If you haven’t figured out from my tagline and my previous references, I am a big fan of Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. When I was in my junior year of high school, I remember reading the line
Do I contradict myself?/ Very well then I contradict myself,/ (I am large, I contain multitudes.) –(Walt Whitman, Song of Myself)
There are numerous other inspiring lines in that collection, but along with countless other readers, this one struck me. I can’t say that I fully understood why it did at the time. I knew that as a teenager I was still creating and exploring my own identity not knowing what would stick. I definitely think as I’ve aged and become wiser, I understand the sentiment more deeply.
I’ve been on a journey of accepting that something can be both black and white, and even gray, especially within myself. So when I read the biographies about Elvis and learned more about him from other resources, I was really challenged to accept that he could be all the things and not categorized as one thing. Although, the one thing he can be categorized as is a human, and humans can not be 100% consistent or constant in their behaviors and beliefs. Did Elvis contradict himself?
Yes on many things.
*How could be be so tender, caring, and respectful of women, yet so chauvinistic and and sexist toward them?
*How could he seek a DEA badge and adamantly condemn drugs, but be so dependent on them and destroy his body and life with them?
*How could he be so gentle, deferential, and charming but have such an explosive temper having his friends and family walking on eggshells around him not knowing what mood he is in?
*He had extravagant taste and willingness to buy the best of things for himself. He carelessly spent money on his erratic passion projects. But he also prioritized sharing his wealth and often gave to others and charities without blinking an eye.
*How did he allow his unique talent and creativity to be ruled by commercialism even though he valued the art much more than the money and fame?
*He was considered the most loyal of friends, but they knew he would cut them out if they crossed him the wrong way.
*How was he extraordinarily materialistic yet so deeply spiritual? How was he so naive yet seemingly enlightened about so many things?
*How could he square believing in the equality of all human beings with his intensely patriarchal attitude?
To be honest, I’m not sure he could reconcile all or many of those contradictions for himself. IMHO, I think that is where a lot of his sadness was rooted, and why he felt it necessary to numb himself. I think he also couldn’t understand why he was so good at and loved playing Elvis but also wished he could just be and know himself as Elvis Aaron Presley from Tupelo. However, I also think it is from where his deep connection to music and soulful singing emanated. It provided a medium to feel all the things.
I know this is a long post. Consider this your intermission. Go get some popcorn, because things are about to get juicy.
If I am going to point out the contradictions of a person I don’t even know, it’s only fair for me to explore my own. For someone who is so hard on herself, it was surprisingly difficult for me pinpoint my own contradictions. Although, once I got going they came flooding. I identify with the Walt Whitman quote, because I hold on tightly to consistency and predictability. The idea of being able to be many things and sometimes things that don’t seem reconcilable comforts me when I struggle with feeling like a hypocrite.
Do I Contradict Myself? Let me count the ways…
I have crippling anxiety, yet I am also patient and calm.
I have always desired to be unique but I hate standing out or being noticed.
I tend not to rock the boat in order to keep the peace but I passionately share about social justice issues and my tightly held beliefs.
Sometimes I proudly voice my opinions or stand up for someone yet I’m afraid to offend or speak out of turn.
I fight against all the -isms (racism, ableism, sexism, ageism) but I continue to find them woven within me.
I hold uncompromising values and beliefs but I’m also open-minded to consider other perspectives and their worth.
I like to notice and acknowledge people who do behind-the-scenes work, but I prefer to go unnoticed, especially in a public setting.
I am calm and confident during crisis yet I have diagnosed panic disorder.
I find beauty in all bodies but fail to find any beauty in my own.
I value equality and sharing of resources yet I sit comfortably in the upper middle class with two homes.
I appreciate something having a Cartier stamp, but I find prestigious brand names and luxury somewhat ridiculous.
As I’ve discovered more recently, I can get giddy about celebrities, yet I am anti-hierarchical and honor the value in everyone.
I consider myself a feminist but I am stay at home mom dependent on the income of my husband.
I desire to stretch myself. Instead, I often resort to comfort.
I wish our society was more communal yet I am introverted and kind of hate people.
I am sure there are many other facets of myself that are contradictory with only some of them being reconcilable. If you know me personally, I’m sure you can think of some of your own. For now, I must sit in the discomfort of knowing that some people may be making assumptions about me without knowing my multitudes. The discomfort of knowing that I am not always consistent. Although, I am consistent in my humanity. I have to accept that it’s okay for me to be subject to the human condition. Walt Whitman helps me do that.