Wednesday, October 22, 2014

10/23/14—Seeking The Authentic Me

I have this weird thing. I don't seem remember much about who I was in the past. It's like I'm totally detached from previous iterations of myself and I don't even feel like past "mes" were me at all.

There may be something deep and psychological to this. Or maybe everyone feels that way. But when I look into the eyes of the girls in this picture I know they all look like me, but I'm not sure I can say who they were. I just know I'm a very different person now. 

They all liked to write. They all had a sense of humor. And they were all on a journey of self discovery. But to one degree or another, I was always working to leave a part of them behind me where I would never have to look at it again. That's what growth is in many ways...a constant shedding of skin in search of the ever more luminous iterations of "me" hoping to reach the surface. Or maybe that's exfoliation. I'm not sure. :D Because, like exfoliation, the minute your "new skin" reaches the surface, it begins on a course of death and flakiness until it, itself, is shed. Just exposing it to the world to interact with outside forces sends it careening into certain obsolescence. 

The girl in the top row was really just trying to figure out who she was. The woman in the middle row...she's not someone I liked so much. She fell into a superficial trap and cared more about how others viewed her than how she viewed herself. The woman on the bottom row, well she's more like the woman I am today. Still searching. But looking more inside herself for the things she needs to be happy, rather than outside of herself.

Still, it bothers me in some ways that I can't identify with any of those women, not even the most recent—the one in the sparkly fortune teller's turban in the lower right hand corner. None of them seem to have captured the essence of me, not in photos or in reality.

Back in the days of the middle row, I used to feel like there was a "me inside of me" that was curled up in the fetal position, crying. Sad, I know. She would mostly come out at night, in the quiet moments as I lay down to sleep. She used to really bother me, because she felt trapped and I didn't know how to let her out. So I ignored her for years. Pretended she wasn't there. Those last two girls in the top row used to feel like her sometimes. It's like I swallowed them up and contained them within a new, shinier container, thinking it would make the pain go away. And it seemed to. For a while.

I did eventually make peace with her, though. I had to. She became to pained to ignore. So I nurtured her. I stopped a lot of negative self talk. I got rid of toxic and abusive people in my life. I learned how to handle my fears. And today the me inside of me is uncurled and living peacefully within me. But I still feel like she's captive to a degree...silent, content, but hoping to feel the air on her skin just once before she dies. She hasn't been fully integrated yet. She's just led by a kinder master.

Sometimes I wonder if "the real me" or the "authentic me" is elusive like a Sasquatch. You might catch glimpses of it, but you can never quite meet it head-on and ask it out to tea. No matter how times I've felt like I've finally reached my authentic self, I shed my skin again and that woman is lost to history. But with each layer shed and with each new iteration, I do feel like I understand my true self better. That "me inside of me" seems to fill out my skin more and more over the years. And I come more to peace with what I find inside of me, which brings me more to peace with the people and situation I find outside of me as well. 

I think we've been led to believe that "our true self" or our "authentic self" is a destination that we reach one day when we have amassed a lot of wisdom. But I'm coming more and more to believe that it doesn't exist. I think "authenticity" is more like a continually evolving journey. Sure, there's a core to us that remains constant throughout our lives. But that core is surrounded by a continually changing and evolving ether that, like quicksilver, is difficult to hold or contain. And I'm good with that. It makes life interesting. And I'm certain that if I ever stopped seeking—if there is a destination to ultimately reach—then life would lose its purpose. I've invested too much in this journey to ever be satisfied by reaching its end. 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

10/20/14—Ditching My Vacation

My stress busting laser star projector
Last week I was on vacation. But less than 36 hours before I packed the car to go to our B&B in the country, I canceled all my plans.

There are two main reasons why I did this. The first has to do with how I've been feeling lately. I'm literally exhausted with being exhausted. I think my hormones have gone all goofy during menopause and my energy levels are debilitatingly low. So as I sat at home going over the list of all the things I had to do before I went on vacation—clean house, plan meals, pack for me and my dogs, etc.—it just felt overwhelming. While we love the place we stay, the amount of work needed for three or four days in the country didn't seem worth it this time around. 

The other reason is that, for months, I had been worried about Mystic. When we go to this place, she has free run of the property, which she loves. But this time I was really stressed about her wandering. What if she got lost? What if it's hunting season and someone shoots at her? What if she wanders off the property and gets herself in trouble—one time she got stuck in a neighbor's (empty) chicken coop and couldn't get out! So either I was having some sort of intuition about what might happen or I was just worried about losing my Mystic. She has been to this same place four times in her life and has successfully wandered and stayed within earshot each time. But this time I was worried. 

So I decided to have a staycation. I'm pretty sure I've had one before, but it wasn't really memorable. This one, however, was. 

Mostly I just did whatever the heck I felt like doing for nine days. I slept generously. I cooked a big casserole so I wouldn't have to worry about what to eat. I watched spiritual movies and TV shows. I went out for coffee or lunch a couple of times. I took the dogs to the dog park or on walks. I treated myself well. I basically did what I wanted, when I wanted, which somehow resulted in the house getting mostly clean along the way. And, perhaps the biggest thing, I wasn't allowed to judge myself at all for how I was spending my time. 

The results of all of this? Probably one of the most refreshing and enlightening vacations I've ever had! I didn't have to expend any energy to get the relaxing, energy-increasing benefits of time off...and let's face it, we usually expend a lot of energy planning, packing and commuting to and from our vacation spot. 

And, for me personally, it was enlightening, because I haven't felt this good emotionally and spiritually for a while because of the physical issues I've been facing. Just when I was starting to wonder if I'd feel miserable for the rest of my life, I had the experience of my spirit feeling good again. And while I still have to figure out what's wrong with me hormonally/physically and get help for that, it doesn't feel so insurmountable anymore. 

Moreover, I got the chance to see where I needlessly stress myself out over things. I kept much the same sleep schedule over vacation, but with a little more sleep perhaps. Normally I beat myself up for going to bed late, but while on vacation I didn't. And there's really no need to beat myself up over it. While I know it's better to go to bed earlier, I make my choices. It is what it is. I also found myself doing more in a day on some days. Normally I would tell myself there wasn't time to get A, B and C all done in a day, but without deadlines or appointments to worry about, I saw how efficient and effortless running errands could be, for example. 

Whether during my normal routine or on vacation I always feel like I'm working against the clock. It's nice to remember the clock doesn't always have to be ticking. Many of the things that made me start to feel like I'm getting back in groove are things that don't take extra time or effort to do. Like one night I just listened to New Age music and put on my laser star generator and blissed out. I don't have to wait for a vacation to do stuff like that. I just have to remember how to take care of myself and treat myself kindly. Somehow I'd forgotten that. It was nice to get the reminder.