Daring Greatly

diamond_in_the_rough_by_alltelleringet-d6bxp1a

So, a while ago I wrote about the dangers of, or concerns around, striving for perfection. I don’t think I made clear that I believe, think, feel that recognising our imperfection and striving to be authentic and continue the active process of becoming ourselves is the key to our ability to enjoy our lives to the fullest and express who we are with meaning and therefore satisfaction. I think these are the things that lead us beyond Maslow’s hierarchy of needs into a new realm of more holistic needs that are better suited to humanity’s way of being, within the current culture, and may well lead to a revolution, perhaps even enough of one to start to change our evolution.

To the evolutionary biologist, evolution occurs over a long periods of time (millions of years kind of time). The smallest amount of time most are willing to suggest this has measurably occurred in humans and other species (referred to as rapid evolution, contemporary evolution or evolution within an ecological timescale) is within 50-100 generations. In today’s worldwide culture we tend to use the word ‘evolution’ rather loosely when what we often mean to reflect is a paradigm shift in an individual’s experience (as opposed to an entire species genetic direction). Yet, there is increasing evidence that species of many kinds are passing on learning to their young which is enabling them to enter their world with greater advantage and adaptation and, depending on your definition of evolution in biological terms, this is starting to influence the scientific worlds take on evolution. The recognition that evolution is not just genetic adaptation but is beginning to be seen as 50% genetics and 50% environment (or some similar measurement) is becoming more commonplace.

Returning to the idea of ‘perfection’, in terms of evolutionary biology homo-sapiens have never been perfect. There is a bit of a trend currently to idealise different periods of our evolutionary history such as pre-agriculture or the paleolithic period. The truth is that there is no time in human history that humans were perfectly in harmony with our environment or perfect in any particular way. “Humans are not at the pinnacle of any evolutionary ladder… Evolution is always working from existing parts… Organisms are not in ‘perfect harmony’ it is more that evolution just has to be good enough.” (Prof. Marlene Zuk, 2014). How many of us feel that we are ‘good enough’? I wonder if we started to think that we were just good enough if that might help many of us fill the void of doubt, fear and shame that drives us toward worthlessness, self-loathing, overthinking, over analysing, anxiety and depression…

In terms of religion or philosophical belief, without getting into great depth across multiple belief systems, there is a strongly familiar repetition that we are moving towards rediscovering, finding or reaching for perfection. Do our religious beliefs ever suggest that we were born imperfect? That our road leads us towards authenticity and that this is the greatest honesty we can achieve? It is easier to lose ourselves to a saviour that will cleanse us of our imperfections than to take the more honest and seemingly harder road toward just being our imperfect selves. It is easier to succumb to addictions, be they substance or material based, than accept our vulnerability. As researcher Brené Brown asks, in her infamous TEDex talk, how many of you see vulnerability in yourself as weakness yet when you see someone else expose their vulnerability you see courage.

The road to happiness, it starts with allowing yourself to be vulnerable. To be yourself, not who you think others think you should be but who you really are. It takes great risk and potentially terrifying honesty. In a world where we are told to ‘harden up’ or buy into the consumerist/capitalist idealism, and swallow the culture, politics or pseudo-psychology that is sold to us in bite size nominalisations, what we might really need to do is allow ourselves to be courageously vulnerable so that we can begin to accept our imperfections, feel worthy and experience innovation, creativity, real connection and happiness.

 

word errant satiety image courtesy of alltelleringet on deviantART

 

 

 

Reverberate – love song triptych

Tears of Sorrow JollyPen

Let the shuddering tears take you

The tremors will subside

The tide will change

Healing will fill you with calm

Embrace the painful moments

Grace, will come

You will wake and know shame

You will realise that guilt is of no use

Self-induced punishment a waste

Of your potential

Embrace the honesty of real pain

Let suffering guide you

To greater integrity

Sweetheart, let the tears come

Truth will follow

 

This is a little series of love songs I have started. They are written for my beloved self…

 

words errant satiety image courtesy of JollyPen on deviantART

musical offering Tracy Chapman ‘At This Point in my Life’

 

 

Rise

The rise

I had covered my fragility with a skin of stone. Believed that to be needed was to be loved. That to be compassionate was to avoid causing pain and therefore meant to deny the self. That to be loyal was to lock away the truth as a secret. That the jewel of my consciousness needed a protector. I wore the future as a brittle crown that cut and bled when I strayed from the path others wished me to walk. The butterfly of my soul flutters incessantly within the labyrinth prison of thought I have bound myself within. But to offer false hope is cruel. Trembling, I sought to open the window to allow my soul back in. Remembering the fall I realise I have allowed devolution to go too far with half-truths and excuses of why fear was too strong. But ascent is still possible. It is absolutely vital and ravenous, I hunger for it.

 

Words errantsatiety image courtesy of Trichardsen on deviantART

Doused

the_great_volcano_in_the_sky_by_shadowfire_x-d4u1svl

I noticed today that my inner child has curled up away from the world, my playfulness guarded with wary somber, interactions clothed in cautious mistrust, my sexuality hidden beneath plated armor. In my everyday life I have closed a part of me away dousing my usual vibrancy, cheeky wit and natural smile. Is this the result of the ending of my 2013? Or a general malaise born of frustration in my nine to five that houses, feeds and clothes but does nothing for my creative desires? I hold deep sadness in my heart an unsounded loss that I quail at, longing for something on the tip of my tongue but unable to give voice or articulacy. It rumbles disconsolately and now, as I take pause, forms shape; mortality sensed, regret pours in, glimpsed half thoughts ignored unite creating a cohesive image. I feel my age, I see life’s potential ending and know I have regret. I want greater meaning and honesty, I want a life of my own. It is time to shake my tresses free of the mundane and let my soul stretch and bathe in imaginations light.

I will start, as I always do when serious about something, with a list.

Words by errant satiety image from deviantart

Interesting

'Attractive Stone Wall' Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

‘Attractive Stone Wall’ Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay

I have a friend who greatly dislikes the use of the word ‘interesting’. He sees it as loaded but empty; it is used when people mean all manner of other things much more consequential that they cannot quite bring themselves to share, or are unable to express. I must say I agree with him and in saying so: today I had an interesting day.

This morning I wordlessly gave the right of way at a difficult driving spot to my ex-husband. It is a place I drive past daily. A place where each day I decide based on traffic and the time whether I will allow passage of the other vehicle (it is a spot where they do not have right of way and in heavy traffic will never move without polite drivers making way) to go before me. Today my ex was the driver and he knew damn well that I was the other driver and that I was giving him right of way. He took this opportunity to pause willfully and smile inanely. These were not my thoughts at the time but words I put in place now, after the fact. At the time I was thinking that it is about time that in this small town that he take a gesture of polite willingness as a ‘gesture of polite willingness’ nothing more nothing less; nada más nada menos. I am thinking ‘surely by now we can co-exist in this town without malice or any deep meaning hidden in random interactions’. He milked it. He paused too long; I had to indicate twice for him to take the opportunity, he smiled ruefully and gave me that look I recognize as ‘wistful love’. How sweet. Eventually he drove on and allowed me, and the rest of the traffic, to continue driving.

My day progressed. At lunchtime when I returned to work I see his vehicle is parked very close to my office. Time for the ‘yuck’ moment, the sinking feeling, the arrival of anxiety. This man has stalked me, bullied me, controlled me, manipulated me, was seriously addicted to pornography, was abusive and only ever loved his own reflection in me. I felt stupid for having thought briefly for a moment this morning that it was okay to feel good about him, okay to remember that I loved him once. He can’t help himself. Anytime we incidentally see one another here he is at my work place lurking, leaving things behind that get handed into me, as he well knows they do, and I have to decide what to do about it. Again and again I go through the agony of weighing up what ‘normal’ people do in these situations. If I engage the usual process is the unfolding of email interaction that is laced with the taint of all the aforementioned traits and a ‘backslide’ for me into deep anxiety. Unfortunately clinical narcissists do not come with user manuals.

Today however, I did not engage. I did not allow him to have any kind of power over me. I acknowledged that he was nearby and vocalized that this was reasonable. I did not allow his proximity to terrify me. I forgot all about it until I drove home. I didn’t feel the need to inform my trusted colleagues that there was a bogey on site. If there is one thing I have learned in the past few years it is that it is up to me how I respond to his presence. I am no longer in any danger, he has no power over me, and he never will again. I have learnt what the correct salutation towards a clinical narcissist is: do not engage. Regardless of that deep hook that is still somehow there in your soul do not engage, do not give a millimeter, or yard, or ounce, or quarter, or moment, or glimpse EVER. You must be a stone wall regardless of what you feel inside. Because any slip and that hook is well and truly back in.

I have been thinking on what I have learned from my ten year relationship with a clinical narcissist lately simply because I have two beautiful women whom I love dearly in my life that have both found themselves dealing with what they both recognise as a lesser version of this type of personality. They are both very aware, to the extent they can be, of what I went through and are asking for my help. I tried very hard to make my marriage work. I did everything I could. I left three times but was committed, until I could no longer cope, to making it work. I have talked briefly recently about how bad it got, I won’t go there again in this post. Now because of these beautiful women who have to have contact, through shared custody of children, with the men they are no longer with I feel a strong desire to be able to articulate what makes it safe. It is not going to be easy but I believe it will also help me. So I will attempt to advise and write a beginners guide to boundaries and safe interaction with the clinical narcissist, the pathological liar, and the emotional manipulator who will have you second-guessing the colour of your own hair and the spelling of your own name. I pray I will find some gold for these lovely women because for me, in my particular predicament, the only safe way is, I repeat: do not engage.

words and image by errant satiety

Relativity

Freshwater-Pearls-In-The-Mollusk

The moment of passion that urges speed as the triumph of pleasure increases heart rate yet by becoming still the pleasure settles deeper within moving through all your fibres right to the surface of your skin.

Moments of boredom where time moves infinitely slowly, lethargy grips you and your mind becomes numb.

The moment of tragedy where the pain renders breathing so painful you can barely open your lungs, the ache that will not pass tearing at the heart with needle sharp teeth, yet if some light can be located breath becomes less laboured and the briefest relief can direct a path forward.

Holidays when time whisks by and before you know normal routine has returned.

The moment of hilarity when sides blaze with spasms of laughter tears pour from your eyes and each time you feel the urge wane it suddenly rises burbling, insistent and stronger than before.

Inspirational times where the creativity flows bountiful and time fleets past unseen.

The moment of realising love for another when you suddenly know you would walk over glass to hold them close and give your life that they would live.

Moments of waiting when you feel you will burst from the tension of excitement, frustrated with the time before you eager to arrive at the appointed moment.

Stillness captivated in nature when a minute expands to feel an hour.

Stolen moments with your lover when you are so present in the moment each is a jewel made to last forever.

The hardest thing you have ever done, where only your inner voice and strength and perhaps encouragement of others have afforded you the strength to believe. The journey compared to the end moment…

Moments, mementos, a string of fresh water pearls all unique, all precious, all imperfect and relative.

Words by errant satiety image stolen from a site advertising fresh water pearls

Absolute

Grass Field

When I was a very small child I remember roaming through fields with my brothers and our neighbours. I have strong associations with those times as being part of a unified family group, a feeling of intense and absolute belonging, with no query. The fields we wandered, full of long grass & wild flowers were fenced in by immense oak trees, which seemed to me as large as gods. I remember horses whispering warm breath on my small cold hands, climbing lichen & moss covered fences and gates crossing seemingly endless vistas of grass.

In a new home many year’s later these childhood meanderings developed into solitary excursions.  Rather than safe explorations buoyed by my extended family, they became a search for haven, escapism from the mundane repetition of everyday routines and a longing to recapture the state of being previously taken for ‘absolute’, the search for a sense of belonging. Our family had fractured and dispersed, each alone beneath the same roof. Seeking hope and a place to belong I ran through the long grasses and delved into observing the neighbouring fields and the lives played out in them. Countless hours I spent lying perfectly still on my back watching the grasses sway around me, the insects, the birds, absorbing the sounds around me, watching clouds skid across the sky, drinking in the smallness and the bigness and seeking answers to the question I had: were others feeling this same sense of aloneness? It took an entire field to hold my aloneness yet I felt my wholeness, with nothing to impede it, could fill the sky.

I wrote something at this time, something I stumbled across today. Young as I was I was trying to explain where I danced from:

‘If I dream myself alive, I will awaken, I will live. I evolve alone, alone but whole. At peace, I seek depth.  Touching the real, really living – can you see that I am alive? This is where I find the dance’ – twelve year old me.

Words by errant satiety image from Stefan Olivier