Swimming Upstream in the Mainstream

If you were to write a book in which you told the story of your life – What would the name of your memoir be?

That question caught my eye while I was wandering aimlessly on Buzzfeed.

I enjoy taking silly quizzes, as it can be an insightful and fun way of getting to know yourself better. Especially late at night when I can’t sleep because my mind is floating in a surreal limbo between here and elsewhere, past and present, consciousness and unconsciousness, real and unreal.

The world around me is asleep, I’m alone with myself in a place I feel safe enough to just be, and free to be whoever I am when no one else is there to influence who I may be.

This is the result I received on that particular quiz:

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Memoir TitleWhat would the name of your memoir be?

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The me I am now, at this point in time while writing this post, doesn’t think I’ll ever write a memoir, but in some ways that’s what I do on my blog. I tell tales of my life, share experiences, review my memories while telling you about them, explore the past through writing about it in the present… so, I guess my memoir is actually named – An Upturned Soul: Sometimes I Climb the Walls and Lie on the Ceiling.

It’s a strange thing… to write about myself. I feel weird doing it sometimes because talking about myself is a relatively new habit, and I’m still not entirely sure whether I like doing it or not. Sometimes I love it, it’s liberating and I’ve always been rather focused on freedom. Personal freedom means a lot to me… but not just for me, for others too – the greatest compliment someone else can give me is when they feel at ease enough around me to just be themselves as is.

Here I am… free to just be myself as is come what may. And I hope what I do here is infectious, and infects you to feel free to be yourselves come what may. But that’s up to you…

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And then there are sometimes when I… just wish I’d shut up, and I want to delete everything I’ve said.

I went through a long period in my life when I spoke as little about myself as was humanly possible. I did have to speak a little bit about myself so as not to be impolite, not to draw attention to myself. Silence can be as loud as talking, it can dominate a conversation, be an intimidating presence – I didn’t want my silence to do that as it was not the silent treatment, I just didn’t want to talk about myself. I didn’t want to be noticed. So I spoke about myself when necessary, but I tried to keep what I did say so vague, neutral, nondescript that I could have been talking about anyone.

It’s funny, both ha-ha and odd, to observe who I am now compared to who I was not so long ago.

Talking about myself this much, this openly, this… has changed me, has made me more me, more authentic. It wasn’t so much that I was inauthentic before, I was not being fake per se… I wasn’t anything really, at least on the outside. The face and personality which I gave to the world around me was not dissimilar to a mannequin – I let others decide what face to paint on me, what personality to give me, what clothes I should wear, what pose and what role they needed for me to have for them. At least superficially, in social situations.

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Be yourself - no - society

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There are many reasons why I did that, and those reasons belong to me. They’re part of my life story, what has shaped who I am… but they’re not just part of my story, they don’t just belong to me, they’re part of the experience of being human, and sharing is also a part of that, sharing our story, ourselves with others.

All humans are shapeshifters, chameleons, mimics, people-pleasers, to a degree as this is an element of our natural survival instincts.

Our identity fluctuates, adjusting to our surroundings, to where we are and with whom we are.

We don’t change who we are at the core of ourselves, we are still who we are, however, we filter who we are, we wear different guises (not necessarily disguises), we adopt diverse roles, we wear certain clothes, both real and abstract, to suit each situation.

If you’re walking down a dark alley in a dodgy part of town you’d probably be wearing primal make up, your senses alert for the slightest hint of danger, your mind checking a list of things to do and ways to be in case of attack. You’re not the self who you would be if you were strolling along a familiar high street in broad daylight. In both cases it’s still you, just a different you.

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A-Tribute-To-The-Introverted-Woman-By-Michaela-Chungvia Introvert Spring

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On meeting a stranger, you’ll offer them your stranger-meet-and-greet face and personality, whereas when meeting a friend you’ll give them the face and personality they know, you’ll become who you are when you’re with them.

If the stranger is someone you intended to meet, perhaps a blind date, a person thinking of hiring you for a job, or a shopkeeper in a store, you’ll be more relaxed about meeting them, and each scenario will have a preset you to be, at least until you know them better, then more of who you are naturally will emerge.

If the stranger is someone you did not expect to meet, then you’ll most probably be the guardian at the gate of you, sizing up the other to find if they’re friend or foe, whether you should fight or take flight, be warm or cold, be yourself or be someone else – those alternate identities we sometimes play at being when in a situation where we don’t want to share who we are because we don’t know if it’s safe or okay to do that.

If they’re a friend with whom you feel very relaxed then you’ll be more of who you are when you’re alone with them, but if they’re a casual acquaintance with whom you feel a bit reserved then you’ll filter out some of yourself.

I swear like a drunk pirate when with close friends because they’re okay with that, they’re drunk pirates too, but when I’m with land-lubbers who are proper and prim, I curb my enthusiasm for cursing.

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Curbing my cursing, curbs who I am because I can’t express myself as freely and easily, I have to check my words before they leave the house of my mouth, and while I’m patting down my speech for words which polite society considers to be weapons, I sometimes end up removing anything else which might also be too sharp.

  • Self-censoring police: Sorry, Miss Sentence, you can’t wear that word-brooch, it has a pin and other spiky things on it.
  • Miss Sentence: Those spiky things are diamonds, and this brooch is a valuable word essential for my story to make sense.
  • Self-censoring police: Sorry, but those with sensitive skin may be listening and might hurt themselves on your word-brooch.
  • Miss Sentence: But how am I going to say what I want to say, it won’t make sense without this word!
  • Self-censoring police: Sorry, those are the rules of the word police, the rule book is long, gets longer every time something goes wrong when you talk. Send your complaints to Self-Censorship HQ, but be warned, they’re still sifting through the giant pile of… letters sent to them by narcissists with whom you’ve had the foolhardy temerity to speak at all.
  • Miss Sentence: Maybe I won’t bother talking…
  • Self-censoring police: Sorry, but that’ll get complaints too, and I’ll have to censor you for that too.

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straightjacket snuggie

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I have to stop talking now as I need to put food in the mouth, and it’s rude to talk when eating… and besides I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore (which happens a lot with me).

Perhaps I should have left this post in the limbo of draft… come back to it tomorrow, but… things might be different then, I might see things differently, I might be different because… life being lived from day to day, moment to moment, has a way of doing that to us.

There are many sentences I’ve left in the limbo of draft, things I wanted to say but decided not to say them until I’d checked if it was okay to say them, and other reasons… some were edited into oblivion, self-censorship whittled them down into a pile of sawdust – what was left of them wasn’t worth saying because there was nothing left to say.

Nothing felt safe to say, so nothing was said… not so long ago that would have been the name of my memoir. A memoir made of memories erased.

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memoir definition

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What about you – What would the name of your memoir be?

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20 thoughts on “Swimming Upstream in the Mainstream

  1. I got “I can’t remember what I did last night (so I’m making it up)” with a picture of a person with her nose in a cocktail glass. Yikes. I do not spend my time in swimming in a glass. Really.

    I think my memoir would be something like: Finding stability and Self-Confidence in 50 Years or Less. πŸ™‚

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    1. OMG, I’m totally making this about me πŸ˜‰ and your memoir title result would work for me (better than the result I got) and that has nothing to do with cocktail infusion! It’s so hard sometimes to remember what happened yesterday because we’re in the today, always in the here now at any given moment, and stuff is happening now which always blurs what happened before.

      Sometimes I’m like… WTF happened yesterday!?! Was there a yesterday if I can’t recall it!?!

      There’s an awesome shot by Herb Ritts for Vanity Fair of Courtney Love ‘swimming’ in a giant cocktail glass – She looked stunning – he was such a brilliant photographer!

      I absolutely love your proposed memoir name! So… in 50 years or less, sounds totally doable!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I sometimes wonder about yesterday, too. My brain is always forgetting. The good thing about that is that everything is always fresh and new. πŸ™‚

        I do love a good glass of wine and in fact, my husband and I collect it, but I don’t think I have a problem. Nope. Absolutely not. πŸ™‚

        Thanks. πŸ™‚ I actually may have learned something in that time! πŸ™‚

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  2. I’ve just been reading a book on Narcissism which is just a small one by a Sydney based analyst Neville Symington and he talks about how in narcissism the child in us is silenced and since in childhood we contain the essence of our most authentic self to have that part of us put into silence is a terrible wound but we can and do come out of it and all that we go through becomes part of the story.

    Interesting quote : Narcissism protects me from feeling a child, even from being a child, but no part of my history is ever cancelled out. It is all within me : my foetal stage, my infancy, my childhood etc….in the narc situation all that is unpleasant to my self image I can ditch. I can look down my nose with contempt at the child like ways of my fellows, and I can get rid of my infantile self by pushing it somewhere – into my body, into another part of my mind, into others – and in this process I construct a world view to be consistent with what I have done .. underneath there is paranoia. Narcissism is a cover. end of quote

    Who wouldn’t feel paranoia when the child self was traumatised or met with threats to its pure existence which have to be negotiated once you start to express from within the formerly silent vacuum. When you bust open the cover, which also involves describing some of the covers and protections you (not you, but you me and all of us) use and just learn to voice it the inner censor seems to be always there just on the threshold. Not knowing if it will be safe to be real, not knowing will you meet acceptance or rejection, and not knowing for a long time that that acceptance or rejection might say a lot more about the other person than you, per se.

    And then when you are freer, you still have the sensitivity antenna and concern for other people’s sensitivities and feelings which come out of a childhood in which you had to spend so much time watching and being careful, working hard to figure out very confusing behaviour and signals without much help and having been shut down so much you are probably really extra sensitive to shutting others down

    I can really relate to the dialogue with yourself on deciding what is appropriate to express in terms of words as a swearer myself, I can shock people at times because my gentle demeanour leads them to believe I would not be “that kind of girl”. I still feel a bit of a racy heartbeat when I swear in company waiting to be told off for it. But when I am really angry it helps me to let off steam and the words are appropriate for how I am feeling in that moment, though later I may look back in a certain amount of shock.

    BTW I love that quote on introversion you included with this post. There is something beautiful about being able to keep certain things under wraps or hold them quietly inside without feeling the need to enlighten anyone or blurt them out because you just know that other people have their own journey and their own explorations to make. The cover we and others wear may hide some deeply mysterious secrets we may never have imagined in our wildest dreams. Life and people are very unpredictable like that.

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    1. Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

      That book sounds like an interesting take on narcissism.

      Not sure what I’d make of it as I tend to view narcissists as adults stuck in childhood rather than children who gave up their childhood. My take comes from things which my parents said to me about themselves. Both of my parents were fixated on their childhoods and could never let their child selves go so that they could become adults. They refused to grow up.

      One of my father’s favourite books was The Tin Drum, a story about a little boy who refuses to grow up in an extreme way. And my mother was obsessed with The Little Girl Who Had a Little Curl… she also had a thing about mermaids, and I think she thought she was one.

      Both of them behaved like children even when they were pretending to be adults. The mind of a narcissist tends to work similar to the mind of a child.

      One thing I have learned from reading… we find our own personal story in the stories and theories of others, because the theories of others come from their own personal stories, and sometimes our personal story is similar to someone else’s personal story – but we do have to remember that what others write, from whatever perspective, is influenced by them trying to understand and tell their own story.

      Sounds to me like this book isn’t so much about the experience of narcissists as it is about the experience of children of narcissists. Children of narcissist parents aren’t allowed to be children because the narcissist parent is the only one allowed to be the child – their children have to become surrogate parents. Children of narcissists become parents to their parents, and their parents become the surrogate children to the child of a narcissist parent.

      Parentification is what happens to children of narcissists.

      Does it also happen to narcissists? Maybe… or maybe they’re the child of a parent who never allows them to grow up.

      Have you seen this film – La Spagnola (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0290867/) – it’s Aussie but it’s mainly in Spanish. It’s about a narcissistic mother’s relationship with her daughter. Chilled me to the bone, but very insightful.

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      1. Thanks for providing an alterative perspective, about the narcissist never growing up. I think that means they believe they are the centre of the universe and don’t have a sense of differences, separateness of others, or maturity and boundaries just like a young child. I think you shared about his in another blog.
        Your comments have made me think and I see my own narcissism in them.
        What he claims as a more central idea is that narcs don’t develop a sense of their own true power, creativity and agency, or an ability to communicate and understand in a mature way. They tend to remain stuck in blame as a result, feeling the world owes them (and their children as you pointed out, since you have strong personal experience of that) and has done them wrong. They are the disadvantaged child who never really learned about imperfection, humanity and boundaries.

        I did see that movie a long time ago, before I really knew much about narcissism. It deserves another look and must have really resonated for you. Narcissism is chilling. Its a cold kind of experience.

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        1. Thank you πŸ™‚

          We find our story bit by bit as we move along step by step on our road of life. What works for some doesn’t work for others… everything is valid and valuable. Be gentle with yourself, being harsh with ourselves and others is easy, being gentle takes time, effort and a desire to go deeper and sometimes be vulnerable…

          Take care of yourself, beautiful soul!

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          1. I’m discovering more as time goes on and I am surrounding myself with people who are more compassionate and gentle that I am seeing the depth of how harsh I can be on myself and how that harshness has been internalised.
            This can also relate to another reply to my comment on your post of not expecting to be liked so you are free to be you. How much of people pleasing comes about because we were told or led to believe we are not okay just as we are when we are really who we are? It seems such a long journey to undo this and relax with it all. Its taken me a while to get back to these comments as last week was tough but I am beginning to understand that out of very tough times when we are around others who are real there are great advances to be made in just being true. Something you do so well. ((–))

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            1. Thank you πŸ™‚

              Yes, I think people pleasing definitely comes from feeling not good enough, there’s an ache to it, an unease, and a slight desperation. People pleasing is different from doing things that might please people because you want to do something for them and doing it pleases you first and it’s a bonus if it pleases others.

              I’m sorry to hear things have been tough, you’ve been through so much recently, you deserve a break. However, you’re right, tough times can be just what we need to motivate us to create a better experience for ourselves of life and being. You’re one strong and beautiful being!

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  3. No idea ! Just love this post !!! β€οΈβ€οΈβ€οΈπŸŒΊπŸŒΊπŸŒΊπŸ™πŸ™πŸ™πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜

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  4. Authentic is a beautiful dance…in my natal stars, I was shown where I am authentic and truly do not settle for anything less from others, which is not a comfortable space for many. I was told ” Nice and Authentic do not play well together…” And I see nice as only skin deep where Authentic is Soul deep…Thank you for this post today…Blessings

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    1. Thank you very much πŸ™‚

      That’s a brilliant name for a memoir – Nice and Authentic do not play well together.

      I also have natal placements which prefer authenticity over niceness, and which make others uncomfortable. They can be quite a handful for us too, make us feel uncomfortable around others, especially when we’re younger and learning about how to socialise and be a member of a group. I think certain energies require for us to grow into them, particularly the ones which are strong. We need to know how it feels to be on both sides of an equation to understand the whole.

      I think that nice can be deep but only when it is aligned with authenticity, and when authenticity is aligned with nice, and that alliance can take a while to work itself out because both niceness and authenticity need to be understood separately before they can be blended and work together in unison.

      A while back I saw a show which included a storyline about a movement called ‘Radical Honesty’. Radical Honesty requires that people always tell their truth even if it is hurtful because they must be true to their truth, be authentic no matter what. So if a practitioner of Radical Honesty gets ask by a mother if they think her baby is beautiful and they think the baby is ugly then they must speak their truth, even though that kind of truth is one they know will upset the mother and one they could easily keep to themselves because it’s not a situation which really needs honesty of that sort to be applied to it. Being nice in that situation would be the decent thing to do. However a practitioner of Radical Honesty would see being nice as a betrayal of their truth, their authenticity is more important than others. So to make themselves feel good about themselves they choose to make someone else feel awful, to be true to themselves they hurt another.

      Being too authentic can be hurtful, just as being too nice can also hurt self and other. It’s important to honour ourselves, but it is equally important to honour others as by honouring others we honour ourselves too. Soul to soul.

      I know you know this, I was just reminded of that as memories of my learning curve of life were stirred and decided to share it πŸ™‚

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  5. Well, I am still busy living out my memoir. But I guess the name would end up being the same as the song, “Highway to Hell.” At least, that seems to be the direction.

    Now, about those pesky word police. I find myself dealing with those PC police all the time when I am doing my videos. I have to ask myself do I deal with this particular word in post-production editing or not. πŸ™‚

    #BaddAzzPortlandCarz

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    1. Thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

      That’s an excellent point about living our memoirs. And as we live them our experience of the present can alter the past, change our memories because what happens now changes our perspective. Sometimes this works well, we see things we missed, segments of memory join up to show a fuller picture, and perhaps we realise something new about ourselves which affects the present, and other times we end up painting everything black.

      That’s a cool memoir name, from a great song and band.

      There are certain hells which are not hell at all, they’ve just been labeled that way to keep people away from them. For instance, for narcissists hell is being yourself, being authentic. It’s like a genii they go out of their way to trap in a bottle and keep it trapped. Took me ages to figure out that the things which I was told by N’s were bad things, hells, about me, weren’t bad or hellish at all, they were ordinary things like just talking about myself openly. N’s can’t do that, they censor and control their image, and when they have a relationship with someone they censor and control that person because anyone they’re with is an extension of their identity. Even when they are no longer with you they try to control and censor who you are.

      Maybe the hell at the end of your highway isn’t hell at all.

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