Today’s Daily Stoic writing prompt: What ruler am I measuring myself against?
I guess it’s the mark of a historian that I have generally had few contemporary exemplars to follow. I use that word because “idols” and “heroes” are not the right words for me; part of finding inspiration in a person, for me, is understanding both their strong points and fallibilities. I don’t hero worship. There are some individuals I greatly admire — for example, the two Eleanors –Eleanor of Aquitaine and Eleanor Roosevelt–two women of vastly different eras, but who stood as equals in many ways with the men who they married. You all know way too much about Dmitri Shostakovich, so I’ll just say his name in passing. There are others who I admire for what they did more than for their character–Frank Lloyd Wright is a great example. But I don’t really measure myself against these people. I can’t–because I never knew them personally.
Instead, I measure myself against the examples and expectations of those friends I value most. It’s important to me that I strive to be the person that they want me to be–and I don’t mean this in a trite, people-pleasing manner. My friends push me towards justice and courage and keep me accountable. Through their own actions, and through dialogue, they are a compass to guide me. I am not saying they are perfect, but they give me a perspective about who I am from outside my brain that I absolutely need to be able to compare with who I want myself to be. I have been challenged by some of them to disrupt patterns of thinking that are harmful to me. At other times, I have been told I have been seen as some kind of paragon of perfection, distant and somewhat haughty, when in fact the statue on the pedestal, when seen up close, was cracked and crumbling and trying desperately to keep that fact from anyone–even a friend–because of a desire to hide all vulnerability.
I still find being vulnerable difficult. Like Neil Peart, one of my few contemporary heroes, I can say some things in writing that I struggle with sharing in person. This is one of the reasons I write. If you are one of those people who I’ve ever gone a little deeper with, know this: this is an enormous sign of trust, and even then I have always struggled to do it. Always. But you’ve gotten in often just because you’ve asked and probed and not taken me at face value, and as such, you’ve challenged me to be a better human–not some two-dimensional paragon.
Embroidery project is reaching its final stages. There is just one more chunk of bench to complete, and then I need to go over the whole piece, adding highlights, checking for any skipped spots, and finalizing the work–and then I will have to wait for the markers I have ordered to “paint” in the background. I should finish the final stitching tomorrow.
Today has been a little challenging–once again, feeling the weight of the world and the length of the path ahead to be daunting. This meant a restless night’s sleep last night. Sometimes even my best efforts to find value in each and every day are not quite enough. I will pause for a moment, shift the metaphorical weight, and press forward, but right now, the main thought is “Don’t wanna.” It will pass.