Know Thyself

Many years ago, I wanted to be a reporter, the kind that rushed to breaking news stories. I’d picture myself, microphone in hand in front of, say, a burning building and the news anchor back in the studio would ask me, “Joan, what do we know so far about this situation?”

The thing is, I need to work things through and think about them.

“Joan…?”

“Uh… well, I’m still trying to figure it out. Can I get back to you?”

Cut to commercial.

End of career.

I’ve figured out more of who I am since then, and knowing that is both comforting and surprising. I am a processor. As much as I like seeing a thing done, I really enjoy the process of seeing it come together. So being a writer is a good career for me, and being a processor, I do get a big kick from my KitchenAid.

I remember a reed-thin boy who asked me a question at a writers conference. He had been waiting at the back of the room all week, almost raising his hand. Finally, a few seconds before the bell rang, he raised his hand high and and in a quavering voice asked,

“Mrs. Bauer, looking back on your entire life, do you have any regrets?”

I thought, Well, just this morning, there were three, maybe four…

But I wanted to give him a real answer. I looked at his face. He was so uncomfortable in his own skin, and how I knew what that was like. And so many things came together for me at that moment, and I answered, “When I was your age, I never felt comfortable with myself. I never felt good enough. I always wanted to be someone else.”

I wanted him to get that, and for a brief moment he smiled, then he put his head down and left.

I have just finished Angela Duckworth’s excellent book, Grit. In a few weeks you can read my review of it in the November issue of New York Lifestyles Magazine. It has stirred things in me that really needed stirring. It’s about the power of passion and persistence and how not giving up leads to growth and mastery. Sometimes we lose sight of the passion that is uniquely inside of us. Duckworth cites a Gallup poll that states 2/3 of adults “claim they are not engaged at work.” And a good percentage of those workers feel “actively disengaged.”

Think about that.

What can we do when the flames dwindle? There are no easy answers, but for me, at least, I need to take some time to reconnect, think, and remember the true interests in my life and what I’m good at doing. Then I say something to myself…

Those things in me are real. I have to pay attention and not waste time on the pretenders.

It’s so easy to pay attention to the loudest voice, to the deadline (well, we have to pay attention to that), to the screaming To Do list, to the pinging, ringing demands on this earth that take us captive. I want to re-remember myself, and maybe in that process a few things that were misplaced will be found, like a lost dog who somehow travels the miles to reach his home again. And if he’s a really cute dog, he might snag a movie deal and make his owner very happy.

To press toward knowing ourselves — our true north, our true home — that’s not a bad thing to be thinking about in these days of rage, fear, and disconnection.

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