July 30, 2013

on love and looking in.

Recently I was talking to Meg about relationships — about the ones that work, the ones that don't, the ones that would have worked or could have worked, and the ones that probably, definitely never should have worked. Eventually, inevitably, the conversation turned to ourselves.

I love talking about relationships. All kinds, really. But I especially love to hear what people have to say about themselves in relationships. It's interesting, isn't it, to think about who you are to someone? To think about the best, worst, and strangest parts of you, all tangled up in love and sometimes loss and sometimes everything all at once? To think about what it's like to love you?

In my early teens I went through a handful of dark and heavy things that forced me to look inward. To look at myself and my place in the world, at why I was who I was and what that meant and where that would take me. I learned to reflect and look inward very early on — too early, maybe — and that, coupled with my writerly habits of stepping outside a moment, plus the genes of a wildly sensitive mother and an insatiably curious father, make me wonderfully, painfully self-aware.

And it must be interesting, so to speak — for better or for worse — to be in a relationship with someone so drenched in that sort of awareness. I think about how odd and tiring it must feel to be in a relationship with someone so acutely aware of moments, someone who steps in and out of them and back in again, all the while internally narrating the ifs and the buts and the maybes.

... And then I think, fittingly: Seriously, Laura, stop thinking so much.

Once, in college, a girlfriend joked that our friendship would steer her straight into therapy. "Your self-awareness is rubbing off," she said, laughing, "and I've honestly never looked this far inward. It's exhausting." I cracked up, knowing all too well what she meant. (We eventually became roommates, and no, she didn't end up in therapy. But there were a lot of late-night talks. And wine.)

Still, that stuck with me — the idea that my self-awareness was something other people were aware of, and that my tendency to reflect might somehow wedge its way into my relationships one way or the other. For better or for worse. I found myself thinking about those faded friendships and relationships with a new sense of clarity, a genuine empathy, realizing what a real and understandably true turn-off that might be for someone who'd rather not look back or inward. Because not everyone wants to doubt and change and shift and evolve all the time — not everyone appreciates that sort of constant analysis. And that's okay, perfectly okay.

I talked to Radley about what that girlfriend said back in college and he agreed, saying my sense of self is a very real, tangible part of me, something that can't really be ignored. I felt a bit embarrassed, then, at first, a bit ashamed of that curious, sensitive, impossible piece of me. But then I thought about what it all meant, because if it's true — if that piece of me really does, somehow, rub off — then how lucky I am to be there when that self-awareness strikes, when those walls come down. How lucky I am to grow into relationships with people who look in at themselves, and at me, and who hold both of us accountable for being our best and truest and most sincere selves. For better or for worse.


Niken said... [Reply to comment]

this makes me think

stephanie said... [Reply to comment]

i think it's important to find that balance - to be aware, but also to be in that moment. and i'd really like to step out of my body for a day and watch myself, step into somebody else even and see how they see it.

Katie Appleyard said... [Reply to comment]

Very beautifully written. I feel my own pang of shame in my stomach about being very self-aware and how it must be to be around me sometimes. But you make it seem sweet x

Sweet Apple Lifestyle

meg fee said... [Reply to comment]

you know reading this did make me think--the people who aren't willing to look inward, it's because there's something there they don't like, right? and frankly laura, i don't need to be with anyone who doesn't have the strength of character to at least try to become the person they want to be--to reconcile what they don't like. and maybe that makes my standards too high and too unyielding, but i've met those people--you, being one of them. and there are men out there who are strong enough to try and i want one of those.

and you can be self-aware and still in the moment, so yes to the above commenter who said strike a balance..i believe in that, that it's possible and that i can happen.

i'm glad you wrote this. xo

Anna V said... [Reply to comment]

I read this paragraph in a book and thought of this post over the weekend!

"The root cause of suffering is that people do not look within. Hardly investigate the truth of life. This is spiritual suicide"

So keep on doing what you do Laura! x

Whitney Biber said... [Reply to comment]

I love this. My best friend is just like you and I'm so grateful for how she has taught me greater self awareness. Don't ever stop!