Friday, February 3, 2012

Reflections & Musings: "You're too hard on yourself."


"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion."
-Dalai Lama

I'm not sure when I first heard the words, "You're too hard on yourself," but it seems to be a mantra that's been repeated by every single soul who's come to know me. At first, I thought this kind of immense pressure is what drove me to success. I felt propelled to outrun an element of myself that I didn't like, a figment of my imagination created by the past, an emptiness I could not fill. The tamping down of feeling good, because I falsely believed I simply was not good enough, filled the days into years into all of my perception of time and space until finally, I arrived at a point where I finally realized that I am now the only one ruling my heart, body, mind, and soul with an iron fist— I went from fleeing the adult bullies in my family to becoming one.

My recent trip to Maui was not what I expected, but similar to my experience in Bali, it was exactly what I needed. Incredibly, though I felt that I could not relax for more than a loose string of tenuous moments, I returned to San Diego with a greater sense of peaceful awareness, a deeper love for my beau, and a clearer vision of how I perpetually project onto him (and our relationship) the ways I think about and treat myself. It always shocks me slightly that he is not in complete agreement with the beliefs swirling around my manas mind and how he can almost always offer insight that's both grounded and logical.

"Wait, you mean you don't think that I'm a flawed person who needs to change so much about myself, so that we'll work out?"
"No," he tells me, "I love you exactly the way you are."
"So, you're saying that you weren't trying to attack me or actually mean something else when you said such-and-such?"
"No babe, I was just trying to share with you my honest opinion."

My face usually crinkles at this point with a soft, "Oh" as I reflect upon the things we've just discussed and realize how lucky I am to be with a man who is a genuine partner, who truly wants me to be happy, and who endeavors with his best effort to ensure that I am.

Because I am so hard on myself, I begin to nitpick about little things that he does or does not do. I think I know best, that somehow I could presume to know how his life journey should be. I come back to the realization that if it's so incredibly hard to change anything about myself, why on earth would I think that I could invoke such an effect within someone else?

"You are so so hard on yourself, and no one is making it that way except for you. I can't see anything that stands in the way of your happiness, other than what you perceive those obstacles to be. You are one of most intelligent and talented people I know, and yet, you don't believe it," he often says.

Maui taught me — never more clearly in my life — the invaluable lesson of LETTING GO. By holding onto the past so tightly, the stories of how I think will protect myself, I am completely missing the present. "I need you to be here, in our relationship," my beau said to me one night. "Not in your own world, in your head, thinking about the past or imagining the future. Sometimes, I feel that you're completely removed from the situation at hand, so that you can be an observer and write about it later. Then, only in your writing, do you really live it. But I'm RIGHT HERE, experiencing it with you now, and I don't need you to recount it for me step-by-step later — I'm already living it, and I want you to be living it with me."

And he's right, that's exactly what I do. I take in everything but in a way that leaves me distanced enough that I can rewrite my reality later. And, when I do that, I often make it up in a way where there's some sort of struggle, because after all, what's a story without a conflict, a climax, and a conclusion? Where would the denouement be if the drama didn't precede it? 

When people have told me, "You're too hard on yourself" in the past, I agreed this was true, but there was never any offering of a solution. How does one practice compassion if it were never experienced much firsthand? How does one bring more fluidity rather than rigidity into life, inspire beautiful grace in challenging moments, and find the freedom to dance in the ebb and the flow? How does I let loose with bountiful joy and confidence worth celebrating? Well, I'm learning step-by-misstep to find my way and to transform my living vocabulary from "exactly" and "precisely" to "-ish" and "sometimes."

One night, during dinner on one of our last nights in Maui, my beau looks at me and says, "Y'know, you are beautiful from the inside out. Sometimes, I look at you, and I find it shocking. You are strikingly beautiful when you want to be, when you believe in yourself, and when you feel confident all around, but you don't let yourself feel that way all the time, and I just don't understand why."

My brain created a rut a long time ago, a groove that was dug so deep, I didn't realize how low it could go until this past trip, when I saw my inward focus become selfish tendencies that took away moments of happiness from a man I love. He shows me compassion and forgiveness in his own way, and though none of us are "perfect" now or ever, I'm learning at a much faster pace how to be fully content with the freedom of imperfection. I'm embracing the lighter side of things and grasping again and again that the past has no hold on the present if I can let it go of holding on so tightly to what I think I know. In so doing, I get to wrap my fingers around something else entirely. 

O, how wonderful it feels to breathe and expand into a new life worth living, into every single present moment!

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