Ego is a curious thing. Some people seem not to care whether anyone ever sees them; other folks are only happy when they are the center of attention.
Recently CNN ran a feature with photographs of the President taken by photographers from around the world during the first year of the new administration. There were several that I thought were outstanding as images but to one I had an immediate visceral reaction.
It probably says more about me than about my friends but I don’t count as friends many people who need the attention of others. I think I find such people too tiring to be around to want much to do with them. To me a friendship is supposed to be mutually rewarding and if I have to spend all my time making the other person feel as if they are the center of attention that’s just not something I’m interested in. I have no problem sharing the limelight but I’m not a sycophant and that’s what such people want.
The photo got me to thinking about how we telegraph to others just who we are or how well off we are? Some common devices are:
People buy the ‘right’ car to be seen. A recent article about at what age women should stop wearing jeans suggested that the average woman takes 6 days to find a pair of jeans that fits her; I have to confess that I don’t think I’ve ever spent more than 15 minutes finding a pair of jeans. As for homes, well, that’s a little tougher. We lived in an apartment for 35 years — it happened to be family owned, but I never felt a need to move or to buy something other. When we did decide to move the first house we found after looking at perhaps 15 houses. When we left that place we looked at over 100 buildings for a place that could be both home and business. But I don’t think I ever thought about how our friends would take our moving to any of them. I’m not fluent in any language other than English though I can keep from being sold into slavery in a couple, and I can eat very well at least three. And as much as I like travel, my early-in-life travel was almost always been in connection with my vocation, and not just for ‘fun.’ I can’t say that ego had no role in any of that but my values are different and my ego comes out in less common ways.
For a subset of humanity life is about impressing other people. They want to be in the right group, they want to set the bar for others, they want to be looked up to, copied, approved.
After 6 years on the road as a full time RV’er I have to say that I got WAY out of that kind of thinking. Actually, if there’s one negative thing about being back in a regular sticks & bricks home it’s that ego has returned to my life as an annoyance, something I don’t care to see, and that I’m not particularly interested in having anything to do with.
I’ve been busy making this new life more homey lately. As a result I haven’t been thinking much about volunteering — even though it’s something I do want to get back involved with. That said, seeing this image has got me thinking that maybe I need to go volunteer for the Humane Society or something; somewhere that I don’t have to think about sucking up to people! After all, animals are always appreciative. They don’t about ego the same way humans do.
You realize, I hope, that I’m only partly serious about that. (I suppose Peggy would be quite happy volunteering for the humane society — and in some ways I might be too, but I’m not really limiting my choices for the future.) The bigger factor has been that it is just taking longer to get things done nowadays. Retirement is a continual revelation. I don’t like to admit it, but physical changes are a much bigger part of retiring than I’d like to admit — perhaps than I was prepared for. I’m entirely over the novelty of not remembering people’s names. The idea that my tank of energy runs down to empty faster than it used to is totally annoying. And remembering the three times a day I’m supposed to take meds I have given up on entirely; I have given that task over to my iPhone entirely!
We had dinner a few nights ago with a longtime family friend; someone who lived in our apartment building; with whom Peggy worked; someone we’ve helped move houses and shared weddings and funerals. Since moving back to the area we have gotten into the routine of a once-a-month dinner or pizza — just for fun. I have been thinking about how it is that some people are just easy to be with.
I don’t know how many people find me easy to be with. I don’t think I’m a demanding friend. But I do know that my interests aren’t mainstream so conversing with me may not be the easiest thing. I sometimes let conversations die being quite content to listen rather than do the hard work of talking. Peggy and I have never had that problem; we seem almost always to have something to talk about. Which is strange…
…When I was young I used to worry about being married. I was sure that after a few months of being married to someone that the two people (me in particular) would run out of conversation. Funny that never happened. And it’s not because the two of us have many common interests; we just ‘get’ each other and we’re both people that don’t need to be at the center of attention.
Well, maybe you don’t have to look at ME! There are better things to look at.