On January 1st of this year, I wrote a blog, something I hadn’t done in quite a while. Upon finishing it, I decided to commit to write and publish one each week this entire year. There were a few reasons for setting myself this kind of task. One was to set a challenging goal. Not knowing if I could do it was reason enough for me, especially because I haven’t felt challenged in this way in a while. The second was to work on my writing. I am writing a book and felt like I needed to find more clarity in my voice. The exercise of having to write something you would read every week was a terrific pressure. Also of interest was what would be of interest to you. What kind of subjects would get the most traffic? What sort of articles or blogs would you comment on? What kind of comments would you make? And so, here we are, fifty-three weeks and fifty-three articles later (present one included). It has been my weekly ritual and has taught me a great deal. I did it and am proud, and what I have learned has eclipsed every expectation.
I started off the year with “This may or may not be my/your year.” Inspired by frustration, I remember how I felt, scrolling through endless New Year’s Day promises of how to be a better you. As if the you you are right now is insufficient somehow. We have been trained to believe we are not enough, and this makes us desperate, and that desperation leads directly to the credit card. I can’t remember where I heard or read it, but someone said if the cosmetic industry shut down for a week, the global economy would crash. Buying beauty is a big deal. Yet, do we ever feel beautiful enough? I put myself through graduate school doing massage therapy and it was LA and so I had a few “famous” clients. I will never forget the most beautiful woman I have ever met and how terribly damaged she was emotionally. As I wrestled my clunky massage table out of my car, I heard a soft ask, “Do you need help?” Poking my head out to respond, something stole my breath. She was tall, way taller than me, thin, of course, wavy red hair surrounding her face like a halo, and her deep blue eyes were smiling at me. She had been on the cover of Vogue, literally the cover of Vogue. I had met plenty of beautiful people in LA, but she was extraordinary. And lovely, sweet, kind, generous, and lovely. But broken. So beautiful that all she ever had was her beauty. No one ever bothered to look past her face to see her thoughts or dreams or desires and that left her broken. All that beauty, all that pain. She was in her forties and as her beauty changed, having developed nothing else to lean on, it made her dependent upon an older man’s bank account. All that beauty sold and bought. It pisses me off that it has such power over us, so much ability to make us feel inadequate, no matter where we fall on the scale of beauty.
Being a perpetual student has its drawbacks, like always feeling you have to always be discovering something about yourself. Discover the right thing, and life will finally be great. There are more drawbacks. Angst is one and is exhausting. Read something in the morning, commit to implementing it by noon, reflect at dinner how as soon as you put the book down you forgot about it, punish the self until bed. Ah, the joys of self-discovery. Know-it-all syndrome is another. The more you learn, the more you think you know, the more you feel compelled to share with everyone. The problem is you don’t just share it, you shit it all over everyone. At least I do, and I see others on similar paths doing similar things with their excrement. I know where it comes from, but it is still incredibly hard to manage. My early certainty about my stupidity is always in the background, teasing my intelligence. So, what do I do to compensate? Learn everything possible and make sure others know I know a lot! The funny thing is, I am always surprised when someone calls me smart. We human beings are an interesting bunch.
While I fully expected to learn about you, what I didn’t expect was how much I learned about me. In graduate school, they taught us the power of writing for self-discovery and reflection, but for our patients. The more I use it, the better it works, for us both. And the more candid and self-revealing my blogs, the more you liked them. For the first half of the year, it was about the reader, how to help, what makes a difference, and the usual tips and tricks of the trade. But the more I wrote, the more of a fraud I felt, and that was like a death sentence. See, honesty, truth, and integrity are the most important things in the world to me. I hate liars, I absolutely hate it when I can see someone lying. So, as I went about my weekly writing experiment, I began to notice I was lying. Ugh, torture for someone who hates lying to see how they are lying. It took me weeks to gather the courage to come clean. And then I did (June 22, Hiding Failure), and I was free. The response was pure support and it was magical. It gave me permission to be more honest, not only with myself but with you.
Being a lover of the truth and a hater of dishonesty leaves me polarized and judgmental most of the time. And conflicted, because lying is human nature and we all lie, probably everyday (if we are honest about it). We lie to self-protect, mostly to protect the psyche, and sometimes for physical protection. Born with great potential but little ability to tolerate our imperfections or foibles, we lie to ourselves and to each other so as not to sustain a wound to the self. The irony is the lie IS a wound, just a controlled one. And so, I lie, you lie, and we lie about lying. It sucks. When my family was in town for the holiday, I spent a few minutes alone with my youngest niece as we drove home from my dad’s house. At sixteen, she is growing up beautifully. Smart, funny, really funny, perceptive and astute, she has a naturalness and purity that is wonderful to be a part of. I asked her all about her life, her happiness, her dreams, like a good and caring aunt, confirming she is on track to a great life. My love for those kids is unimaginably deep and I would do anything for them. What I didn’t know was that they would do anything for me. After drilling her and receiving confirmation that I could sleep well knowing she was okay, she turned to me and asked, “How are you?” But it wasn’t the habitual ask we do when we answer the phone or see someone in the grocery store, it was from her heart, with the same sleepless threat I had just absolved in her answers. In that moment, I was free, free to tell the truth. The truth is, “I am good. Life is good, I am happy.” The funny thing is, I hate that question because I hate answering it. I never know what to say. Am I good? Am I happy? Those are situational answers to be changed moment by moment…or are they? Her pure concern and love created this space for me to safely land and admit I am good and happy, something I lie about. Yes, I lie about being good and happy because I have not published a book yet, bam! How did I not know that?! Somehow, I have convinced myself that being just okay or so-so or not so great is a perfect excuse for why my book is not finished. I’m not sure how I collapsed those things, but I did. Her perfectly pure eyes and acceptance of whatever I answered made room for my unexpected answer, things are good.
Over the last week, the big reveal of how I lie to myself has continued. Just like hiding failure, the more I explore, the greater comfort and compassion I am developing with myself and my ability to tell myself the truth. The more truth I have internally, the more I have externally, and the better I feel all around. The truth is I worry about things, lots of things. I worry about being liked, being good enough, being smart enough, successful enough, popular enough, a good enough rider, and of course, pretty enough. I worry I will run out of time and not “do” enough or help enough. I worry no one will publish or buy my book. I worry I will always worry, and then chuckle because I know I will. And so, for 2020, I am taking some of my blogging time and energy and putting it into my book, you know, the one that scares the shit out of me (truth). I will continue to post but not weekly. If it goes for too long, call me out, please! I am grateful for the company you have been, the comments you have shared from your hearts that have gone directly to mine, for the time you have invested in yourselves by reading these, and for allowing me to contribute to you. I know there are those of you who have never clicked “like” or made a peep, but that you are working hard on yourselves and I appreciate you, too. Expectedly or not, I am not the same person I was 364 days ago as I posted my first week of fifty-three. I am beyond grateful for this year and the challenges and changes it has provided us all. I look forward to our continued growth, however bumpy and beautiful it will be. Thank you for, well, all of it. Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, believed all things were one. His quote, “Concerning a circle the beginning and end are common,” reminds me of Rumi’s similar sentiment, “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.” And you are. Much love and Happy New Year, Jenny.