When I went to Japan as a very young girl I remember being struck by a woman on the trip in orientation who had just turned 30. She was hugely self-confident and proclaiming to all that she loved being 30 because she knew who she was and had more confidence than ever.
I thought to myself, if I'm 30 and single and able to traipse off to Japan my life will have been a failure. I look at my son and daughter and see what is most important to me in life. I never wanted to know who I was - I just wanted to get married and have kids. But the idea of knowing yourself is certainly important for everyone.
I remember when I felt that I just couldn't settle into my marriage and so it ended and I was left alone to face the fact that I didn't understand who I was or what I wanted or needed. It seems like defining myself revolved around making lists of what liked.
It was as if knowing what you like can tell you who you are. For the most part this is correct. You can succeed in a career only through doing, every day, what you enjoy. And you can succeed in your relationships only by spending time with people you enjoy. But beyond any other secret to happiness, you will enjoy life most if you are a person you enjoy being.
It is amazing how many years of being alive it has taken me to fully integrate this and how I continue to struggle with it. We all have excuses for behaving in ways we don't like but the truth is, and we all know the truth in our hearts, we always have the choice of how we speak and act. It doesn't matter what anyone else does near us, if we don't behave in a way we can be proud of, we will not be happy.
As I approach a decade in my life that I have no real preconceptions about, I think it is marked by my disinterest in defining myself through what I like and instead focusing on being a person I really enjoy being. I think it will be difficult at times, but it will be rewarding beyond measure. Certainly there is a lot to accept about myself that I might have previously compared to others and viewed with disdain. But I think there is much to be cultivated and that's where I'm focusing my attention.
What made me think about all of this was a review I read of the new Les Miserables movie by a man who hated it so passionately he wrote a long blog about it. I'll describe for you my experience with Les Miserables.
I first saw the play on Broadway in NYC when I was 16. I fell in love with the music deeply and irrevocably, the same way I fell in love with my high school sweetheart - the one I married 20 years later. I'll never stop loving Les Mis. It's etched in my soul and I shared it as a teen with the girls I babysat and years later with my children as we drove to Topeka or whenever we took long car trips.
There were so many parts I left out and so many songs I skipped and so much I couldn't properly explain to my children but they like this music and they both wanted to see the new movie when it came out. I took my 10 year-old son on New Year's Day.
We drove over our winding mountain and 15 more minutes up the road and round and round in the parking garage and finally I parked far from the theater where we could find a space. All the while I felt sick but thought surely I would get us inside without incident. We hurried since it was already 2:20 - the movie start time. I knew it was probably sold out. As we approached the side walk I smelled something like food or maybe garbage and threw up everywhere. My poor son just turned away and I tried to keep walking, only to throw up again a few steps further on. He said, "at least puke on the side walk and not the street." That made me want to laugh.
We walked on, I puked more. I think this happened four or five times. I was crying and had vomit on my shoes and coat and in my hair. I rushed us into the theater where the only seats were all the way in the front. I told him to wait while I went to the bathroom to clean up.
Sitting in the very front of the theater is not an option for me under the best conditions but we both couldn't wait to see this movie. I was miserable, thinking I'd pass out or have to go vomit some more for the entire three hours. But I sat there, trying to watch, at times having to close my eyes and rest my head and all the while loving Les Miserables. Crying most of the movie, talking now and then with my son. We both loved it.
This has me thinking. What makes me love musicals? Les Mis, Phantom, Moulin Rouge... I love them. But I wouldn't dream of dragging my husband to any of these.
I'm just curious. What makes one person love what is another person's torture?
And why am I so understanding when it comes to musicals but not my cat. I can't comprehend why anyone would not love my cat as he is the cutest, most awesome cat that ever lived. How could anyone not see that?