Do You See What I See?

02 Sep

Do you know what I’ve discovered?  It has taken me until my sixties to become completely self-aware and to realize that I’m just a little bit nuts.  I don’t mean that I’m bat-shit crazy like my mother who was paranoid-schizophrenic; I simply mean that I finally recognized that I see the world from a different angle than the people I used to hang with and I now realize that’s okay—either that or I’m lying to myself which would be self-denial and not the same thing as self-awareness at all.

Pinned by Cassandra Bond on Pinterest

“Self-Awareness is having a clear perception of your personality, including strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. Self-Awareness allows you to understand other people, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment.”—Gary van Warmerdam  (


I’m getting ready to make another major life transition in the next six months (retirement), and it is imperative that I have a “clear perception” of who and what I am—warts and all—if I am to successfully turn the page to the next chapter.  I haven’t always been in a place of prime self-awareness.  I mean I thought I was one of the most self-aware people around when I was younger, but I had hoodwinked myself into believing that because I was religious.  Now that I am old, I have found that religious people (people who follow a specific set of stringent rules to define their lot in life) tend to think they are better off than they are—that the people they hate are more sinful than they really are—and it usually takes a spiritual or emotional earthquake to shake off the cataracts from the “holier than thou” person’s eyes to plunge him or her into a deeper level of self-awareness.


I’ve found that sometimes it’s hard to tell self-denial and self-awareness apart.  There’s nothing like the obese woman who visualizes that she’s the embodiment of the Right Said Fred song and thinks she’s “too sexy for her shirt, too sexy for your party, too sexy for Milan, or too sexy for her cat.”

Cartoon version of “self-awareness fail” by Collins||image from

Real life self-awareness fail|image from

And for God’s sake don’t even get me started on the man who sports the Tea Party hat, screams the Tea Party epithets as he commits his life to take back America for God from the socialists, the baby-killers, and the fags but treats his wife and kids like shit.

Carl Jones Cartoon from the Free Lance-Star||image from

But the best self-awareness fail was the one that woke my husband and me up from our right-wing Christian stupor and probably saved our destinies and our souls—it certainly saved our minds.  There’s nothing like getting up every morning, looking in the mirror and confirming to one’s self that you are the epitome of a great father and mother while handing out the WWJD bracelets to your kids before they march out the door to high school (“protect those choices, babies”).   There’s no greater Christian turn-on than reminding your offspring of their D.A.R.E. pledges (taking a stand against drug abuse) they made at the beginning of middle school and calling to mind their abstinence letters still to be signed on the dining room table.  However there is no deeper despair than to later find out that all the platitudes you believed in were a bunch of shit and none of it worked.  There’s absolutely fucking nothing like having one of your kids temporarily lose her mind that forces you to reexamine what you believe, why you believe it, and how your life should change to properly demonstrate that new belief system.

Cartoon by Mike Luckovich for the Atlanta Tribune-Constitutional

Fortunately, if you wake up in time (which we did), your self-awareness brutally course-corrects itself (it did), and the errant kid gets to correct her destiny before it capsizes (which she did) and you continue as a family, stronger and more loving than ever.  As the parent who thought I was “all that and a bag of chips,” I gained a self-awareness that made me more compassionate, more loving, and more tolerant toward others—walking along side them without judgment as they try to overcome the vagaries of life.


The only people who seem to have unadulterated self-awareness seem to be small children, but it has to be because they don’t know anything except “what is.”  The “smalls” have an amazing ability to be comfortable in their own skin and this doesn’t change until they are made to feel “less than” or “other than” by ridicule and abuse.  The other day my three-year-old grandson was walking with his mother to the subway station via a rather rough inner-city street in New York.  As they passed quite a few nefarious looking characters that my daughter didn’t plan on giving the time of day, each one broke into a smile of recognition and greeted my grandson with a high-five and a—“Hey there, little dude, how’s it hangin’?”  “So little man, what you been up to—long time no see!”  “Where you off to today, buddy?” To which my grandson graced each person with a beatific grin that could melt the ass off a snowman and saluted each greeter with a miniature toddler high-five.  As he walked on down the street while holding his mother’s hand, he said rather matter-of-factly and without the least bit of irony:  “You know what, Mama—people luv me!”

Image from

The good news for our “little dude” is that we have shielded him from the people who won’t love him for quite a while, and that is a good thing.  But children soon leave behind their naïve self-awareness and grow into adults who see a false image of themselves in their mind’s eye, and start believing their own press, where they project themselves in such a way that they lose touch with the reality of what actually “is.”  Consequently, we have to constantly be on the lookout for epic self-awareness fails—not only in our personal lives and our family’s lives but in the greater arena at large.  Learning to recognize self-awareness bombs will keep us sharp and give us the tools to adjust our own growth.


SELF-AWARENESS FAIL ~(Republican party the true bastion of morality and ever the guardian of the WWJD slogan): Black CNN reporter gets pelted with peanuts by Republican Conventioneers who proudly boast of being ‘church-goers’ and told the devastated reporter, “This is how we treat the animals.”  IMP. NEWS FLASH QUESTION:  Republican, Christian Tea Party members—Are you shittin’ me?

SELF-AWARENESS FAIL ~(Good Catholics uphold the 10 Commandments, especially the 9th Commandment because “bearing false witness” is a major character defect):  Staunch Catholic, PAUL RYAN, Republican VP Nominee, receives the “Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire Award” for what the New York Times calls a “litany of falsehoods” in his convention speech.  He is accused of lying about everything from President Obama not requiring “Welfare recipients to work anymore” to his final speed of a marathon (said he ran it in 2 hours and something when it actually took him over four hours).   Joan Walsh of in the article titled: “Paul Ryan’s Marathon Lie” says that this was no slip of the tongue.  Ryan “boasted about the feat with specificity and swagger.”  (Ryan, Ryan, Ryan, go wash your mouth out with soap and come back and write on the blackboard 1,000 times: ‘I will never, ever lie again because I am a Christian and I must never, ever break the 9th commandment’ because in doing so, you’re making the God you supposedly serve a laughing-stock.  Dude, do you really think you’re going to get away with this?)

SELF-AWARENESS FAIL ~Ralph Reed (Former Christian Coalition head WHO USED TO ATTEND THE SAME CHURCH AS WW AND ME—YIKES!) IS BACK—living an upstanding stellar Christian life (NOT!) by initiating and underscoring a plank on the Republican platform that is trying to defeat the minimum wage in the Mariana Islands [territory owned by USA since WWII] again.  Reed’s epic fail that almost destroyed him in the past was a “partnership” with the lobbyist crook, Jack Abramoff, to defeat the Federal Government’s effort to clean up the sweatshops and bring in minimum wage in those islands, thus cutting into the profits of factory owners and shareholders.  Reed convinced Alabama residents to urge their Congressmen to vote for no restrictions in wages on the premise that imposing minimum wage on the imported Chinese workers would keep them from getting hired by the Mariana Islands’ businesses, and that would mean (horrors!) the workers wouldn’t hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, wouldn’t get Bibles to save their souls and they wouldn’t take those Bibles back to China to save the rest of their peeps’ souls.  What Reed failed to mention to his Alabama pawns is that the Chinese women worked in horrible conditions and were “forced to have abortions, forced to engage in prostitution, and forced to produce garments for pennies that said ‘Made in the USA.’”  The revelation of these truths cost Ralph Reed the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor of Georgia in 2006 and now “he’s back!”  Oh God, deliver us from your people! (Ralph Reed, where you gonna’ run, where you gonna hide, sinner man?  Did you ever hear the slogan:  God is not mocked?)

“Reed’s was a monstrous lie by one of the monumental hypocrites of our time. Yet he marches on, Christian soldier to the end, turning the temple of faith into one big ATM. There’s a word for this in the Bible: Abomination.”— By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, [THIS STORY WAS ORIGINALLY REPORTED ON BILLMOYERS.COM.]

A Mike Keefe Cartoon for the Denver Post||


I am discovering that being self-aware is probably one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves.  Unfortunately, it isn’t a one-time deal; it is a constant and diligent examination—kind of like a yearly breast examination of the soul.  Every new crossroad in life demands a poking and prodding and an x-ray of who we are to see if what we think we are is what others see.  Without that revelation, there is no successful move into the next phase of life—there’s just one giant epic fail.  Stay tuned—retirement transition to be posted in March 2013.


“Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing. Use the pain as fuel, as a reminder of your strength.”—August Wilson

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”—Carl Gustav Jung

“[I]t doesn’t matter whom you love or where you move from or to, you always take yourself with you. If you don’t know who you are, or if you’ve forgotten or misplaced her, then you’ll always feel as if you don’t belong. Anywhere. (xiii)”― Sarah Breathnach, Moving on: Creating Your House of Belonging with Simple Abundance

“We judge others instantly by their clothes, their cars, their appearance, their race, their education, their social status. The list is endless. What gets me is that most people decide who another person is before they have even spoken to them. What’s even worse is that these same people decide who someone else is, and don’t even know who they are themselves.”― Ashly Lorenzana

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Eleanor Tomczyk and “How the Hell Did I End Up Here?” with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Posted by on September 2, 2012 in Uncategorized


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29 responses to “Do You See What I See?

  1. Mike Abel

    September 2, 2012 at 6:22 pm

    You seem to know us all too well. Great piece!!!
    But, really? Church with Ralph Reed?!?!

    • etomczyk

      September 2, 2012 at 11:00 pm

      Mike: Can you believe it? We sat right behind him in the same pew in Virginia Beach every Sunday. Who knew he’d become such a littler terror. Good grief. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading my stories. All the best. ET

  2. Lindy Lee

    September 2, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    Good reminder of a basic wisdom of life, Judge not, lest ye look first in the mirror at your own backside. ‘Tis a tough discipline to practice, indeed. Enjoyed your blog as always, my dear ET…

    • etomczyk

      September 3, 2012 at 3:38 pm

      Hi Lindy Lee: I’m facinated with this concept of “self-awareness,” because the older I get the more I realize how important it is to be true to oneself. Thanks for reading and commenting–as always. Cheers!

  3. talesfromthemotherland

    September 2, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    I am certainly grateful for the wisdom that comes with age… even if I do wish that I was younger.

    • etomczyk

      September 3, 2012 at 4:14 pm

      Dawn: Isn’t it the truth! Loved your blog this week by the way. I’ve been there, only the choice of adventure for one of my kids was not so tame as going to Israel. Let’s just say, I became a writer because of the choices of my children. Take care, Mommy. My heart is sitting in the ashes with you.

      • talesfromthemotherland

        September 3, 2012 at 5:32 pm

        Would love to hear that story some time E. For the record, she’s not just going to Israel. The conversion to Orthodox Judaism is what has us all wringing our hands and crying Oy, not the travel. She gets that bug (travel) from me, so I’d be a hypocrite to complain. The very conservative religion, that does not mesh with anyone on either side of her family, is what is hard to swallow. Thanks for sitting. 😉

      • etomczyk

        September 3, 2012 at 6:21 pm

        Dawn: Yep, I get it! When WW and I were at our most religious juncture and having the kids embrace our idealogy as part of their identity was priority #1 for us, they rejected it. After we stopped going to church and became more inclusive, they joined churches that are uber-religious and pretty conservative. AAUUUUUGH!

  4. Elyse

    September 2, 2012 at 9:18 pm

    Eleanor, your pieces are always so informative, enlightening. This is a fabulous quote:

    “What gets me is that most people decide who another person is before they have even spoken to them. What’s even worse is that these same people decide who someone else is, and don’t even know who they are themselves.”

  5. Mal

    September 3, 2012 at 5:22 am

    “Confront the dark parts of yourself, and work to banish them with illumination and forgiveness. Your willingness to wrestle with your demons will cause your angels to sing. Use the pain as fuel, as a reminder of your strength.”—August Wilson

    …ah, beautiful, and so true! I learn so much from your delightful, informative posts…thank you, dear Eleanor.. 🙂

  6. composerinthegarden

    September 3, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Wonderful post, Eleanor; now I need to remember to look behind me in the mirror before leaving the house (either literally or spiritually!) 🙂 Love the August Wilson quote, a wonderful Pittsburgh native son and playwright.

    • etomczyk

      September 3, 2012 at 6:17 pm

      Lynn. Welcome back. Hope your time off was refreshing. The August Wilson quote was my favorite He was such a brilliant playwright and his words always hit me right in my core. Thanks for your delightful comment. All the best with your new project.

  7. DesiValentine

    September 3, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    Hear hear, et! It’s so easy to fall into the trap of doing what we are supposed to be doing, acting the way are supposed to act, associating with who we are supposed to be with that we lose track of who we are. And I think, for women especially, we lose ourselves in that shuffle of ‘supposed to’ and do hurtful things to ourselves and the people we love ‘for their own good’. Knowing how to be wrong is a gift, but a slippery one. Let’s keep on catching it 🙂

    • etomczyk

      September 3, 2012 at 6:11 pm

      Hi Desi. So glad to hear from you. You’re so right, of course: knowing how to be wrong (and admitting it) is truly a gift. Without self-awareness it is darn near impossible. Hope all is well with graduate school and the “smalls.” Catch up with you soon. Cheers!

  8. Valentine Logar

    September 3, 2012 at 4:57 pm

    What a wonderfully informative piece! But even more than being informative, wonderful at looking inward at the road so many of us travel to get here, to the moment in time when we say ‘ah, this is why’.

    • etomczyk

      September 3, 2012 at 6:06 pm

      V. Logar: And it seems the road is never ending. It really is all about the journey more so than the destination. I’m finally making peace with that–I think. Cheers!

  9. becomingcliche

    September 3, 2012 at 5:19 pm

    Too, too often I catch myself thinking I’ve got someone pegged. Before I talk to them or know who they are. I’m working on it, though, because it’s the biggest barrier between us as human beings.I’m finding that when I drop all assumptions, good things happen.

    • etomczyk

      September 3, 2012 at 6:03 pm

      BC: Isn’t it the truth. I think I’ll be dealing with overcoming this shortcoming in my personality until the day I die. Thanks for reading and commenting. Have a great week with your zoo buddies.

  10. Hudson Howl

    September 4, 2012 at 8:42 am

    I can dig it! REally dig it!

    Struggling with ones image and being self-aware is a worthy pursuit. Those who don’t tend to blame the ‘ones who do’ for all their ills. An well it seems those hippikritzies were stuck with them. Thanks for shining your pen light at them.

    • etomczyk

      September 5, 2012 at 4:56 pm

      Hudson: Thanks for reading. . .

  11. Tina

    September 5, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    E- you consistently write about things I am struggling with. I envy you your finding such a state of self-awareness. I still have a lot of work to do there. Just finished a book called “Necessary Losses” and it just about sent me over the edge. The author ties literally ALL of life’s passages to that 1st mother-child bond. Mine being basically non-existent, I’m rebelling right now and trying REALLY hard to believe that I’m stronger. Not working out at the moment. Definitely in a mid-life passage, I DO NOT need to hear again that I’m doomed to replay that 1st failed relationship. I’m not reaching retirement yet. I am, however caught in a spiral of displacement, and inability to rearrange what I “do” for work. Thanks as always for your words.

    • etomczyk

      September 5, 2012 at 5:14 pm

      Tina: If the author of “Necessary Loses” ties all of life’s passages to the first bond with one’s mother, I am screwed! My first bond (and my second) with my mother was her trying to kill me! So, given that I’ve turned out to be pretty normal (whatever normal is) at this stage, I’m thinking there is more grace and resilience in life than what this writer is conveying. One thing that I know is that YOU ARE NOT DOOMED TO REPEAT THE PAST. Fear (of failure) would like you to believe that. There is a great song by Kirk Franklin titled: “Hello Fear” and it is visually very wonderful about kicking the “ass” of what you’re talking about. In the song, fear knocks on the door and Kirk invites him in to sit down (you think he’s going to entertain “fear of the past” as he always has). But instead of me trying to explain it, below are a few of the lyrics, and you can see for yourself. You can find the song on iTunes. I listen to it almost daily, and step by step I get stronger and more self-aware. Let me know what you think. Cheers!

      Hello Fear Before you sit down there’s something I need to explain
      Since you’re here
      I think I should tell you since we last talked things have changed
      See I’m tired of being broken-hearted
      So I made a list and you’re on it
      All my hopes and my dreams You took from me
      I want those back before you leave

      • Sondra Smith

        September 6, 2012 at 10:45 am

        Excellent! We have grown up with the idea that there has to be a good guy and a bad guy. We are suppose to hate the bad guy and destroy him. But who is the bad guy? When will it be your turn to be him, to be the target of hatred?

      • Tina

        September 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm

        Choke-slobber-sniff. When I listened to that song last night, I just bawled. Who knew tears were still even possible. This morning when I listened to it again, it struck me as a lullaby. Thanks Eleanor.

      • etomczyk

        September 6, 2012 at 12:33 pm

        Tina: Isn’t it something? And you described the song’s affect perfectly. So glad it gave you hope. All the best. ET

  12. aFrankAngle

    September 7, 2012 at 10:07 am

    Hey E-Tom … just wanted to say hi! Thus will return to read later … and yes, you need to read my “return” post. 😉

    • etomczyk

      September 7, 2012 at 11:01 am

      Frank, you’re back! Welcome home. Hope you had an awesome time. I’ll definitely stop by your blog once I can figure out what I’m going to write about this week. See you soon. . .

  13. Joanne

    September 12, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Catching up on your posts and loved this one… Your honesty about where you’ve come from and the different twists and turns in the road you’ve taken is inspiring… “Self-checking” is often difficult but so, so important, as your post reminds me. Thanks!

    • etomczyk

      September 14, 2012 at 11:42 pm

      Jo: Thanks so much for your encouraging words. It means so much to know you liked this particular post. All the best. E


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