Day 114 - Darwin, Survival of the Fittest & Responsiveness to Change.
Good old Darwin. Remember how he came up with the revolutionary idea that nature engaged in this selection process that was all designed to weed out the weaker strains, and propagate the more fit strains?
Darwin uses the phrase "survival of the fittest" in chapter four of On the Origin of Species to describe the process of natural selection. But he did not coin the phrase. It was borrowed from English philosopher Herbert Spencer, who first talked about survival of the fittest in his Principles of Sociology.
Herbert Spencer was also pretty revolutionary bringing us this:
Marriage: A word which should be pronounced 'mirage'.
I could go on but I won’t. I will instead get to the point. I am sure more than a few of you are thinking, “where the fuck is she going with this?”
In all of my mucking about in the whole love, marriage, divorce and post-divorce relationship folly, I had the following series of thoughts yesterday...
First thought: “Why did it take you so long in your life to pick yourself?”
Second thought: “You picked everyone else for so long...this led you into a marriage that you spent more time trying to get out of than you did getting into.”
Third thought: “What if every one of those times you selected someone else over yourself just set up the circumstances for you to HAVE to select you in a more intentional way?”
Perhaps for you this is a DUH kind of situation but yesterday as I lay in my swing on my porch reading, it kind of hit me like a ton of bricks. I lay there looking at the sky, snuggled under a blanket and thought about all the times I picked someone else’s feelings, desires, wishes over my own. Then I thought that there was not one time that other person won out in the end. None of them remain in my life in the manner they intended or wished. Not one boyfriend, friend, co-worker, family member. The people that are present in my life today all have been able to weather my own continued, sporadic process of natural selection.
I am taking great liberties with this phrase to make my point. Scientists would likely fault me immediately for my misapplication of the term (which has fallen out of favor anyway). In biological terms, this would never be applied to individuals because in its most true application, hereditary traits are less important in their individual presentment and more important when considered spanning a hereditary lineage.
So please just bear with me.
Survival of the fittest in my own Erin-directed psychological meanderings means that over time only those individuals that could withstand my selection of me over them have remained in my life. Those people requiring me to select them over me, long gone.
What the fuck am I talking about? (And yes, I am asking you so that I ask myself this same question).
As I was laying reading yesterday, I had the thought that I should have never gotten married. That I made a mistake. That I was not the marrying kind. Then I thought about how I would have totally married Lane and then the thought came to me, well what the fuck have you really learned in all this time if you would have willingly done it again? (And I believe that I would still do it...maybe).
Then I went back over my life, all the times in relationships where I chose the other person over myself. I won’t go into the weeds here, but I did it a lot, with everything. Picking someone that liked me instead of me really liking them. Not doing my semester abroad because my ex-fiance didn’t want me to go. Not going to law school in Colorado because my family and finance didn’t want me to go. Not taking jobs because I would have had to give up a relationship to make that work. Giving up my career so that I could marry my ex-husband. You get the idea.
As I reviewed all of this, I began to feel pretty shitty about myself. Look at all of the evidence I had where I didn’t have my own best interest at heart.
But then a new thought process emerged. I realized that in every one of those situations, while initially I did not select my own best interests, I did eventually. I missed some opportunities but those missed opportunities became part of my reason for ultimately selecting myself over them in the end. I had become the fittest in my own natural process.
Every one of those situations where I put another person’s wishes or desires in front of my own, required to give me the information and situation that ultimately led me to have to pick myself.
It appears that I had my own weeding out process. A natural process (by that I mean that I was not conscious of it - no more than I am conscious of my blood flowing through my veins) by which I was led to become the most fit version of myself. (Not in pure physical form - I have truly been in better shape previously as opposed to now). But in totality of my life. The most healthy, complete person.
And I arrived to this conclusion by having to forego and then make all of those selections over the years. All the times I didn’t pick me became the fodder and ingredients required to later pick me.
This changed my perspective. It isn’t that I made so many mistakes, I just did what I needed to do to get to where I am now. All the events prior, necessary and required to get me to that point in time where I was laying outside reading. It all kind of made sense to me then. We don’t alway make the right choices on our way to rightness. Maybe the best we can hope for is the ability to learn that the selection process is where our lives morph and change. Each choice creating more opportunities for other choices and removing others. Seems pretty evolutionary and fundamental to me.
I am certainly more intentional in my life today than I ever have been. The funny part is that, more recently, I have arrived here by allowing rather than selecting. Seems I spent the first part of my life in this constant struggle to survive. Making choice after choice that caused a great deal of hardship for myself and those about me. Today, I feel like I make better choices. Not all the time of course but I have a level of confidence in my ability to direct things and also to allow shit to just unfold than I ever have before. Perhaps that is what survival of the fittest really means: You have to work really hard to see yourself, flaws and all, and find some peace with all the fuck ups and missteps along the way. Because if you are at a point of reflection, you have survived some pretty major shit. Your review of your own history, the vantage point where you are the most fit version of yourself that you have ever been.
I never really saw my life as a selection process before yesterday. I kind of felt more like I was just being dragged along on a trajectory that really didn’t comport with what I wanted. Then I realized that I had been choosing myself all along. That made me realize that my life was truly my own. I was more than the things that happened to me. I was this great unfolding selector of people, places and things. If this was true for me, it might also be true for you.
In the end, we are all selecting. Making choices. Suffering, or not, the consequences of those choices. Which ultimately. give us all we need to grow into the people we need to become. Perhaps the place we get lost is in not realizing we are doing it in the first place.