Do you ever have days where you feel like dragon kicking every person you see right in the face, with our without roller skates on?
In fact, I have been overcome by this feeling so often in the past three weeks that I voluntarily removed myself from society this weekend in order to calm down, regroup, and find my focus on life again. I was already planning to do this, but I fortuitously developed some sort of sickness or allergy that has robbed me of my voice and handed me a perfect excuse for declining friends’ invitations to hang out. Yay sickness!
Greg’s away bass fishing this weekend, so I spent hours veggin’ in my veggie garden yesterday – fortifying pea plants, removing the ever-invading weed species that seem to looooovvvvve my garden’s soil, planting more radishes, spinach, carrots and tomatoes, etc. I also listened to music the entire time, unsuccessfully trying to sing along to some of my favorite tunes and clearing my mind of stress, clutter and, most of all, negativity. It was extremely therapeutic and much needed.
By 8 p.m., I was extremely tired, but couldn’t justify going to bed so early, so I wrote in my journal to Cora Jane. I have been keeping a journal to her since about three days after she died. It is one of the aspects of grieving that has kept me sane and it’s a great tool for self-awareness. Last night, while writing to her, I reconnected with a stark truth that keeps popping up again and again for me lately – people see what we want to see, not necessarily what’s true, and this can lead to unnecessary suffering.
For any of you who know who Eckhart Tolle is, you will understand what I am talking about when I say that suffering is created by our ego. The more a person lets that internal dialogue take over and the more a person wants for something, the more the ego takes over and fuels the fire of negativity, entitlement, stubbornness, etc. In essence, if you let your ego take over, you are never happy, satisfied, content, at peace or healthy. I know this. I have known this for a long time and, before Cora died, I was very good at suppressing my ego and not getting carried away by the trivial, unimportant BS that can so easily take over a person and affect all parts of her life. I’m finding it extremely difficult to hang on to this knowledge and get a handle on my out-of-control inner self – the Jo that wants; the Jo who puts herself before all others; the Jo who dismisses other people’s challenges as nothing compared to what I’ve been through. Basically, the Jo who is a complete asshole. Not someone I’d want to interact with at all. Too bad I can’t dragon kick myself in the face when it’s needed. 😉
Last night, I quietly cried myself to sleep. For once, it wasn’t because of Cora or all that I’ve lost in my life – it was for me and for the loss of the person I used to be. I have been thinking for the past year that the old Jo – the one who loved to laugh, have fun, goof off, live passionately and fully, would eventually come back. I was wrong and the new me is less nice than I used to be. I’ve become harder, less forgiving, less fun and, most disappointing of all, less spiritual. I no longer feel connected to the universe or all of the energy around me. I no longer really care about people as much as I used to and I have somehow let my ego take over and suppress almost all of the parts of myself that I really love.
It’s been a few weeks in the making, but I finally understand why I felt the need to withdraw from society this weekend. I thought it was because I was sick of people and their constant complaints about things I consider trivial crap, but I realize now that it’s more that I’m sick of my own, unsympathetic reaction to their trivial crap. When did I become so dismissive of other people’s feelings and plights? What makes my ego think that just because I’ve been through a hell of a lot of trauma in my life, I suddenly get to look down my nose at everyone else and dismiss their real problems and their feelings as petty and unimportant? I ought to be ashamed of myself.
But I’m not. I am, in a word, human. It is human nature to be self-centered and to focus on the me before the we. It is truly a lifetime challenge to put other people’s feelings before your own and to have the presence of mind to understand them and feel empathy toward them.
Recently, I became very upset about something and let my feelings be known about it. Rather than receive empathy or understanding in return, one of my friends subtly attacked my character, in her way, and really made me out to be a totally selfish person who only does things for others if it directly benefits me in return.
Besides being hurt that she took something that was entirely about my feelings and turned it into a chance to retaliate with some sarcasm and other defensive browbeating, I also immediately withdrew into myself and started questioning why someone would say something about me that I felt was entirely untrue and unfounded. After all, I reasoned, I volunteer a ton of my time for derby, I volunteer my photography services, I babysit for my friends when they need a sitter, I take care of people’s animals while they are away, I donate money to worthy charitable organizations, I help people move, etc. There are ton of things in my life that I do for other people and I hardly ever ask for something in return. Doesn’t that make me an unselfish person? Doesn’t that make me a good person? Doesn’t that count for something?
No. It doesn’t.
As with all things in life, people see what they want to see and believe what they want to believe and, like I just said, it’s easier to put the me before the we. If this person believes I am selfish and out to help others just to help myself, who am I to try to convince her otherwise?
This is when it finally hit me – I am creating needless suffering by not only originally getting upset about something that won’t make a lick of difference in the outcome and was a complete waste of my energy and peace of mind, but I’m also needlessly second guessing myself because the thought of someone thinking I’m selfish is unbearable. Who cares what other people think of me? The only person’s opinion that I should give a rat’s ass about is my own. If I think I’m a good person and I do things for the right reasons, then who cares what anyone else believes about me.
I have once again been reminded that our inner selves – ego – has the potential to destroy all the good in us if we only step aside and let it take over. Jeeeeeez Louise, how do I keep forgetting this?
When all is said and done, what upset me wasn’t what she said about me, but the fact that my feelings were left unvalidated. It hurts when people don’t recognize your feelings and, once again, I have realized that I often put myself before others and leave other people’s feelings unvalidated. This is not something I wish to do to people, ever, yet I know it happens all the time and I’m not even aware of it.
I am so completely grateful for these wake up calls I continuously receive from people and I’m even more grateful that they make me more aware of myself. After all, if other people want to be assholes to me, there’s nothing I can do about them, but I can certainly control my reaction to them and I can certainly curb my own asshole tendencies toward others. It just takes awareness and effort.
Those good parts of me are still in there, they just need a lot of TLC to come to the surface again and, apparently, more than a few dragon kicks to the face to make me more aware that I have to constantly fight my ego to bring them back in full force.