Last night, a dear friend told me she’d been crying, thinking about an upcoming move into a home with her boyfriend.
She told me she really wanted to accept his invitation to move in, but she was afraid. Part of her was convinced that her boyfriend would realize that she wasn’t “all that “ after all and that she didn’t deserve this kind of love.
I listened sympathetically. As a writer, I battle my fear of exposure daily.
My friend went on, doing what most of us do when we mix self-love up with self- denigration, dumping parts of ourselves like hard ice cubes into a noisy blender in a last ditch attempt to whip ourselves up into a smooth whole, rather than just learn to accept and love ourselves exactly as we are; lumpy, hard-to swallow humans.
In his talk at the Blue Lotus Temple, Bhante G reminded me that it’s helpful to notice two critical points as you breathe-the moment after a full inhale when you are filled with air and must release it, and the moment right after an exhale, when you are out of air and you need to take a breath. These are the parts of a breath that can generate a background of anxiety without the practice of breath meditation.
In the same way, I think that emotionally, it’s crucial to notice the moment you start to feel bad about feeling bad.
My friend went on.
“I know it’s stupid to think like this. I mean, he constantly tells me he loves me. I should just do it already! I’ve got to stop thinking like this.”
I told her I find it helpful to shorten my thoughts and my words. When I hear myself saying or thinking, I want, or even worse, I have to or I should stop feeling or thinking this, I remind myself to say it more directly.
“Instead of saying, I have to stop feeling like a fraud, I say, I have to stop feeling.
This brings it home for me.
I have to feel my way around to get out of a pitch-black room. I have to think about how to escape. The last thing I want to do in the dark is stop feeling or thinking.
Yet that’s almost always what I tell myself I should do when I find myself in a dark place emotionally.
I should not feel. I should not think. It seems crazy as I write this, but in the moment, it feels safe and smart.
Venerable Bhante Sujatha taught me that the ultimate goal of meditation is not an empty mind. It is mind with the ability to let feelings and thoughts pass without attachment or judgment and most especially, without denigration.
The day I left for New York, on the way to allow my book to be seen for the first time by well-known editors and agents, I did the usual human thing; I laid in bed frozen by fear, telling myself that I was a fraud, and that I needed to get up and get going and that I had to stop beating myself up and get on with it and who did I think I was and why didn’t I do this sooner and it won’t ever work and on and on when it hit me.
I was always doing the best I could. The part of me that felt like a fraud was protecting me from exposure and the part of me that made “bad choices” was keeping me safe with dramas I could handle, rather than forcing me to face past traumas too soon.
Maybe I really wasn’t ready for success and exposure until then.
If I wanted to heal, I had to love the parts of myself that had kept me hidden safely behind the line of success and exposure for a lifetime. In a flash of insight, I saw that my fear had kept me safe. For the first time in my life, I felt gratitude and respect for my past self. I felt regret for working tirelessly to eradicate her and her story for most of my life.
I saw that gratitude for myself was not the same as gratitude for hardship and experiences.
In short, I had to directly thank the girl that made all those “bad” choices.
In my mind, I offered my hand to my younger self. I told her that she had full permission to burn the manuscript, cancel the trip, and hide out for the rest of her life if that‘s what it took to feel safe.
I forgave myself for every single transgression.
I believe this was the first time that I saw myself through the eyes of a higher power, who graciously offered a hand up and out of my past habit of feeling bad about feeling bad.
As I held my younger self’s hand mentally, I reassured her; I was a grown up powerful woman now, who could handle being found out.
“Let’s just give it a try,” I whispered to that terrified little girt.
“Let’s just take a baby step over this line and see how we feel. If you want to jump back, I promise I won’t hesitate to keep us safe.
You see, the part of my friend that told herself she was stupid for thinking the way she was thinking and that she needed to change the way she was feeling, was the part that needed the most love and acceptance.
I am pretty sure that the deepest darkest parts of us are the deepest, best parts of ourselves.
After all, the girl who thinks she’s a fraud is offering self- protection, the man who feels like a failure is admitting his vulnerability and enlarging his capacity to understand people.
What if the parts of you and your life that you can’t remember, and those parts you would rather forget, are actually the best, most vulnerable and precious parts of yourself?
I believe that whenever we want to change and reject, rather than know and embrace, anything about ourselves, we are smashing the only flashlight that can lead the way out of the darkness.
My book summer is a novel, not an autobiography (I can hear the sighs of relief from here-ha-ha), but like any good writer, I am using my life experiences to inform the story.
Every time I change a name or alter an experience, I feel a small twinge of sadness. I just know I am smashing lights everywhere, but then I remember; it’s not the truth that sets you free, it’s the love.
It’s the love.
Thank you for reading and enjoy Friday thoroughly.
(There is so much to celebrate in an ordinary or even a bad day. Find it, celebrate, love you and love life, soon!)