Sunday, April 26, 2015

Rainbow Realities

Last week my neighbor's car was broken into while it was parked in our gated lot. Normally when something like that happens, I immediately assume I'm next. Never mind that I don't have a car, a break-in of some sort is inevitable! It doesn't even have to be a break-in, it could be getting bit by a spider; if we're in the same vicinity and something happens to you, I think the same thing will happen to me.

I had an interesting experience the other that showed me this is far from being true. What happens to other people won't automatically happen to me. Two people can occupy the same physical space and have completely different experiences.

As I rode the bus on Thursday, I looked out the window and noticed the barest glimmer of a rainbow, which I tried to capture on my phone.

It was so hard to capture this rainbow. Sorry you can barely see it. =(
It was so hard to capture this rainbow. Sorry you can barely see it. =(

I started texting everyone and my mother, so excited was I about this rainbow, especially when the bus crested a hill and I noticed the rainbow ringed the sun – it wasn't a vertical rainbow like I normally see, this rainbow arced from one side of the sun to the other.

In contrast, the two women sitting in front of me on the bus didn't notice a thing. They were caught up in complaining about their health problems and various other troubles. Here I was having a transcendent moment, marveling at the beauty of the world, and in the same physical space, the women in front of me were not. This episode demonstrated to me that sharing physical space is not an indicator I'll share the same experience. This means my neighbor can get her car window smashed and I can be fine. This means I can be safe even when others are not. This means other people's realities don't have to be mine.

I'm not sure I can convey my sense of relief here, but there's something freeing about coming to recognize what happens to other people won't necessarily happen to me. That I can occupy the same zip code but not the same reality. I can witness rainbows and butterflies while other people are gabbing on the bus. My life can be different even when we're sharing the same oxygen and there's something hopeful and liberating about that.

I dream of a world where we all live in rainbow realities. A world where we understand our realities are different from those around us, even if we're in the same spot. A world where we recognize we each have our own lives and what's common may not apply. A world where we witness the rainbows.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Perfection Is Not a Requirement for Love

This post is a bit of a rehash of one I wrote four years ago because I'm noticing perfectionism surfacing once again.

I think if I'm perfect then other people will love me. This is kind of a problem because I'm not perfect. Even more damaging is the fear that if I make a mistake or do something wrong, that love will be taken away from me. That means every time I make a mistake I'm scared I'll be abandoned.

Yikes. That means there's a whole lot of pressure to never make a mistake and always do the right thing. In this context, it makes sense why if I send the wrong email attachment or tell a fib, my freakout is not on par with the event itself because the whole thing becomes much more serious.

Just as thorns make a cactus what it is, perhaps it's flaws that make us human.
Prickly bits make a cactus what it is, perhaps it's the prickly bits that make us human.

I’ve written before about mistakes being the zest of life, which I think is true. I honestly believe mistakes are part of the learning process, and nothing beats the expansive feeling that comes from learning. At the same time, I’ve felt a desire to be perfect right out of the gate. To know everything immediately. To be a star pupil. To be an award-winning writer. To know how to invest my money and become a millionaire. I want to know right now and I want to do it perfectly. Otherwise you won’t love me or continue to love me.

What's interesting is I don't feel the same way about other people. Other people are allowed to be flawed human beings who make mistakes and I love them just the same. But me? Pssst. I hold myself to a different standard.

That's not cool and it also doesn't make much sense because perfection does not guarantee love. I called a perfect show as a stage manager and no one seemed to notice or really care. Even when I do things “perfectly” it doesn’t seem to make a difference. And you know? It never will because perfection is not a requirement for love.

In fact, a friend told me once perfection is scary. When he meets seemingly perfect women, he's intimidated because he can't relate to them. It's our flaws that make us likable because it's just as C.S. Lewis said: “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'”

People will never love me more because I’m an all-star or never do anything wrong. People love me for who I am, not because I never make mistakes. I am allowed to send the wrong email attachment because there is no inverse relationship between the mistakes I make and how much I’m loved. I can be, and am, loved no matter what. I already know that's true for others and it's time to make it true for me.

I dream of a world where we realize love is associated with who we're being, not what we're doing. A world where we experience unconditional love all the time. A world where we allow ourselves to make mistakes because we know love will still be there. A world where we let go of our outdated beliefs and ideas because they no longer serve us. A world where we know perfection is not a requirement for love.

Another world is not only possible, it’s probable.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ascribing Meaning

This week I've been ascribing meaning to things that don't need to have them. For instance, my face is broken out and the meaning I'm ascribing is I'm ugly, unattractive, and will remain single for the rest of my life. Because of a zit. I do the same thing whenever I gain any weight. Really, what it means is I'm stressed, not sleeping well, eating something I'm allergic to, and/or imbalanced hormonally.

I bring this up because how often do we torture ourselves by ascribing meaning to things when they're not needed? Someone not accepting a friend request on facebook means they hate us and don't want to be friends. When we haven't heard back from a job interview it means the position has been filled. In truth, someone not accepting a friend request means they didn't accept a friend request. Not hearing back from a job interview means the company hasn't gotten back to us. That's it. Not that we're terrible people who will never be hired again or any of the other things we think it means.

This person is a cool, confident world traveler. Oh wait, I can't know any of that. . .
This person is a cool, confident, world traveler. Oh wait, I can't know any of that. . .

I touched on this a few weeks ago in my post “All in the Head,” about anxiety. However, I'm also noticing ascribing meaning to things sometimes doesn't create anxiety. Sometimes it's a lie or a way to create melodrama.

Yesterday, I heard spiritual teacher/writer Adyashanti and he said we're addicted to the stories we tell ourselves, whether they're painful or not. Ain't that the truth. It wasn't until this week though that I became even more aware of how I'm spinning out and getting upset over small things because I'm making them large by ascribing meaning to them. A zit is no longer an indication of stress, but instead becomes a sign that I'm doomed to a life of spinsterhood. Weight gain suddenly means I'm unlovable. These are quite big leaps!

When we start to ascribe meaning to things, we get wrapped up in our selves, our egoic nature, and are unable to rest in the knowledge that we are the Buddha, as Adyashanti would say. Ascribing meaning I think is like cobwebs in the attic – if we don't address them, pretty soon the attic is covered in cobwebs and that's all we see anymore. When I ascribe meaning to things, I detach from reality and keep myself from being present, and really, I'd much rather be the Buddha.

I dream of a world where we stop ascribing meaning to things that don't need them. A world where we keep things in perspective. A world where we detach from the addictive stories we tell ourselves. A world where we allow ourselves to be the Buddha.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Sensitivity as a Gift

The other day, a man menacingly said, “Smile! You so pretty,” while I walked by him. On this same walk, I passed a grocery store with some police activity and witnessed a fight almost break out while waiting for the bus. One woman accused another of touching her stuff and was ready to issue a smackdown over it. So much so, that she followed her down the street. Not only that, two bystanders crossed the street gleefully in the hopes of watching the potential fight.

My response was, “What's with all the aggression today?” In that moment, it became clearer to me exactly why sensitivity is a gift. I didn't enjoy seeing the aggression; I didn't want to fight the menacing man. I was horrified by all of the events.

Sometimes I feel like a sensitive baby deer. But that's a good thing.
Sometimes I feel like a sensitive baby deer. But that's a good thing.

If you'd said to me two months ago that sensitivity is a gift, I would have scoffed. In fact, a friend did say that to me and I did scoff because my whole life I've been accused of being too sensitive. Sensitivity was always a burden, a curse, something I wanted to be rid of. I wanted to toughen myself up, grow a thicker skin – anything that was an antidote to sensitivity seemed like the way to go.

When I witnessed all of this on my walk, I realized sensitivity is needed in this world to keep it from being filled with aggressive, menacing people. The sensitive souls are the ones that balance all the harshness. They are the ones who say, “This is not OK,” and try to do something about it. The sensitive people are the caretakers, the artists, the advisers. Without sensitivity, we lose some of our humanity. That's a big statement, I know, but it's the sensitivity, the empathy, that allows us to connect with one another and move away from our baser instincts. Not everyone is as sensitive as I am, and that's great – we need the tough-skinned people in the world too – but most people have at least some sensitivity. Considering the world we live in right now, maybe we need more sensitive people.

As a sensitive person, I can't stomach people hurting each other or neglecting each other. Can you imagine what the world would be like if our leaders felt the same way? Would we have the same number of wars? Would there be so much poverty? Would the environment be in the state it's currently in? Maybe when someone says to me, “You're so sensitive,” I can say, “Thank you, it's one of my best qualities,” because sensitivity is what makes me the caring, creative, idealistic person that I am. How can that be anything but a gift?

I dream of a world where we all embrace our sensitivity. A world where we recognize being sensitive is what makes us loving and compassionate. A world where we use our sensitivity to our advantage to make the world a better place. A world where we recognize sensitivity as a gift.

Another world is not only possible, it's probable.