As I said to a friend in a recent email, when I feel overwhelmed, I have the impulse to hit the delete key. As I was recovering from the trauma of realizing what had happened to me, my first thought was to shut down and pull back. Quit blogging, resign from everything, crawl into a hole and pull the hole in after me. Upon reflection, there are indeed be some things I need to pull back from. But writing isn’t one of them. It’s the one thing that works. The written word is what I feel most comfortable with. It’s how I communicate best. It’s how I connect. Connection is vital.
That is why I post this stuff on the web for all to see. I could just journal the way most people do, privately. Leave instructions for it all to be burned after I’m gone, or at least, revealed posthumously, when I’m beyond caring about public scrutiny and criticism. After all, aren’t I ashamed of what I did? Wouldn’t I be embarrassed having the world know about it and my weaknesses? People usually want to show only their best face to the world.
And that’s the point. This desire to only show your best face, to hide your weaknesses, to pretend everything is fine all of the time and keep the dirty laundry well-hidden, is a proud tradition in our society. But it gives us all the wrong impression of what it means to be human. When things go wrong, when we screw up or fall on that best face, we feel isolated and humiliated. We hang our heads in shame as if we are the only dog in the world who ever soiled a carpet. We end up in counseling wondering what’s wrong with us.
Fact is, we all screw up. We make bad choices, have bad luck, suffer a moment’s inattention or indulge an impulse that leads to disaster. If anyone claims they haven’t, they are either lying or not telling the truth. If a few of us have the courage to point out the Emperor’s lack of clothes, then the rest of us can breathe a sigh of relief and get about the business of talking openly and sorting it out. This is how we face our problems and deal with them, supporting one another instead of pointing fingers in hypocritical righteousness while praying nobody notices the stains on our own backsides.
Connection is vital.
I’ll readily confess, my first impulse when I woke up the next day and realized what had happened was not Holy shit, I could have died, but Holy shit, what are people going to think when they find out? Knee-jerk reaction was shame. I live in a small town, and that’s what people do. They gossip and shake their heads and pass judgement. I know, because I’ve been down this road before. And I’ve seen others crucified the same way. And yes, I’m ashamed to confess, I’ve been in the mob with the torches and pitchforks. It’s what humans do. It takes constant effort and vigilance not to let yourself do the ugly thing.
Compassion is vital.
So this is me, having screwed up, trying to figure out how to deal with it. Fortunately, I’ve done some of the work before. This is Colebrook Journal stuff. Beware the ruination chorus and that vicious, opportunistic demon, Depression. Individuals prone to clinical depression are far more likely to succumb with each successive episode. You’ve got to know your triggers. If you can’t disarm them, avoid them.
Compassion for oneself is vital.
I am a fish. I keep trying to climb trees. I get suckered by social pressure, the desire for approval and praise that success and fame bring. I keep falling for the Great Lie that Anyone can succeed if they try hard enough (Corollary: If you didn’t succeed, it is because you didn’t try hard enough. Conclusion: Your failure is your own fault.).
Doctor, it hurts when I do this. Doctor replies, So stop doing that.
Or as Thich Nhat Hanh says it, “If we ignore our stress, and just think that if we only work more we can take care of everything, then every day we add stress to stress and store it up in our body. If we continue like this, we make ourselves sick.” I made myself sick.
And, succinctly, “Running after wealth, fame, power and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair.” No kidding.
I’ll keep on writing (fish gotta swim) but my tree-climbing days are over.