Writer and modern day philosopher, Alain de Botton, suggests that when potential partners meet, they should skip right over the small talk, and instead ask each other, “How are you crazy?” In his novel, The Course of Love he notes:
Some cultures are more adept at accepting this reality of imperfection than others. The Japanese, for instance, have a whole aesthetic tradition called Wabi Sabi that is based on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. But for those of us, from less enlightened cultures, the myth of perfection can be stifling and painfully isolating.
The truth is, we are all crazy in myriad of ways, even the most polished looking among us. And if we are willing to expose our underbelly to other people, the result can be profound connection—in a shared realization that, as Botton says, “no one among us has come through [life] unscathed.”
So, in that spirit, I’ve been thinking about my particular flavors of crazy. In pursuit of aligning more with the wisdom of Wabi Sabi, and less with the impossible ideal of perfection, I want to publically air my proverbial dirty laundry. Truthfully, I think crazy is just a synonym for human. Crazy is just the parts of our humanness that we reject or that we believe other people will reject.
Here are the ways in which I am crazy/human:
- My dog is my sun, and I orbit my life around her. Decisions about where I live and what job I will take are filtered first and foremost through the lens of what it will mean for my dog’s quality of life. She is pure love, and if I even think about her dying, I feel a rush of dread and grief. Pia is not my pet; she’s my family. I feel genuinely offended when she is not allowed in places. I know she is better behaved and kinder and infinitely more adorable than most humans, so I’m not really sure what the hold up is.
- I also organize my life around not driving. Merging onto a highway makes me sweat like I’m back at my first middle school slow dance. Left turns and parallel parking? Forget about it. It shocks me that the rest of the world is so blasé about operating these giant machines at high speeds. I’ll happily spend a month in the woods with the bears and coyotes, but please, don’t make me drive from my apartment to the grocery store.
- I frequently leave my apartment in the morning, walk down the steps, get onto the sidewalk and then ask myself, “Is the stove off?” The answer is always yes. Largely because I hate cooking, and the stove is rarely on. But even if I’ve boiled water for tea, the stove is inevitably off, because I am a responsible adult who knows to turn the stove off. But still I have to go back inside to check. Because honestly, my dog is inside, and I can’t be taking that kind of risk.
- I have a good dose of masochism in me. As I kid I always liked poking my bruises and pulling out my loose teeth. As an adult, I continue to sign up for long runs—marathons and 50k races—and once I am on the course, I never quit. Even if my knees are screaming. Even if I really want to. I’ve never once dropped out of a race. And I’m not even a “good” runner—in the sense that—nobody in the running world is going to be impressed with my pace. But that doesn’t matter to me. What matters to me is that I think pain and suffering—even the kind we bring upon ourselves—are important parts of the human experience. And importantly, it’s not all pain. Even if my legs hurt, those runs are also a source of incredible joy—the kind that is only accessible in tandem with the pain.
- I have two schools of thought in my head that despite being very contradictory seem to live in harmony, often one toppling out over the other. I have an undying wedge of optimism in me—that can hold onto hope even when there are no rational reasons to do so. And I have a craven catastrophizer in me that is able to spin the most benign of interactions into a funeral. I can’t seem to quell either, so I am learning to live with both.
- I am deeply suspicious of rationality. On the whole I try to avoid it. The idea of making an important decision with my head, not my heart, seems incredibly unappealing. I am very skeptical of those people who like to “reason out” or “problem solve” the big issues in their life. I can’t imagine anything more boring or less nuanced.
- I wholeheartedly believe in science. I fully believe in evolution and climate change (and think that those who don't are their own special brand of crazy). And I also wholeheartedly believe that science will never capture the full complexity of life. Research, data, and evidence are all well and good, but they are also limited. Scientist are probably the best at acknowledging that science is a process not a product. I respect science, but it is not my holy grail (and neither is organized religion, for that matter).
- Despite knowing full well that next to nothing is in my control, I like to stoke the fire on my illusion of control, which manifests, most obviously, in a fastidiously tidy apartment, and, no doubt, in really annoying the people I love by taking the reins, when such action is not really warranted.
- When I am sad and lonely and hurt, I dive headlong into social media to wallow in the false perfection of other people’s lives. It’s a salt in the wounds therapy that has never worked, and yet I always am willing to give it one more try. This activity is just one manifestation of my propensity for "compare and despair," which is an art that I am unfortunately quite adept in.
- I am a caricature (in part). I am a thirty something year old, white, privileged female who is a yoga instructor, blogger, and aspiring retreat leader. It’s a cliché combo pack. And also…this is truly, and authentically, who I am. When I went to India in 2004 at age 18 and bought the long skirts and toe rings, I was buying a costume and hoping it would yield substance. I no longer wear long skirts or toe rings, but I am fully committed to this path. It’s important to be able to laugh about the clichés (and equally important to take my life seriously).
There are many more items I could add to this list, but I won’t stroke my ego into thinking that people reading this blog want more than the top ten (if that!). Also, it’s hard to be an accurate self-reporter on this kind of topic. But it’s worth thinking about. And worth talking about. If for no other reason than to move beyond the dismally boring resume swap that typically ensues when you meet a new person. Can you imagine at dinner parties or on the plane or in the park—if we truly opened with “How are you crazy” instead of “What is it you do for work?” We would certainly know each other better and we would quickly learn we are not as alone as we think we are.