How do we determine what we like, what we don’t, what we believe, what we don’t, what we want, what we don’t? The more I look at this, the more surprisingly difficult it seems to find the answers to these questions. In my last post, I wrote about an experience I had while jogging, which led me to hate everything about me which wasn’t true, which wasn’t authentic, which wasn’t real. What I came to realize, in that tirade of sorts, was that although I have eschewed many things in my life for various reasons, I do love butter, bacon, rotisserie chicken, pizza, pepperoni, cheese, and ice cream. I actually lovethese things, yet I don’t feel comfortable indulging. Oh, and potato chips. If I love something, and I don’t indulge, then who is making the decision for me? Whose life is this anyway? It feels like a very legitimate question. I know there are health reasons for not eating many of these items, and there are ethical reasons for not partaking in others, yet when I realized that I love some things that I don’t consume, I had to start questioning. Why don’t I get to have what I love? I ate crab the other night, which I love BTW, and which previously I hadn’t been eating. You know what? The world didn’t end because I ate a crab. And it was tasty and kind of fun, actually.
So why don’t I get to have what I love? As I ponder this, it seems there is some sort of overarching litmus test. Something like “is it the right thing to do?” F*** that! Why do I always have to do what’s right? What’s correct? What’s appropriate? I don’t. And how did I get to this place, this place where I am infused with beliefs and perspectives, preferences and understandings, predilections and opinions, many of which may not actually be truly me?
There’s so much more to this than food choices. I think we often choose careers because we believe that we are supposed to pick from within a certain limited range of options. We also often pick careers or even relationship partners whom our friends or parents would approve of. It’s not like we are making these choices directly to please them, or are even aware that we are doing so, but subconsciously, we often seek their approval and don’t want to have to deal with their disappointment. It’s crazy really, as we miss out on actually living our own lives.
Whose life is this anyway? Whose life are you living and who are you living it for? It’s a much more subtle question than you might think, because we actually believe we are living our own lives, making our own decisions, our own choices, but in truth we are actually being motivated and subtly shifted this way and that by internalized voices. These internalized voices are not ours, but in actuality contain the mores, values and preferences of our culture, our society, our country, our age, our parents, our friends, our magazines, our iPhones. Through my life and travels, I’ve come to see that people from different cultures truly think differently, including harboring entirely different sets of values on behavior, on relationship, on what is considered attractive, on the importance of wealth and possessions, on personal aggrandizement vs. social equality, on what is considered moral or fair, on what constitutes a human right versus a privilege, etc., etc.. In some parts of the world, people are markedly more friendly than those in other parts of the world, some places where breastfeeding in public is absolutely forbidden, some places where men naturally wear garments akin to skirts. Gay marriage, waste and preservation of resources, foods we like/don’t like, age at which we marry, role of children in the family, sexual mores and preferences, the extent to which we help others in need, all of it determined or at least influenced by outside forces, and the list goes on and on. Perhaps we are simply no more than a product of a myriad of outside influences.
A few of us may find ourselves acting out in opposition to these outside forces, gravitating away from whatever our parents or society want for us. I am not that! I do not believe whatever they believe! I want whatever they don’t! Is that any better? Aren’t we just being defined by our opposition to whatever it is to which we are opposed?
Are we truly independent? Are we actually ourselves, or simply directed in our lives by a constant barrage of vector forces, aiming us this way and that, keeping us here, moving us there, shaping our minds and beliefs to the point that we actually lose touch with who/what we really are, what we actually want, what we truly believe?
Who are you? Who am I? Whose life is this anyway? Hell if I know, but for me, I am hoping to get closer to something that is authentically true. Authentically me. One toasted onion bagel with cream cheese, lox, red onion and capers please! How on earth could I have stopped eating that?!