"Is this the new year, or just another desperation?"
Switchfoot, The Blues
Popular singer Jonathan Forman, of the band Switchfoot, does not do well with holidays that celebrate new beginnings. He has two songs written about feelings of depression and existential crisis surrounding birthdays, ("Let that Be Enough" and "24") and the one quoted above is written for New Years Eve, and titled "The Blues". The band takes the listener on a journey that many who struggle with the holidays feel heavily- if it's another new beginning, who have I been in the section that is ending?
For as long as I can remember, I've been reading books about people finding themselves. Or listening to songs about the same. Or being lectured, or watching movies, or writing papers- it's a central theme to so many things that I've seen that it makes me wonder if you can ever really know who you are or why you are that way, and if a new season in life always means self- loathing and major change. Because we analyze ourselves based on what we think we need to be, or who we thing we should be, or on a small scale. As if we are the only people who are impacted by what we are, and we are completely stand alone.
But I'm starting to think we've got flawed thinking.
What if self-analyzation in times of reflection is all wrong? What if thinking about who we are in terms of only ourselves is what drives us nuts? We think we know what we should be capable of, which makes us our own biggest critics. And also, in all honesty, likely makes us wrong. We are thinking too small to understand ourselves.
In my last post I mentioned a friend of mine who wrote an essay about who she is. The essay, which can be found in it's entirety here, is a window into who she perceives herself to be. She doesn't stick to the "I" tense that we find so intriguing when painting our self pictures. She goes a little off the tracks.
Here is an excerpt that I really like:
My favorite flower is
It is said to make a nutritious salad, although I have yet to salvage the lawn for such a meal.
The intense color it wears on its face is ironic. Why should it get all off the attention when the three-leaf clover or onion grass is always green? Actually, forget color. I am much more attracted to the dandelion as a white, ethereal sphere—whole and decidedly delicate—than as a common-looking weed. I would choose a dying dandelion over a rose nine times out of ten. That ten percent of the time when the rose wins is unavoidable, solely because of beauty—the common meaning will sometimes permeate my brain cells’ membranes. I am helpless without a plant cell cell wall. Dandelions are most attractive to me when they are half-dead, pure-looking, and ready to give away every part of themselves that is worth a second glance. After a full release of seed, the unsightly stem is leftover and sometimes I split that into four, long strands with my fingernail, the quarters curling up on their own and becoming quite lovely. I find the dandelion an illustration of self-sacrifice and rebirth through divinely endowed humility.
Details are infinite. They are gifts for appreciating life, although it can be maddening when analyzed. The concept of infinity is inconceivable to the human mind, much like the Trinity or unconditional love. Take a moment for yourself after reading these next few sentences, and think about measurement or outer space. Chances are that it will make you feel a bit uneasy. If you were to procure a ruler from your desk drawer and see how long a piece of string from your pocket is, you would not get an accurate measurement. Inches or centimeters make no difference. One is only slightly more accurate. Measurement is an approximation. The amount of calories given the nutrition facts on any given food does not actually end in a five or a zero. Now and then a dehydrated Japanese noodle package will cross the line of comfort, boldly announcing that it contains 131, 132, or 133 calories per serving. The number is rounded up to keep your mind from imploding. You know, billions of air molecules encompass you at any given moment, and the pressure keeping all of your physical parts together. Force and quantity is balanced, keeping life living.
I like this part of her work because it tells me what I want to know- it's not about a quality or a trait or a personality need that she dwells on- it's an analyzation of the entire world, and how the little things fit in. She's found herself in a thought train, and she's riding it all the way to the change, where she jumps onto another track and moves on. I like her piece because while it's focus is who she is, it's content is what she thinks. She develops herself through the ideas which have impacted her. And because of it, she's got a heck of a character description written out.
It's a New Year today- 2012 has arrived. Before you go into the heaviness that is self-analazation and depression, I encourage you to see the world around you for what it is- a whole picture, where each new beginning is just another chance for us to shine beyond all we have been. Follow how you've acted and what you've thought this year to find out who you are. Let the measurement of your life not be caught up in the details- remember that it's an approximation, and it's still in the process of being rounded.
If you really need to do the self-searching thing this holiday, then find out who you are in the context of your world. Measure your friendships, your location and vocation, and the general person you are by what is happening around you. By your favorite flower, by the numbers that circle through your head, and by the ideas that make you realize what's happening at this point in your life.
It's a new year- let's think about ourselves in a new way- bigger, more useful, and capable of not being depressed on a major holiday.
Happy 2012 everyone!