As soon as you learn about fractions as a kid you (should) realize that life is short.
At what point does the perception shift? I had written in a blog post two years ago about how, when I was 4, I thought 30 seemed like a reasonable, elderly age to die. By the time I was 8 or 9, or as soon as we started studying fractions in school, I realized clearly that if I were to die at 30, my life was already almost one-third finished. The shortness of it all hit me suddenly, and early, meaning that I was never like the kids and even young adults who looked at slightly older adults and thought of them as “old”. It was one of my first steps toward looking at people and seeing much more depth and a bigger story than I could guess or perceive on the surface.
This ‘seeing a bigger story’ thing has two sides. Of course it makes me more compassionate – I don’t join into making fun of people, their appearances, foibles or misfortunes. I try to see the whole person, his/her history and issues, what got him/her to where s/he is. On the other hand, this also means that I know that what I see and receive on the surface is just the surface – maybe even an act (intentional or otherwise). And no one is immune from this because, again, there are two sides: there is the person one tries to present and the person the other party perceives.
Still I could save myself a lot of trouble if I could just apply the caution of this wisdom: In the beginning it is all an act. I was thinking about MDL, ex-boyfriend, who was all sweetness and light and listening and generosity and compliments. Intentionally he misled because he took great delight in intentionally tearing a person down brick by brick (I later saw that he repeated this pattern in every single relationship he subsequently had). In the sum total of the thing, he was the ‘perfect guy’ for less than one-third of an already brief, blip-on-the-radar relationship that felt like it dragged on for an eternity – or at least a huge chunk of my youth. It was not at all a huge chunk, but it seemed like “prime time” during which I missed so many other opportunities because I was so busy trying to reclaim the false perfection of the beginning.
What I took away from it, and need to Always Remember: It is all an act in the beginning. Maybe not everything, and maybe not as overtly as it was for him, but in most cases, people (all of us; again – no one is immune) are either donning their Sunday best or wheeling out best behavior or best-case-scenario versions of themselves. Or they are in the middle of some kind of an episode, and you get caught up in their madness until you inevitably realize, as it all winds down, that oh, none of that was real. Ooops. Or you know right from minute one they are not at all who they claim but for various reasons you let it all happen, perhaps repeatedly, because it feels good, whether on its own or because it’s the opposite of whatever you’ve just been through or because of the strength of their conviction and decisiveness in knowing who they are and taking what they want – that stuff is magnetic, if fleeting. Or it’s all a complete accident without intent – somehow it’s still all an act.
Because of the rule of fractions and life-is-short admonishments, you kind of hope that this rule about everything being an act will prove false one of these days.
I keep thinking I will stop writing blog posts, but then ideas pop into my head, and I feel I must cast them out and put them somewhere. Often my threats are true, but it happens that the random things must come out one way or another. As someone said to me the other day, describing his semi-imaginary personification of me upon first acquaintance, trying to skip over all the ‘in the beginning it was all an act’ machinations and guessing games, “I made you inconsistent, difficult to please, playful, fearsomely intelligent and very autonomous.” Thus, if I am so inconsistent, it will come as no surprise that one day, I claim I will quit writing blog posts and the next, I’m writing them.