The Achilles Heel of Shapeshifting

Transformation is a continuing topic here at Dignitary’s Retreat. We, and the world around us, are ever changing. While change can be exciting and wonderful, sometimes it feels like we can’t get a good fix on the ground beneath our feet, tumbling about from dune to dune, unable to see beyond the most immediate slope of slippery sand. It’s very upsetting for those of us who like to know where we stand, who seek to make sense of the world.

 

The challenge for any re-booter is to negotiate that tight line between identifying that internal “constant” we need to orient ourselves and remaining flexible enough that we can adapt to differing circumstances. New circumstances demand new approaches. When in Rome, right? Yes and no.

 

We all adjust our behaviors depending on our environment. How I behave in a stuffy board meeting is going to differ from how I behave at a football rally or a ride-a-long in a cop car. But what got me thinking about shapeshifting is my razor sharp eye for “green screens.” I consider them distractingly fake. In fact, I find green screens to be so simulated that I get diverted from the story. Instead of immersing myself in the tale, I’m thinking about the dissonance between the actor and the background. The characters are no longer talking, the actors are. This is a shame because the writers and directors’ goal was to create an imaginary world in which I could lose myself; instead, all I’m focusing on is how the process went awry and how much it bothers me.

 

The same reasoning applies when we change who we are to accommodate the people at hand. It is reasonable up to a point and then it all becomes fake. An obvious example is to look at a married couple. There will be lots and lots of legitimate reasons why two people change over the course of their marriage and part of that will be to adjust to the other, but what happens when one of the spouses changes who they are because it’s the only way to get by? It’s the only way to keep the peace, stay with the kids, keep the money intact, preserve a blueprint of what you’re supposed to do with your life?

 

Of course, marriage is not the only place where detrimental shapeshifting can occur; any relationship with a significant power disparity is vulnerable. Years ago, I knew someone who was fixated on turning me into their own mini-me; I became their mirror of an idealized version of themselves. It never felt truly right, but I went along with it because I had so much invested in the outcome. Plus, I was insecure and easily dazzled by someone who spoke more authoritatively, carried a gravitas I lacked, and seemed a whole lot more sophisticated. I saw something that seemed so much better that I said ok, until I felt suffocated to the point of no return. The whole thing was sick and fake and doomed to fail, ending spectacularly. I know how dramatic this sounds, because…it was.

 

Where in your life have you shapeshifted so much that it now feels fake? What part of yourself have you buried beneath the sand to meet the expectations of others?

 

The illusory qualities of green screens and shapeshifters are intended to smooth out our experience into one seamless transition. A problem arises, however, when the dissonance is too great, when the background and the actor no longer sync. It’s like watching a badly dubbed film.

 

Where are you simply mouthing the words?

 

The reason this relates to re-booting is because we want our lives and our selves to sync up. We want things to start making sense, again. Sure, we have to adjust to others, but we do so in the context of remaining true to who we are. While I know that there are times when we’re not always sure who that person is, I can promise you that he or she exists deep within. Those very dark days when I felt myself changing, when I felt myself drowning in a life that felt so very wrong, the part of me that is me kept kicking and screaming inside. She would not let me bury her. She INSISTED I sync up.

 

My hope for you is that your life doesn’t get so out of whack that you find yourself in such dire straits, but if you are, I hold myself out as a promise: you’ll get through this. Trust your inner voice, no matter how disruptive you fear the consequences will be. Regardless of the hardship or sacrifices required, that inner core of you—the one you wish would go away and be quiet—ain’t going nowhere and is there to help you be YOU. No more shapeshifting. No more green screen.

 

It’s time for Take 2.

Sand Dunes

 

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