by Teresa Bigelow
Following a rather intense and ethereal experience one recent spring evening in NY, a girlfriend and I crammed into a tiny West Village table to share a bottle of wine and a heart-to-heart. At one point, avoiding her gaze so she couldn’t see my disappointment, I said: “It’s like everything I ever thought is actually nothing.”
We looked at each other, considering this for a moment, before collapsing into a fit of laughter that shook the whole restaurant — all 10×10 feet of it. It was the laughter you save for those occasions where something is so absurd and so true that the only response your brain can transmit is an endless stream of silent, uncontrollable hysterics.
I was remembering this moment as this last full moon drew in an extra high tide of emotions. I was met with a swell this past Wednesday that I hadn’t expected to crash over me with such force.
I’d slipped into an all-too familiar habit of taking things personally, and letting others’ comments, actions, inactions, and reactions define my value, leaving me feeling disoriented and moody. A couple deep breaths, a magical full moon ritual, and a pizza party with the ladies were all I needed to snap out of it.
But just a short time in the dark was enough to show me what I needed to see. Again.
The thing is, I’m used to being good at stuff. And if I’m not good at something, I either don’t do it, or I don’t do it in public until I am good at it.
More importantly, I’m used to other people thinking I’m good at stuff. I was always the kid being moved up a level in dance class or swimming lessons or reading comprehension. I’d win at science fairs and creative writing contests.
As I got older, I realized there were definitely things I’d never be good at, but I also developed a deeply rooted confidence in my ability to do whatever I wanted to do, and well.
In many ways, that’s the type of attitude we want children to grow up with, right? It’s what fosters a confident, can-do attitude as an adult. It’s what gives us an ability to overcome failure. It’s the attitude of entrepreneurs and artists and anyone who trusts in the unknown. But without integrity or humbleness this mindset can also lead to arrogance and self-righteousness.
Do I consider myself a self-righteous bitch? No.
Do I maybe-sometimes-a lot justify my actions and words with an identity recorded at a very young age — whispers of “you’re so smart” and “you’re so mature for your age” and “we really think you belong in a more advanced level” echoing in my subconscious? Definitely.
That’s my ego protector hard at work. And when my ego is in danger, those whispers get a little louder.
I know I’m not the only one who does this, because I can smell it on people like a wolf can smell her own pack. And that’s also how I know it’s not cool.
Not everyone is going to think you’re awesome all the time. Most of the time people are too busy trying to figure out their own awesomeness to truly appreciate yours. And that’s totally ok.
Others commission different ego protectors, like victimization, martyrdom, drugs, alcohol, or just hiding from life in general. Whatever the building material, we all put up our own walls to protect our ego from the stuff we don’t want to admit.
Sometimes, during an unsettling or emotional experience, we get a glimpse of what’s behind the wall. And if we’re not ready, it will terrify us. And then we’ll simply build the wall higher and stronger.
But when we are ready, we can start to see it for what it really is: aspects of our-Self that we haven’t loved fully yet. During emotional turmoil we have an opportunity to figure out what the wall is made of, so that one day we can come prepared with the right tools to knock it down.
I’m still working on gathering those tools, myself. And I’ll admit it’s pretty confusing. Even as I’m writing this I’m like “What the fuck am I talking about?” Seriously. Because sometimes the part of you that wants to knock down the wall is the same part of you that built it, and that’s when shit gets really complicated.
But as the intensity of the full moon hit me this week, I was reminded of the time I cried tears of laughter into my vegan BBQ soy chicken quinoa bowl (which tasted as bad as it sounds, by the way) over a bottle of red wine and the notion that what I always thought I knew actually…isn’t. Not now anyway.
It might sound depressing at first, especially when you’ve always been generally proud of your thoughts, but just sit with this for a while. I swear it’ll start to feel empowering.
Basically, what we think, feel, and know in the moment is the only thing that’s real. The gold stars we received 15 years ago don’t matter now, nor do the compliments we received 5 seconds ago. And the same goes for the less enjoyable experiences that we feed into our identity with equal fervor. Our perspectives and internal truths change with every new breath.
So if you consider yourself a brand new person in every moment, you can’t possibly ever fall short of your own expectations of what you “should” or “shouldn’t” be, because there’s no longer a narrative on which to set an expectation.
And others’ expectations for you become their problem. We are the sum total of our existence, not of our past or of external circumstances and opinions. And our existence is right now. If we live through our past and the familiar patterns that protect us from reality, we’ll never truly know how to love ourselves.
So when emotions run high, we can either use them to reinforce our fears and the walls that keep us from being whole, or we can see them as an opportunity to see all aspects of Self — the good, bad, and beautifully ugly. And regardless of what we’re ready for, sometimes it’s best to just surrender to the absurdity of it all, grab a bottle of wine and/or a friend, and laugh our ass off.
About the Author:
Based between New York and Mumbai, Teresa Bigelow is a compulsive mover, Love Tribe enthusiast, and head publicity siren for an Indian music app. Her childhood dreams of being a professional dancer have manifested as a keen ability to dance between two worlds—the conventional and the magical. She can move with the shakers, but she wanders with the dreamers. From high rises to sunrises, from shareholders to shamans, from five stars to shooting stars, her mission in life is to integrate these worlds. Writing is one of her favorite tools for doing so. Connect with Teresa on Twitter and Instagram, or on her blog: thatspiritualchick.com.
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