I spend a lot of emotional energy trying to be interesting. It’s not enough to be just Kate, a third-generation Californian born in Hollywood and living in Oakland, a daughter, sister, wife, mother. A writer. A knitter. No, I feel I must embellish.
To be fair, I live in an ostensibly cool place packed with interesting people, so the bar is high. In the Bay Area, it’s hard not to regularly have the experience I imagine Ivy League freshmen have — a certain sinking feeling, almost a panic, at the realization that rather than being Top Dog at Small Town High, they’re now just one of many A++ scholars on campus. Around here, there’s always someone more beautiful, more talented, more hip than you.
It’s embarrassing, to admit my desire to stand out, to be different. So eighth grade. It’s uncomfortable to reveal the pride that lurks behind the impulse to be more. I can’t be “just a soccer mom” — I have to be a soccer mom with, say, a nose piercing and a snake tattoo coiled across my collarbone who teaches belly dancing and Kundalini yoga while the kids are in school.
I’m tired of trying to be interesting. It’s too much pressure, and I’ve got enough to do, what with working and raising two kids and staying married. But there’s something threatening about letting go of the striving to be sparkly — a fear that an “ordinary” life just isn’t enough. How do I settle in to the person I am, and release the craving — the hubris, really — to be more? And how do I know whether the impulse to get another tattoo or write a book or learn to ride a motorcycle comes from some kind of “pure” creative expression or whether it’s me trying again to prove that I’m “cool”?
My subconscious is tangling with these questions. In a recent dream I was standing face to face with God — who happened to be manifesting as a woman dressed in a fancy whiteencrusted with pearls. We chatted for a while about this and that and then she plucked a pearl from the bodice of her dress. “Here,” she said, pressing it into my palm. “Hold this and remember that you’re already whole.” The next day I bought a single pearl to wear on a long necklace, close to my heart.
That’s it. That’s what the striving to be interesting is about, for me: An attempt to feel complete, to convince myself that there’s nothing else I need to be — or can be — but myself. Maybe you’re rolling your eyes as I’m edging toward the old truism about how we’re all supposed to “just be ourselves.” But it turns out the cliché is literal: there’s nothing else a person can be. Being myself means living from the inside out, rather than outside in — noticing the texture and vitality that’s already inside me rather than trying to create it with whatever trappings signify coolness at the moment.
This is humility, I guess. And I continue to be surprised to learn that when I fall into the state of being humble, it’s a relief rather than a humiliation. Some inner gear clicks into place and for a moment I see that I’m not any better or worse than anyone else, and that this is just true, no matter how many tattoos I have. Sure, this state is hard to maintain — in fact, if I try to conjure it myself it dissipates almost instantly — but the flashes of it I do enjoy remind me that being myself doesn’t need to be some tiring task or performance. It’s just me..