The other night, in the middle of the night, my husband and I both woke from bad dreams at 3:15 in the morning.
I dreamed that I had been passed over (unfairly, of course) for a place on the International Scholars Team.
He dreamed that he couldn't get away from a bunch of stinky cheese.
Who could go back to sleep after learning that?
3:15 in the morning is a weird time of day. It's one of those times when it's easy to confuse "up" with "down." Things feel really really SERIOUS at 3:15 in the morning. Everything that's "wrong" with the world seems really insurmountable a few hours before dawn.
In general, I try not to make too many major life decisions then, although, now that I think about it, 3:15 in the morning was EXACTLY the time I woke up two years ago with this phrase ringing in my head: "Life After Tampons. Life After Tampons. Do I have the STONES to name my business Life After Tampons?"
This time, though, I wasn't thinking of any of those things. I was thinking of how very different I am from anyone I have ever really loved.
And then I started thinking about how tricky it is to be the odd duck throughout life.
I realize that much of my early life was spent trying to "fit in" in a world where I didn't feel like I belonged. When you're the weird one, but you aren't confident yet enough to pull it off without a care for the opinions of others, you spend a whole lot of fruitless time trying to blend in.
You try not to stick out too much.
Which is a lousy-ass plan when, essentially, you can't behave in any sustainable way like other people.
I just never cared for the stuff other girls cared for. The tittering and twittering of silly little girls never really interested me. I quickly grew bored. I had to pretend like I wasn't, of course, because young girls are particularly brutal to the odd ducks among them.
Later, I sublimated my feelings of inadequacy with my newfound discovery that I could excel at things. I was not a very kind competitor. It felt like my survival depended on my success, and, since the stakes felt so very high, it didn't really matter to me what happened to you when I won.
When you're in survival mode, it's every man for himself, right?
During these years, I kinda thumbed my nose at the whole idea that I would want to fit in with the "cheerleader types." Much, much later, I learned that those poor "cheerleader types" suffered, too.
Growing up is brutal on us all.
These days, I've found that I'm much happier when I don't spend my time looking for how I'm different from others. I don't need to manufacture feelings of rejection. Midlife martyrdom is so completely unattractive.
Instead, I try and look for ways that I can connect with others. I've found that I don't have to be like them at all in order to do that.
Except for this one thing:
I need to be like others in that I am perfectly imperfectly HUMAN.
You cannot give away what you haven't got, love. If what you want is love and acceptance from others, what you need to give is love and acceptance TO others.
And, practice Generosity of Spirit.
These are the true and eternal gifts of the holidays and every season.
Peace on Earth.
Good will toward men.
Or, as my friend Bill C. used to say, "Aaah, (wo)men."
photo: flickr, chavezdaus