Hell, in my opinion, is never finding your true self and never living your own life or knowing who you are.- John Bradshaw
As this year closes and new one begins, the solstice beckons and the celebration of the birth of the savior of the World, imho, or at least a really cool Palestinian philosopher, draws near, we’re all about gift giving and resolution setting and renewal.
This year has been pretty awesome for me. it has had exceptional ups I’m just beginning to appreciate as well as a dark night of the soul, whose fruits I’m only beginning to understand and acknowledge. I have a lot to be thankful for.
I’ve felt the urge to define my life, to map out all my dreams and goals and figure out everything I want and how to get it, to plot it all out in black and white. As if such a thing can be done. but I’ll figure myself for wanting to, for trying. That will be one gift to give myself this year: not berating myself for failing at metaphysically impossible tasks.
I’ve accomplished a lot, by the grace of God: traveling to four countries, visiting Asia for the first time, getting certifiably fluent in French, and o, getting an MBA. And getting a job! In France! Although a constant low level stressor is how much more optimally I could have done things and why I got Bs instead of As and why did I have to go and get all depressed and gain some weight, I guess I’ve taken two or three steps forward for every one step back. And, persisted despite all the negativity I was feeling.
I think that’s probably my greatest accomplishment, to keep going along my chosen path though I had lost faith it would lead me in any direction worth going. To not give up, even when my hope was lost. It may seem dramatic in the retelling, since everything has turned out so well and the narrative arc clearly includes something of a happy ending, but there was more than one moment I thought I had sold my soul and become a student debt peon and would never wander the world again, not to mention having missed some version of love twice running. I’ve blocked out some of that and since things are so good now I almost can’t remember what made them so bad, though it’s a healing wound I’d rather not touch too much.
And let’s nto forget the less flashy accomplishments, the friendships, the opening of my heart to a stranger, the closeness I now feel with my family and the acceleration, though through fits and starts, of my yoga practice. And the leaps and bounds of my spiritual growth. I read my blog entries from a year ago and am clearly a different person than I was. Sorrow has pierced and thus opened my heart and that dark night tore a hole in my soul, a God sized space. It may not seem like much to have read some spiritual poetry and to have faced some big questions and gazed into the seeming abyss that is the mystery of our existence. But it’s probably a lot more important than an MBA. At least, to me it is.
So despite all my wanderings and ponderings, I still don’t know whether I want to live in France permanently or not. Or if someday I’ll go to Asia. Nor have I really pieced together who I might marry or when to have children, just that I prepare not to be barren by the time I get around to doing it. There seems no greater metaphor for misplaced priorities than a woman who has attained the top heights of her profession but didn’t make time for a family until it was too late, and now needs to spend a fortune just for the hope of a pregnancy. I’m not saying everybody needs to have a family or that having a child is the be all and end all of a woman’s life, just that it seems like kind of a cruel joke to me for that to happen. Something I fear. And as far as the right person, I can’t give you specifics but I don’t think I’ve found him yet, or at least I’m not in the relationship that will lead to marriage. And goodness, that is the thing I most want to get right in my life. Growing older and realize divorce could happen to me too, that I might be 35 and single, and there’s no guarantee of even finding a life partner has jolted me, but I choose to have faith that whatever is right will happen to me. I’m looking forward to meeting the father, but to tell the truth I am having so much fun and adventure living my own life that I’m in no rush. As much as I’ve had those moments of so much to see ad no one to share the view, I’m comfortable and confident in myself enough now to realize that nobody and nothing can make the view any better. And sharing the view with the wrong person just for the company is just not my style. I’m more ok with my introverted side and sometimes there is nothing better than getting lost by yourself, or coming home to yourself and makig yourself something nice to eat in your own studio apartment and though going grocery shopping by yourself can be sad and lonely it’s also liberating.
Sartre says hell is other people, but I think he’s slightly mistaken in my case. Much as I’ve gotten better at avoiding people I don’t like, it’s the relatioinship with myself I need most to work on.
It’s the inner critic that needs to die. She never has anything of value to say. She always brings me down. There is nothing good that comes out of her. While I appreciate discipline and honest criticism, this is nothing like that. This is just me destroying myself, cutting myself down as my default way of being. As I’ve gotten smarter, my inner critic only has that much sharper of a blade, or rather knows how to use whatever edge is dull (what some might call a “growing edge”) to inflict the most pain.
It’s not the validation of a lover I crave- I had the guy that loved my body and clutched at my arm fat even with relish, I have the guy friend who tells me I’m a woman of character and beautiful and sexy and smart and wonderful everytime I see him, It’s nto that my dad doesn’t make a point of making me feel good about myself, whether it’s wearing a nice dress or getting a new degree or laughing at my joke. The problem is ME ME ME.
Are the women in my life critical? Well, of course, sometimes. My mom has her opinions, but she doesn’t tear me down. I am a sensitive person, much as I might wish to hide it, and sometimes the most well intentioned comment stings for weeks, but I’ve gotten pretty good at challenging her (in my mind) and even out loud when necessary. As far as other women, it’s my own paranoid fear of their passive aggression and what they don’t say that has driven me crazy over the past year. Sometimes you just feel like you are always being judged, but I’ve come to realize how fabulous I am even if not special in the same way as my counterparts- who just seem more organized, put together, stylish, thin, healthy, avid exerciser, “normal,” “popular,” likably quirky, and coupled (did I mention, in actual established relationships-(sems like everyone in the world ahs a boyfriend and guess what, pretty much everyone I’ve been around on a regular basis has a significant other), than me?
SETTLED. that is probably the biggest area where I feel “lacking,” compared to everyone around me, whose life seems more or less figured out and routine and down to a science. I don’t envy them at all, or at least very few. I don’t covet anyone’s relationship partner or style of relationship, I don’t want the faux white picket fence or cohabitation or dog to walk, I just envy the certainty, the stability, and the regular sex. Especially the sex part, and cuddling too.
Maybe what I really envy is the control these people seem to have as well as comfort in the seeming certainty, though both of those things are an illusion. I’m no less or more of a surfer of destiny than they are. It’s also the feeling that I’m “supposed” to be a grown up, to be settled to have it all figured out. And internally, I’m afraid of letting anybody into my life until I’m sure of the life I want and am actually more or less living it, so as to avoid fundamentally incompatibility, wasting my glamorous youth, and to be honest, just the hurt, pain, and disappointment that come with endings, which are going to happen for the majority of relationships. Since I broke up with my first boyfriend, I have wanted to avoid having that happen again, which could account for why I haven’t been in a long term relationship in about six years. Which maybe isn’t the failure that I label it, especially when I listen to my friends in relationships talk and for the most part, I’m not feeling particularly envious and just completely astounded/amazed/APPALLED that for some of my college girlfriends, the dude seems to be the key of the narrative arc of their lives, the sun in their solar system, and the savior figure. DISGUSTING. I know of some of the dreams that went to rot because of the dude, and the moments I think may not have been fully lived, because of the umbilical cord of the dude. This is harsh, but I’m being honest here. As in, always wanted to study abroad and didn’t, or, lived abroad and didn’t live it up (possibly worse). But it’s not my life to live, or my judgment to make, rather jut a way of reflecting on what I do and don’t want.
I guess sometimes the first part of transformation is knowing what you don’t want.
I’m not going to say where I want to live or what I want to be doing in five years, but the life I do want has
Acceptance- I accept what life has to offer graciously. I accept who I am, including my deepest desires. I have love and compassion for myself and others that stems from acceptance of what is.
Kindness- I let the inner critic go and replace it with a coach, who dispenses encouragement, constructive criticism, and honest admiration of the person I become. This allows me to be an even better human being to everyone I come in contact with, and they catch my positive feelings towards myself and I can be a model of self-love to them as well.
Passion- I dive in. I let the current take me. I look before I leap but I don’t say no to life. I listen to my heart. I keep feeling alive. I live every moment, I don’t die now in the hope that I will have time to do what I really want later. I am present, persistent with my goals and dreams, and I let the spirit move me.
Openness- I learn something new everyday, I stay open to life’s opportunities. I let pain and sorrow as well as joy and laughter open my mind, heart, and soul. I look beyond race religion nationality etc and see the soul that lies within. I keep my mind open and continuously question my beliefs and let everything go that no longer serves me.
Thoughtout all of these, I remain committed to truth, authenticity, and doing good where I can. I don’t look at my mission in this world as anything outside myself, not a goal to be achieved, but a series of metamorphoses.
After all, a caterpillar needs to transform to turn into a butterfly, and that butterfly, simply by being what she is, may have the most profound affect. My mission in life may not be about saving starving children by working for Unesco or joining a religious order or running for office. I might not need to teach inner city children, run into burning builders to save people, or even be the most involved community member or PTO parent.
it’s not self indulgence, but self-acceptance to finally say that all I owe the world, and all that the world needs from me, is me. That just being is enough, in ways I can’t imagie. That I can let go and let God use my life in mysterious ways. I may not see the burning bush, I may not have visitations from angels, but I can smile at strangers, I can kiss babies, I can post pictures on Facebook that others can enjoy.
I am enough.