This is a concept discussed in the book I mentioned in my last post, Being, written by Bennet Wong and Jock McKeen:
When people stand forth they become autonomous and individuated. They derive their self-esteem from their own sense of jobs well done, from their own appreciation of their having given a task their best effort, of their being all they can be. To them, results are often not as important as the quality of the process of their activity. They are fully involved in whatever they undertake, and experience life as being full of interesting possibilities for exploration and growth. They are self-centred–that is, centered within themselves–but not at the expense of others. They remain connected, sensitive to the needs of others as well as to their own. They have a great capacity for empathy, while avoiding sympathy (which involves a condescension from an attitude of superiority). They recognize and respect the boundaries of others, and are interested in being vulnerable and intimate. They care about others without caretaking them, since they recognize everyone’s potential for being responsible for themselves. Because they express fully and responsibly, they manifest very little resentment or blame for others. It is only by standing forth in this way, accessing and developing strength, that people can experience true intimacy with others.
To stand forth requires the courage to be oneself. …
… Rather than becoming field dependent (dependent on the opinions of those around them to indicate their own value), they remain in touch with what they desire to do; they follow their hearts. Thus they become more spontaneous, self-reliant, and self-motivated. They are more in tune with themselves and others, more fully human and fulfilled. … As they stand forth, they recognize that they just “are,” everything just “is,” and this is enough. As Kierkegaard wrote: “To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose oneself.”
I spent the last four years, and possibly the last decade, not venturing and I have definitely lost myself. Well, fuck that.
I believe the above excerpt is a good description of the chapter of my life I am beginning to enter: learning how to stand forth. I am learning to trust myself and rely on my inner direction even when people I care about think that I’m wrong.
And right now, it seems like there are a lot of people that I care about that think I am making a bad decision. This morning, someone very important to me expressed deep concern about my choice to keep the house. Very deep concern, expressed very forcefully and vocally and with great passion. And others have told me that they are concerned about me or worried about me. Apparently there are ‘a lot of people’ worried about me. So the consensus seems to be that my decision is making a lot of people uncomfortable. And after sifting through a lot of emotion as a result of being told this again and again, here’s how I feel.
- Anger at the arrogance of others who place judgement on my decisions, and believe they have a right to judge my decisions and try to tell me what to do.
- Softness at the love that is behind the concern that they express–thank you for loving me enough to be concerned.
- Hurt as a result of my interpretation that their concern means that they don’t believe I can achieve my goal of owning a house by myself.
- Strength, because I know I can do it and I know I will make intelligent, well-informed decisions because I am smart, so fucking smart that none of you probably even realize it.
- Excitement because I have what I want right now and it is within my power, I have the strength, to keep what I want and to create the life I want to have…under my own power without having to rely on someone else. Without needing a man to help me do it.
- Confusion as to what persona I have put out into the world that makes people think so little of me; why do they think I can’t achieve my goals? As far as I remember, I’ve achieved any goal I’ve ever wanted to achieve, except one. Passing my EMR licensing exam. And I’m not done with that yet. I will achieve that goal too, eventually.
This house is almost all I care about. I want it more than I want to write and publish a book. I love it almost as much as I love my dogs, and I love them more than anyone or anything else in the entire world (sorry, but they give me unconditional love and never hurt me or tell me that I’m not living up to their expectations).
Another aspect of this learning to stand forth is realizing that it’s okay for me to choose what I want to do. It is okay for me to take education and “waste” it. It’s okay that I have seven years of post-secondary school, a diploma in holistic health, and a degree in communications, plus all of my first aid certificates, and am employed in none of these fields. So I thank all of you well-meaning folks who like to tell me that I should just write a book or get a writing job, or I should just this, or use my education that, or I should spend more time doing this and if I just worked a little harder at that, then I’d get it. This is what I hear you saying: you think I have so much potential and you think I’m wasting it right now. You think that if I just tried a tiny bit harder, just applied myself a little more, then I’d finally get what you think I should have, or what you think I want.
I really don’t know how to explain to all of you (and there have been a number of people express this sentiment to me over the years) that this is MY life. I GET TO CHOOSE HOW TO SPEND IT. When I try to tell people this, for some reason they get offended. I really don’t understand. All I want is for people to just let me live my life and stop trying to micromanage it and control it. Yeah, it probably looks messy from the outside. And yeah, it’s not how you would do it. Not MY problem. That’s a YOU problem. They are my decisions to make (and fuck up , in your eyes).
I had a friend about five years ago, and I was deeply jealous of her. She had a beautiful singing voice, played guitar and wrote her own songs. She could draw these totally unique drawings that were cute and beautiful and I know could have been super popular. And she wrote beautiful poetry. But all she did was complain about how shitty her life was and how nothing worked out for her. She seemed to think that success would simply fall into her lap. I got really fed up with her. I saw her as lazy, as feeling entitled, and I saw her as almost stupid. I felt that she was totally wasting all of this amazing talent she had, and that made me so angry. But the anger was jealousy. I often thought “If I have what she has, I would be such an amazing success,” and I was angry that a lazy person like her was given these talents instead of a hardworking person like me. Because I’d do something with those talents. I’m not friends with her anymore, but I think our friendship ended for other reasons (she was a very dramatic person and I didn’t want the drama).
I have (had?) another friend that I recently stopped talking to. Not too long before we stopped talking, she mentioned in a serious conversation that she wanted me to stop analyzing her life and telling her how to “fix” things. She just wanted to shoot the shit and be able to vent about her work without me telling her that she needed to change her entire life to fix things and be happy. I was hurt when she said that, but she made a really good point, and I knew she was right about an hour after she said it. Who the fuck am I to tell her how to live her life? I just got caught up by putting me into her life. I dreamt about what I would do if I had her salary, her freedom, her car, her bank account. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t just jump up and start acting on the suggestions I made so that she could live out my vision of how her life should be.
I understand now. I was unhappy with my own life and I was numbing my unhappiness because I felt trapped in the life I was living. I had to stay in that life because the alternative was terrifying. Well, now that I’m on the other side of having made that decision, it was actually a great decision for me and my partner. It wasn’t that hard. It was painful, but less painful than living in a relationship where we were totally ambivalent about each other. I feel much less alone now than I did in a relationship, knowing that my partner didn’t love me. But at the time, it was easier to live vicariously through someone else than it was to make that decision and then take action on my decision.
I can definitely say it’s addictive, living vicariously through others (hence reality tv!). It’s addictive being able to tell other people how they should live their lives and use their money and interact with people. I don’t even understand why. I guess, analyzing myself, I got a charge of something, maybe a feeling of power, from imagining these friends doing what I suggested. I got a charge from imagining them becoming more successful or more happy…because I could then take credit, even in my head, for their success. My words, my plans, my thoughts, would be what made them successful. It’s like being able to live life from a distance, a safe distance where I can enjoy the good bits and shield myself from the icky bits. If I just move around the chess pieces, I don’t feel invested if I lose a pawn here or there. They’re the ones that suffer the emotional consequences.
Of course, neither of them did anything that I ever suggested/wheedled/told them to do. And I understand now why they were angry at me for trying to live their lives for them. It fucking sucks when people think they know how to live your life better than you know how to live it. I want to tell everyone who is doing it to me to fuck off and stop it, but that’s impolite and no one likes to hear that.
But I’m not a pawn or a doll. I just want you to tell me that you are there for me and that you love me no matter what I choose, and I deeply value those of you that are able to do so. I know you have opinions about my choices and behaviours, because you’re human. But you don’t feel the need to orate at me and lecture me. I know that if I got myself into a really bad situation where I had needles hanging out of my eyeballs (well, long before that), you’d step in and tell me something was really wrong. But you are the people that I know love me for who I am in this moment: messy, possibly entitled, mistake-making, education-wasting, money-poor, house-rich, drain-on-society, emotional-eating, making all the “wrong” decisions, little old me. And not only that, but you think all of these things add to the depth and complexity of my beauty.
This is how I know I’m learning to stand forth…because I love this deep, complex, beautiful me, too, and I think there is nothing wrong with what I am doing because hey, every adventure has its own merit. I’m not waking up every day and intending to hurt others or be unkind. I operate following the values of: compassion/lovingkindness for others; integrity; environmentalism; service towards others; creative self-expression. I put effort in to follow these values in every moment, in every decision that I make, and hell, sometimes I even succeed. And I follow my heart, too. Since I’ve created this equation for life, which I started using maybe in May, my life has changed dramatically, and all of the changes have been for the best, for MY best. All of the changes have helped me move towards being the most authentic expression of who I am, really, in here, inside, in my corest of cores.
I am proud of who I am. I am content with who I am. I know that I am making the decisions that will support me and the core values that I live by. That’s all I need to live a good life. I DON’T need to be happy all of the time–I know now that is unrealistic. I know now that there is value in balance, in every emotion, equal value in fear and anger and sadness and sorrow and joy and happiness. I know now that I can experience sorrow and happiness and anger and confusion all at the same time (and often do). I am not scared of being sad, or being really really sad (well, okay, I am a little, but I know that it’s okay and I know how to feel those emotions instead of running away from them).
So, all that being said, yeah, I know it’s a risky journey to take on this house by myself. I know there’s going to be a lot of pain in my future, a lot of sadness, anger, sorrow, confusion, fear. I know there will be a lot of joy and happiness and excitement and pride and strength too. And I know that those emotions will be there anyway, whether or not I strive to achieve anything. I’m still going to be scared and get sad and get confused and worry and get angry and be happy and joyful, so why the hell wouldn’t I own a house in the process?
I’m strapped into this rollercoaster ride of a life anyways. I may as well open my eyes and enjoy the view along the way, right?