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Sunday, January 20, 2002

Whenever I leave the house — and it's getting to be a rare day when I do — I try to stay out of other people's way. I stay out of their conversations, because I don't have anything to say that they'd want to hear. I avoid eye contact with people on the street, unless I'm sure it's going to be both a friendly encounter and a brief one.

I like staying home, because I'm more in control there. I don't mind living alone because I don't have to see myself through anyone else's eyes. This way I don't have to think about how to keep from disappointing anyone but myself. I'm used to living with my own flaws and frailties. I can't see why anyone else would want to have to deal with them.

It's not that I have an outsized image of my own power to affect the fabric of society. It's just that I think anyone who can't make a positive contribution has at least the obligation to stay out of the way and not make things worse. If I'm not going to make your day, the least I can do is not ruin it.

Having said all that, let me add that I fight against these thoughts every day, and sometimes I even overcome them. I do get out once a day, although often it's just to run a quick errand, after which I'm back inside for the duration. When forced out into the open, most of the time I don't give in to the inclination to panic. In fact, most of the time when I do get put on the spot, I handle things pretty well.

Knowing your own weaknesses isn't always enough to beat them. You also have to have the will to do something about them, and to keep trying when things go wrong. As a child I had some embarrassing public moments. Some things that happened in first grade still make me cringe when I think about them today. Because I was good at my studies and well-behaved, teachers made excuses for me, and I slid by. Somehow I had the luck to avoid social situations that would put me at a disadvantage.

The only problem is that now I'm not sure it was so lucky. If I'd given myself more chances to fail, maybe I'd have had enough successes to give me the confidence I lacked. I wonder how different my life would be today if one person had nudged me in a different direction, instead of letting me hide in the shadows.

It's not that I blame anyone for my own inadequacy. I'm responsible for my own inaction, and also for the fact that I haven't overcome the setbacks I've had. Knowing that should make it easier to take whatever steps will improve my life. If my life were a little worse, if I'd ever hit rock bottom or at least thought I had, that knowledge could have helped me dig my way out. Instead, I've taken the easy way and let things slide. It hasn't been as great as it could have been, but it hasn't been as bad as my worst fears painted it.

There's no great revelation here. Like anyone else, I have the power to change things. All I have to do is get over the fear that any change could be for the worse, because I don't how much worse it might get. Most of the time I feel lucky to be where I am, considering all the other routes my life could have taken. It's hard to rock the boat when you're so unsure of your swimming ability. It's even harder when you don't know how deep the water is.

home and garden

My house. It's where I live.

Most of the time I don't see a movie until a year after everyone else does. That's what staying in and waiting for it to show up on video will do. In striking contrast to this tendency, Mom and I saw A Beautiful Mind today. Russell Crowe's performance and Ron Howard's direction let you see how a mind works from inside and out. It was one of the most riveting films I've seen in a long time, and one I'd go see again. That's saying something, considering how little time I have. And how hard it is to get me out of the house.

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Recent recommendations can always be found on the links page.

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Two years ago: Sunny Day
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