What do I look like?

My writing prompt asks me to discuss how I think others see me? Truth be told, I have no clue what I look like to anyone else. To be clear, I don’t mean physical attributes; I normally stay fairly well hidden in the rafters or backstage, like Phantom of the Opera. Fortunately, I am not a passionate homicidal maniac. Passionate, but not homicidal.

So, like many others, I am my own most brutal critic. I engage in excoriating critique on every interaction, every submission, all entry points into social engagement. It can be infuriating, but my tendency is to second guess just about everything I do, so it’s just…how I roll. But, I would conjecture the unending self-criticism erodes my self-confidence. It certainly erodes my motivation for continuing to participate in new engagements, try new audiences, perform even when I am confident of my skill. Tiring, to say the least.

I am sure I’m not the only one who goes through such machinations. There’s a part of me that worries about whether it’s essentially an ego-driven tendency to simply expend a lot of time on … myself. I must admit, some of that resonates, but it could go a little deeper. I’m aware that a good deal of the obssession with self critique has to do with ensuring that I’ve not offended or conflicted. This is an Achilles heel, because it mitigates the ability to remain a healthy degree of vulnerability and risk-taking posture. It’s not recommended that one never jump from a fully functioning airplane, just that if you do, take a parachute. Therein lies my dilemma – where’s my parachute? Anybody?

Perhaps the parachute is simply one’s self-confidence, that if you fall, you’ll have the ability to get up and proceed to another experience. Some of us, apparently, don’t have that inherent faith in themselves.

Faith. Faith in oneself may imply there’s something other than oneself in the equation. When I’m in a jam, and don’t immediately see an escape route, I’m in the foxhole and bellowing foxhole prayers quicker than a preacher on revival Sunday. Regardless of my spiritual identification at the given moment of crisis, my first thought is to “pray” (beg, entreaty, plead) for help. Help from who? Someone, or something, other than myself, always. Because I was raised Christian, or maybe because I am who I am, it’s always some higher entity that I am reaching for, possibly supernatural, but definitely more than my mortal coil. It seems relatively immutable for me, and I would suppose that’s not a bad thing.

Humans are social creatures, on some level, and so we crave community. That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions, because there are some of us who are flat out anti-social, although to be anti- something you have to accept and acknowledge that which you oppose, but that’s another story. Regardless, we somehow find ourselves all part of some intangible network of energy, of resources, or solutions. We share, no matter how selfish we find ourselves, certain essential resources like air, water, language, base bodily needs. We can’t help it. We can’t really survive alone, no matter how hard we try or how hard we reject that notion.

So, when I am down in the foxhole, and the bullets are flying overhead, and my life is flashing before my eyes, I’m wanting out. I’m also probably ackowledging that I can’t see a way out with only my own resources or abilities, so…going to The Matrix: Tank, I need a door! Quickly!

Is that faith? I don’t know. I was always taught that faith is leaping without seeing a net, and one will appear. Believing in what is not apparent. However it’s described, faith is a nonverbal crossroads that brings you from despair to hope in a flash, from presuming the worst is inevitable to seeing yourself whole, safe. I don’t know quite how that works, but faith is not linear nor is it rational.

I have generally misunderstood faith most of my life. Again, because I was raised in an organized religion, faith was usually associated with faith in God. Faith in the precepts of the religious denomination, in something external to me. My concept of faith has evolved over the years, but still implies something external to myself. These days it’s not the multi-faceted and supernatural deity of “God” (and definitely not some older white man with blue eyes and Irish white hair). It’s more a concept of all that is, the Universe, the Great Mystery, that which I cannot comprehend nor quantify, but which exists all around me.

That’s about the best I can do these days, and I suppose it will have to do for today. Tomorrow, it might be different, but for this moment, that’s where I am. So, when I attempt to consider how I look to other people, I find myself working very hard on divorcing that from aesthetics. I don’t want it to be about aesthetics. I have no confidence in my aestetics, but I know that matters to many humans. Fine, people want pretty things, and I can live with that (mostly), but people make judgements and valuate things based on their attractiveness. That I have big problems with; just because someone is considered not a pretty thing does not mean they are less valuable. But, collectively, we are that shallow.

I think some people like me, and feel that I have value, that I have something meaningful to contribute to whatever it is they see as valuable. Some people find me amusing, some find me annoying, some find me entertaining in small doses. Whatever. I suppose I am becoming far less interested in what people think of me on some esoteric subjective level as what they assess as the value of my contribution to…whatever the hell we might be doing together. I suppose that means that i have some faith in my contribution, not so much in myself, but in my ability to emote some kind of energy that makes a difference. Maybe that makes no sense, but…it’s a somewhat nonsensical concept.

Moving energy that makes a difference. What does that even mean? I suppose it makes as much sense as “In the beginning there was the Word.” I translate that as meaning there was sound energy that changed something. Changed something that sent random atoms in motion and produced…Light. I have no idea if that’s what really happened, but I am kind of well beyond the whole Garden of Eden myth, and have more confidence in atoms and molecules banging together in this enormous crucible of organic potential to produce…this. After billions of years, we get…this. Life as we know it. In more billions of years, who knows what there will be. But, I have faith there will be SOMETHING.

So, I guess I’m more interested these days in how the Universe sees me, how I fit into the space-time fabric and all that happy stuff. If I am to believe that I matter, then I am to believe that I am not accidental, and that what I do matters. Some days that is more difficult than others, particularly when I haven’t taken my meds, but ultimately…I do believe that what I do matters. For better or worse. I believe things happen for a reason, meaning there is cause and effect. Everything I do somehow changes the dynamic and the inter-relationship of everything I touch. I have no idea how that works, but I think it makes the most sense (at least to me).

I was looking for a job online earlier, and my eyeballs are popping out of my head from staring at the screen. There is actually a job title of “thought leader”. Someone called me that a while ago, but I really think it was a backhanded insult because she couldn’t bring herself to call me a leader and someone worthy of being in decision-making capacity. In all truthfulness, I don’t want to lead anybody anywhere. I want to know where I’m going, with some degree of confidence, and if people want to come along, that’s great. We walk together. There is way too much pressure in leading; people are constantly looking for someone to blame when they take a wrong step.

My brain works in strange and mysterious ways, and the world is frightening and confusing to me. I say that in all seriousness. There are, however, some places where I feel more at home than others, and in this arena of words and ideas and contemplation, I feel as though I belong. Crowds of people, not so much. Organizations and communities, even less. I need people, though if for nothing else but to fix my truck and make me a pizza. Sometimes they are rather amusing, and sometimes they say things or do things that provide more fodder for the cannon that is my writer’s brain. I have faith that’s how it’s supposed to be.

Out here on my own, but still tethered to something else…

Published by annzimmerman

I am Louisiana born and bred, now living in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Fortunately for me, I was already living in NC before Hurricane Katrina decimated my beloved New Orleans. An only child, I now feel that I have no personal history since the hurricane destroyed the relics and artifacts of my childhood. As I have always heard, c'est la vie. My Louisiana roots show in my love of good coffee, good food, and good music. My soggy native soil has also shown me that resilience is hard-wired in my consciousness; when the chips are down (or drowned)...bring it on.

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