The Beatification

It’s too easy.  Remembering the complexities takes effort, and there’s plenty of other things in life to work at.  Why spend the energy on knowing the difference between your idea of someone and the real thing?  After all, the majority of people who will remember my mother – and there are a lot of them – will remember her for her kindness.  She was a teacher, so she had plenty of opportunities to be the right voice at the right time.  It is a pretty spectacular legacy.  There is a lot of kindness in the world, it happens quietly, and I’m glad she was a contributor.  She was a gifted educator, and she was the little nudge in the right direction for a lot of people.  That’s a good thing, and maybe there’s no reason that shouldn’t be what she is forever and ever amen.

Then there is the other side.

My dad has a hard time remembering much that was good about the lady.  Fifteen years after the divorce, he doesn’t remember her kindness.  He remembers a woman for whom there was never enough.  He remembers the woman who didn’t know she was loved unless everyone was on their knees, begging.

The woman wasn’t a saint.

She also had this disgusting habit of flossing her teeth in the living room and leaving the used floss on the arm of the sofa.  And was surprised when I pointed out that this was gross.

The truth, as always, is somewhere in-between sainthood and damnation.  She did the best she could.  Sometimes that was rotten.  Sometimes it was extraordinary.  But she was bound by her limitations.

Aren’t we all?

Advertisements
The Beatification

Good Enough

This is something I’ve talked around in various and assorted posts, but not something I’ve ever addressed directly.

Enough is not a meaningful measure.  What is “enough” anyway?  Who gets to call it?  A house that is big enough for me wouldn’t be nearly big enough for a Kardashian.  Enough is a relative measure, entirely subjective, and it moves constantly.  Because as soon as we reach a point where we would have called it “enough” before we got there, suddenly, it is no longer good enough.  Because we’re there and a lot of us (not all, but many) are convinced we’ll never be enough so if we can do it, then the “it” that needs to be done must be a little further ahead.

A year ago, I would have told you that swimming a mile every other day would be more than enough.  Now I’m doing two miles every other day and I wonder if maybe I shouldn’t be pushing myself to do a little more because maybe two miles isn’t good enough.

That’s just ridiculous.

On the other hand, this striving for a target of enough that we move beyond our grasp isn’t all bad.  Doubt is a good thing.  It keeps us open-minded, it keeps us learning, it keeps us growing.

But for functioning in life, for moving forward, for taking a leap of faith, am I good enough is a pretty rotten question.

The reality is that you’ve gotten this far.  You’ve made some mistakes, you’ve screwed some things up royally.  You’re still here.  You’re still breathing.  You’ve survived some shitty days and you still have a sense of humor.  That’s pretty amazing.  Even better, you still have this marvelous opportunity embedded in today (or tomorrow, since it’s late) to show up.  Get the ego out of the way.  Dispose of the judgement and whatever concerns you might have regarding other people’s judgement.  Your gift is your presence, for whatever the task at hand is.  You don’t have to be good enough.  Good enough is a feeling, it isn’t a fact.

You just have to show and you’ll be way ahead of everyone else who is paralyzed by the idea that good enough is a real thing they have to achieve before they can do something great.

Good Enough

* The Meta-feeling Charlie Foxtrot

Most of us are carrying around two parallel sets of reactions.  There is the original, genuine feeling and then the feeling about the feeling.

I’ve discovered that a good portion of my problem is in the feeling about the feeling.

Something unhappy happened a few months back and my body immediately told me I was scared.  The feeling was the feeling.  In the same breath, however, I began piling on additional feelings.  I was afraid of the anxiety that had taken up residence in my stomach.  I judged that anxiety.  I tried to talk myself out of it.  I argued with it.  I fought it tooth and nail.  Every time I wanted to cry, I judged that too.  I tried to tell myself why the need to cry was stupid.  I started looking for someone else to tell me things were going to be okay.  I floundered.  I kicked and screamed.  I railed.  I lost all sense of my own knowing because I was working so damn hard to distance myself from the original feeling.

Guess what.  It didn’t work.  The further I tried to get from my scared, the worse it got.  The harder I fought it, the stronger its grip.

The annoying thing is that I know better.  What do I tell myself all the time?  Surrender.  Go under.  What you resist persists.

Apparently, this is a lesson I need to learn six ways from Sunday, because it took me nearly three months to admit that all of my denial wasn’t getting me anywhere and to ask the question “what if I just let myself be afraid?”

Three months of waking up with my stomach twisted with anxiety.  Three months of being afraid to brush my teeth because I just knew I was going to gag on having something in my mouth.  And with two weeks of letting the terror be what it is and not judging it…  I’m not blissful, don’t get me wrong.  But I have re-directed myself back into the pool and I’m being a little more constructive than I was two months ago.

How useless is it to feel the fear twice?  I’m scared.  Okay.  Now I’m going to be scared of being scared?  Really?

So here’s my reminder to myself: feel what you feel.  Absolutely.  But don’t add layers of feelings about the feeling to the mix.

I’ve been contemplating a trip back to the tattoo shop.  I had all of these brilliant ideas, but I am thinking that what I really need is to put “surrender” right on my wrist.  Maybe with a little white flag.

* The Meta-feeling Charlie Foxtrot

Vestigial Social Impulses

So 200,000 years ago, give or take 5k years, the first traits associated with “modern” man appeared.  The first homo sapiens were fragile creatures in a hostile world.  Well, any creature save the crocodile probably counts as fragile.  We’re made of pretty soft stuff.  To survive, we had to band together.  Out of that necessity, those of us who were most in tune and compliant with the norms social group were the ones best able to survive. Basically, 190,000 years of society and evolution have wired us to seek approval and consensus.  Social exclusion still feels tragic because it once was tragic.  We’re wired for the need to be accepted because that’s how our ancestors survived long enough to birth the next generation.

Which is all well and good, except that society has evolved dramatically over the past 5,000 years or so.  While we are as fragile and fleshy as we always were – crying over paper-cuts and the like – we’ve overcome our physical limitations in unprecedented ways.  Computers and guns and oil wells and houses and steel and Wikipedia and music that fits in our pocket and goes everywhere with us.  The life-or-death consequences of someone else’s disapproval simply don’t exist.

Still, we feel like they are real.  Or at least the reasonably well-adjusted among us still tend to want approval.  Someone to say “yes, that’s the right thing to do.”

But who can say anymore?  When the choices we make aren’t over which berry to eat or which woolly mammoth to chase after, how do you know?  How does anyone know?  This job or that, one course of action over another…  there are no right answers.  So few measures that can be relied upon, and the only available direction to any of us is forward.  Forward, blind to the results that branch off from each choice on the decision tree, and desperately wanting some external confirmation that the choice you made was the right one.  There are only the choices and the consequences and every choice has a consequence.  You can’t get away from the uncertainty.

It is uncertainty that isn’t going to kill you.  Unlike the uncertainty our ancestors lived with.  So what do you do with that?  If you’re me, you struggle with the sense that someone, somewhere knows what’s going on and what will happen next and how to make choices that have consequences that are 98% sweetness and light.  I want to find that person and sit down and ask questions.  The trouble is I’m unlikely to believe it if it doesn’t feel right to me.  I can’t talk myself into being a sheep headed in whatever direction I’m pointed at.  Yet the wolf’s life feels awfully scary.  My evolutionary wiring craves approval.  The time and place of my birth has given me permission to find my own answers in my own way.  The only thing I don’t have freedom to do is to escape the consequences.  None of us get to escape the consequences.

I’m always rattling on about acceptance.  What you accept no longer has the ability to run your life.  Surrender to the inescapable.  Your rate of survival goes way up if you relax and float instead of fighting.  The next thing I’ve got to submit to is the reality that, as much as I crave an external direction with a guaranteed outcome, I’m never going to take it.  The answer isn’t finding the right person or source of knowledge.  What’s right for me is going to come from me, from a place of knowing that sits somewhere indecorous and dark, nestled up next to my appendix.  If I’m feeling foofy, I’ll call it a point of connection to the divine everything, the holy always, the thing that is indivisible from me and me from it.  The path that comes from that looks like foolishness and folly.  Save one or two, everyone I love thinks I’m crazy.  I can’t help that.  There are consequences, but there are always consequences.  You’re going to have to live with them anyway, shouldn’t they be your own?

Now to convince the evolutionary adaptation that made my ancestors good enough at maintaining their place in society to survive that all of this is okay.

Vestigial Social Impulses

Love is a Battlefield

Love is a battle you wage with your ego on behalf of the beloved.   
 
The division of self is a dubious concept.  The whole idea of the id/ego/superego, Freud’s conscious, subconscious, and unconscious categories…  Meh.  I’m not a psychiatrist, so I’m just going on what makes sense to me.  (This guy says it is a load of crap, if that helps bolster my supposition.)  We do know that there are three parts of the brain and that they each have different functions and that they don’t always work well together.  But none of those physical structures correspond to what I mean when I use the term “ego.”  And as much as I don’t like these lines between selves – they make about as much sense to me as the idea of a 3-in-1 G-d – I’m reluctantly headed in that direction with this. 
 
Ego is the I am.  It is the part of us that is firmly rooted in a perspective, a set of experiences, opinions, histories, beliefs, and definitions.  Ego says I want, I need, I deserve.  Actually, it might be more of a caveman than that.  Me hungry.  Me horny.  Me tired.  Me thirsty. 
 
Ego is the quitter.  The demander.  The now-insister.  The faithless. 
 
Ego is pride.
 
Ego can be destroyed, it feels its own mortality.  Ego is vain.  It must be seen to know for sure that it is there.  It’s fragile and constantly under threat.  It is insatiable: the more you soothe it, the more soothing it requires.   
 
You are not your ego.  Neither am I.  To twist a quote from the fabulous RuPaul, you are not your ego, you are your awareness of your ego. 
 
The ego is of the body, constrained by the limits of both time and skin.  Our awareness is comprised of Source.  That awareness is the part of us that is eternal, that recycles through lifetimes, that goes on when our body-rooted ego gives up.  It is from our awareness that we can choose, and in that choice, love.
 
Which sounds good, until the ego realizes it is being marginalized, at which point it kicks up a tantrum worthy of a four year old in a toy store.  I want what I want and I want it now.  There is never enough for the ego.  Never enough attention, never enough love.  In this world of scarcity, fear dominates.  Jelousy, anger, judgement, posessiveness, any attempt to control another…  all expressions of fear.   
 
And it isn’t like you can deal with the ego once and be done with it.  It’s a never-ending argument between your divine fire and the body that houses it.  Love isn’t the longing, the wanting, the feeling like you can’t breathe without the beloved.  It isn’t the heat or the hunger.  Not that any of those things are bad things – why else would Source choose this form of expression if not for the capacity for joy that resides in our bodies – but they are not love.  Love is the fight with yourself, the never ending battle to keep track of which is ego and which is you and beating back ego for the good of the strange alchemy that is us
 
You do it so the beloved doesn’t have to.  You do it because it’s better this way.  You do it because it’s hard, and it’s love, and it’s the best of what you’ve got.  You do it because what comes out of the effort – patience, kindness, compassion, balance, growth – is worth it. 
 
If lust is all you need, than roll around in it.  Sit in your ego and feel all the fear that goes along with it, the insecurity, the constant need for more, and revel in it.  You might as well, it’s what you chose. 
 
Just don’t call it love unless you’re willing to attempt the fight.  I’m not saying you have to succeed all of the time, I’m just saying that the fight is the difference between love and everything else.   
Love is a Battlefield

The Secret

Get ready for this, because I’m going to lay out the secret to life.  The answer to every question you’ve ever had.  Okay, so maybe not the answer to every question.  But the big ones.  And, as usual, this assumes that you aren’t an asshole and, if given the choice, can be trusted to do the thing that doesn’t involve hurting someone/thing else.

You ready for it?  You’d better sit down.

The secret to everything; the grand unifying theory of how to best be a human is contained in two words:

Show up.

  • You’re going to fail.  Show up anyway.
  • It’s going to hurt.  Show up anyway.
  • It’s going to be hard.  Show up anyway.
  • You won’t know if you’re good enough.  Show up anyway.
  • You might get it wrong.  Show up anyway.
  • You may never get rewarded.  Show up anyway.
  • They’ll laugh at you.  Show up anyway.
The Secret

There is no Trying in Baseball

You will never get where you want to be by trying harder.

Try to float and you sink.

Trying to forgive isn’t forgiveness.

Trying to show up isn’t showing up.

Trying to eat healthy just means that you’re eating crap and feeling bad about it.

Trying to be patient isn’t patience.

And you certainly cannot try your way into Om.

Trying is a word that sits between the poles of success and failure, and assumes that one can, through sheer effort of will, walk closer to success and put a greater distance between yourself and failure.  There is no trying, there is only doing or not doing.  Allowing or refusing.

 ω

One of the hallmarks of depression is a heightened awareness of how little control you have over your life. It is also a gift. As you crawl out from underneath the black cloud, in theory you regain a sense of control over your world and your experience of it.

Alternately, you come to the conclusion that control is an illusion, and things like sunshine and thunderstorms and creme brulee are comprised of grace. You can’t earn your way to them, you can’t want it bad enough. My wanting can’t extend backwards to make the genius that invented creme brulee work harder at perfecting custard. Someone did. That’s it. And that I can experience it is nothing short of evidence that the Universe is benevolent. Certainly there is no requirement of physics that there should be raspberries. Or poetry. Or good dreams. Or even love. Love is not required for the furthering of the species.

I don’t know why there’s grace. It certainly isn’t promised or required and it isn’t the kind of thing that you can try your way into. It just is. You can either accept and be grateful or refuse and carry on with trying.

To question whether or not you’ve earned grace is just silly. Of course you didn’t earn it.

You are loved. It is impossible to earn love. If you could, don’t you think we’d all choose to be good enough to avoid heartbreak? You can’t make someone love you, no matter how hard you try. You can’t make someone stop loving you either. You can work real hard at breaking their trust or hurting them so badly that they have no choice but to walk away, but love is love. It either is or it isn’t. Like the way a tornado can be there one second and evaporate the next with no explanation or apology.

It’s better this way. Capricious, but better.

If you have to be good enough for love, then any slip means that your status can be taken away.

And maybe whoever loves you won’t love you forever. It happens. But what a gift for as long as it is given. Your job is not to hold on, or to try to hold on; your job is to accept and wonder and be grateful.

 ω

There is no trying in Om.

I know. I tried to try my way into it for a long time. I tried to try my way into the Four Agreements. It didn’t work. Try implies a gap between yourself and the thing. and then, if you’re lucky, you slip from a state of not understanding into understanding and you realize that you never had to try, you just had to allow.

There is no Trying in Baseball