I should be you

The mind gets a lot of crazy ideas.  (Well at least mine does, and I suspect if you pay attention, you’ll find that yours does too.)

In recent weeks, it’s taken to suggesting that I should be someone else. Now who this person is varies, depending on the day, my mood, and what I’ve been reading or thinking about.  And the fact is, if you lined up all the people my mind tells me I should be, you’d find that their behaviors and beliefs are often quite clearly at odds. But my mind doesn’t care about that. It’s quite convinced that it’s entirely right—and it’s out to convince me too.

My mind has been especially insistent since discovering The Fluent Self, a blog-cum-transformational playspace created by Havi Brooks.  “You should be Havi,” my mind clamors. “She is doing such interesting things, and she talks about them in such interesting ways. You should be her not you! I can help you do that.”

It’s taken some time, but I am finally getting my mind to accept that this is not going to happen. A major breakthrough came when I showed my mind this video of Havi doing her Shiva Nata yoga practice wearing a pink wig.

“You see that?” I said to my mind. “That is Havi. That is not us. We can learn from her. But we are never ever ever going to be her.”

On hearing this, my mind became a bit disconsolate, though after watching the video twice, it allowed that it was likely true.

As is often—if not always—the case, the trick is to find something between the all and the nothing. What does my mind’s crush on Havi have to tell me? For one thing, it’s about my need to be more playful. It’s about doing more to find my tribe and building a community. And maybe it even means traveling to Portland to attend Rally (Rally!)

It also helps to remind myself that however crazy in love my mind may be with someone else’s life or work, there are others to whom my own life and work speak in similar ways. This came home to me a few months back, when I became friendly with a writer I’ve long admired. I was thrilled when she told me she liked something I’d written but then rushed to send her an essay that I thought was way better—one of my all-time favorites penned by another writer.

Some days later, I got this careful response:  “As for X’s piece…honestly? Between us? It’s not really my thing . . . . I hope it’s okay to say that—she’s clearly a smart writer.” The fact that this writer I so admired could prefer my piece to the one I’d just sent came as a revelation.

As it happens, my mind is still not entirely convinced that I shouldn’t aspire to Havi. But I’m prepared to wait. Soon it will be on to something else. (And if not, I still have the video.)

Copyright © Amy Gutman. All rights reserved.

28 thoughts on “I should be you

  1. Thanks for making me aware of Havi. What you say about ‘crazy in love with another’s life or work’ is very telling. Discovering that even though the work (or life) is barking up your own tree you can’t hope to cop it (or top it) can happen instantaneously the falling in love with the work. I write ‘bad songs that say so much,’ among other things. (I do a few art forms. And indulge in a few forms within broader categories.) But today I discovered the ‘reformed whores.’ Such delight! Still, it comes with the barbed realization that I’m out-done. I let my little light shine, but still, I can’t help wishin’ my light was a pair of female geniuses with decent singing voices. I’ll get over it. But allow me to enjoy my messy breakup. Okay? It’s my mind. I’ll indulge it if I want to.

  2. amy! how delightful to find you via Havi and the realization that being other people wasn’t really working as well as i’d hope!

    i can’t wait to poke around here a bit more and go find your books :D

  3. Ah, the compare and despair syndrome! I still recall the moment I looked at a blog, I think it was Cubicle Nation (but not sure) and the post featured that famous moment in the film “Moonstruck” when Cher slaps her counterpart (I think it was Nicloas Cage) and says, “Snap out of it.” Ditto for compare and despair.

    • Thanks for reading, Diane. I guess I see it a little differently–I think there’s a lot to learn from paying attention to what we yearn for. If we simply tell ourselves to “snap out of it,” I think we tend to miss things. Plus, as one of my meditation teachers once said, “We can’t just order ourselves around.” For me, a more reflective and gentle approach–along with a healthy dose of humor–seems to be more helpful.

  4. It’s just normal admiring someone but envying them, it’s really a no no. Just set them as an example or an encouragement. :)

  5. So what’s the decision re Rally, Amy? I saw that there were still a few places left in March, although February had sold out … ;-)

    • Still mulling! I am thinking I’ll likely decide + write about it over the weekend. At the moment, leaning towards, assuming places are left by the time I’m ready to commit. :-)

  6. Hey Amy – I found this post from uhm… Twitterstalking… but it’s very similar to my process. Every time I meet someone new online I am like, “OH! I want to be him/her/it!” and I have a total internet-crush obsession syndrome that (thankfully!) fades after a while. What I get out of each of these experiences, though, is recognizing the parts of me that are in resonance with that person. In some crazy way, I manage to turn wanting to be other people into figuring out how to be more me.

    I’ve never been a wig person, but obsessing overfollowing Havi has definitely reconnected me with my silliness and my inner five-year-old who still loves crayons and blanket forts. She’s also helped me define my fascination with communication and the power of language and how language shapes and is shaped by our experience of the world. I was struggling to put together my own personal theme, and realizing the qualities that drew me to her helped me define my own interests.

    But that’s me. ;-)

    You should check out freckledbrilliance.com She’s doing shiva nata classes in NYC (and possibly maybe other things…..? *oooh, mystery! suspense!*)

    • Thank you, Sarah–and: EXACTLY! So glad that you found me and commented. I’ll hope to continue the conversation–it seems like we have a lot in common, plus I’m curious to learn more about you. I wonder where you live and if you’ve ever been to Rally. Also, what sort of nomadic travels are in store for you–perhaps I’ll learn more from your site. In the meantime, thanks again!!

      • Ooh, so glad Havi linked to you – I forgot to subscribe to comments and would completely have missed your awesome response!!

        I live in Stamford, CT and no, I have not been to rally, but am 95% signing up for the June one… sometime this week. If it’s not sold out. etc. I’m headed to Taos for a few months this summer to figure out the plan and what future nomad-ing is in store… wish I could tell you more (because that would mean I knew more) but I can’t (because I don’t.)

        It is so lovely to connect with you! Looking forward to more soon… :-)

  7. Oh, Amy, you hit the nail on the head with this one! And I’m abashed to admit that you’re one of the people my brain thinks I should be. I think that means I have a blog crush on your awesome work here.

    • Thanks so much, Lynne–& of course I have to laugh re: the “being me” part. I wonder why our minds tend this way? I have been playing around with the notion of a tiny little adjustment in perspective–sort of cocking my head slightly to one side–finding the angle from which I CELEBRATE everyone instead of wanting to be them. (In the meantime, I’ll just take your arm courage and strength, if that’s okay with you ;-) )

  8. My mind often says “You should be her not you!” but rarely “I can help you do that.” Maybe that’s for the best.

  9. I’ve been wondering why I laugh every single time I hear the GEICO “Whee-e-e-e-e-e-e-e!” Whether I actually see the commercial or not, I can see the “gleeful” piggy in my mind’s eye and it stirs something inside me. Havi’s site made me realize that rarely am I playful … with full abandon. At 63, I’m so comfortable with who I am and the life choices I’ve made. I’ve had a phenomenally adventurous life. But I wouldn’t use the adjective “playful” to define myself. And you’re right, those sights and sounds of pure glee make me (momentarily) reassess the “me” that I am.

    • I love the sense of confidence, ease, and well-being that exudes from this comment, Sharon. Very inspiring–thank you!

  10. Cindy Sherman reinvents herself with each photo. Maybe some of these people you want to be are waiting to become characters in your next novel.

  11. When I got to the Rally (Rally!) link (after spending several minutes perusing the site, exclaiming “Wow! Cool!”, dreaming…) I started laughing. I had the same reaction yesterday when I saw your FB status on the Crescent Dragonwagon workshop. Which is to say that this was a gleeful recognition of the same syndrome within myself, constantly trying on different versions of me, not all new and improved.

    How many times in my life have I tried this? Too many to count. How many times have I let it hide or devalue my authentic self? Thankfully not as many these days as when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. The cool part is that now, even though the appeal of some crazy ideas dim quickly, I feel much better about having the courage to try something, to find part of me — or to trust my intuition & reject something that clearly isn’t a good fit. I used to think that I would have been a much happier person if I had learned that 20 or 30 years ago, but I don’t any more. Can’t change it; wouldn’t want to if I could. It is who I am and all contributes to my explorations and a continually expanding sense of self.

    Another great post, Amy.

    • Thank you! I love that you describe your recognition as “gleeful” :-)

      And I really do think I may try to attend Rally. (Rally!) Can’t help but being really really really curious . . .

        • I think Havi Brooks is really interesting–I just purchased her Art of Embarking e-book/recorded class as a way of dipping my toe in and finding it fruitful mulling. Rally (Rally!) is so far away and pricey, not sure when/if that will happen but I’m definitely keeping it in mind.

          • I loved Havi’s FAQ explanation of what to do if you think the cost is too high. It made me thoughtfully consider my initial whiney reaction when I read about it (why is it so far away! Couldn’t it be somewhere easily, e.g., cheaply, accessible for me like NYC or Chicago where I could stay with friends?). Then, it made me think about choices we make and how those things that we think are stumbling blocks aren’t always. My current crazy adventure idea, now starting to come together in a real plan for this May/June, is to walk approx. 500 miles across northern Spain from the Pyrenees to the Atlantic. So, clearly, the distance to get to Portland wasn’t my real issue (though cost of both for me would be, at least in the same calendar year). When I started thinking about walking the Camino de Santiago, I had a ton of voices in my head saying “You can’t do that!”. And I still am hearing that as I tell people what I’m planning. Time, cost, transportation, hiking equipment, physical fitness/stamina: all issues that I’m working through.

            I’m not trying to diminish the very real issue of finances, but to say that if your heart and brain tell you that you should go to one of Havi’s workshops, keep working on solutions to those issues so that you can go, maybe not next month, but next quarter, or next year. If it’s part of a business plan (heck, maybe it doesn’t even need to be that defined) maybe you could do something to raise funds on Kickstarter.

  12. One approach might be to assign these people all roles in your mental collection of cheerleader-gurus, a la Barbara Sher.

    But pink hair and glitter? I’ll take you any day — even if you don’t so much as comb your hair!

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