Thursday, May 5, 2011

the dubious pleasures of self-knowledge

One of the memoirs I read just after Christmas (the first book I bought for my kindle) was Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project. I liked it a lot and check up on her blog every now and again. On Wednesdays her blog posts offer tips or a quiz.

There is one quiz I keep taking, hoping for a different result. The result is always the same. The quiz is "do you make other people unhappy?" and my result is always "yes."

I've given Sara Maitland's memoir about silence a lot of credit for my increased solitude this year. That book did indeed help me to acknowledge my own need for solitude, silence, and reflection. However, I should credit Rubin's quiz for this solitude as well.

It isn't that I don't enjoy being around people. I do. And things are much more comfortable when I spend time with people one at a time, or in very small groups--I come much closer to earning a negative answer (a positive result) when I spend time with people in that way. This quiz has given me a way to interpret something I had sensed but had a difficult time understanding or discussing, and this increased awareness makes me more reluctant to spend time with others. I may be able to see that I have a negative effect on group dynamics but I don't know what to do about it. If I can't provide the antidote to my own poison (a somewhat harsh metaphor, but work with me), then it seems that the kindest action is to withhold the poison in the first place.

I think this realization still smarts a little. I know in my head that any one person cannot be everything or have every good attribute. Eventually I might be able to accept the necessity of this solitude and perhaps even to enjoy it.

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