A crucial element of the real self is its unconditional acceptance of itself.
Since I was very young, there have always felt like two versions of myself. Review any span of my life or relationships and you’ll observe my distinct personalities draw lines in the sand. Both me, both honest. For me, this phenomenon comes very obviously from a catalyst. One personality copes, the other retreats. I’ve tried with absolute stubbornness to deny it, to merge them, to bridge them, to make one dominant, to mash them together into some neutral earthtone.
It doesn’t work.
And, it sometimes causes a ruckus in my adult life. I can still look down and see my feet in different territories. It helps me relate to different people honestly, but it makes my values a kaleidoscope of truths. As a full grown woman in active pursuit of a dialectic life, this becomes very difficult for me to navigate. Recently I’ve learned: 1) you need to consider carefully what you value, and 2) you need to make lifestyle choices that align with those values. Otherwise, happiness is tied with long strings of guilt or disappointment.
How can you find the middle of anything without knowing both extremes?
A long long time ago, my sister told me that I was a sensitive soul. She kindly said, “Still waters run deep, and you are a still water.” But I knew what she meant. My interdependent personality kneels irresolute. There is an undeniable soft side that, at its best, is vulnerable and honest. At its worst, its powerless and emotional.
One of the reasons I love distance running is that, after a few handfuls of miles, a switch flips in me and I physically notice my shoulders roll back and carry my chest higher. My gait is easy and powerful. My thoughts gain clarity and voice. It’s the wilder side of me perking up, but in a healthy nonreactive way. Nothing is threatening me, but I’m owning the ground beneath my feet. I take on the world as a fist, not a sponge.
The things in my world suddenly come into focus and I navigate them without hesitation. It’s not a feeling unlike hearing your jam coming on and throwing your hands up and busting a move. It’s the good, fun kind of pride in yourself. Confidence. Resilience. The kind that comes from deep roots and wise mind.
On land, a snail and a slug are the same creature. Sure, one has a shell and one does not, but both are terrestrial gastropod mollusks (in fact, some slugs have tiny shells or internal shells). By definition, a snail is only a snail because it has a shell large enough to recede fully into and close up tightly with its operculum, which is the latin word for “lid.”
Slugs appear at different times on different continents polyphyletically, which essentially means they sporadically lose their shell as their environment allows. Slugs without shells are usually predatory or supremely adept at hiding within their surroundings. They find their protection.
So, how do we migrate to environments where no shell is needed? And how do we lose our shell?
Or, is the middle ground carrying that shell with you and knowing when to retreat into it? What is to stop a bird from picking up the snail and slamming it into the concrete?
I wrestle this because I know that some of the most intricate glass parts are hidden deep within that shell. The secret interworkings of the clock are deep behind the face.
But how free and content is the slug? When the salt comes?