Ideal

Another post started back in Jan, kicked back into gear by a prompt over at The Modern Failure.  Seriously, if you haven’t been there yet, go now.  Her blog is super smart and super thought provoking.  In conjunction with this post, I suggest you read both Defining the Spectre over at The Modern Failure and In Which a New Apartment Leads to Musing on Splintered Selves on Not For The Sinless.  If I haven’t pointed you at Not For The Sinless before, I’m doing it now.  The author, Beth, is a former roommate of mine from those insane days in Bed-Stuy who I don’t keep in touch with nearly as much as I would like.  I miss her like mad.  I especially miss long train rides into The City on weekday mornings chatting about relationships and dreams and crazy people.  She has the most amazing, interesting life.  She’s an extremely skilled artist and currently works for Amanda Palmer – the rock star.  In short, visit her. 

I don’t know why I keep plugging blogs that are better than mine.  I’m going to lose all my followers if I keep this up . . . ANYWAY, those two posts both contributed to and touch on similar topics to what follows:

“Know thyself.” ~ attributed to any number of ancient Greeks, most often (as near as I can tell) Socrates and Pythagoras.

“To thine own self be true.” ~spoken by Polonius in Hamlet by Shakespeare

I really believe both of these quotes.  I also kind of suck at them.  At least the first one.  I really suck at the first one sometimes.  In as much as, I hate trying to define myself.  Trying to describe myself.  I default (as if you couldn’t tell) to lists of roles and traits. Marine. Lawyer. Mommy. Wife. And if you open up my complete profile, you’ll see a much longer list including all sorts of additional *things* right down to my zodiac sign (Scorpio).  And the list is, of course, far from exhaustive. Defining who I am is hard.  Interestingly, defining who I want to be isn’t as much.  I know exactly who I want to be – the perfect me.   

Chanelle points out that this mental image of one’s ideal self, “ideal me” or IM, as she calls it, is woman against whom we measure our shortcomings.  Or, in my case, the women against whom I measure.  Because there are any number of IMs running around in my head, taunting me, at any given moment. Some of them are women I strive to be :  Images that linger there in front of me, just out of reach.  Some of them are pure fantasy:  Alternative realities; paths I could have taken but decided against. There are probably two main IMs that I strive towards on a daily basis, two ideals who I don’t think could ever really exist as the same person:

The first is the Power Lawyer.  She is, first and foremost, awesome at her job.  She's a high powered attorney for a great cause -the ACLU, the ALDF, the ASPCA, or some other acronym with a cause.  She is a widely respected expert in her area of law.  Sough after.  Emulated.  By winning cases, she makes an impact.  She makes a difference.  A big difference. 

She wears perfectly tailored suits that are at once professional, fashionable, and flattering.  Her office is all dark reclaimed wood and leather-bound volumes.  Except the play area in the corner.  That is where the baby happily plays and coos all day with his vibrant, educational, age appropriate toys and where Punky loves to come hang out after school. And she goes home (to her gorgeously decorated and impeccably tidy house) promptly at 5 (because she has no trouble at all getting all her work done during the regular workday).  She cooks a healthy and nutritious dinner from scratch - and it doesn't ever take more time than it should.  There is plenty of time left for playing with the kids and bonding with the husband. 

In the morning, she wakes up refreshed and without an alarm clock, excited to go make a difference.

The second is the Earth Mother.  She lives on a vast expanse of lush land where she grows all the food her family could ever possibly want and some to give to families in need.  She raises chickens for eggs and cows for milk.  She even makes her own cheese.  The property is roamed by a pack of rescued dogs who she occasionally adopt out to good homes.  Her family joyfully joins her in all these ventures. They live in a beautiful and completely self sufficient home built by her genius husband (who never had to put his life on hold for her).  Home grown herbs hang, drying, from the ceiling in her kitchen.  They are a no-impact family.  Heck, they're a positive impact family.

She dresses in flow-y bohemian skirts made from ethically traded fabrics.  She rarely wears shoes.   The kids never have to go to daycare; the baby spends most days playing with her outside while she gardens or in a carrier while she pursues her many activist causes.  Occasionally, the kids spend time with grandparents or good friends like NotDonna and The Producer, because they all live nearby.

Then there are the “Splintered Selves,” as Beth calls them.  All those women I could have been if I had made this or that decision differently:The Actor.  One of those long hidden dreams.  I'm actually pretty good.  I've been in a number of plays in high school and college.  The Producer still talks about a particularly moving scene I performed from Steel Magnolias.  But I'm pretty sure I don't have the look, and I was never brave enough to leave academia and live the uncertain life of a struggling actor.  I see her in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn or California, so similar to that from a few years ago.  But so different.  Because at night, she's on stage.  She performs.  She probably even still writes.

The Anthropologist.  She never joined the Marines.  By now, she has a doctorate.  She's been to digs all over the world.  She's skilled in her field and has been published many times.  She works out of a University or Museum - not necessarily in the U.S.  She makes discoveries.  

The Peace Worker.   Maybe she's in the Peace Corps.  Maybe not.  She travels the world and she does things.   She doesn't just give to charity or work for a cause near her home.  She is hands on, boots-on-the-ground, active.  She is ending hunger; ending suffering ; teaching; saving the rain forests and other endangered habitats.  She's there.  She's changing things first hand.  

And any number of others.  This post could go on and on with paths I considered but never took: The Neurobiologist (my very first major), The Exec, The Politictian.  And on and on.  Forever Splintered.  Forever different.  

Did you ever watch Sliders?  It's like that.  Only not so cheesy and with fewer space aliens.  

I am extremely happy with the path I took.  I don't mourn the splintered selves I will never be.  I am who am I because of the path I took.  It's fun, not sad, to think of the splintered selves.  Many of them would have never met MacGyver, and that alone is reason to be happy with the path I took.

But those Ideal Me's.  They'll always be there, taunting me.  The unattainable perfect.  Always just out of reach.  I don't know whether I love them or hate them.

Ok, maybe I hate them.

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