Otherness

“She always had that about her, that look of otherness, of eyes that see things much too far, and of thoughts that wander off the edge of the world.” —Joanne Harris

My mother has said to me that even from an early age, I had already seemed somewhat…different. Not bad-different, just…different.

otherness

I didn’t really understand, back then, why she thought that, or what that actually meant.

I think I do now.

In, if you come in,
there will be such light,
but know early, know now,
that it will cast such shadows.
My mind, the quiet voice that only I hear,
is a maze of a place
and I know not
the reward at the center,
nor the exit
on the other side.
In, if in you come,
know that lost
you will become,
for in, in I went,
long ago,
and never came out.
~ Tyler Knott Gregson

There is a lot about me people don’t see on the surface. I am genuine but not transparent. I have, over the years, quite mastered the art of controlling my impulse reactions and thinking, thinking, always thinking before I say anything, before I do anything, before I show any emotion. I remember ranking at the 99th percentile (highest possible rating) on Thoughtfulness in the Guilford-Zimmerman Temperament Survey we took in college.

Trait description of the factor Thoughtfulness on the Guilford-Zimmerman Temperament Survey

Trait description of the factor Thoughtfulness on the Guilford-Zimmerman Temperament Survey

This quality of mine has been seen by some as a sort of strange aloofness, a kind of uncaring detachment, or passivity that will not get anything done. The world is still a bit biased, I think, against introversion in favor of extraversion, against thinking in favor of action. There was a time when I tried to change for the sake of conformity, but I eventually realized there is no use trying to please everybody. I have learned, instead, to accept and use this quality of mine as a strength, rather than consider it a flaw of character. I am not an inherently wrong person, just because I am different from most.

“Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.” ― Charles Addams

I think my mother worries, sometimes, about my mental health. She probably thinks I think way too much, and may collapse from the weight of my own thoughts if I am not strong enough, if I am not careful. She often hears me talk of things that are dark, and complicated, and dangerous. I delve into things like mental illness, psychopathy, serial killers, criminality, the evil side of humanity, depression, suicide, schizophrenia and hearing voices — the whole range of ugly, deviance, abnormality. She has asked me whether I am not afraid of such things.

Am I afraid? I don’t really know. What I do know is, I want to understand. I believe many of the things we fear, we do, because we just haven’t understood them enough. So too goes with the things we judge. This is why I find it compelling—if not necessary—to think about the unthinkable, to challenge the limits of thought, to try to make sense of things no one yet fully understands. Without such understanding, we cannot get past any fear.

“The supreme paradox of all thought is to attempt to discover something that thought cannot think.” —Soren Kierkegaard

There are still a lot of things I do not understand, about the world, about life, about people, maybe even about myself.

But the past two years has been incredibly revealing of many fundamental lessons I now believe about life and living, the discovery of which I knew had to take time and growth and maturity. These past two years bore witness to a personal transformation I had no idea would have to hurt that much. Now I know they don’t call ‘em “growing pains” for nothing.

But now as I look back, every moment of pain was worth it, for the discovery of who I really am and what I want to be. I am no longer afraid to be myself. To expose my vulnerabilities. To fight for my dreams. To want the things I want. To say no. To say yes.

I am not afraid to be different anymore.

Quotation-Elizabeth-Goudge-heart-empathy-love-human-Meetville-Quotes-249301

I may be complicated, but not hopeless. I have learned to be more patient with myself, to draw on my grapples with complexity to try to discover the simple truths in life. I no longer try to stem the flow of thoughts in my head, and instead try to make sense of them—learn from them if I can.

I may choose to stare darkness in the face sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I will inevitably be swallowed by it. I have courage to look darkness in the eyes, because I know there is something in me greater than it, better than bitterness, more resilient than the greatest pain in this world. My soul, the part of me which I believe to be from God and will return to God at the end of my walk in this Earth, is of transcendent nature and indestructible by the gnashing of this world.

There are only a few select things truly worth striving for in this life.

One of those, I have learned, is to get to the core and the truth of who I really am. To achieve unconditional self-acceptance. To get to be the best version of me.

To be fully and unapologetically myself, otherness and all. ♦

· • ·

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

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