Unpacking identity-with a dash of love in deference to February

There has been a steady trickle of good news of late. Of course it is tempered by an injury in order to keep me from getting too big-headed, or at least that is what my superstitious side believes. It is probably actually the foam roller that is keeping me from being too big headed as I cower before it.

One cannot be lucky at games and also in love (for games fill in ‘work’ or ‘life’ or ‘sports’). At some point in my life (fairly early on) someone said this to me. And it has stuck in my psyche. Whenever I have dated anyone I have almost expected everything else to go badly, and then when my energy is released because I am no longer in that situation (for ‘that situation’ read ‘dating’) it feeds into the myth as I am able to do more and therefore experience more positive outcomes.

But has this now become engrained in me; a part of my identity? Why am I even thinking about this on a Saturday night?

Having recently taken myself on a bit of a reading material emotional roller-coaster  (think The Zone of Interest The Consolations of the Forest,  Submission, and La luz que no puedes ver), alongside a re-reading of Gretchen Rubin’s recent(ish) book Better than Before (for a ‘habits group’ with a friend), I have picked up The case for working with your hands by Matthew Crawford.

Crawford begins with a description of the Fibonacci series—which forms the basis for nature’s golden ratio—from a newsletter by Tom Hull, a shop instructor in Coos Bay, Oregon.

nautilus shell

Hull says, “‘the sequence portrays a human characteristic as well, as the ratio is not immediately achieved, but gets closer and closer, and not by some steady slope to perfection but by self-correcting oscillations’.”

Crawford adds: “This seems to capture the kind of iterated self-criticism, in light of some ideal that is never quite attained, whereby the craftsman advances in his art. You give it your best, learn from your mistakes and the next time get a little closer to the image you started with in your head.”

So taking the self as the art that we are working on, does this growing and developing have its dark and light sides? As we become more and more like the person we imagine that we would like to be through this pattern of self-correcting oscillations, are habits and beliefs also becoming engrained in such a way that they will be extremely difficult to change? Are they also shaping the end goal?

Some of these identity patterns are positive and helpful in habit maintenance and health.

As an example, I consider myself to be an active and sporty person and that helps me to stick to a routine that will help (I really hope it will help) in the upcoming Ultra and other challenges. There have been times over the past few decades where sport has been less of a feature, but even then, it was something I felt comfortable with, and always knew that I would return at some point because it was/is part of who I am. This has also helped me to move away from poor and negative attitudes towards being thin, and eating, because in order to fuel sporting adventures and truly enjoy them, I have to have a good and healthy relationship with food. In addition, physical activity really helps stress levels, and gives me a space to think things through, which is truly helpful for research/work, and gyms or running tracks are places where I have built great relationships with colleagues and friends. Win all around.

But what about the superstitious flip side? That as someone who is good at sports or who has success at work, I cannot have any luck in love: Seeing people I know having their eating patterns disrupted because of relationships (because everyone has to eat the same thing or through comments about what is being eaten – I can remember lots of those), or not being able to go for a morning run (different sleeping patterns or attitudes towards getting up or to partying), or having to trade adventures for responsibilities (I know, I know, this is not everyone!) just adds to the tiny oscillations that build up a self-picture of me as the type of person who doesn’t date. Someone who goes on holiday with friends, or by myself (because it is an adventure!), and to the theatre with friends, and to races by myself (and make friends there), and perhaps at this point I might resent the idea of not being able to do those things and therefore not even take the chance that it is going to be that way.

Perhaps by being aware, it will be possible to swing things in  another direction but still keep the positives. For now I will sign off as there is a long run in the morning.

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