05 August 2012

Stop trying to be someone else's perfect: How to remain true to your Self during bad times

I had a very affirming and enriching conversation with a beautiful soul today.  In addition to being a spectacular human being, she is a phenomenal artist and I believe that what she does will create a more artistically aesthetic world.  It already has.  Right on, sista. Right on.

We talked about a variety of things that either required rant or praise or both, because sometimes we can be mad about something and still find a way to praise what it is about that person or thing that brings us closer to knowing and appreciating ourselves and each other...racism, sexism, sexuality, the issues within our communities, the occupy meme were just some of the things that our hearts and minds felt the need to speak to and release.  I also discovered how our upbringings were both similar and different.  And the differences still brought us together because it made us people that the other could dialogue with and see ourselves in the other. Mirror. Mirror.  In spite of the different paths we'd chosen, it somehow illuminated the kindredness between us.  It was one of those learning moments when you realize that to be you, and not what someone else wants you to be, is okay.  I want to shout and scream this to the world!  You do you.  I'll do me. There. Now.  I feel invigorated by this.

So me and this enlightened warrior woman kept talking in spite of the fact that we both had things to do, or at least wanted to do.  I wanted/needed to write. She wanted/needed to paint.  Yet those moments of loquacious chatter brought clarity, insight, and creativity.  I needed all three.  I needed to be reminded that who I am, where I am is exactly who and where I am supposed to be.  That what I do is valuable and worthy if to no one else but me.  I appreciate me! I love me!  My life is so divine and sacred no matter how much money I have or don't have.  No matter my employment status.  No matter the people in my life who think that I should be doing something else.  Really, what they think doesn't matter.  I am worthy.  I am enough.

Having this time to talk to sista queen spirit about the things that matter most to us brought me home to myself.  It reaffirmed for me that I will be fine as long as I listen to the whispers inside my soul.  As long as I remain true to my Self.  As long as I don't listen to the harmful and deflating words of others who refuse to support me because they don't approve of my lifestyle. Some of the people in my life have a hard time understanding why I don't want to do certain things that they believe would solve most of the problems in my life.  Hmmmmm.  Maybe, just maybe, the things they want for me would solve their problems.  In other words, I hear people really saying, "if you do this, get that job, focus on this, that and the other... then I won't have to worry about you asking me for help."  But really, I don't want their help.  Those are not the people who I can rely on for support without judgement.  If giving means grief (when someone gives but are mad/unhappy about the giving), then don't give.  But do work on the grief/unhappiness.

No one going through a hard time should have to hear from you how bad you think they're doing.  Instead of surmising all the things you think they should be doing differently, ask them instead what it is they need. "How can I help" sounds a lot better than "Go get a job (loser)".  It could be they need an ear and not a lecture.  It could be they need a bite to eat, not words that bite.  It could be they need you to support a project they feel strongly about.  It could be they just need a shoulder to cry on, compassion, empathy.  It usually never means they need or want to be judged and criticized.  If it's not possible for you to be in a supportive and loving role when your friend, partner, family member is going through some shit, then please shut the fuck up and move on.  Seriously.  Don't add insult to injury or throw salt on someone's wound.  It hurts, not helps.

During this discussion today we concluded that there are people who give without judgement, and are willing to offer constructive feedback when asked, and there are those who avoid giving by trying to make you feel bad about the situation you're in because that makes them feel superior or powerful.  Half the time, these folks have some fucked up shit going on in their lives, but making you feel like a loser gives them one up on you and they don't have to deal with their own shit. Projection. Generally speaking.  Equanimity is required here.

Honestly, I don't want to do what someone else thinks I should do.  I can't emphasize this enough.  Doing so would mean that I would be living someone else's life, not my own.  Doing so would mean making someone else happy instead of finding and doing what makes me happy.  It would mean that I am lying to my Self.  Whose reflection is that I see?  Not mine.  It's important to me that I live my life on my terms.  Wouldn't you want to?

During a recent dharma talk about self-love, at the East Bay Meditation Center, it was said that, too often, we view ourselves with self-loathing, self-criticism...we are never good enough...something is wrong with us, and that this is often magnified within communities of color.  Thinking about this, I wonder if these self-effacing thoughts and beliefs come from the messages we heard growing up, and often still hear.  I believe so.  It is messaging that lacks compassion.  Compassion for others and ultimately a lack of compassion for ourselves.  This has to change.  It can change.  Our dharma teacher that night reminded us that "human-ness is possible"... that being less than human is a "treatable condition."

What I long for more than anything right now is that we treat ourselves humanely.  That we choose words and deeds that show kindness and LOVE.  Finding love for my Self, for my people, in kind and gentle ways is not a weakness but a strength.  I have been and will continue to be a generous being.  I don't feel bad about that at all.  It is who I am.  It is a place that I dwell peacefully in because I don't give to anyone with expectations. That's not generosity, that's selfishness. But I had to learn this. Still learning. Still growing. Inch by inch.  I'm understanding that what I've been through, will go through is necessary for my path.  My.  Path.  I know that I've made some mistakes (who hasn't? to err is human, right?), but making them does not mean I deserve to be treated indifferently by others, nor should I beat myself up for them. I don't believe that my current status is my only possibility. Not for a moment.  I know that there are some wonderful blessings ahead of me. For me. For you, whoever you are.  I am thankful for them even though I may not know yet what they are.  I find liberation in this knowing and unknowing.  I see myself healing.  I see others around me healing. Mirror. Mirror.  It's a beautiful thing. You do you.  Do you as best as you can.  I'll keep doing me.  I'll keep listening to the whispers that affirm and uplift my spirit.  I believe in that girl that is she, and she believes in the girl that is me.  Not always perfect, but it's a LOVEly reflection I can appreciate all day.

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