The alignment of perception and reality

Image courtesy of Cheeni via Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of Cheeni via Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever noticed how, when you’re driving and you let go of the steering wheel for a second, your car will start to drift slightly? Apparently your car’s not really supposed to do this, but I’ve found that even one that’s been going straight can have a natural inclination to the left or right if you let go of the wheel.

More and more, I feel like that’s how I am: Like if I don’t keep a tight grip on the metaphorical steering wheel of my behavior, my personality will naturally trend toward who I really am. Which wouldn’t be an issue if drifting toward the real me were the equivalent of edging slightly into the next lane. But lately, it seems the real me is instead more of a sharp veering off the road, through two lanes of traffic and into a storefront window advertising 5-cent copies and 24-hour laminating services.

Am I totally mangling this analogy?

My point is that at one time, I could claim that I was a nice, kind-hearted person and—despite my bent toward sarcasm—feel confident that it was the truth. But somewhere down the road of adulthood, the nice part of me apparently relinquished her majority share in my body and allowed the part of me that’s self-absorbed, bossy, surly, rude, quarrelsome and sarcastic to take ownership.

Basically, my inner mean girl has taken up residence, and she ain’t so inner as she should be.

For a long time I’ve believed that people who become more ornery as they age act like that because they no longer care what society thinks. I assumed these seniors essentially decided at some point, “I’m old. I’ve paid my dues. I’ve earned the right to say and do what I want, and to hell with all-a-ya.”

But now I wonder: Could it be that they simply cannot control their behavior? Like, maybe they know they shouldn’t make a snarky comment about their colleague behind their colleague’s back and shouldn’t get impatient at their 11-year-old daughter’s seeming inability to master Microsoft Word despite the fact that younger generations are supposed to be better at technology than their parents… but they can’t seem to help themselves. And maybe they are a little bit mortified that what they’re saying or feeling isn’t particularly nice, and they really had imagined themselves to be a person of more noble character.

Just as a car that drifts could indicate that the alignment is out of whack on your car, perhaps the appearance of my “real” personality means there’s some hormonal issue going on here?

I suppose this is just me refusing to take responsibility for acting like a jerk most of my waking hours these days. But I cling to the hope that my middle-aged hormones are to blame for my behavior, because the alternative is just too devastating.

The alternative? That I have never been this paragon of congeniality and kindness that I had believed myself to be, I hadn’t had the self-awareness to realize it.

I’ve noticed that Boof and Billup think awfully highly of themselves. At different times, they may commend their own intelligence, their athletic abilities, their senses of humor. And yes, they’ve been known to extol their own niceness. My children are confident in their delusions of grandeur. I’ve come to the conclusion that this is one of the lovely things about being young: Your complete ignorance of how things—including yourself—really are. It’s a blissful state indeed.

So it appears that I may have simply driven out of the state of Ignorant Bliss into the state of Greater Awareness. It kind of sucks. Until I find my route back, I will do my best to keep a white-knuckled grip on my behavior. But please don’t get too upset if I occasionally fall asleep behind the wheel. We old people can’t help it.

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4 thoughts on “The alignment of perception and reality

  1. So funny and so insightful. Love your blog. Keep it up!

  2. Bossypants

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