Do I know myself? I’m well into my thirties but ponder this question quite often. My patients tell me they’ve lost contact with their feelings. They are in pain, they suffer. I model compassion and care, I invite them to share their experiences, because pain and shame have a tendency to diminish once it is shared with another human.
I’m comfortable in my role. This is what I do every day, I’m quite good at it and I do, at times, love my job. It is the most rewarding job I’ve had. But quite often, the auxiliary parts of my job takes up too much time. This is one thing I know about myself: I am dutiful. I carry on until the work is done.
Another thing I know about myself is that I’m lucky. I’ve got friends who’ve known me for many years, I’ve got a significant other, and colleagues that I love and admire. I’m socially satisfied. It wasn’t always like that. I used to collect, I used to feel that I had to gather good people around me. This often happens when socially inept kids who’ve experienced a lot of exclusion start finding friends. It took a few years before I stopped collecting and could appreciate people at a distance.
But I can still feel insecure at times. I felt it on Saturday when I arrived one day after the MNMT festival had started; I’d been so dutiful that there was no energy left on Friday. Who are these people? What If I don’t understand the social codes, the unwritten rules? What if I don’t like them? What if they don’t like me? Then this weekend will be a waste of time. And
here’s a sad thing I know about myself: I need to be productive in order to respect myself, there’s little room for wasting time.
When sense of duty is a strong character trait, the flip side is often a strong propensity to feel guilt. And boy, do I know this about myself! I’ve felt guilty, and even shameful about so many things. Among those, my body, my clumsy moves and lack of coordination, so shameful that by the time I was 21, I’d only danced twice, for about fifteen minutes all together.
Theoretically, I know that one has to practice in order to master, in order to feel confidence. I was reminded of that when, at the end of day two, I didn’t have to close my eyes in order to not feel self conscious, I could just move with the music and it didn’t matter how I moved, or if anybody saw me. I danced. I am a dancer.
Theoretically, I know that well-being increases when one feels close to nature. I was reminded of that when I laid down in one of the buttercup fields at Skuterud farm, when my senses sharpened as I peered into the woods at the perimeter of the farmland, when the vibrations of a heavy bass mixed so nicely with the clucks from the third creek I’d stumbled
upon that day. It felt so good whenever I caught whiffs of musty soil, when this smell was mixed with smoke from the bonfire and the sweat of dancing bodies.
Theoretically, I know that community, and participation, and reciprocity and thankfulness, those complex feelings, have a tendency grow when they are shared with other humans. I was reminded of that when I saw people happily tidying up after strangers, and when two guys came out of the woods, nodding at me, smiling shyly as if they were sharing a sweet secret. I felt it when I conversed with strangers about love, I asked big questions and got sincere answers. I experienced these beautiful complex feelings when so many people answered my smile, made room for me by the fire because it was cold, I felt them when I was hugged by people I’d only known for a few minutes.
After the MNMT festival, I can even count a few more things that I know, not theoretically but from experience: I really appreciate the MNMT crowd. The diversity in ages, in ethnic background, languages spoken, in being dressed up and barely dressed and dressed for all kinds of weather.
There is room for more friends in my life. I learned this when at the end of the festival, there were people I really wanted to spend more time with, I wanted to invite them for my birthday right away.
There’s such a thing as DJ-crushes. Jane Fitz, her groove, confidence and flow when she worked the decks, that biting of her lower lip and satisfied grin, the nodding that said «you guys have no idea what I have in store for you».
And I also know this: I can have the cake and eat it too. I can live my responsible grown up life, go to work and pay my taxes, and dance and giggle and barely sleep for two days in a row. I can allow myself to lose control sometimes. I’m a clinical psychologist and also a raver.