I’m curious: now that you’re four months or so into the process of slowing down and doing less , washing the metaphorical dishes in your psychic kitchen sink, if you will, and clearing off the piles of metaphorical papers on your psychic desk top, if you will , what are you uncovering?
I have been thinking about Dan Owen’s question in the comments of Monday’s post since shortly after he wrote it, and finding answers, or ideas serving as leads to them, everywhere I turn, ever since.
Okay, to be completely honest, I’ve been thinking about these things on and off for much, much longer, but in my usual perverse way, having someone else pose the question spurs me on to actually structuring my thoughts and putting them down in some kind of semi-orderly fashion.
So, with all of this excavation, this decluttering, this clearing away of physical crap and mental distractions like, oh, the pursuit of livelihood, what am I finding underneath? Thus far, the answers seem to be “the usual” and “more layers”, which is to say, “the usual.”
The usual, Part 1: Fear, love and the tender heart that threads them together
Here’s a good-times truism, and I’m only being half-facetious: when one finds oneself getting angry, outraged, incensed, self-righteous, smug, or any other feeling that is not either fear or love, there’s probably fear rooted just underneath.
To make things even more delightful, unless the fear is of being eaten by a bear or some other immediate threat to survival, it’s probably attached to some need for love. When I act like a jackass, deliberately withholding love, even though (or worse, because) I know someone wants it, it’s about fear.
And “love” doesn’t always present in the moment as a grace-taxing apology for a major transgression or showing up at a friend’s house at 6am with your truck to move their piano cross-town; it can be as simple, and excruciatingly difficult, as an acknowledgment of success. The Chief Atheist (rightly) used to accuse me of throwing compliments around like manhole covers, and he was right: in my world, achievement was a zero-sum game; ergo your success diminished mine; ergo to me, offering praise felt like cutting off a non-returnable piece of my arm and handing it over knowing that if you did anything with it at all, you’d glance at it ever so briefly before tossing it mindlessly over your shoulder for rats to gnaw on. Or something like that. It took years of working with my first-shrink-slash-astrologer to even make a dent in my fucked-up scarcity mindset, and realistically, it’s something I’ll likely struggle with for years to come.
However. My hating it doesn’t make it go away any faster. To the contrary, my hating it makes it even less likely that I’ll be able to overcome it and move into the happy space where my friend Bonnie truly does reside1, a place where “Any time I see someone succeed I am happy, for it affirms my belief that I live in a world where success is possible.” Nobody gets to the happy place by blowing past the bullshit that stands in-between; the only way to it is through it, and brother, there are days when in-between might as well be a three-mile, naked wade through a razor-lined vat of gelatinous battery acid.
Most days, though, the walk is uneventful, the pain points are easily overlooked and the scrutiny easily avoided. This is where you actually can score big payback if you, I believe the expression is “double-down” on the observations.
The usual, Part 2: How many layers of protective coating can one person have, anyway?
Why am I craving this second cup of coffee? Am I really wanting more caffeine in deliciously bitter delivery form, or do I want a do-over on my first cup, a reboot of the day?
Now I want a cookie. Or do I? Am I hungry for this taste, this size, this shape, this texture, this many calories of energy? Or am I hungry for some not-doing? For, specifically, some not-doing of this? Or maybe for a reminder that yes, I can treat myself and treat myself well. (These are SCD-legal cookies; it’s a whole other discussion when the thing I want is an “illegal”.)
How is it I’ve found myself back on the Twitter home page/in the Facebook stream/checking email again? Again? Again? What am I looking for? What am I avoiding? Where do these two things overlap?
Of course, sometimes checking email is just checking email and a cookie is just a delicious treat. The trick, and yeah, the pain, is in the awareness. It was not The Goody-Good Times staring down my Best Year Yet failures from 2009 and realizing that they were almost identical to my failures from 2008; of all the things I hate (and because I lack the enlightenment to view them with dispassionate interest and/or compassion, I hate many), I probably hate wasted potential the most. Drives me batty.
On the other hand, there they are. Clues! Instructions, even! On what to do next, or at least, what you might want to take a look at.
So for me, Dan Owen (and anyone else who’s interested), under that addiction to coffee, to the Internet, to Comfort TV, to certain controlled substances, is fear: of what happens when, if, when I finally do write a book and it’s my turn to be judged by everyone and (probably) found wanting. Of giving my best and my all to what it is I have said I want for so long now and not having it work out, whatever that means. Of money turning me into a lonely ogress, as I have seen it do to so many of my loved ones before me. Of not being enough, definitely. Of not being loveable, most likely.
In other words, same-old same-old.
But each time around the mountain I have a slightly different view of it, and feeling towards it. In my oh-so-slowly-dawning awareness, I feel the beginning of what might be the promise of eventual compassion and detachment, not bullshit, human, take-my-ball-and-go-home detachment, but a release of attachment to outcome and with it, the potential of opening my heart to love on a more steady basis. Or, um, on a basis. Yeah, that.
It is crap. But come on, it’s pretty hilarious crap, isn’t it?
1I swear, it took me years to believe it, but it is true. Which is not to say Bonnie doesn’t have her own issues; she’d be the first person to admit that she does. But man, are they not this, and boy, while I wouldn’t trade, I really, really hope to experience this state of being some day before I die.