The air is cold and crisp. The sky clear blue. New fallen snow sparkling everywhere. I am where I most want to be; out on a run with the person I most want to be with. Pure perfection. Except for one thing. I feel like shit. My legs are heavy. My mood is murky. My motivation and energy level barely enough to keep me going.
How did I get here? By violating myself because that’s what I thought I needed to do to stay in belonging.
It all started innocently enough the night before when we had our neighbors over for dinner. They brought a bottle of home-made wine. Now, at this point in my life, I rarely drink, but it seemed worth the experience, so I accepted truly the most minuscule amount. The first few sips were great. But then I was done. Only some part of me would not let myself be done. So I took a few more sips. And that was all it took.
Now I could argue that it is ridiculous that a grown woman can only handle a few sips of alcohol, but that would be missing the point. That being, that my body and mind responded the way that it did out on the run, and for the rest of the day, because I overrode what I actually wanted in order to do what I thought I needed to do to keep in connection with others. I saw my mind as I took those extra sips, believing I was doing it because I did not want to hurt another person’s feelings. But below even that was the fear that I wouldn’t somehow belong. That I would be seen in an unflattering light. And that is what we often do, make it be about hurting or offending the other person, when in fact, we are terrified to be on the “outs” with another.
I am going on my sixth year of writing this blog. When I think back, I see some themes that regularly show up. One of them is life with other people. Specifically, how it is that we can be the truth of who we are while being in satisfying relationship with others. It is something that I daily work on, write about, and contemplate; having become some kind of lifelong puzzle and pursuit of mine to figure out.
I do it because I was raised in a family, in a time, and in a culture that did not include who I was. Did not recognize or support what I really and actually needed, and so I became what others wanted of me. It left a big, painful imprint. One that I thought was exclusive to me because for the longest time it didn’t seem like others were struggling with this. It seemed to me that others were just fine making concessions and leaving off parts of themselves in order to fit in.
Lately, I see that many of us either do not even know that it is happening, or that we are too afraid to exert ourselves for fear of losing the relationship, being shamed, or being accused of being a problem. As I have written over the past year, this terrible dilemma has gotten worse. For me, culminating today in a piece I heard on NPR, where a health professional was describing people who were getting the vaccine as being on the V.I.P. List; vaccine injected people who were going to receive “the promise of future privileges.”
My god, what have we become that we would do this to one another?
As far as I am concerned, one of the central Truths of human existence is to come to know who you truly are, and learn how to live that openly and courageously in the company of others. And that, and here is the difficult yet necessary part, that who and what you are is honored and met; by both yourself and others.
But as long as we are creating V.I.P. lists, and ways to make some people “in” according to mandates and fear-based standards, the precious expression of Life as it runs through each and every one of us will never happen. Why? Because we will never dare to not be on that list.
Please everyone, learn to live what truly makes sense to you, and let us honor the same in others in ways large and small. Even if we don’t understand it. Even if we fear it. We are all subject to violating ourselves for the exact wrong things just to belong. Let’s not do one more thing to each other in this regard.
“No man, for any considerable time, can wear one face to himself and another to the multitudes without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true.” Nathaniel Hawthorne