I have the great, good fortune of being a student of Havi Brooks as one of the members of her Kitchen Table program. And underlying everything we do there, the skill we are all learning and trying our best to practice is the ability to meet ourselves and our “stuff”-whatever it is, and wherever we are-with kindness and compassion. We also talk a lot about how our relationship to one area of our life is a mirror of our relationship to all the other parts of our lives.
For example, I have identified a number of personal patterns that I am working on, and I can see how they show up all over my life. I am driven to hoard. I go back and forth between depriving myself and binging. I have a fear of there not being enough. And this stuff comes up for me repeatedly: in my relationship with food; in my relationship with money; even in something as simple as my relationship to books.
The good thing about this inter-relatedness is that if, say, my relationship with money is too scary to look at right now, then I can go to something more neutral, like my relationship to books, to do some work on these patterns. And the destuckifying** I do there will spill over into those other, scarier areas.
The bad thing is that, now that I’ve been doing this kind of self-inquiry for so long, when I feel things like resistance, being triggered, anxiety, or the like, I can no longer pretend that I have no idea what’s going on and find something (or someone) external to blame it on.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, because nowhere is this stuff as real, or as challenging, for me as it is here, in my relationship with this blog. I often feel like there’s been some kind of fundamental stuckness here, and I’ve been slowly working my way through it over the past 5 1/2 years.
Lately it’s been taking the form of feeling really stalled out-in every area-because I’ve been pretty sick lately, and whenever that happens I start wondering about the questions of my identity and my existence (and the justification thereof).
One area in which these issues have been triggered is in the fact that my husband’s been home on vacation for the past two weeks, and while I have really enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with him, watching him attack a billion projects around the house has really made me feel my severely diminished capacity to do things. For example, housework used to be a breeze for me. I could clean the whole house in a day or two over the weekend. But now, it frequently takes me all day JUST to do the dishes (whereas my husband can whip out an entire clean kitchen in 15-20 minutes). And in my pre-sickness era, even when I felt like I hadn’t done anything else productive during the day, I could always fall back on my role of maker-of-the-home. But not anymore. (Hello, pattern of comparison, that never fails to make me feel totally shitty about myself.)
And then there are so many days where I can’t do anything at all, which of course makes me ask myself things like, “So is this really all there is to my life now-just managing pain?” or, “Well, why am I even here then if all I’m doing is being a burdensome sick person in all these people’s lives?” (And, hello patterns of linking my identity and right to exist on this earth to my ability to DO-fancy meeting you here.)
So I really struggle with the questions of, “Can I allow myself to believe that I am allowed to be here in this world just ‘cuz, and that people still value having me in their lives even though I’m sick?” Sometimes. And then sometimes I just can’t.
So today, for some reason, things finally clicked for me and I realized that these questions are a huge part of the reason that I get stuck in my relationship to this blog. Because I’ve spent so long thinking that I had to come up with some kind of snappy, all-encompassing, highly marketable identity for myself as a writer/blogger, and that the only reason I can dare be so presumptuous as to suggest to people that they read my stuff is that I justify this blog’s existence by providing entertainment for people (ALSO a pattern that shows up in other places for me), or as I call it, being a “tap-dancing bear.”
And then the struggle sets in because it is physically impossible for me to fit into some sort of snappy, all-encompassing, highly marketable identity for myself, because if there is any phrase that truly defines who I am at my core, it is this:
Professional Free Spirit.
And sometimes there is entertainment in that. But a lot of times there isn’t.
And so once I finally admitted this to myself, I realized that underneath all of my “stuff” surrounding my blog are questions like, “Is it I presumptuous to think that I and my life are worthy of being put out here in public? Do I dare ask people to come here and read what I write without offering some kind of justification of my online existence (like constant entertainment?) Am I being like those people on all those reality TV shows who think that they are really worth having people follow their entire lives, when really they are just delusional and embarrassing? Do I really think that I have something to offer here, something that is worth people’s time and attention? Can I allow myself to believe that I am allowed to say to people, ‘Hey-come look at me. I’m worth listening to.’ Just ‘cuz?”
And maybe, for right now, sometimes is enough.
**term courtesy of Havi Brooks, Pirate Queen