But Enough About Me or It is an Honor to Serve or Allow Me or I Have All Day
It turns out there are many things you can do with fishing line. I know this, because somewhere in the middle of a conversation while I was sharing with a friend the story of a troubling family rift, I was unexpectedly educated about the remarkable concept that is the “wind knot”. Without adequate segue, he told me about his newly acquired skill as a clear indicator that my three second time limit on the soapbox had unknowingly expired. Likewise, while discussing with my teenage daughter the experience of her premature birth, she asked me where we were going for Christmas this year, to which I responded, “I like cheese” to illustrate the irrelevance of her inquest. The older I get, the more I realize that no one really wants to hear about you anymore. In fact, the self importance that you felt as a twenty something has evaporated and instead reincarnated itself into a Mother Teresa-like form where we live to serve. It is a captivating concept - one that the wise among us will embrace, occasionally toy with, and then ultimately accept. I am not necessarily casting judgment on it, as Oscar Wilde aptly said, “All charming people, I fancy, are spoiled. It is the secret of their attraction”.
There is something brilliant, however maddening, to being on the other side of the offending equation. Listening breeds insight, and subsequently gives us navigational life tools that make it possible to steer through rough waters. Kahlil Gibran said, “The reality of the other person lies not in what he reveals to you, but in what he cannot reveal to you. Therefore, if you would understand him, listen not to what he says, but rather to what he does not say”. Human beings are complex and are forever in pursuit of that which they have to prove.
I like to talk. I like people who like to talk. But there is a shift that happens somewhere later in life, if we are lucky, where we realize that talking about ourselves precludes us from learning about others and that others need to be heard. Rick Warren, whom I had the pleasure of hearing speak years ago, opens his book The Purpose Driven Life with these profound words – ITS NOT ABOUT YOU. Those words, when fully digested, are life changing. The paradigm shift from self importance to selflessness is a gift and the younger it hits you, the better off you are.
Remember the scene from Casper the Ghost, where Casper becomes a real boy, but somewhere later on in his enchanted evening he begins to fade and is no more than an apparition? This, I find, is 40 or motherhood or marriage or wisdom. We somehow fade from everyone’s view but our own and that is where the wisdom lies, in seeing ourselves as we see ourselves, and not through the eyes of others. It is more than the idea of not caring what others think. I do deeply care what others think and it is a useful guideline for how we conduct our lives, but, there is freedom in having nothing to prove. This is less my personal experience and more my observations of the graceful and brilliant among me. Every day I see people who have achieved a level of comfort with themselves such that they seem to float across the room rather than amble. I can only assume that they are the ones who have walked through the fire, lived, and learned enough to know it is best next time to just go around.