My Conclusion: They Love Each Other, but They’re not Codependent

So, part of my spring break homework was to find an unusual behavior, make observations on it during this week, and then answer some questions/design a lab testing a hypothesis regarding said behavior. So I decided to study a mated pair of cardinals we have, because they often come to our bird feeder together. It’s a really cute, romantic thing to say that they always come together because they love each other.

But then I noticed that they don’t always come together, that it’s not even an unusual occurrence to see only Mr. Cardinal or Mrs. Cardinal out there. And that kinda dampened the sweet, romantic image I had for them.  But then I made this not-so-scientific conclusion: they love each other, but they’re not codependent. And I realized that that is even sweeter than if they always came together. Image

Romantic relationships can be really cute. Most people get really happy whenever they see their friends in relationships with good people. In our fandoms, we “ship” characters together because we want to see them happy. We do have the tendency to glorify romantic relationships too much, making someone else’s or even our own sense of joy dependent on being romantically involved with someone else. Think of all the upset single people you see on Valentine’s Day. But that’s not quite what I want to talk about…

Basically, we like seeing people committed to other people, and we like seeing the same in ourselves. At least, most of the time we do. There are plenty of exceptions to that rule…Again, that’s not what I was intending to talk about. Where was I? Oh, commitment! It’s a wonderful thing, both in romantic relationships and in everyday relationships (which are just as precious). However, especially in romantic relationships, you need to both be committed to it because as much as other people may be committed to you two being together, those other people really can’t keep you together. 

But sometimes, people can take the idea of commitment and go too far. That’s called obsession. When couples only have eyes for each other and are seemingly lost without their significant other, that’s…not exactly healthy. You should be able to function in society without your significant other, you should not be joined to them at the hip, and you should not base the entirety of your happiness on your relationship with them. You should at least have some independence. Love and commitment are great, but do not define yourself by your relationship with another person.

You are beautiful and unique. You have so many complexities and eccentricities that make you so completely you, and that is a wonderful thing. And if you have devoted yourself to another person, then I hope you are happy.

But do not sacrifice your individuality for another person, whether they be friend, family, or significant other. I don’t mean to say that you should forget all others and care only for yourself. I’m not saying you should be completely selfish and narcissistic and never sacrifice anything for anyone ever. I’m just saying that the real you is too precious to be lost in a sea of obsessions or dreams, as sweet and beautiful as they may be. As Edna Pontellier says in The Awakening, “I would give up the unessential; I would give up my money, I would give up my life for my children; but I wouldn’t give myself.” Dont’ give up yourself.

Epylle Spydre

The Problem with Identity: Can I Conceal Myself Forevermore?

I know I write this blog for you all, but a lot of times, I feel like I end up writing for myself. One time, I wrote a whole post on how I don’t get angry, then took a step back, asked myself, “What’s the point?” and threw it out (or in this day and age, deleted the file). So I try to make sure my posts are relevant to my readers, but it’s not always an easy thing to do. I was questioning these tendencies in myself, and I came to this answer: I, like pretty much everyone, want to understand myself.

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Thinking about identity makes me feel so small.

Identity is a funny thing. Is it completely shaped by us, or do other people play a part in it? Do we only have one identity, or do we have many? Is it constant, or does it change? In short, what is identity?

Yeah, I don’t think I can answer that now. I keep coming up with more questions. Then I create answers that contradict each other or that aren’t as full as I want them to be. And I keep coming back to the question, “Who am I?”

This, of course, brings me to the song of that name in the musical, Les Miserables, which is what I will focus on for the rest of this post. It doesn’t get much press, even though the music is awesome and the conflict in the words is captivating. Honestly, I like this song a lot more than “Bring Him Home,” but maybe that’s just me.

In this breathtaking moment, Jean Valjean is torn between two sides of himself—the old, selfish side that runs away from his past, and the new side of him that wants to redeem himself. And he realizes that they are both a part of who he is now. To take on the new side of himself, he must admit that he used to follow the old side. He chooses redemption by confessing his selfishness. I was absolutely in love with Valjean at this point in the non-musical movie (the one with Liam Neeson).

The conflict is so real and so relatable. How many times have we done things that we just want to erase from existence? How many times have we wanted to deny parts of ourselves? I dunno about you, but that phenomenon is certainly not foreign to me. But everything that we do, everything that we say and think, is part of our identity. Every little habit, every spoken or unspoken word defines who we are, even the things we’d like to forget.  

And so, I will leave you with this wonderful clip of Alfie Boe singing “Who Am I?”

Boe is my personal favorite musical Valjean, and I don’t really care if you don’t agree with me on that. Just don’t say that Hugh Jackman was your favorite (loved the acting, but the songs aren’t remotely in his range). Anyway, enough musical nerdiness. So long, farewell, and stay tuned for more blog posts about identity once I’ve had more time to think on it. 

Epylle Spydre

p.s. (this is the first time I’ve done a postscript that was actually written after the publication of the rest of the post). Some more thoughts on this song and this moment in Jean Valjean’s life! Perhaps even more prominently than what I was focusing on, Valjean is assessing his character. He knows that the old Valjean would yield to temptation and hide. And he’s asking if the new Valjean will follow that lead or take the path of honor. He quite literally wants to know who he is, which Valjean will win the fight. And that is why this scene is so powerful, because we all tussle with who we are, and he offers us hope that we can all resist the struggles of the flesh, that we all can be our own masters of who we are. As J. K. Rowling so wonderfully put it, “It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

Why we Desperately Need Our Parents

I came across a blog post titled “To the girl without a father.” The writer spoke of her own journey through life, trying to find validation from men other than her father, how that brought her to rock bottom, but how she was ultimately saved by faith. And I appreciated the post. I think a lot of girls need to hear that yes, earthly fathers (and mothers) do fail. And that no, our value and worth is not determined by the attention that anyone, man or woman, can give us, even if it’s so tempting to believe that. And you won’t all believe me, but God really truly does love you and is the perfect father we’ve all been looking for. 

But I don’t think that message is just for girls. What about the boys? What about the men out there, searching for the person who will show them what it means to be a man? So I address this “To the men without a father.”

Unlike the author of the blog post I mentioned earlier, I do not have firsthand experience in this and can therefore, not address it as I would address a former self. But I do know you. I don’t know all of you in person or what your story is. Maybe your dad died when you were little, maybe your father is an alcoholic, maybe your parents are divorced, or maybe you and your dad just don’t get along.

Society is stupid and says that girls have to be pretty, and guys have to be strong. Girls aren’t supposed to have complex characters; we’re all basically supposed to be emotional children who talk all the time. Guys, on the other hand, aren’t allowed to show emotions like sadness or humility. You’re supposed to be strong representatives of “the male species,” once again, no complex characters here.

So you grow up hearing from social media that you’re supposed to be completely strong and stoic WHEN EVERY MAN IN THEIR RIGHT MIND KNOWS THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE. But you have no one to tell you that. So you try to live up to that ideal. And you fail. Try again. Fail again. Try, fail, try, fail. Again, and again, and again. And then you just feel like a failure, because no one has told you otherwise. And you end up feeling ashamed because you measure your worth on a scale piled high with all of your failures.

Just like the girl who tries to define her worth against her relationships with men, it’s unhealthy for a man to define his worth against his failure to be what he thinks men are supposed to look like. That’s why you need a father, biological or otherwise, to show you.

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A picture of family in the animal world.
http://thelifeofpictures.wordpress.com/

I also want to target the subject of mothers. No, I’m not forgetting you. You all are the wonderful people who carried us into this world and nurture and protect us as we grow up. And just like our fathers, you accompany us on our journey to discover who we are. And that’s why parents are so vitally important. Parents are the first people we meet who have developed their sense of self, and we follow their example in doing so, pretty or not.  It all comes down to identity, which, other than the unmerited love of God, is the only thing we can count on to have in this world.

Epylle Spydre

p.s.  Yes, I was specifically targeting the boys out there, mostly because I feel like I felt like they needed to hear it more. But I tried to make this relatable to the girls too. Because the true mark of humanity, not of masculinity or femininity exclusively, is this mix of strength and weakness. We are complicated people. We fail. None of us are strong enough. And it’s time we start acting like we know this.