Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Part 2 (Peanuts, M&M's, & Me...Continued)

Consider this something of a follow up to my last blog post. (This will make a bit more sense if you read the other one first.) I feel like maybe I was a bit too maudlin in my introspective ramblings so I thought I would follow my usual blog pattern and tie my thoughts to something from the literary/pop culture world.

Many of you know that Pride and Prejudice is one of my all time favorite books. I was impressed with the Keira Knightly version of the movie but I much preferred the A&E miniseries with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle. I confess that as a young romantic I daydreamed myself Elizabeth Bennet (really, what girl reads the story and doesn't??). She's an ideal heroine: headstrong, determined, witty, and beautiful and she unknowingly wins the heart of Darcy who is eventually revealed as an ideal man.

The more I've read the story (and various versions of it), I find that there's another character that I resonate more with. As much as I want to be the Lizzie Bennet, I think I may have much more in common with Fitzwilliam Darcy. (Yes, his first name is Fitzwilliam. Not Mister as many seem to believe.) This is where the tie-in to my previous post arises. Darcy is unfairly labeled as proud and arrogant early on in Austen's story because he's not entirely comfortable in social settings. Bottom line: he's shy!

One of my favorite scenes in the novel, is a turning point in Lizzie and Darcy's relationship. She calls him out on his aloofness (which she has assumed is really pride) and he explains that he doesn't always feel comfortable making small talk with strangers. In response, Elizabeth confronts him with an interesting piano-playing analogy:

"I certainly have not the talent which some people possess," said Darcy, "of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done."

"My fingers," said Elizabeth, "do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women's do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault- because I would not take the trouble of practising..." (Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice)

Later in the story, Darcy takes Lizzie's advice to heart and his efforts at "practising" lead her to fall further in love with him. I guess it's partly why I love the story so much because their relationship is not a schmaltzy love-at-first-sight but one of deepening regard over time and the betterment of two people because of their relationship with each other.

But back to my own comparison, I've seen real truth in the lesson Darcy learns. Whether my weakness is piano, social graces, or blog-writing, improvement comes only through practice.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Peanuts, M&M's, and Me

Consider this something of a riddle... What do peanuts, M&M's, and I have in common? You'll get answer by the end of the post. (How's that for a teaser to keep you reading?)

I was never a performer as a kid. I'm actually the only one of my siblings that never participated in a piano recital and though I may have been in dance under the age of 4, I have no recollections of being on stage solo as a kid. Through elementary and junior high I had a couple bit parts in chorus shows, but never took a lead; and by high school I learned that I was better with behind the scenes work than being on stage. By the time I reached college I was pretty sure that I was overall a shy person.

Yet, most people that know me now consider me to be pretty outgoing. I actually talk a lot in social settings and sometimes I might even be that person with a little too much to say. I love parties, too. (Not to be confused with "partying" - I've never been big on the bar or dance club scene, but if it's a get together with friends for games, movies, or sporting events I'm sure to enjoy myself.) But I still have an inner conflict with my shy-self. When I'm invited to social events, it's a challenge to persuade myself to go. Don't get confused, you read that right: I love social outings and I always enjoy myself, but convincing myself to go is like pulling teeth. I almost wonder if I have some borderline social anxiety or something. I really do enjoy meeting new people, I just get nervous going into situations where I know I will. There's always plenty of perks to putting myself out there; I'm still just struggling to understand why it doesn't come naturally to me.

Now comes the answer to the riddle: like peanuts and M&M's (and I suppose also Peanut M&M's), I have a shell. There's a definite game face that I wear in public and social settings and the me underneath is nowhere near as bold and confident as the mask most people see. I don't think that concept is foreign to many people, I would bet most of us have an inner self that rarely goes on display. The true challenge though is to form the mask to look as much like a true-me as I can. I want to be genuine, never fake. In recent years, I think social-game-face-lisa has come to much more closely resemble private-inner-sanctum-lisa than ever before. Or maybe that's vice versa. Or perhaps the mask has just become a little transparent. I'm still a shy-reclusive-wallflower but I'm also the bold-smiling-butterfly. I'm not even sure how that makes sense yet nonsense could be the most relevant aspect of my personality so I try not to over-analyze disparities.

It just might be incongruities that make individuals a little more interesting.