I just performed a splendiferous purge of my Google Reader feeds, and I'm feeling like a new man. It's interesting how many subscriptions I added because they were sources I thought I was supposed to be reading instead of things I actually want to read. It just reminded me how much baggage we all carry - the weight of other people's expectations of us, and most especially the often delusional expectations we place on ourselves. (On a current events note, for delusional cf. Charlie Sheen and Muammar Gaddafi, both of whom have wild misinterpretations of reality, or at least can't accept what they know to be true as reality.) Both others' expectations and our own self-imposed burdens are frequently out of touch with reality. I don't know why I struggle so often with accepting myself as I am and working from there, instead of making my ideal self the baseline of my personal expectations. I think such a baseline makes ever making progress toward that ideal self that much more difficult, because the reality of who I am now is ignored, so what I'm working on (and working with) is an almost alien superman self. It's probably so difficult because I have little tolerance for weakness in myself and others, which is ridiculous because it is just as much those places where we fall short as where we excel that make us interesting and vital. I want to work with myself as I am, and embrace those terrifically rough edges that no doubt make me who I am.
On a related note, I'd really like to learn how to care about what people think while simultaneously not caring what people think. I want to care about what people generally, and my friends and family particularly, think because they are people with a voice and a heart and good parts and bad who deserve my attention and my respect. Also, I know that others see the world in valuable and interesting ways, and have insights into me and my life that I can't see because they are blind spots to me. Yet there is a limit to this caring, when it supersedes my own shaping of the world, when I'm afraid of holding a particular position or belief because it might offend someone I care about. I know I have a healthy contrarian streak already, but this isn't about rebellion for rebellion's sake. It's about taking a stand, declaring meaning where I find meaning to reside, and living with the consequences of such a stand. It seems to me that the most insightful and wonderful and world-transforming people have this "double-consciousness," a terrible intimacy with humanity's deepest longings and fears, and yet also a singular vision that says, in spite of all that, this is who I am, who I need to be at this time and this place. I can't help but think of Martin Luther's oft quoted but simply beautiful "Here I Stand, I can do no other. God help me. Amen." Here's to the courage and inner fortitude such a stand requires, and creates in us when we take it.