Today is my birthday, and on this occasion I’ve been thinking about my long struggle to be myself. It was on my birthday half my lifetime ago that my mother characterized me as having been “born seven pounds of resistance to the earth.” This blog demonstrates, I think, that the same trait still prevails in my personality. Why? No one knows. All the psychological explanations in the world fall a bit short of defining us, clarifying us, making us all make sense to ourselves and to each other.
I think that’s one reason why I have always been drawn to narrative over theory, as much as I see the usefulness in theoretical approaches and have flirted many times with various theories and their smacking smart practitioners. But, narrative, thank god, doesn’t quite have to make sense in the tidy way that theory does. Narrative accepts a lot of mystery, as Flannery O’Connor would put it. “Your beliefs will be the light by which you see,” she notes in Mystery and Manners, “but they will not be what you see and they will not be a substitute for seeing.”
Narrative is about seeing, and my blog obsession with a full range of emotions (rather than an enforced uniform positivity) is about seeing what is there, not just what we wish was there.
So, today I picked Bryan Ferry’s cover of “It’s My Party (I’ll Cry if I Want to).” It’s an anthem of defiance of social expectations, and it reminds me of my own perverse habit of pointing out the less-than-perfect in the world. I like its bald self-assertion—because, truly, denial of the self is desirable in only a very narrow range of circumstances. Most of the time, if we acknowledge ourselves and our own vulnerabilities, we can do the same for others as well. On my birthday, I like thinking about all these various paths we are each on and the ways they intersect and sometimes collide. A life, is, after all, an individualized journey, and I celebrate the unique natures of my friends and enemies alike (the latter at least in theory and narrative, if not in daily experience). Vive la différence.
The song was written by John Gluck, Wally Gold, and Herb Weiner and was most famously recorded by Lesley Gore in 1963. Her It’s My Party album has crying as its theme and includes the luck-and-love-have-shifted song “Judy’s Turn to Cry.” But Bryan Ferry’s cover is the version I remember, and when you start wishing that you could stop passing through more birthdays, retrospection seems to be built in. We also have the perspective that allows us to roll our eyes, especially at our previous youthful selves that put on relationships and discarded them like dirty clothes. And to laugh a little at our tears of yore.
I will sidestep any happy birthday wishes, and simply assert how proud I am of you and our friendship. May our beliefs be big enough to see the mysteries of the world, and may our words be equal to our stories.
Of course narrative trumps theory. Especially yours.