Thursday, May 29, 2014

Why you should never wait for an apology

I lived most of my life telling myself the same story. It began with "I was wronged." Then "They didn't appreciate me," it went on. And it wrapped up with "No matter how hard I try, how much I give, I always get taken for granted and never seem to get full credit."

It didn't matter whether I was referring to my personal or professional experience. Same story. The employers who milked me for all they could then shunted me aside to hire and promote fresh blood. The friends and relatives who dismissed me with callous remarks and thoughtless behavior. On and on it went.

One day my massage therapist asked me, "What do you get out of telling yourself that story?" (She became my business coach—shout-out to Carolina Lopez!)

That ended the story-telling right then and there.

I saw that it was a sick pattern. It's the opposite of empowering when you keep projecting the past onto the present and future. It might have felt comforting at the start to have a place to lay the blame for disappointments and a reason for festering resentment. But then the comforting turns into self-coddling. You nurse your boo-boo too long and before you know it you're stunted. An emotional gnome.

The breakthrough was realizing that it was a story. That's all it was. I could change it. I could reframe it. I could start from scratch if I wanted. And it doesn't depend on whether the people I've cast as oppressors ever own up to bad behavior and apologize. They likely won't.

I can tell that I've moved on, from re-reading this post I wrote on my List of Unjust Utterances back in 2010. It's a short compilation of the mindless things people have said to me that raised the fur on my back. They don't have an effect on me now. Maybe enough time has passed, maybe very few of those people are still in my orbit. 

Or maybe I truly don't care what people think of me. Those people, in particular.

Just for sport, I tried to imagine what it would be like to meet each one again and be offered apologies. Here's where it gets ugly.

Not because I wouldn't accept the apologies—I would, without hesitation. But what I realized was that just to be able to imagine them apologizing, I would have to set aside my long-held judgment of them as nasty people. Whoa! 

Me: good. Them: bad. If I can't tell myself that story anymore, I'd have to...give it up and um, grow!

Easier to just carry around a memory file of them as villains.
Easier to imagine myself taking the high road and forgive them without being asked.

So let's consider this quote from Robert Brault: "Life becomes easier when you learn to accept the apology you never got."

Yes, it allows you to move on. Don't wait for an apology; act as if you already accepted it. BUT: don't paint yourself as the big-hearted hero and the other person as evil incarnate. Leave room for the possibility, if not the probability, that they might wake up and evolve at some point.

We don't hold the patent on sainthood.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

When you ask, "Am I enough?"

 A young, brilliant woman I know via the blogging world posted a question that prompted me to comment. She asked, "Am I enough?" Halfway through, I realized I was writing a blog post myself. This is the unabridged version of it:

I think what you're really asking, Joy, isn't "I wonder if I'm enough to my son?" but "Am I enough to myself?" It's a healthy question to ask. You're in a great position, knowing without a doubt that you are fulfilling to the maximum your roles as mom and wife. Therefore you can come from a place of abundance, not lack, and proceed with grace toward growth, not scratch for survival. Your son will of course express his preference for having unlimited access to you indefinitely. But we know children turn into teenagers, and the preference for having his privacy and his own path takes over. You don't want to wait until then to answer your question.

"We have known all our lives that being evaluated objectively by the outside world shapes our identities, gives us affirmation and boosts our self-confidence and sense of worth." What I've learned (and wish I'd known in my early 20s of SAHMothering) is while the outside world does boost our sense of worth, the true source of that worth is within—the inner world. The tricky part is that no amount of positive talk, e.g. repeating "I am enough" can substitute for experiencing that this is true.

How does one attain that experience? I'm sure there are other ways for other people, but I can only speak from my own experience. I found it in meditation. I was coming out of a regular 15-minute practice one Saturday morning in March. I was just starting to open my eyes, when an inexplicable flash of KNOWING came upon me. I saw myself for the first time as God actually sees me. Nothing about my past (accomplishments, failures) factored into it. Nothing about my future (goals, desires, mistakes) entered the equation. Just me in the present, a sneak preview of the glorious, unseparate Self we are told we revert to when we die in grace.

I hear what my younger self, and possibly you, would be thinking right now: All this is fine and good for someone older, like me, who has already built and walked away from several careers. We have the luxury of having proven ourselves to ourselves and to the world. Yesterday I was talking to a fellow yoga teacher trainee, who is 19. She was wishing me luck as I waited to hear back from a magazine editor on a paid internship. I realized that I was fine with whatever her decision might be. If I get it, great. If not, on to the next challenge. A delicious state of detachment from results while maintaining optimism and confidence.

It is a gift to have experienced my Self so early in my meditative path. It would be utopia if every single person did, because we would conduct our lives and relate to every other created being so differently from the way we habitually do. Instead of competing and comparing, we would collaborate and encourage. But in the meantime, what is a gal to do when she asks herself, "Am I enough?"

I suspect the answer will be "Yes!" when you identify, pursue, draw boundaries around, and nurture your passion(s) in life. These will be apart from your husband and son. There is a great chance that in finding your passion you will realize your purpose in life. Again, apart from being a mother and wife.

"It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing."
~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer

You can read Joy Page Manuel's post on her blog here.