Hold your finger in the air.
It’s in one place, right?
Now, rotate your wrist to the right.
Your finger moved. It’s in another place,
Rotate your wrist back and forth, as fast as you can.
Your finger now appears to be in three places at once.
You know that’s not true, that it can only be in one place at a time, but when it moves so fast your eyes see multiple copies.
We live in a finite world, a world of matter, a world of flesh. And that means things can only be in one place at one time. Where they will be next may be uncertain, and the very act of observing them may change them, but in any given moment, they have limits.
And those limits, well, they apply to who we can be. We may well be able to shift though roles & personae quickly, but we can’t be in multiple places at the same moment.
This isn’t really a problem for me, but it is a problem for those who want me to be who they want me to be. They lay their expectations on me, but they want me to be in multiple places at once, to their pattern.
We shape our choices, yes.
But our choices shape us, too.
All our choices, even the ones we have made for defense, our reactionary responses to the pressures of the world, especially the pressures others make to try and shape and control us, all those choices shape us.
If we are pressed to move one way or the other, we end up in that position. That position then determines the range of choices we can make next.
We get pressed into corners, and those corners shape our choices. We get trained in roles, and that training shapes our choices. We respond to the expectations & assumptions of others, and those expectations shape our expectaions & assumptions about ourself.
Each choice we make, based on our own knowledge of ourself, based on social expectations, or based on protecting & defending ourself, it shapes us.
A woman is someone who makes the choices of a woman. If others refuse to accept those choices you make, then making those choices becomes a negative act, one that leads to both honesty and stigma.
We aren’t just shaped by our positive choices, what we choose to do, we are also shaped by our negative choices, what we choose not to do. Not only does that leave space for others to connect with us — if we don’t cook, we need to find someone who does — but it also defines us. Men don’t do that! Women don’t do that! Catholics don’t do that! Italians don’t do that!
I mean, isn’t this the central tenet of conventional heterosexist gender, complimentary roles that come together to support each other? Needs making partners feel more manly, more womanly, more valued in their part? Women and men, different but symbiotic?
Of course, all this has come acropper with the move to single parent households, to a kind of gynandrony that doesn’t include requirements & obligations with getting your needs serviced.
Still, the joy of being able to both argue the truth in pairs — “We need to dedicate resources to the children” / “We need to conserve resources” — where both sides are true sounds blissful to me, a person who has to have those arguments internally, who doesn’t have someone else to lean on, to push against.
Our choices reflect us, but they also reflect our response to the pressures on us. This is true not just of the positive choices, what we choose to do and who we choose to be, but also the negative choices, what we choose not to do and who we choose not to be. Often, it is those negative choices that open the space for connection.
But when we are in relationship and those choices, positive and negative, aren’t valued for what they tell about who we know ourselves to be, about who we are trying to be, life gets frustrating and hard.
When I used to interview candidates for jobs, the first question I wanted to answer is where their strengths were. Where was their excellence, their success, their shining?
The second question was where their weaknesses were. I knew that if those weaknesses were just a mirror of their strengths, that was fine. You can’t fault an excellent bean-counter if sometimes they are too detail oriented, or a fault a fabulous dreamer if sometimes they don’t do all the paperwork. The only thing you can do is make them work together, so they can balance each other out. On the other hand, if they were both mediocre and a whiner, well, not much you can do with that.
Too often, though, when people focus only on my faults and not on my strengths, there is nothing but frustration and pain. I do have negative spaces where I am not strong, and asking me to fill those spaces too is asking me to lose myself. I may be able to be in two different places, but I can’t be in two places at one time, and being in that demand means losing my heart, burning energy in context switching that I need for life.
Humans were meant to shimmer, and that means sometimes we are on and sometimes we are off. It’s only when you get a constellation of shimmering stars, a community of shimmering humans that you get a constant light that illuminates all.
I’m sick of being asked to be mediocre at more things. I want to be excellent at being me, and have others to help fill my negative spaces, to support me.
But that seems to be a star beyond wishing on.