Getting What You Deserve

February 25, 2012


A Self-styled Dame, Housewife, Superstar

My friend Chris refuses to have an internet in his home. I used to just think it eccentric, but now I believe his avoidance of the internet is a symptom of something more serious. He has applied for many better paying jobs over the years. In his contact information he includes his cellphone, street address and an e mail which he rarely ever checks. He has been invited for job interviews by e mail and because he does not check it he has missed more than a few chances for advancement. It is my belief that what he is doing, unbeknown to himself, is sabotaging himself because a part of him does not believe he deserves to do better.

He is hardly alone in this. Tabloids are full of celebrities who, after years of public adoration, press the self-destruct button. It is almost as though they reach a point where they feel they do not deserve the praise, the fame, the riches. Closer to home, we all can think of teenage girls who have dated rebel boys that are so blatantly not good for them. “I can change him,” they say. Or, “He is misunderstood.” There are the obese women who, after months of punishing dieting, reach their ideal weight, only to put it all back on again. It used to amuse me to see all the smokers outside of the cancer hospital, sitting in their wheelchairs and hospital dressing gowns, tethered to an IV tube, still unable to give up the habit that got them into that state in the first place. And what can the reason be for gay men to still engage in risky behavior despite thirty years of HIV in their midst? It is almost as though we have a little voice inside us telling us “this is what you deserve”.

Less dramatically, but no less damagingly, we limit our selves by the choices we make. My niece settled for a career as a Physician’s Assistant while her brother headed off to medical school. She gets peeved when people ask her why she didn’t pursue an M.D. as well. When I was furnishing my apartment I decided upon Barcelona chairs. The authentic ones were sumptuous, but I was happier with their Chinese knock-offs.  I often buy second-hand furniture, or purchase clothing from the discount bins or during January Sales. I call it thrifty but I have to wonder,  does a part of me feel that I do not deserve top quality goods?

The opposite of this are the people  who brim with self-confidence. They are not shy about aiming high, driving the best cars, living in the fanciest homes, moving socially upwards. Their very body language says:  “I deserve only the best”. Sometimes this internal dialogue is conscious, but often it is subliminal. We all begin life with undefined potential, but soon our families, our peers, our culture define us by setting limits. Of course, if we over-step our ambitions others do not hesitate to push us back. Sometimes I think the whole function of the high school guidance counsellor is to mock people’s dreams. Teachers have subtle ways of  evaluating us beyond the grades they assign. Bullies make it their life’s work to keep people in their place. Anyone who is not male, not white, not beautiful, is reminded by every magazine cover, every TV show that he is a bit-player in life.

However the fault it not wholly with others, we define ourselves with our choices. As a fiction writer I understand very well that to breathe life into a character I need to describe in detail his choice of hairstyle, his career, his diet, even what he wears to bed. All of this minutiae reflects for the readers the character’s inner personality. It seems to me that we humans are compelled to continually keep defining ourselves to the world , albeit  sub-consciously. “That dress is me,” says the fashionista.  “Those are my people I am defending,” says the soldier. “My god is the only true one,” screams the fanatic. Artistic/ intellectual/ Conservative/ Buddhist/ bi/lesbian/ young/ old/black/Asian and the rest, are all more than labels, they are the bricks of our very identity. It is as though without these definitions we might cease to exist. We feel vulnerable, unsafe without borders to define us. Are we using fear to feel safe?

But what exactly would happen if we stripped our identity of all its definitions, what would be left? Maybe, just maybe our real selves. And what could that possibly feel like, beyond the initial fear? How would it be to have no gender or age, no race, no sexuality? To be part-less, unassailable, unchanging throughout time and ever the same in every place, to be complete, needing nothing, nothing to prove, nothing to achieve?

It feels like home.

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6 Responses to “Getting What You Deserve”

  1. A real nice post, enjoyed the read. Yes, our real selves would be left if we completely stripped ourselves.

  2. Madonna said

    Being an inquiring soul, I was wondering why it is so hard to identify the real you. I’m not even sure what your Christian name is, so it’s a little hard to feel a personal connection.

    But, psolaIanski, love your writing and your critical eye. You are a keen observer of human life.

    The situation you have described at the conclusion of this post is the real truth about life. The spiritual truth.

    Both insightful and profound.

    l’ll be looking out for more, except you don’t make it easy to leave comments or to receive updates. I’m wondering why.

    Madonna

    • What a sweet comment. Well my first name is Pradeep. I am humbled. I look forward to reading your blog also, as we think along the same lines.

  3. Thank you for a well-written, thought provoking article. We get what we THINK we deserve. Case in point is your friend who applies for jobs and does not check his e-mail to see if a potential employer contacted him.

    Thanks for liking a post on my blog!! Please visit again at http://www.bareyournakedtruth.wordpress.com

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