Sometimes when I think about "finding myself" (that birthright of all Californians), I waver between these two feelings: "Aha! There I am! I found it!" At other times, I cynically look at the ways other people try to define me, tell me how to feel, what I ought to know, who I ought to be... and I feel like saying, "Buddy, I never lost it. I know who I am."
I don't know why it is that I'm compelled to work on mySelf. (Is it DNA? culture? growing up near the ocean? my astrological sign: Scorpio? my myers briggs temperament: ENFP? being parented by a mom who read I'm Okay; You're Okay at a critical juncture in my teen years - "You're in your child!" "But Mom... I AM a child!"?) So many people are completely able to disregard themSelves. They make big mistakes, they have affairs, they rage, they get addicted, they overeat, they lose jobs, they obsess over porn, they shame and abuse, they cavalierly break promises... and still don't go to private therapy, aren't compelled to drink cafe latte at Barnes and Noble poring over books in the "help thyself" section, seeking an answer for how they allowed themselves to wander into the black hole of dysfunction, abuse, and secrecy.
Sometimes these perpetrators of relationship dysfunction pop into the local counselor's office for a tune up (guilt combined with "relationship pressure" leads to a couple of sessions for many of these types). But that sustained curiosity for how their souls function, for why brokenness attends their most intimate relationships, for how they cause pain to the people they say they love is absent. In some cases, the partner who had an affair and returns to his wife is so relieved to escape detection, he lies in therapy! Not much self-understanding getting through there!
And weirdly, even with dramatic measures, some of these people continue on their self-creating, medicating, papering over, reframing, bubbling optimism ways about their newfound selves rather than the necessary deconstruction of their cavalier mistreatment and secrecy that would bring genuine healing to the people they've hurt.
Meanwhile, I know women who didn't have the affair, but who have read every book on affairs to try to understand the husband who wants to be forgiven and to come back (he doesn't read the books - she does!). I know men who were berated and beaten down by controlling wives and the ex husband lands in therapy for ten years, while the ex-wife carries on secure in their old friendships with seemingly few consequences. I know verbally abused wives who spend money, time and energy on becoming strong enough to withstand the nutbrain who will dog her life with complications for as long as they share children, giving away valuable hours and brain cells to the blackhole of brokenness, instead of her artistic talents or her generous nature.
I'm the therapy and self-help section gal. I've spent countless (really!) hours working on mySelf, wanting to understand how to be good, decent, fair, healthy, assertive, self-protecting, kind, generous, forgiving, line-drawing, boundary-making, communicative... hours I will never get back for writing books, painting paintings, horse-back riding, and surfing. The quest to know mySelf, of course, has yielded good things too. I have a firmer sense of what I will and won't tolerate, of what it means to hold out for healthy relationships, of what it means to be self-reliant in that "I know I can count on me" way.
But today... I'm sick of finding mySelf. I've put in a lot of time on this endeavor and so much of that work has been to shore up relating to broken people not similarly invested. I surveyed the landscape of my relationships. My yoga instructor gave us the following meditation on Wednesday:
I will protect myself from people who take more than they give.If you aren't invested enough in giving more than you take, you're on notice. I won't waste more of my life working on mySelf to adapt to you. Finding oneSelf is about becoming a peaceful, whole, authentic, ethical person of substance who can see across the chasm to another person's pain (particularly if you caused it)... and then doing something about it.
I will surround myself with loving, giving people.
My mother, five years after her divorce, gave me the greatest gift of all. She told me that she knew the divorce caused me pain. She also knew the pain would come in waves for the rest of my life. She said, "Julie, while I'm living, you may come to me at any time with your pain related to the divorce and I will hear you. I will hold it for you and let you express it. There will never be a day when I am done listening to you or what you've suffered."
That's a woman who knows herSelf.