I’ve gotten myself back into reading Tara Brach’s Radical Acceptance again. (Funny, when I was looking up the link on amazon, I didn’t see an ebook version, yet that’s exactly what I have.) A lot of what I’m reading is resonating with me. I find I have to read it in small chunks – chapter section at a time. If I go for more than that, it’s a bit like getting museum fatigue; the beautiful things are still there in front of my eyes, but I can’t absorb them in any meaningful way.
There’s a lot of Buddhist teachings in there, and while I’ve always found the notion of Buddhism interesting, I think I’ve shied away from it as well as a bit of a cliched interest for the white middle-class “interesting” girl. God knows I wouldn’t want to be cliched – even if it meant I might find peace, growth and help. Of course, that’s more of my attachment to a particular indie-movie story version of myself. I have an abiding fear that I am just so mundane. So, you know what? The secret is out!
I am just that mundane.
There is nothing particularly special about me, and that’s okay. (That’s not really okay with me, though.)
Okay, I’m working on it being okay. I’m working on feeling that I’m “enough” with what I am, with what I’ve been given, and with what I do each day. What does it even mean to be “working on” something. It’s a bit of a nothing phrase, and I use it a lot when I want to move on from a thought or emotion without any more investigation. I suppose I could say that I recognise that it’s not okay, and I even accept that a little bit. I’m okay with my not okayness!
I worry that a lot of the activities that I engage in have at least a partial impetus of outside approval driving them. Even while I’m drawing something that means something to me, the voices of the outside world are swirling around my head, and I’m asking myself “how will this be received?”. It’s hard for me to speak true – either in writing here, or in painting out the images in my mind and heart – when I’m invested in the potential future approval or disapproval of others. Of course, no one ever displays their disapproval, or even their mild negative criticism – certainly not when it comes to someone’s amateur profferings and attempts at self-improvement. And I’m not using amateur in a pejorative sense; I really do mean it as recognising that this is a friendly, casual space, and people are not going to be harshly critical of me here. Likewise Facebook. Likewise anywhere I share my drawings.
Hence why I get pretty anxious around silence. I read judgment into the silence. If people aren’t being positive, it must mean they have reacted negatively to me. That’s a bit unfair of me, but worse than that – and here’s the point – it’s not about them. Yet, every day I make myself about others’ reactions to me. I care what I look like in the imagined eyes of those I’m going to meet, not based on my own aesthetic. I am obsessed with the image of the person I’m going to project. Conversations are filled less with a desire to connect and more with a desire to impress, and I leave them feeling inauthentic, and sometimes a little bit icky, as I’ve abandoned “me” for what some part of me has decided the world wants me to be.
Maybe this is why I find social situations so draining. To me they are performances. I don’t feel more connected to other humans, but less so by the end of them. And it’s no one’s fault but my own.
Okay, well let’s step away from the Faultmeter for a minute. Can it be better? Can I rest and stop feeling like I have to do The Dance of the Carved and Crafted Me every time I enter the public arena? I think I did it a little bit a couple of weekend’s back. I didn’t leave that party feeling super connected to people, but at the same time, I genuinely listened during the conversations I was in (rather than just waiting for my turn to speak) and I didn’t attempt to paint myself in any particular light.
That felt pretty good. Less draining anyway. And in the long run better than some kind of “fake” connection.
I think most social experiences are not really good opportunities for connection anyway. Group situation like going to the cinema all together, or gathering in the park for a kids’ get together, all just make me feel stressed and anxious. I feel like I’m on display and performing, and that most of the conversations are just info-dumps with no real link sparking between me and other people.
But maybe I can at least adjust my portion of the equation. I can at least attempt a more authentic performance.