Occupying the deeper truth
16 March 2013 08:08 AM Categories: The struggle redefined
I am sitting like a lump with arms, staring at the computer screen, feeling slow and stupid and part of the furniture. Perhaps the champagne has gone to my head, but really it feels like it’s gone to the back of me, from calves to quads to ass to shoulder blades, to fleshy triceps and knobby elbows, and so I write in order to feel useful, like sitting here serves a purpose. I’m creating. Although this is a Saturday morning post, I’m writing it on Friday evening, so this isn’t me sloppily typing as I grasp a bottomless mimosa in my spare hand. I’m not downing the booze as if it were water, on my third, fourth, or fifth glass of bubbly. It’s just that I’m happy and tired, joyous and spent.
Ah, but why champagne, you ask? Celebration! Thursday I was offered a traineeship at an agency that places fledgling counselors in public and parochial schools in the Bay Area. It is not only a huge relief to have something lined up for next year, but also to be pleased with the agency and their approach. Even better, when I told the first agency I interviewed with that I was no longer available, but would love to apply to work with them next year, they encouraged me to do so. They said nice things about me, too, another affirmation of my decision to take the counseling path.
Could I have imagined myself in this position last year? Almost exactly a year ago I wrote, “I no longer want to hate my weakness.” Today, I embrace my weakness, the phobias, my emotionality, the bad moods that often indicate that I’m denying some vital part of myself. I may not always succeed in being kind to myself in this way, but I am trying and becoming more consistent.
Lately, whenever I enter self-criticism territory, a familiar, almost comfortable place, my go-to spot when anxiety calls, I remind myself how far I’ve come. The criticism often comes in the form of denigrating my accomplishments – like landing a good placement or getting into grad school or making a bold move like quitting my job to go to cooking school as I did almost a decade ago. The meal I make isn’t balanced enough, my parenting sloppy, my emotional responses wrong. Sometimes it comes in the form of focusing on specific weaknesses or opportunities lost, the little mistakes, my over-interpretations of others’ reactions, the feeling that I could always do better. So I have to slow down and observe the happy side of subjective reality, the flip side, the deeper truth.
Look, self: we presented twice this week and both presentations went well enough. We interviewed at two agencies over the last month and felt good about both interviews, feelings that were borne out by the kind and encouraging responses we received. We feel increasingly comfortable being who we are, without hiding or denial. By shifting our reactions to the boy, he has become more settled and calm. The internal change that has gone on in the last year is huge and has led to external change, to a new sense of belonging in the world.
It’s a feeling to own, to revel in. Please join me as I live with ambiguity, occupy the contradictory dichotomies of happiness and tears, rage and forgiveness. What feels like a step (or leap) back is another opportunity to pay attention to what we deny or ignore. Accept what is difficult, but do not steep in grief or anger. Our experiences have multiple dimensions, many sides, and to look at them from only one vantage point obscures the others. Turn your life around in your hand. Walk the perimeter of surface emotion and go inside, knowing that you will always be able to resurface. Observe the colors, the hues of joy and pain. Be here now, with me. It helps. And it acknowledges that we really aren’t alone.
Image by Stuck in Customs, which I like for its colors, complicated landscape, and theme, Chicago thawing into spring, both beautiful and symbolic.