Projecting Our Own Image

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

June 23, 2011

Playing hide and seek.

Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

Point one: I have my own website, domain name, complete with vain email.

Point two: I have my own personal business cards.

Point three: the strange man with the dogs.

I’m not sure how to begin this post. Should I begin it in my traditional method of starting in the middle as a friend noticed, and continue around through my pontifications? Should I start with the evolution of thought? Should I state my pontification and work where the words take me? I think the latter approach will suit us tonight.

I have been fascinated lately with self-marketing. Many I know, through varied means, have had to market themselves. Whether it’s to bolster their own hobbies, support a business, or learn and cultivate their own image — all these people have begun the journey of marketing themselves.

Now that I’m in my 30s, I feel like I have entered this new wave of self-awareness. I’m connecting, more, the patterns of my teens and twenties into something sell-able. I beginning to learn the lessons taught while I was in my twenties as new questions emerge. I’m figuring out what my strengths are, what skills I have to support those strengths, and I am clarifying this vision of who I want to become in the interim and in the end. It’s really an amazing period to be in.

I identify myself as a teacher, as a leader, as a wife, as a mother, as a sister, as a daughter. Each role has its own responsibilities. In all roles I find myself looking to that “inner Zen” (as a friend refers to it) when faced with challenging situations in order to focus, center, and measure true needs. I find myself thinking more about the image I project, trying to meter those times when I want to let loose because suddenly the network with whom I work has grown. The random person in the car next to me might not actually be so random anymore. This is a good reminder of the Golden Rule and of doing unto others what I’d have done unto me.

Sometimes, though, I purposefully do not project myself with the thoughts of grace, comfort, relaxation, cool int he forefront of my brain. I hope this image is the predominantly projected image. I hope that’s how I am portrayed. I want to be viewed as fair, objective, and even handed. Most times.

Sometimes, though, that is not the image I want. Sometimes I need to be, for example, the Momma Bear. Which brings us to Point three: the obnoxious man with the dogs.

Levi and I drove off the freeway onto the surface street. We angled up towards the shoe headquarters as Levi begin taking apart his bag. “We’re almost home,” I remind him. He pulls out his blanket and sheet as we approach the 3 block away marker from our house. As we ride down our street, he begins roaring and putting the blanket over his head. He has now identified himself as a scary monster and is quite excited to scare his father. This is very interesting to me, as for months he has not wanted his father to simply get him out of the car. Please do not ask me why this simple act of getting him out of the car whilst we return from work and school is something that only a mother can do. But, in the eyes and life of a four-year old this is how it must be. So, tonight, I was overjoyed that my dear 4 year old was excited about the prospect of his father getting him out of the car in order to showcase his life as a scary monster.

We approach our driveway, and I begin to turn in the drive when I realize there is an extra car in the way — meaning no room. So, I back out, and adjust myself on the street in front of our home. I pause, get my phone to alert my husband to our arrival. Parking on the street has made it unclear, in my mind, if he could hear us approach. I wanted my husband to come out so the scary monster could greet him. This was quite exciting.

My husband came out of the house, and I began climbing out of the car. I unlocked the doors, and made my way around to the passenger side as my husband greeted and unbuckled the scary monster. The scary monster disembarked from the car and ran down the sidewalk to greet our mutual friend. I had my head inside the car while I reassembled bags, picked up dropped items, and simply began to collect myself and our things.

I hear something that sounds like, “Don’t touch the dog!” I had only seen our friend and my four year old, no other man. So, I raise my head and look down the two houses from where the voice came. Sure enough, there is a mid-30s or early 40-s man dressed in a white button down shirt, short cropped hair, trendy baggy pants, and sporting a tan. He is also yelling at his small dogs to come.

I stand. I walk firmly over to the sidewalk and calmly boom, “Is there a problem?”

Suddenly, his demeanor changes, and he replies no. He states that he was trying to avoid a problem and continues to lamely call his unleashed dogs.

Segue: Portland is a good dog city. Meaning, as many people with kids have dogs only. Portland has been billed as a good city for the Creative Class, and it seems the Creative Class needs their dogs. Like much of American Society, dogs have become integral parts of families, and the term “to the doghouse” is loosing its initial context. Generally, though, the dogs in this city are quite well behaved. We don’t often find dog excrement, for example, in our yard. (Dog owners kindly put it in our trash though if we take a day or tow before we bring it back to the house.) We don’t have to worry about dogs in the park, as owners are usually quite attentive and aware. The dogs in this city are simply … nice.

So, this interaction was puzzling and quite confusing. Why would this man need to yell, possibly, at my four-year old and at these dogs? This was not a question that will be answered tonight.

My friend, though. The one who Levi went to greet, she confirmed my suspicions of this man. He was  yelling at my son. My son who excitedly came home and did not notice this man jaywalking across the street approaching, oddly, my friend standing in front of her house chatting with her brother on the phone. My son had radar vision for our friend, one of his favorite playmates.

I guess I appreciate that this guy didn’t want his dogs doing something harmful to my child. What I don’t understand is why he felt it was necessary to yell at my child. My child was unaware of these adult subtleties in mood.

Back to image. I am glad I assessed the situation similarly to my friend. I was validated in that, and she did her own bit to passively let this guy know he wasn’t quite in the right. But, I wanted to convey an image of “paying attention adult, mother” who was questioning why this guy was yelling at my kid. I wanted my voice to be loud, to be stern, to reassess the situation. And, it worked. His demeanor changed and he moved along. There was no issue.

Okay, that’s a lot of talk about one little incident. I’m not sure I would have had the same self awareness 20 years ago to be able to that. 20 years ago I was a burgeoning teen. 20 years ago I probably thought I Had all the answers. 20 years ago was a long time, and life has changed a lot in in the interim. Now, I have 20 plus years of reflection, assessment, and character studies to support these projected images.

Growing up is certainly interesting!

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