I’ve been telling myself that I’m digging deeper these days. That I’ve worked through the outside layers of the “onion” that is “me” and all the things I believe. Which ones are true? Which ones are the assumptions and expectations that I’ve taken on from society or somewhere else “outside”? Which ones help me and which ones no longer serve me in this journey we call “life”?
As I walked this morning, something occurred to me…
I’m not working my way in – I’ve been at the heart all along! In reality, this struggle has been about “coming out” so much more than “going in”…
We talked there about this struggle many of us are feeling to bridge between our on-line and offline lives – how to stay connected in both? How to find meaning in both?
I feel the same conflict that David Truss has talked about between the on-line taking him away from meaningful in-person interactions (with his kids, with his wife, with his co-workers) and, on the other hand, the feeling that the interactions and learning that happens with his on-line network are much deeper and more meaningful, somehow.
So as I thought about my own struggle, it struck me (and I literally mean it was a physical realization – that “OMG” kind of moment). This isn’t really about the boundary of on-line to offline for me – it shows up there at times, but that’s not the core of my struggle. It’s about how I negotiate and bridge the boundary between “me” and the rest of the world.
I have a strong visual of being inside my shell, my bubble. I’ve built it over many years – starting in childhood, as I learned to think, to judge, to fear… It’s almost like I’m in one of those hamster balls, but that’s too transparent. A “shell” makes more sense to me. Or a costume. Or a mask.
It is that outer image that I’ve patched together from all of the messages I’ve absorbed about who I “should” be, what people expect of me, what I have to be in order to be accepted and loved. And it’s a hard shell! For a long time, it served me – it protected me from feeling. I let it make my decisions for me (Nope, can’t do that. What would people think? Yup, have to do this. I have no choice because otherwise people won’t like me anymore… )
But I’ve experienced something else. There are moments when I lose those stories about myself and the world – and I just “am”! I find that space where I lose all judgement all sense of time (and the day just flies by!) and all uncertainty. It’s a space I walk into when I’m engaged in an exciting project, when I’m problem solving complex issues, when I’m playing music, when I’m looking with my “inner” eyes in order to create (art, photography, ideas, etc…). I’m there when I play and learn with my children.
And over the last couple of years, I started noticing those spaces, those moments. I get curious (and often frustrated) that I can be so inconsistent – in one moment, completely immersed and powerful, fearful and doubting in the next. I want to live in that space more often – all of the time, really!
So that is when I started searching, going deeper, introducing myself to my self. I’ve courted that self. I’ve gotten curious, asked questions, spent time sitting silently & just listening for the feelings that can’t be put into words without losing their meaning.
Now I sit at this new boundary – struggling and trying to learn how to “be” that authentic person in interaction with this world. With one hand, I hold tight to the hand of that inner self – with the other hand, I’m grasping. I’m reaching, struggling, sometimes grabbing impatiently. And, so often, it hurts – it doesn’t work, I’m uncertain, I’m afraid, and I pull back into my shell again.
If I let go of my “self” and then reach out to the world, I know how to interact – I have learned well how to mold myself, to anticipate what people want from me, to be what others need. But I pay a price for that letting go – I can’t look in the mirror, I get stomach aches, I get headaches, I can’t sleep at night, I obsess about whether what I did was right or if it offended or if I should have done it better…
This is the bridge I don’t know how to build yet – the one that touches both of these shores.
I know I want to be me now, all of the time! I know I want to look in the mirror every day and see myself looking back without judgement. I know I want to be loved unconditionally – just for being me, as I am. I know I have to love myself unconditionally before I’ll ever be able to accept that kind of love from another. I know I want to love my children, significant other, friends, family (and everyone) that way. And the best way to learn to do that is to learn how to love myself that way.
I think many of us are struggling on this boundary right now. Being anything other than my “self” is no longer personally acceptable.
I can’t give up…