I’ve had several opportunities lately to affirm, identify and stand up for what is right for me in the face of what I perceive as being the popular culture’s view of health and well-being, and in some cases, ignorance, and a lack of respect or compassion. I’m learning to give it to myself where others fall short, and to give extra to others wherever I am able.
I’ve noticed that I aspire to the affections of one particular person in my professional sphere, to a degree that is a little bit unhealthy. I want her to be a certain way so that I can see her in a certain way. I see so much potential for us to be kindred spirits, and yet, we’ve now known each other for over a year, and our connection still has yet to be authentic. But the other day, I think I discovered a big part of why this is the case.
Y has built a life around spirituality and cultural practices, and she runs her business on principles of communication and community engagement that I admire. It’s interesting to notice people returning to spirituality via very different routes — some through trauma and loss and some through a sincere and heartfelt desire to create peace and healing in the world. In Y, I see the later. At times, we speak each other’s heart, but at times, I perceive her as naive and superficial; I perceive that she has not come to this place from having been to the breaking point and back and I feel that this keeps us separate. We were carpooling to a class a couple of days ago, and talking about changing habits and recurring dynamics in our lives. In her experience, she has been able to change these dynamics by making a conscious decision to change them. Always put her things back in their place so that she is not scrambling around looking for them and arriving late to her engagements; make a point of remembering names of musicians and actors and people in general by realizing the importance of doing so.
We were talking about the pattern of perpetual chaos — last-minute plans, changes, missing or losing things, etc. She spoke about it in her husband. I said I relate to him, and that this pattern seems compulsive and deeply rooted; that in order to change it, I have to discover what the root of it is. She responded with a metaphor of the ocean floor affecting surface wave patterns — that we can change the ocean floor by changing the wave patterns, with small acts of change in our daily lives. In the moment, I responded that it was a two-way communication. It wasn’t until retrospect that I realized this is really a very big issue for me, and that her analogy brings up a lot of shame in me. Why am I toiling away trying to get to the roots when I could just change the surface patterns and have the same affect? Am I stupid? And if I have tried for half my life to change the surface patterns by simply disciplining myself to make small changes in my life, and if I have failed, then I must be a total loser — stupid, lazy, … you get the picture.
There seems to be such a predominant notion these days that we can change ourselves from the top down. that we can choose how we feel. we create our own reality (surface waves). no matter the past or the balance of chemicals in our brain. I know this is meant to be empowering and encouraging. I speak here for someone who has experienced traumatic invalidation from her earliest years, and I know that I am not just speaking for myself here when I say that each ripple in the ocean floor — each invalidating experience, — especially those that have been shaped and hardened by years and years of denial and repression, needs to finally be fully seen and understood before it will dissolve. An invalidation is like a piece of me that has been lost, banished, shamed into exile. Changing the surface waves without seeing, acknowledging and reclaiming those lost parts of me is like re-banishing them, re-traumatizing them, digging the knife in deeper, rejecting myself all over again. To me, it is a violent act of dysfunction and destruction. The very essence of the dis-ease I must cure in myself, and the damage I must repair. These notions of top-down transformation, even though they may come with the best of intentions, are like a carcinogen to me.
At an afternoon of food and games with 3 other women, a woman I had just met discovered I am an only child and exclaimed at how totally normal and ‘ok’ I seemed (not like other only children she’d met). I immediately felt pressured to keep up the reputation, and almost instantaneously stopped being genuine. I was like an icon on a computer desktop that suddenly became greyed and un-clickable. No one noticed because 2 of the others then began digesting all their friends and family dramas. Someone’s husband had an anger outburst, and his wife had told one of the women at the table this day that “he can’t help it.” The woman telling the story rolled her eyes, and the other one joined her. Then the other one launched into a vent about one of her friends — how she had deeply wanted to come and play with us, but that she would probably be too sensitive. That she was one of those annoying people who would let things fester, and then bring them up several days or even weeks later. Do you think I said, “Wow, that sounds like me!”? No, I did not. I continued to laugh at appropriate times and make little jokes and chime ins for a while, but the two just continued on their catch-up vent session. I’m proud of myself that I eventually got up and went out side, not needing to explain myself or make judgements. I wasn’t even very aware of what was really happening at the time; all I remember feeling was bored, out of place, and then reminding myself that I was not obligated to stay in this situation, and liberating myself away from it.
What I like about this group of women is that they are incredibly free-spirited and liberated from the mainstream. I am shocked that the 2 gossipers are such good friends of the hostess, who I have known to be so open-minded and non-judgemental (while being extremely intelligent, sensitive and creative). I had been excited to meet her friends and begin a weekend ritual of scrabble and the likes. Now? I guess I am grieving that my little fantasy of this group isn’t true. Either I be willing to challenge them and learn whether or not they are receptive, or my quest for a sense of family continues. At this point, I cannot know them well enough to know whether it is even worth my while to find out more. So, that’s where I sit in this moment.
If all these women, and Y from the story above, had been dressed in leathers shooting up with heroin, it would have been more obvious that they are not my crowd, but the Universe does not always speak so black and white. There’s that damn subtlety again. The Universe speaks through the way I feel in my heart and body in response to any given situation or idea. I am exercising the muscle to listen and respond to these communications, as disappointing as it may be to let go of what I want a situation or person to be. Maybe I am being trained to listen on a deeper level.