“You can do this even while you’re running around making money…”
[This is one of the first…ah…”serious” blogs I published on MS (February 2010). Again, comments are reconstructed down below.]
What is a misfit? Hm, that’s a good question, and a tricky one. Off the top of my head, I’d say a misfit is one who is to one degree or another aware of the contradictions created by our current social context. A social context which uses a blood-encrusted, corroded exacto-knife–aka social convention–to attempt, often successfully, to separate bits of ourselves from ourselves AND from each other. Not that social convention is automatically bad, mind you—we need some kind of structure to allow us to not merely get along, but live and thrive. Rather, the set of conventions we currently have, in which we participate, is dominated by the interests of an “elite” few. This comes into play particularly visibly when “you can only do what you love in between making money.” What does that tell you about the interests of that elite few I just mentioned? Yet we all subscribe to this particular and peculiarly defined set of conventions, and we all struggle to fit ourselves inside of it—at least enough so that we can limp along, though we’re expected to run and jump. A misfit is one who is constantly engaged in a struggle to resolve the paradox between who they are and what they need, and who they’re “legitimately” permitted to be and what they’re “legitimately” permitted to ask for.
(By that definition, technically every person on the planet could be described as a misfit, if you think about it. Food for thought, eh?)
It’s a damned good idea to look inside yourself for who you are, but as Karen pointed out (see link below), that quite often does not provide enough of an explanation to be entirely useful. I think what we need to do is, yes, be aware of our own inner landscape, but also to examine that landscape in terms of the external context in which it exists—that means you gotta look at the world around you, and you gotta ask yourself, “what is expected of me, how do I feel about that, and do I wanna go there?” Here’s another really important question: “Is there anybody else out there who feels the way I do, and what do they have to say?” What’s different about doing this is that you’re not automatically assuming that there is something about you that is flawed and must needs be trimmed away (which, incidentally, is the spin point of the dynamic of victimization, i.e., “blame the victim”). Instead, you’re being critical of the structure of the community in which you live, especially in terms of how well it fits you.
If we can do this, if we can sort out and come to some species of (accurate) description of the context in which we all expect to make our home, then I believe we’ll be well on our way to figuring out how to fix up that home so that it serves as a home, and not as a prison camp or a penal colony. After all, it seems to me to make a lot more sense to structure our community based on the diversity of the people in it than it does to structure our community based on a narrowly defined set of particular interests and then try to cut away the already-existing bits of ourselves that don’t fit into this set. Not that it’s necessarily easier to change the world rather than try to change the humans that live in it, but! what changes we do manage that are successful are going to last and are going to enable healthy growth, because who each of IS has been taken into account.
Yes, we need to be careful of each other. I don’t think it’s a good idea to allow axe murderers to run around loose, for instance. But short of that, I think there’s a lot more room for the lunatic fringe inside our “house” than we’ve so far been given to believe.
What does the fact that I’ve said all this say about who I am and how I might have arrived at this point? Sigh. Been through the ringer, of course. Self-doubt, self-flagellation, isolation, bouts of suicidal inclination, depression, etc.—the full catastrophe. What saved me—what is saving me—I think, is that I did have love. Imperfect and fraught with the same pressures and expectations under which I was directly suffering, but love nonetheless. I had knowledge of it. And I think we all seek it—it is in our nature. Even within the darkest soul, there is love, or at least its potential. Over time, one small step at a time with many a miss-step, I sought it, sought to know it. What I began to learn was how to be good to myself according to the self that I am, granted this is a moving target. And I do this by opening my heart and mind to a broader landscape of possibility than I had been given to start with. I seek out the borders of legitimacy in my own head, and strive to push them back, to expand them.
In short, I sought to stop blaming myself for failing to fit in and started asking questions. I sought to know about this idea of “flaw.”
Ask yourself, the next time you’re beating yourself up, “by whose definition am I flawed?” Hint: check out the next make-up commercial or “getcher six-pack abs right here” commercial you see on TV. What assumptions are those commercials asking you to make about yourself and about others? Who is being set up as the authority? In being critical like this, probably nothing HUGE will happen overnight, of course—the ubiquitous caveat. But, doing this will open up a path toward a broader understanding that will lead not merely to survival, but to a realm in which being alive is a joyous experience. And—important point—don’t just ask yourself. Talk to other folks. Learn of others, because we’re a part of who you are, and you are a part of who we are.
You can do this even while you’re running around making money…