Friday, July 4, 2014

Bad Raps and Rain Clouds

You know who has a bad rap?  Eeyore has a bad rap.

This post is not really about Eeyore, but as usual,
 it takes me forever to get to my point, so Pooh bear with me.
...but isn't that a great face Eeyore is making, there?

Now, the gloomy little guy actually does have a fairly big following, but even among those who love Eeyore, he's a pretty misunderstood fictional character.  And I tend to get upset when people diss my favorite fictional characters.  

As a life-long fan of the old gray donkey (ever since I first saw "Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore" when I was about 4??), I get pretty annoyed when people assume that Eeyore is just a depressed pessimist who needs to get a life.  

But when you actually read the original Milne and study the character of Eeyore, you realize he's actually a pretty funny dude.  I mean, his sense of humor isn't for everyone, but I'm a HUGE fan of his dry wit.  Too many people mistake it for pure depression.  In reality (if he were, you know, real), he's just dripping with sarcasm.  It is hilarious and good:

"After all, one can't complain. I have my friends. Somebody spoke to me only yesterday. And was it last week or the week before that Rabbit bumped into me and said 'Bother!'. The Social Round. Always something going on."

"It's snowing still. ...And freezing.  ...However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately."

"I don't know how it is, Christopher Robin, but what with all this snow and one thing and another, not to mention icicles and such-like, it isn't so Hot in my field about three o’clock in the morning as some people think it is. It isn't Close, if you know what I mean - not so as to be uncomfortable. It isn't Stuffy. In fact, Christopher Robin," he went on in a loud whisper, "quite-between-ourselves-and-don't-tell anybody, it's Cold."

"Eeyore, what are you doing there?" said Rabbit.
"I'll give you three guesses, Rabbit. Digging holes in the ground? Wrong. Leaping from branch to branch of a young oak tree? Wrong. Waiting for somebody to help me out of the river? Right. Give Rabbit time, and he'll always get the answer."

"Oh, Eeyore, you are wet!" said Piglet, feeling him.
Eeyore shook himself, and asked somebody to explain to Piglet what happened when you had been inside a river for quite a long time.

"They're funny things, Accidents. You never have them till you're having them."

Gloomy?  Maybe.  But I wouldn't say pessimistic.  I see Eeyore as more of a realist.  Because you'd be gloomy, too, if this was your reality:

He's an elderly donkey, stuffed with itchy sawdust, who always loses his tail (and has to have it nailed back on when they eventually find it again--um, ouch), and whose house is always falling down.   He's also stuck in a forest with a bunch of dim-witted guys (and one overprotective mother kangaroo lady) who have fluff for brains.  His "friends" don't pay him much attention, unless they're bouncing on him or asking to stand on his back so they can get to hard-to-reach places or some other ridiculous nonsense.  His sarcasm and gloom are actually COPING MECHANISMS for the messed up reality in which he lives.  If he wasn't so sarcastic, his brain would probably turn to fluff, too.

But, Eeyore isn't all dark and gloom.

And to make a long story short (too late), I'll show you, rather than just tell you, about Eeyore's most optimistic moment.  Because if your "friends" forgot your birthday, bounced you into a river and then accused you of lying about it, then had the nerve to give you NOTHING but an empty honey pot and a broken balloon as birthday presents, I doubt you'd find as much joy as he did.  Here's "Winnie the Pooh and a Day for Eeyore"  It's like 25 minutes, but it's brilliant.  I'll wait while you watch Eeyore not be a Donnie Downer.  Go ahead.  Watch.  Or just scroll down past the video because you're lazy....

Yeah, if you watched, you saw that Eeyore made the most out of a situation that, well, kind of sucked.  And if you didn't watch, then take my word for it.  Eeyore is not always sad, and in fact, sometimes finds great joy in the smallest things.  And sometimes he shows a lot of grace to people animals who are jerks to him.

But...Eeyore has a bad rap.

Because people confuse pessimism and realism all the time.

Which is one of the reasons why, sometimes, I also get a bad rap.

And I don't want all my posts to be about "me, me, me," nor do I want to be a whiny blogger who just talks about all her problems all the time.  But in this "year of Fear Not," I've learned that something WE ALL WANT is to be understood.  What WE ALL WANT, and desperately, is to be known.  And so this is a blog about my personal experiences, but my hope is that other people can relate on some level.  I'm not seeking total understanding, because I've learned that being completely understood by another human being is a lie, and the pursuit of being understood can be an idol.  Sometimes we can't have understanding.  Sometimes we can't even have respect.  But when we don't have a choice in how others treat us, we always have a choice in how we act and react....

Even if we have a bad rap, like the one others sometimes project upon me.

Because I'm pretty straightforward, but sometimes people like to read WAY too much into the straightforward things that I say.

Sometimes I say things like, "I'm socially awkward."
What I mean is, "I'm socially awkward."
What people hear sometimes is, "I'm socially awkward and that is the worst thing ever and I wish I were dead, please kill me now or pray that I'm healed from the demon of social awkwardness."

Sometimes I say things like, "I don't have very much self-confidence."
I mean, "I don't have very much self-confidence."
What people hear sometimes is, "I NEED more self-confidence because life is horrible without it, and NO ONE can function in today's society without self-confidence.  Please direct me to the nearest self-help seminar or book series or audio tape so that I can be self-confident and happy like everyone else."

Sometimes I say things like, "I'm weak, but God is strong."
What I mean is, "I'm weak, but God is strong."
What people hear sometimes is, "I'm pathetic and hate myself.  I need to learn how to be strong in myself.  That God stuff is just something people say to sound holy, but really, I want to be strong on my own."

I happen to be pretty sarcastic, too, because sometimes I have to be.  Otherwise, I'd punch too many people in too many faces, and that might possibly get me arrested.

But sometimes people don't respond to the straightforward.  And sometimes people don't respond to the sarcasm.  And for most of my life, I've just been putting up with people when they try to tell me all the little ways I'm wrong and need to change.  For far too many years, I even thought they were right--because if I'm going to second guess, I'm going to second guess myself first.  That's part of my nature...not that there's anything wrong with it.

Because that's the thing that I've finally figured out.  For years, people, well well meaning people, would tell me that they loved me for who I am, but they thought I needed to be more self-confident.  They'd tell me they loved me for who I am, but they thought I needed to stand up for myself.  They'd tell me they loved me for who I am, but they thought I should be more assertive, less soft spoken, less apologetic, less timid and more bold, etc.  Some would even imply I was sinning if I wasn't doing these things they thought I should be doing, or acting in the ways I thought I should be acting.  They said they loved me for me, but they wanted to change things that were at the very core of who I am.

And one day, pretty recently, actually, it finally clicked that those well-meaning people wanted me to be me, just as long as me was someone completely different.  And they were the ones telling me to be myself, but they didn't like who I was or even know who I was.  And the more I started thinking about it, the more I realized that those little things they wanted to change, they're not just parts of me--they're things I actually LIKE about me.

And it's weird, I get it, okay?  It's weird to like being awkward.  It's weird to like being soft-spoken.  It's weird to like apologizing all the time.  But it's who I am.  I wasted years feeling guilty because I wasn't who people thought I should be.  I even tried to be who people thought I should be, and I just ended up frustrated and hurt.  It took me awhile, but I've realized I CAN'T be something I'm not--even if those things I can't be seem like really good things--and I'm more than okay with that.  And all those people who told me to stand up for myself and be more confident, well, they're finally getting their wish, but not in the way they expected.  Because the only ones I really feel the need to stand up against are them.  And I will if I have to.

There's a few things people need to know about me, things that seem completely contradictory.  Maybe they are, but they're nonetheless true:

1. I apologize too much, but I won't apologize for it.
2. I am VERY confident about the fact that I don't have much confidence.
3. I'm not very assertive, but I'll FIGHT you for my right to be non-assertive.

I lived for over 30 years before I realized that I'm not the one with the problem.  And, as I said before, I'm not one to push blame on others.  I usually look for fault in myself first.  Which might have been why it was so easy to accept it when other people saw fault in me.

But what I'm finding, finally, is that while good-natured, well-intentioned people really WANT to help and really think that they're helping sometimes, they end up trying to fix something that was never broken.  And sometimes they end up breaking things that were just fine the way they were.

And I know I have to be gracious, because I can definitely understand the confusion.  It sounds good to be self-confident.  It sounds good to be assertive.  It sounds good to be strong.  It sounds good to have it all together.

But I don't have it all together.

And don't mis-hear me.  I said I don't have it all together.

I didn't say that was a bad thing.

I know myself, and I like myself.  And all the little quirks and idiosyncrasies that make up who I am are not things I despair of.  Sure, there's things I'd like to change about myself, but all in all, I'm pretty comfortable with me.

Which is to say, I'm a pretty uncomfortable person.  And that might not make any sense, but I don't care.  I like me.

I guess now I just have to work on LIKING the fact that I'm misunderstood, because, let's face it.  I'm going to be misunderstood.  I'm going to get a bad rap.

I'm not being pessimistic by saying that, either.  I'm just addressing the reality of the situation.  How I choose to DEAL with that reality is what matters.  I can be gloomy about it, or I can be starkly honest about it, or I can be sarcastic about it, or occasionally, I can be gracious and make the most out of any situation.

Because pointing out that there are clouds in the sky and that it will probably rain doesn't mean I hate the rain.

But even if I did...

"The nice thing about rain," said Eeyore, "is that it stops."

 But I really do kind of like the rain.

And Eeyore's most quotable line actually has a lot more meaning than I originally understood.  Because, Eeyore, just like everyone else, just wants to be known.

Thanks for noticing me.

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