My granddaughter Missy had a sleepover with me last night. This morning as I had coffee in bed and read my book, Missy went to the dining room to finish some crafts she had been working on the day before. Suddenly she called out to me “Mormor, what’s your second favourite colour?” Well I have to be honest. She had me stumped. The thing is, I’ve never really thought about it. You see my favourite colour is yellow. My favourite number is two. My favourite dessert is creme brulee’. My favourite car is a volkswagon beetle. These are things that I have loved forever. Just a few off of the long list of favourites. People ask us questions about ourselves and we automatically answer them. We know who we are. We have lived with ourselves for a long time. The thing is, how well do I really know myself if I can’t come up with a second favourite colour.
Going through life we develop our personalities based on what we see around us and influences from those who came before us. We incorporate ideas, beliefs, morals and values into our core and start the map system that become us. The problem is sometimes we just stick with it. These things we have chosen. Whether we like it or not, we have placed ourselves into a box. Sure we can change a little but really are we just expanding the current box or are we learning to think outside of that box? Comfort is the name of the game as we age. Hair styles, clothing choices, politics, religion, hobbies. All things we tend to chose at some point in time and then carry it through for all of our life. I was a teen in the seventies and I rocked a mean Farrah Fawcett hairdo for a few years. Three inch heels and skin tight pants that cut off the blood flow to my legs if I sat down. No bra, indian cotton tops and pukka shell necklaces. I weighed nothing and I had a style. Ten years later I ran into a friend from high school who was walking in the mall with her two young kids. It was a blast from the past. It was as if she had been transported straight from 1979. Her hair was the same. Her clothes as well. Even the high heels. Suddenly she just looked old. She loved who she was in those days and she stuck with the look. Unfortunately it wasn’t working for her any longer. The glory days had passed and she was still there.
The same holds true in other areas of our lives. I went for lunch once with a friend and when discussing where to eat I was surprised that she had never tried Vietnamese food. There is a restaurant in our neighbourhood just three blocks from her house and in the ten years it has been in that location my friend had never entered the doors. Yet the owner of this restaurant brought flowers and food to me when my husband died. He has become a friend. I believe the best thing about immigration is the food. My parents often went for drives when they were bored and they could tell you about every small town cafe across southern Alberta. They had eaten at every one of them. But for me, I find my city has everything. In 1982 I first tried hummus. Heaven. Pure heaven. I discovered Indian food in the eighties as well as Greek food. I love spice and little meat so many middle eastern foods satisfy my taste buds. But I digress. As usual. When I lunch with my friend we take turns choosing the restaurant. Hers tends to turn to pub food. Mine varies. The last pick I made was a Japanese place I adore. She liked it ok but I doubt she will ever go back. But I digress as usual. Watching American politics I am fascinated by the staunch devotion people show towards their choice of political party. I notice it in my own backyard of southern Alberta. The province is conservative. Personally I have voted widely across the political spectrum. Because I vote my needs. These aren’t represented by one party because I change. My needs change. I am always so surprised by people who benefit from social programs that vote for the party that focuses on less social programs. But as I said it is a comfort zone. You were raised a certain way and so you not only embrace it you perpetuate it. But enough about politics.
The bottom line is that we are not what we do or how we dress or what we think. We are living breathing and ever changing beings. From the day we are born our bodies and minds are growing and morphing into something different. Although I don’t think of myself as a sixty year old Grandmother, it is partly how I am defined or how I am seen as the world. Because my physical body is sixty years old and… I have eight Grandchildren. That’s a fact so it becomes part of my definition from a societal point of view. I started as a sweet young baby and now I am a senior. What? How did that happen. My body aged chronologically. It changed over the years and it will continue to do so until the day I die. Nothing I can do about it really. Oh I can try and keep this shell of mine healthy. Eat right, exercise, get lots of sleep, etc… But it will continue to change and I can’t stop it. In my mind I am still a young vibrant gal with lots of life to live and tons to offer the world. Even if the world doesn’t agree. But I am not my body. It is just a vessel I was blessed with to spend all these years here on earth. For what purpose? Well people much smarter than I have been trying to figure that our forever. I’ll leave it to them.
And what about our thoughts? Learning. All of our lives we are learning. The difference between our physical body and our mental thoughts is that we can control our thoughts. Sometimes. Or at least we can make the decision to learn about the world around us or not. So why is it that some people are always in curiosity mode and others are content with the familiar? That is one for the ages for sure. Personally I get bored easily but I also love to learn. Both lean me towards curiosity. I guess the familiar also brings with it safety. Comfort. Sitting here in my chair by the window I feel so safe and warm. Comfortable. But, soon I will be bored and off doing something. People feel safe with those who are like them. There is also the saying “safety in numbers”. Keeping our circle of friends small and tight makes us feel like we belong. Unfortunately the result is a lack of diversity. Both in the people we know as well as our ability to expand and grow as individuals. A big drawback for many is fear. Fear of the unknown. We are attracted to things that we have seen before. Experienced in the past. Good, bad or otherwise. Take women who consistently date men who control or abuse them. In the beginning its accidental. But eventually it becomes a habit. It may be wrong but its familiar so we go back to it in the end. On the other hand a western woman may be offended by other faiths who cover their heads and faces. Maybe you feel they are oppressed. But they may think you are brazen and too seductive in your dress. Neither of you can know what the other lives because you don’t enter each others worlds. Perhaps we don’t want to gain this woman her freedom so much as we want to preserve our own. There are the what ifs in our mind. Fear becomes a habit by which we control our lives. And the opposite, acceptance is also a habit we chose when making life decisions.
What if, we started to see the world in a different way. Try something new. Learn something new. Change it up. Be outrageous. Or just try doing the opposite one day. Order a different meal in a brand new restaurant. Try to be earlier. Or later. Change the radio station. Chat up a stranger on the street. Take a new route to someplace familiar. Attend a different church or temple. Or maybe just pick a second favourite colour. Get to know yourself. Try to find out who you really are? You aren’t your clothes or house. You aren’t your things or your friends. Some would say you are a culmination of your experiences. But I don’t know. I am not who I was fourty years ago. But maybe those fourty years helped create this current me. Do I like me? I think that is the most important question I can ask myself. The decisions I made along the way helped develop my likes and dislikes. Helped to create an identity that the world uses to slot me into a space. Define me. So do I want to change or am I happy with the current me? Years ago I had a supervisor who suggested a few personality traits she thought I should work on to improve myself. My response was that I totally agreed with her but my list of flaws was very long and although her specific choices were on the list, they certainly were nowhere near the top. I promised I would work on them one day once I got through the hundreds of items higher on the list. I am well aware of some ways I bother people. I am not stupid. But am I willing to change those things? Well certainly not today. Today I am busy with other things. And frankly today I am feeling pretty good about me. But maybe today I will do a little bit of an introspective analysis. Maybe today I will pick a second favourite colour. I am thinking red!