "dysfunctional," I'd rather be moody and subject to mood swings than be a shiny, happy, medicated person. (Others' mileage may vary.)
As for the carrot stick, can we make it clementines and potatoes instead? :)


Beautifully put!
Yes, I have my blog persona and my in-person persona (does that make sense?), and both are equally real (or not).
If someone were to say to me, "Gee, your personality in 'real life' is nothing like your blog persona," I could always respond with, "Well, you don't know me very well, then." But that wouldn't be fair. I am a chameleon to an extent, and sometimes it's a very good ability to have.
Generally, though, I think I need to work on being more honest, rather than more adaptable, and this blog may be a great way to help me to do so.
I think my blog is also a good way for me to be more accepting of criticism and more honest with myself in evaluating it.
The great thing (and at the same time one of the pitfalls) about a blog is that the relative anonymity of the whole blogging process means that many people usually won't think twice about ripping me a new asshole if they think I deserve it. In person, I think inhibitions and social mores keep our feelings in check, but on a blog, anything goes.
I, too, can be hypersensitive to criticism, even though I often kid myself into thinking that I have a tough skin. Sometimes I do, usually I do not.
In any event, the truth will (hopefully) set me free.


Yes, I probably spend too much time taking myself to task for eating all the wrong things. Part of it comes down to what Jo said, about feeling a sense of entitlement because of life's slings and arrows that we have to bear. Part of it is the fact that I think Doritos taste a hell of a lot better than bean sprouts in 10 out of 10 taste tests I have personally performed.
I think the answer for me lies in moderation -- nothing overdone, just done in the right proportion.
It worked for the Buddha, so perhaps I should give it a try.

LBseahag said...

Wow. That truly made sense, believe it or not! It was actually profound....

I am the same way- I have levels of what I reveal to friends, semi-friends, full-fledged friends, and family...

one LBSEAHAG is cautious with what she reveals to:
1)work friends
but not to:
4)Full-fledged friends.

The peak is full-fledged friends, but not too many get that privilege...know what I mean?

And the diet whatever the hell you want...just in moderation! sheesh!!!

Michael said...

Thanks, LB -- and I'm very, very glad you're feeling better!

LBseahag said...

Thank you, Michael...

I am so glad I stumbled upon your blog...

Michael said...

LB, I'm happy I found yours, too!

greenbean said...

First, I'm happy to know that your blood test is okay. I agree Mike that we all have different peronas.I think we all wear social masks. But sometimes, we do unmask ourselves and see the nudity in us with complete honesty and frankness.I salute ANU for this. Yes, I agree with you too about the word "dysfunctional" - it's full of bad omen , bad sense and it's medically repugnant. The doctors said I came from a dysfunctional family and start labellin me "dysfunctional" and a waste product of a dysfunctional family. But it's okay to be named and labelled even by doctors. But I'm what I'm - brutally frank about my sheer vulnerability and nudity. Thanks Mike and May you continue to be well and happy:-)

Michael said...

Thank you for your candor and for your kind words, Greenbean!
I think labels are invented and used by people (like me) who find it easier to dismiss a person than to take the time to get to know them.
It's so much easier and safer that way...