Do I have to grow? Again?
Ever feel exhausted from constantly having to adult? Don’t educate me experience, allow me to be oblivious! Why be extraordinary when being mediocre is easier? Stop pushing me to figure it out life, let me flounder!
Well I felt that way much of last year. Tired of rising above, expanding, and becoming more self aware. I decided to shrink. I began to shirk my responsibility toward my words, actions and self, guilt others into feeling culpable for my emotional turmoil and hold onto the counterproductive belief that none of the knots on my life line were my fault. We all know that life has no meaning but the meanings that we each assign to it daily. We can change what things mean and as a result change how we feel on any given day, but we seldom do that. We stick to our definitions.
Now if I define how I endure every experience, how is anyone else answerable for my internal landscape?
I actually got pretty good at being a miserable maggot. However, a few months of not feeling centered, cohesive or in control of my own internal landscape made me realize that while I was still getting attention from my people, it was neither productive nor enjoyable. My friends are more tolerant of me than I am. In the end, the reason I decided to grow out of my rut was because I got tired of my whiny ‘I’m a victim’ routine. I have a small bandwidth of patience for human stupidity, and that elastic really does not have any give when it comes to my own ignorance.
I am hard on myself, because I am the best person to shake me out of the behaviors and patterns that do not serve me. Everyone else is invariably kind, mindful, patient, and tolerant. They’d tell me I have so many good qualities worth appreciating, but no one would be ruthless enough to say, “You are behaving in a way that is self sabotaging, you absolutely need to step up this instant, take responsibility for you and act in a way that will not only break this pattern but end it for good.” Only I can do that for me. It’s not their fault, no one knew I had such pain in me. Not even me!
I spent a while wallowing. I didn’t want to grow, because it meant having to deal with my unresolved hurts, and holding myself accountable to my self. I reasoned that working out my sadness and identifying the source of my symptoms would only vex me further. What if the diagnosis was far worse than the pain I am shouldering now? So I shut down and became a passive victim instead of a proactive problem solver. Self preservation mode. My neural pathways swept in like caped crusaders and decided to protect me from any additional pain, through the tried and trued avoidance approach! “Let’s just make sure she never deals with the actual problem, it will just go away with time!”
My brain meant to do well by me, I have to give it a hug, all it was trying to do is restrict me to my known orbit of pleasures and keep me from feeling all potential pain but in doing so it also held me back to old patterns. It made me dependent on outside variables, and powerless. I was a consequence and had no jurisdiction over the causal factors. My inner state of mind could be altered by things beyond me, and in this way it confined me to my known paradigm of pain. Oh this pain, I know it all too well, let me get more cement, I am pretty sure I can wall it off. I could probably help Trump realize his wall in a day, if it meant containing injured pride instead of the immigration process.
Pain can find expression as hurt, fear, anger, inadequacy, frustration, but all of it underscores one thing, something you are doing is not serving you, it is time to take action, alter your output and change how you assign meaning to life. There’s a fork at the road there though, you can either take responsibility, identify what you are truly feeling or you can slip into denial. But what are you truly hiding from? The fear or hurt you feel at the prospect of “rejection” “enduring further loss” “abandonment” or maybe it just pisses you off that someone can make you value love and connection so much that the potential loss of it freaks you out? In my case that was the Achilles heel.
All hurt is anchored in the veil of loss we eagerly drape over people and events. Loss is also catalyzed by unmet expectations, the most common form of this illusory sensation. You expected to get home faster, you’re annoyed you didn’t because you feel like you squandered time. Time is never lost. Nothing is lost, it’s just constantly changing state or expression. It’s like the law of thermodynamics, energy can neither be created nor destroyed! So I can think time is lost, haha but what do I even lose it to? Perception. That’s all. Perhaps I could have opted to stay present and experience life as it is unfolding in that moment instead of griping about how things weren’t running according to my schedule? Yup! It’s so obvious in retrospect. But I wasn’t discerning a few weeks ago, and I still don’t have a massive reservoir of patience. Anyway, I didn’t choose to conquer my fear of loss, and win my sense of wholeness back, instead I gave up on the idea of ever feeling better, and continued to lash out from the space of fear and hurt at those who stuck around to receive it.
I chose losing over winning, the negative state over the positive. This seems counter-intuitive, why would someone as dynamic as me choose a guaranteed loss by not even stepping up to the plate to get a handle on my internal workings? After all if I got a handle on my ‘self,’ I would be back to center, feel freer, fuller and I would certainly experience more pleasure knowing I was making progress instead of holding myself back? Because my brain knew that would require more effort and discomfort. It was easier to take the short cut and pretend I was caught in drama doldrums I could not escape. To win my self back or at the very least take a shot at doing so, I would have had to do the legwork of addressing the root of my anguish. I would have had to grow, again, in ways that would take me away from what was familiar and comfortable. I would have to be flexible, have faith in life, faith in my self, open doors I’d decided to shut for reasons I qualified as valid ages ago, rehash pain I’d walled off, and relabel so much of what I’d painstakingly labeled with utmost confidence.
No one teaches you how to deal with your emotions. This should be a grade school course. Emotional intelligence 101. Right between chem lab and PE practice, lets get kids to know what the hell to do with anger, love, and loss! Equip young people with the emotional architecture to elegantly embrace existence and everything it will throw in their face. The course would seed the most important attribute we all need to possess: Tenacity. Yes bad things happen in life. People can die, you can lose your job, your significant other moves on without you, your partner cheats on you, your house burns down, you have set backs and not everything will always go your way. But given past undulations, something in you knows you are strong enough to persevere through the storm, as better times will roll along. This awareness prevents you from internalizing the failure or loss. You don’t hold it against you.
A few days ago it hit me like Newton’s apple, I had no emotional resilience. No one helped me cultivate it and I didn’t notice the lack of it. Just like no one knew about gravity. So my coping mechanism was to cordon off the kind of contexts that could ever leave me feeling as badly as I felt when my dad passed. I partitioned what I could endure going forward and I fragmented what I felt in response to such events, all to ensure I’d never have to feel that wretched again.
When I apprehended that I was responsible for my chaotic inner cauldron, I first felt like I’d not learned anything over the years, and then I berated myself without compassion for my blind spot. It was mortifying to feel like I missed out on important insights and lessons and I thought my past needed a complete rewrite. But the past is done, what can be shaped differently is the present. The moment at hand is still in flux. When it dawned on me the only thing keeping me from changing and being a better, more expansive, inclusive, harmonious individual in this instant, was me, I decided enough was enough. No more wallowing. How can I empower myself?
Normally I deal with things head on, logically and a step at a time. I have done this with my career, and to a reasonable degree with my friendships. This did not mean I actually worked on myself, I just learned to give enough so I didn’t have to deal with the parts of me I’d shelved. People I’d come to know, only knew me in relation to them, they’d never suspect vast sections of me was honey combed into unremembered cells of tormented isolation. Trick is to give so profusely that people think such giving can only arise from someone who has figured her self out and is whole. I decided to fake it without ever trying to make it. It wasn’t until recently that my beehive of pain crumbled and I was compelled to feel all the sorrow espoused by every loss I’d ever experienced, simultaneously. I had no choice but to address why I felt so fractured and affected within. Why did difficult contexts bring out reactive or defensive outputs from me instead of proactive and constructive ones?
Time scabs over your hemorrhaging interior and you build psychological walls of denial and diversion, but you don’t actually build emotional resilience. I did not even have the linguistic prowess to qualify it in those terms in 2009, when I lost my father and my family fell apart over estate disputes. I have been using time and work to escape from working on self integration. I was not truly adaptive, or capable of emotional presence of mind when things got tumultuous in my intimate or familial relationships. Not only did I not have the vocabulary to distinguish the source of my “feelings,” I was unable to identify that I had the resources to handle it independent of the externalities at play, and I could not enterprisingly act on the underlying information that a ‘negative’ feeling was conveying to me. I could handle positive emotional states well but I didn’t know what to do when I got hit by adversities and the consequent ‘negative’ emotions they presented. Apart from hope that time would help me forget their intensity after incarcerating them in windowless jails.
I do a lot of public speaking. I contribute to communities of minds and hearts all year long. People from all ages and all walks of life! I take pride in enriching others authentically, so I make my entire self available to my audience. Or so I thought. Truth is I didn’t even realize until recently huge parts of me were in the dark. An entire shadow self suddenly had a spotlight cast on it.
I knew beneath the time scabs I was still raw, and abraded, ready to cry at the smallest of slights. I just could not put two and two together. I was raw on the one hand, unresolved on the other, but I didn’t realize the cause and effect between the two! Haha. Oops.
While my vulnerability has led to professional success, by motivating others in my field, who have gotten jaded, to reconnect to the sense of loss that has driven us ‘crusaders’ to care for the collective, it has in more recent months come to stunt my personal relationships. So while I don’t regret my past, and am glad I registered this deep sense of loss that kept leaking out of my pores…I mean heck, I have made a whole career around loss! Not only do I never want to confront loss again, I don’t want anyone to face loss either, so what do I do? I try to save things. I save wildlife, I save people, I save the environment. I can now recognize I even picked intimate partners who needed to be saved in some sense, except the most recent bloke, who held his own, which in a way saved me because he made me have to reflect within instead of playing the blame game. He would have authentic conversations when I hit my lows! Hahaha until late December of last year, I saved everything but ‘me.’ I kept hoping someone else would save me. So I was a cause crusading for causes. Nice going genius. Massive insight right? Wow. Mind BLOWN. Just in time too, I need a brand new frame of mind for 2018.
I have milked and marinated in this miasma of deficit and am now ready to mature past its clutches. End of 2017 was when I finally scooped me out of my depths of despair by being there for me for the first time in my life! I was my knight in shining armor. I have long held this false notion a man will save me, but that isn’t fair to him at all. That is not an equal partnership that is basically placing your burden on the other, that’s outsourcing not rapport.
What made me have this grand epiphany? Watching this clip on Emotional Intelligence. I instantly detected I only had EI to work out others, I did not know how to apply it to my own circumstances to attain true completion and contentment within.
I know you cannot change others, but you can certainly change yourself. I can break out of the patterns of behavior that do not serve me or others. I can shift and find a more functional, nurturing modality from which I can express love in abundance, unconditionally. Not just to an intimate partner or family member, but to everyone and most importantly to my self. The person I have been most duplicitous with and most unavailable to is my SELF. It was time to improve my communication with my self, to replace my feedback loops and rewire my brain. You know what being able to change your self fills you with? Optimism. Knowing you can evolve, imbues you with the hope that any one can. It’s why I don’t give up on humanity’s relationship with the wild or with the world.
People will always tell you, you are great. You can either let others’ vacillating opinions keep you from doing the self work… OR you can put on your Wellies, wade into your inner swamp and deal with the festering fungus of unaddressed feelings you have done such a good job of hiding that even you forgot it was there. When you allow transient compliments to inflate your ego, you shift all onus onto “the other” in every situation, and think yourself perfect. In truth all onus rests on you, not the other. People who know you well and love you ‘for you,’ ‘just the way you are,’ can also hold you back to their limited understanding of you. I have realized that my friends, filled with the best of intentions have at times let me off the hook for crimes against my self that should have been called out.
People often tell me I am incredibly hard on myself, but I have to be. It may sound like I am currently glossing over all my good qualities, I am not self effacing or incapable of celebrating me. I have always been cognizant of what is wonderful, uplifting and interesting about me, but I haven’t been as mindful of my shortcomings. Also the personality areas that you have mastered, there is no scope for growth there. Where you are disconnected and discombobulated as a soul however, there is plenty of scope for growth!
For me, personal growth isn’t just about my individual self, but about what I bring to the world diaspora by extension. If I evolve, my ability to engage evolves, and I can enrich others more than I have in the past. Imagine giving from actual abundance instead of feigning it? Imagine contributing from love instead of loss? WOOHOO! Bring it on world! I couldn’t wait to outfit my system with the tools to make these shifts indelible, not just a temporary fix. But how?
Fortunately, once I grow aware of a negative pattern I buckle down and deal with it like the human body deals with an infection. For me “self-evolution” is on the clock, so every bit of reading I have done, every talk I have listened to in the past week, has not only aided my development but helped me draft my talks for my upcoming circuit of speaking engagements. In becoming acutely conscious of what I have done, why and how, I have gained the tools to not only break out of my prior mold, but not shrink back into its confines going forward. That is progress. Progress, I can draft a meaningful talk from and face an inquisitive, skeptical audience with. If I don’t do the work, I cannot help others. Simple as that. I cannot supply my dive buddy with air through the octopus if I have no air for myself. Air on the side of caution I always say, because you can only share what you have. If I don’t have love, I cannot give love. I recently learned that love isn’t a destination, it is actually a departure point! I cannot preach to others to seize the day and live fully when I am holding myself back. I cannot be disingenuous. So, I turned my mind’s eye, the most portable panoptic prison, inward and none of my evasive gimmicks could escape it’s constant, scrutinizing gaze.
I kept a detailed journal, in which I documented what I have failed to perceive thus far, what I need to acknowledge, appreciate and work out in order to truly shift gears. You learn that the endless hurt you’ve been feeling has something incredibly important to reveal to you, the moment you stop avoiding it. Facing your self and building your faculties to be multidimensional, pliant, trusting and happy irrespective of ever changing external contexts isn’t easy, but it felt worse not do so. Thus, I made the commitment to process, so I could progress.
Stagnation actually causes more pain, because it traps you in emotional limbo without reprieve. What I realize now is that I did have the capacity to deal with my pain and get to the other side. I will not be repeating any conduct that has failed to serve my highest expression, and the highest expression of others, ever again. It is not who I am at heart, I care to live a life of joy, abundance, love and gratitude. Whining, blaming others for my states, being unaccountable to my self and others, and coming apart constantly is not sustainable or healthy, but more critically it is not who I care to be. I made my choice. The quality of my life is directly influenced by how effective I am at processing my emotions, and how efficient I am at translate the information they are trying to relay to me into action.
The biggest slap in the face was someone telling me, “I am now walking on eggshells because no matter what I do, I upset you!” What a terribly paralyzing place to situate someone you care about. It’s like that Rhesus Monkey experiment with the colored squares. The monkey was presented with red, yellow and green squares, and at first none of them triggered the monkey in any way. The monkey lived as per usual and the immediate interest in the colors faded after a few days. But the experiment was rigged such that a week later the red squares began to dispense a painful electric shocks when the monkey landed on them. Naturally the monkey then stuck to the yellow and green squares, they became its safe haven. It began to avoid the red squares at all costs. A week later the scientists began to shock the monkey through both the yellow and red squares. The monkey lost more of its space and felt more anxious, uncertain but it took comfort in the green areas. A week later all three colored areas began to tase the poor creature, and that drove the monkey to self-mutilate. I hate early psyche experiments on animals, Harlow’s experiments have scarred me for life. But I digress. When I am unresolved and in pain, I am triggered by any thing and everything, all channels of access dispense painful shocks to my loved ones, because my baseline is pain. In dispensing nothing but pain to others, I can only do one of two things, 1.cause them to emotionally self mutilate and/ or 2. come to avoid the source of the pain altogether, me! Also if that is what I am doing to another, deduce what I am doing to myself! I am trapped in my own squares of pain, and emotionally self mutilating every minute of every day. Hurt and loss can only breed more hurt and loss! I’d prefer to transform that to “love can only breed more love and love exponentially, every minute of every day.”
It is a brand new year, and I feel like a whole new me thanks to all this self work. It is insanely empowering to find and claim your whole for the first time with stark awareness. It is liberating to transition from self-diagnosis to self integration. I released myself from the uncertain state of remission, which is where I have been for the past three decades of my life, by developing actual emotional antibodies that declare with certainty “Asher is cured!” I feel such an intoxicating level of love and happiness for life and my people now, and I feel like this enormous burden I have been carrying within me has finally lifted. I no longer sport scabs but scars. And scars are awesome, they tell you where you have been so you can value where you are, and know you are more than capable of handling such wounds in the future.
Jan 1 2018, is the first day of my being truly self reliant. No crutches, no training wheels, standing on my own two feet and proud as hell about it.
Love and light to all! I wish each and every one of you a spectacular 2018!