It’s another glorious day in paradise – hot sun, blue sky, big ocean, sun setting and I’m eating chocolates dipped in peanut butter and drinking a blueberry Izze. I’m in the honeymoon phase of a new love affair with life – serenading and writing poems to it, making dates, walking around all giddy. To this I credit a whole host of responsible parties – namely me, Cheri Huber, my person I talk to (I hate the word therapist), healers, friends, random path crossings with wise people… in some more meta way, everyone who has ever crossed my path ever. This is proving, once again, my circumstances have nothing to do with my happiness. It seems it is the human condition to need constant proof of this. We are slow learners. (Or perhaps I will just speak for myself.)
Just for kicks, let us paint the picture here. In the external realm, I am recently broken up from a serious and wonderful relationship of more than 3 years, I’m homeless, my checking account balance today is -$347 (yes, that is a negative sign), my car is making one of those little “uh-oh” noises and the check engine light came on again, “catastrophic rain-related mud and debris flows” are predicted by all the experts to befall Big Sur this winter, this morning I spilled a mug of hot tea all over myself (again) and last, but oh no, not least, I am likely the proud new party to a frivolous lawsuit.**
**Indeed, a woman behind me when boarding the plane home from Colorado tripped on a bag I set down in the aisle while I was stowing my guitar and it seems she is rather enthusiastically tormented by her swollen ankle. Susan from Risk Management at US Airways has called me to let me know I should give my insurance company (which insurance?) a heads up about the coming claim. Know any good lawyers?
This is not to say each of these hasn’t given me pause – it’s not hard to start ruminating on any one of these subjects and watch myself dissolve into a seething, sobbing or withering puddle of goo. I have to check myself constantly. But the will to check myself, and to choose something different, now that’s news. I find it’s not so much these arguably legitimate concerns that even bother me really, it’s the voice in my head that never ceases to remark on my culpability, unworthiness, righteousness, (pick your judgemental characteristic of choice.) This voice sucks my soul out through the head of a pin and spends all day letting me know why I deserve it and offers me every situation I encounter as proof.
I have recognized this voice before, and been unable/unwilling to disidentify with it for long. It’s powerful and wily and reasonable and convincing. By even getting me to hate it, it has sucked me back into itself. Cheri Huber calls it self-hate, even when it’s directed outside. I’m in a three month class with her via e-mail and phone calls and she wrote this yesterday: “Print it out and hang it on your wall–everybody! Self-hate, the incessant voices of dissatisfaction, leave you feeling frustrated/exhausted. THEN the same system talks you into doing something that will strengthen IT and leave you feeling WORSE!”
Indeed. (Flash back to so so so many lost days spent watching movies and eating sugar because “I deserved it.”) Perhaps even more poignantly though, she responded to a participant who was doing the “yes but…(bemoaning his/her terrible situation)” by asking simply “And, of course, you know the only way to address this problem is to stop, yes?”
I’m experimenting with this whole stopping business. Just stopping. Watching the train take off from the station, working me into a lather about exhibit A or B and just stopping. If it takes zoning out for a minute or breathing or leaving or walking or temporarily distracting, whatever… just stopping. And I must say, if this were a diet shake infomercial I would sign up to be spokesmodel. I am deeply changed in my days. The content hasn’t changed at all, but I am changed. I’m waking up in the morning (early!) and writing and reading reassurances to myself, meditating, doing yoga, making breakfast. I’m cooking really good dinners and walking on achingly beautiful roads being grateful. I’m reaching out to friends because I want to, and receiving the love they have to give. I’ve even set up my calendar to e-mail me things like “You’re Wonderful!” throughout the day, and who would have guessed I could believe those voices too.
Yesterday in my session with my un-therapist there was another touchstone moment of realization (it should be noted that as time goes on I’m finding epiphanies are less and less “my god!” and more and more “oh yeah”) – and that is: this isn’t requiring my familiar “muscle-through” approach to life. While committing to stopping does require some force of will that often feels like a strict parent or that coach who used to shout through the last, shaky push-ups – more than that it requires that I allow all my most deeply uncomfortable feelings of rage or shame or disappointment to just be there. Not doing anything at all. I’m begging to do push-ups at those moments. They’re just sitting out there for everyone to see, and there I am, just sitting there.
So here I am, hereby announcing this commitment to the world to keep stopping and sitting there, which at this moment feels like it’s giving more weight to the commitment. Most of the time, that has felt like a bad thing. But look at all I have to lose!
I’m going to go now and not watch the debates. I’m a political junkie turned politically-inspired-but- non-debate-watching happy person. They should talk about that.