Occasionally I freak out. Not like in a outwardly crazy sense, but more in the way that one usually keeps hidden. At times I feel like I am simply a child “acting” like an adult. Navigating each day like a dream where there are no rules, nothing is certain, and danger potentially lurks behind each dark corner. Ok, so most of the time I can keep it together, maintaining a good exterior facade and putting on a game face which says “I’m okay… got everything under control. I got this… Really… I got this.” This is certainly not how I feel on this inside. Under this mask, I am worried. I am concerned about the future. I worry. A lot.
I suppose this all comes from worries I’ve held since I was young. Don Miguel Ruiz posits that we inherit a belief system growing up, which we cling to ad infinitum. Being scared, we react with anger, we transfer our “poison” to another, and we feel better. We become such wonderful masters at doing this that it becomes second nature. It is now part of who we are. Becoming less divorced from our surroundings, we now inherit those traits which have been taught to us unconsciously by society. Well, I suppose we have to be good at something! I just would have wished that something to be a positive aspect of human relations. It feels like control, this reactionary existence. It feels empowering to know that we can rid ourselves of potentially negative feelings simply by transferring them to another. But do we ever “really” get rid of these unwanted and often uncomfortable emotions? I think not. It almost seems like a game of tennis – hitting a ball back and forth, the final “receiver” of the ball is the loser. But wait for the next round. That goddamn ball is heading right back for ya! And not only is it on its way, its more powerful than before. You “opponent” is seriously pissed off, and wants you to lose. Seems so petty, this struggle. Where’s the love?! Where’s the humanity?! Why even play the game at all? Well, we are taught that we must play the game from a very early age. Just try to quit, you might see a bit of resistance from your fellows. A “Carlos Castaneda” sort of way of dealing with the world.
One wonders whether there are shades of gray as far as judgement and perceptions of one’s connectedness to social norms. Are you drinking enough of the “Kool Aid”? Certainly the Kool Aid drinkers want you to join in. You must text back immediately, you must email withing 24 hours, you must attend a gathering you committed to, you must work during the day, and sleep at night. Eggs are for breakfast, and cake is for dessert. You must answer your phone. You must have a cell phone, an email, a facebook, and so on…
Ok, so not to indulge too much or get too “out there,” I will try to bring it back to my original topic – worry.
So let’s say I have been pretty much trained like a dog to react to certain stimuli with fear, anger, and a compulsion to release any uncomfortable feelings. It certainly seems plausible. Ok, so if that’s true… what to do?
I don’t want to release any “poison” to those around me simply to relieve my own tension and anxiety. I love my friends and family, and the world around me. I don’t want to be in conflict with the world. The world/universe is my god, and I want to be at peace with my god. Therefore the answers must come from inside. An undoing. A willingness to suffer a little discomfort. To finally let a part of me die so that another part of me can live – Wait, wasn’t that the premise to Harry Potter? Hmmm… I digress.
Anyway! So, upon this Lenten season, I see this as an arbitrary opportunity to let part of me die. To finally let the waves of discomfort subside. What does not kill me makes me stronger (said the great and wise Kelly Clarkson). So I need not be afraid. Lent is a time for transformation. I look to those who have survived the Holocaust, both physically and mentally. How did these folks find freedom in such an oppressive environment? By seeking freedom from a sacred place – a place within. A place that no one, no matter how strong or cruel, could ever desecrate. But transformation is not easy. As my mentor and friend David Bruner says “Practice makes permanent.” I must find a new belief system, and guide myself through everything I do with my new beliefs. I need not seek the approval of the outside world, for I know that I am loved, and that I will come out stronger on the other side.
Happy Ash Wednesday folks. And may the odds be ever in your favor! 🙂
Thanks for reading.