Do We Beat Ourselves Up Too Much?

nevistar-cassidy-haley

I’m coming off of a very unproductive half of 2016. Unproductive but not uninspired.

Maybe I didn’t get everything I intended to do done. But I’m learning that’s okay. I manage wicked bouts of anxiety and depression and I have in the past shamed myself for not doing enough. If I’m realistic I’m hard on myself, but aren’t we all.

In the time I haven’t been creating much, I’ve been recreating me. Really assessing what I am and what I’m not. Stuff is being tossed out, things that matter are being acquired or more fully appreciated.

I’ll tell you this, I don’t feel lazy. I feel 40 actual pounds lighter physically and 100 pounds lighter emotionally. I’m gearing up to work on a few new art forms I’ve never tried before.

I’m watching a ton more anime and reading a lot more manga because that’s what inspires me. I was watching mostly TV, catching up if you will, but there’s very little magic and joy anymore, even fun adventures get shaken up by the oh let’s kill a main character syndrome going around TV. So what if I work better when I can absorb playful stories instead of morbid ones. ( Though I like GoT and TWD very much, and they never pretended they weren’t going to murder half the cast)

So what if I enjoy fun, some would say childish things. That’s what inspires me. It’s not the only thing but I’m tired of shoving it away, burying it under more mature choices. I like fantasy. I believe in unicorns. Occasionally, it’s fun to throw down in a game of Duel Monsters.

So to answer the title question. Yes, we do. I know I do. Or well I did…things are changing. I’ve come to the heartbreaking realization I do not see myself. Which any of you out there who know archetypes means I am a narcissist.

I’ve spent at 35 years of my life trying to BE SOMEONE, enough to earn the right to live so the voice inside my  head telling me I don’t deserve to be here would have to shut up. I have tried to justify my existence by discovering what good I could be in the world. Prayed to my gods to find a meaningful purpose and having received no thing I perceived as a response, forged out on my own.

I tried helping kids by using my talents to write a children’s book. I tried helping by starting a forum for people who felt disenfranchised to encourage each other to do small acts of kindness. I tried writing a book about how we are all ROCKSTARS!

But what I never did was look for me in all that, I figured if I save the world or even a little part of it then finally then, I’ve earned the right to be here maybe just maybe even be loved.

I turned a corner recently realizing that was my own personal demon-when you dug as far into my subconscious as you can go– I was revealed to be someone certain they weren’t supposed to be born, and to make up for the mistake felt they had to achieve every form of success and every level of philanthropy and service. I came into the world as a miracle baby and when my mere presence did not heal (as if any one person’s could) those around me from what tragedies came before me, I was driven to become that miracle at the expense of myself. As a teenager and then a adult, I started to feel pressure to be more, be better, be a good person. One of the most insidious subconscious programs was the need to do great things since even as a baby who in theory can be the greatest thing to happen to their parents I could not steal the grief of losing my brother born still born the year before.

It was never about Stacey. My real name. Which I don’t use in art or writing because I wanted to be somebody new, somebody special, and when I found my spiritual path I thought it would be bold to use my sacred name in my creative endeavors. I suppose in a way I was hiding from the Universe in hopes I could contribute to society before it sent something to wipe me out or a voice to convince me to do it myself.

But here’s the part that stings. Stacey was special. I never looked at her beauty, her genuine kindness, her creativity.  And forget beating her up, I neglected her, I abandoned her. I neglected me. I neglected myself.

I know the truth now.  I know it in my soul and I’m doing my best to help my mind and body catch up. Stacey isn’t gone, she’s right here, has been right here waiting for me to see her. Waiting for me to see her through the eyes of those who love her. And most importantly waiting for me to realize I don’t have to justify my existence. None of us do. There’s no measure of great works or need to pay back God or anyone for love freely given. No mandatory proof of selfless action required to be deemed worthy of love denied.

I exist.

That’s enough.

If I wasn’t needed here, I wouldn’t be here.

The Universe wanted me.

Nothing can change that.

You exist.

The Universe wanted you.

Nothing can change that.

Shining Imperfectly

Leo Fairy 01

Two of the things I’ve learned throughout the last 25 or so years of self discovery and seeking to “better” myself…

The first…Don’t try to “better” yourself that way lies a long cycle of perfectionism.

And the second (which is what I want to discuss today)…

Love the teachings that help you, create a relationship with them but don’t exalt them. Love the man or woman behind the teacher but don’t raise them to the level of infallible guru.

Why? Because they are human even if they bring light to the darkest places. Favorite musicians get sober..and fall off the wagon. If the music speaks to us, we forgive them. Spiritual teachers all have one thing in common, just like the musicians, they are human and by that definition have a unique filter, make mistakes and come from their own biases.

They also possess gifts and wisdom that help a lot of people. But we can’t become blind followers or we lose the most important lesson they want to convey. The world needs us to be ourselves.

I mention this today because the world lost a beautiful loving man and I want to acknowledge the light he left behind for all of us.

“Don’t die with your music inside you”, one of my favorite phrases Dr Wayne Dyer ever shared with us. It has on more than one occasion been my guiding purpose. The man’s words got me thinking for myself, about by worth, and through some of the toughest times in my life.

Then I came across a new teacher, Robert Ohotto, who has a brilliant, tell it like it is way in his work. To put it bluntly, things got real real fast when I started working with him. One of the insights Robert shares is the encouragement to ask questions and find the shame in our beloved spiritual teachings. See if they are really empowering us. This has done wonders for me.

But it nearly destroyed a relationship I had with another dear friend and teacher-you guessed it-Dr. Wayne.

So here is where I was fallible. This is where I am also human.

I almost discarded my Dr. Wayne books. I went too far on the “witch hunt” of finding the shame in things. Just because some of Dr. Wayne’s teachings didn’t serve my growth doesn’t mean they were all that way. Yet, I simply walked away from it as if it had no value.

Thankfully this was only a short period of time, because Dr. Wayne is just as much a ROCKSTAR as Robert.

Even more thankfully, I realized this because I realized Robert’s imperfections as well. I don’t jive with EVERYTHING he says either and some of it if I took it at face value without question I would feel horrible shame. I have to relate it to who I am and what it does for my empowerment. I love Robert but I’ve learned his work is also delivered through unique filters and personal bias as well.

Then it hit me, I am the one seeing everything including myself with a perfectionist filter. I was the one lifting these men up to guru status, and if something didn’t sit right I thought it meant there was something wrong with me not the teaching. Even if I got to question the teaching, I would spiral into thoughts of inferiority-like if these guys can make mistakes and they are so great, how horrible will I be at trying to share my light.

Coming back from the insecure crazies, it dawned on me. It’s ok. These men, these teachers, they are both here to give us themselves. They aren’t perfect but they went out anyway, flaws and genius and all, to bring their flavor of awesome to the world.

Let’s not throw away the light someone gives us because not all of the light they bring speaks to us or we outright disagree with it. Let’s simply practice discernment and see the humanity in these people and understand we are just like them.

If we do, we’ll find another way to break out of our own perfectionist cages. We can let go of impossible standards and be a light onto the world because we can let our own soul shine through.

Imagine who might see us, even in our own imperfections and find their own light. Imagine if we knew our gifts could be given through our human-ness. Our ability to shine imperfectly.

I am thinking of that phrase-what would you do if you knew you wouldn’t fail. I think I want to flip it in my life.

I want to ask…

What would you do if you knew you were being a light in the dark and giving your gifts even through your failures, your mistakes, and personal biases. What if your light still shines through.

For me, these are interesting questions. Ones I’m willing to explore.

R.I.P. Dr. Wayne. And know that thanks to you being bold with your light it remains for those of us who need it to help ours be revealed.

Don’t Forget to Remind Yourself How Special You Are

I have made a major revelation about my spiritual stuff (well major to me). I’ve sort of come out of the muck I was stumbling around in. I’ve been having this internal struggle about wanting to be special or well the fear that that’s the motivation for most of what I do. Like being an artist. A writer. A shaman. It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t be those things if they were really me but were they all just things I did to feel special. This is one of my demons for certain, I have this constant nagging that I’m a sham and a fake. I’ve been examining this throughout my spiritual journey, but here’s the thing, I decided maybe what this demon needs IS to feel special.

 
See, when I start this cycle of doubt I become crippled, slowly, ever so slowly, I stop doing everything that makes me me. There’s goes the art. The words. The ritual. The magick. The person. The question always comes back to if I am doing this to feel special and if that’s the only reason doesn’t that make me horrible. Yeah I know it may seem ridiculous but it’s one of my demons and it’s one of the hats I wear. I claim it or it rules me. 
 
So, here’s what happened, it wasn’t an epiphany so much as a slow build as I acknowledged the demon and worked with it no matter how unpleasant it got. I got an answer. The storm inside quieted and I knew the answer. I knew how to care for this little monster for the rest of my life because I’m sure it will get out of control again.
 
It was so simple. Which I confess I don’t embrace simple well. I can answer a pretty deep inner questing turmoil now.
 
I am a shaman because of this demon. Because I doubt. Because I want to be special. Because I sought to heal myself and find my own power. I do my rituals and I can speak to my Gods and I have profound experiences because that is my medicine. That is my healing. That is how I REMIND myself I am special. That is how I then go out in the world and live that truth. If I were to stop, when I stop, I create nothing. Thank the deeper forces within and without I have that demon to start wreaking havoc when I forget this. I can’t imagine being who I am without it .

from gerardway.com

 

The Happy-Sads

I was having a conversation with someone important to me a few months ago and they said something I had never heard before.

We were talking about depression. More specifically- the flash-flood of bulletproof mania, and it’s inevitable descent into lengthy, paralyzing anguish- our shared condition. 

“The Happy-Sads.” they said. “That’s what my doctor calls them”.

 I rested in the hum-quiet lapse that happens every so often on the phone. 

It seemed such a simple way to put it, but it summed it all up. I hear these little pieces all the time- I think we all do- someone says something, a turn of phrase, or a sentence fragment- and it sticks. It resonates. It becomes a short story or the subject of a comic, a song title- sometimes more.

The Happy-Sads.

It felt like something larger and smaller at the same time- it made sense of everything, boiling it down to a simple phrase- and I laid down under it’s gravity. 

I remember being a boy, and the times where everything was quiet. Those were the briefest moments, and you had to catch them like comets. Then came chaos and noise- reckless, indestructible enthusiasm. That part lasted longer than the quiet, but not nearly as long as the empty.

I think it was easier for those older than me to say I was simply shy, and I wasn’t to hear the word “introverted” until I got to high school, and I didn’t hear anyone seriously talk about “depression” until I was in college- and even then it was just something you could “will away”. No one’s son or daughter was “crazy” or a “manic-depressive”. Labels. From youth to adulthood I would bounce back and forth from “very artistic” to “quiet”.

If my depression was robbing the bank, then my anxiety was waiting in the get-away car outside, masked and armed. There would be stretches that would go on for weeks where I thought I was going to Hell. These would segue into stretches where, knowing that everyone was going to die eventually and I would lose everyone I knew, I couldn’t spend more than 2 minutes in school before going home in hysterics.  I just didn’t want to lose a single moment with people I loved- moments I could never get back.

My anxiety found different ways of manifesting itself- more subdued versions as I got older, but the back and forth, the up and down, stayed the same. You couldn’t wind a watch to it, but you could see it just over the hill, and you’d wait for it to hit.

Years of it.

Then I learned to use it, to tap into it, but I was hiding, not facing.

Being a singer in a band allowed me to tap into 2 very extreme emotions, and ones I knew very well- violent happiness and theatrical despair. This worked for me for years. And the more I could use them every night, the less I had to deal with them during the day, or night afterwards. Zeroes in a bunk, zeroes in the morning, drinking coffee, watching mile-markers. 

Zeroes. Years of them.

I then decided to deal with it.

I had another conversation, again with someone important to me, but this person was life-threateningly ill. They said to me one thing that was the most important.

 “Everything is temporary. When you’re happy- it’s temporary. Sad? Temporary. Job? Temporary. Bought a house? It’s only yours until you no longer need it. “

There were two ways to look at it- happy or sad. But everything was temporary.

In your worst moments, where you are staring into the blackest hole, the razor-lined mouth of a vicious, rabid animal- when you aren’t good enough, pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough- when the worst thing inside you chooses to attack- it is temporary. Likewise, when you are in those moments of pure joy, surrounded by your loved ones, high scoring skee-ball, holding your best friends hand at a concert- it is also temporary.

And that is ok. 

It is life, and living, or the closest thing to it- but more than that there is help.

I go to therapy- my doctor and I don’t use labels, because she believes that every single person is a different case. What one person has more of, another has less of.

And in the differences, we are all the same- imbalanced, and some of us need an assist. I grew up in an era that came off the tail end of damning the notion of mental treatment, so it was a dirty phrase. Unfortunately it still is today. The labels linger, the stigma exists, and all of it keeps help further away.

This is the part where I get serious and say that if you suffer from severe depression, you should seek treatment. If no one takes you seriously- find someone that will. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t fear a single repercussion for taking my mental health seriously and in my hands. Nothing would stop me. Not a label, or a joke- nothing.

I hope you find comfort in this. I hope you know that a lot of people, including myself, battle the beast all the time, and we win. I have finally gotten myself to a place where I no longer face the extremes, but it takes work, every week- I get up, and I make sure I am at my session- even the days where I don’t want to be there. I would imagine you’d feel the same way sometimes, and that is ok. Maybe it’s even hard for you to take the first steps- and that’s ok too.

 I know you can.

 

My heart shattered when I read this -in a good way-in the way of healing-but make no mistake it shattered.

This man and his music and passion have been there for me through all the dark nights and glorious inspirations, he’s made me feel many emotions, -some made me create(like the Black Parade which inspired a post apocalyptic pony novel I’ve been writing for years),- some I didn’t want to feel(hearing “Light Behind Your Eyes” for the first time while knowing one of my dear friends was dying  and I’d never get to say goodbye and I for the first time didn’t have to lock my grief away)-and some made me feel like I could change the world if I could just figure out how.

But he’s never made me feel more human and less alone than with what he shared in this post. Until today I didn’t realize one of my heroes shares my pain.

What to me has often felt like crippling madness. Yet he has it too and he is still someone’s inspiration, he still means so much to the people that love him.

And he gets help.

Maybe I can get help too.

Maybe I can start to see how much I mean to the ones that love me.

Maybe, just maybe, I will inspire someone too.

 

Constructive Criticism

Writer!

Write more of you

Your glorious

Your trite

Your clever

Your trashy

Your colors

Your fears

Your wretched speling misteaks

Your amazing insights

Your beautiful one-of-kind

self indulgent lies

Your over-inflated self-effacing fancy

IT ALL SERVES

For what is left behind in

each flourish of a pen

or dashing keystroke

Does more than a million

shamed to goodness silences

So writer write!

Write more of you

That is all the world needs

Breathe

Raise your pen.

Flex your fingers.

Now

Write more of you and nourish us all

Peeling the Layers

Dear friends, if you relate to this, if it speaks to you. It’s yours. Do with it as you will.

This is a bit of a rant about a book(The Onion Girl) but it is also how I feel now about some heavy things.

Here’s the thing, I was utterly enchanted by the book,in so far as its world building. The other realm of dreams. The crow people. The canine people. The fellow dream travelers. The idea that everyone has a heart-home there. Breathtaking. Mr. De Lint made me want to run out and get all the Newford books.

There is just one problem, well two really. JILLY COPPERCORN and how AMAZING and WONDERFUL everyone else thinks she is. Even the more shamanic leaning ones like Joe don’t seem to see this girl has a problem, in fact they are enablers.

I am a World-Walker, which means I shape-shift into the characters of the story I am engaging the way other shamans become birds or fish or things. It’s a modern update on that sort of thing. I go in the story and after I experience it, after I truly feel it and live it, I apply the practical lessons it has for me to investigate in my life.

Well, it didn’t take long to identify with Jilly. She’s a dreamer, she is a painter, she is such a good friend always there for everyone. She has this bright beautiful light in her. Strives to be always giving. Loved by everyone, book inhabitants and readers alike. But she carries a self-loathing as well.

Okay, I’m on board. Things I have been. Things I strove to be. Things I have heard people say about me. All secrets and emotions and pain buried but look I’m a good person. Look at what a great friend I can be. I will give up anything to be your best friend or at least the friend you so desperately need. Oh yeah, I got this, I bet this story is going to show Jilly the err of her ways so to speak, she is going to have to break that co-dependent pattern after she gets hit by the car and paralyzed. That’s a wake up call if I ever heard one.

Tell me she’s going to learn, as I have had to, as I am just waking up to myself; that that isn’t healthy. That is not what it means to be a loving person. That is not an authentic way to be. That is not how you receive love.

Nope. Not at all. She not only chooses to give away her light to save someone else she gets commended for it. It just adds to the myth of the amazing Jilly. So selfless. So willing to give to everyone she can.

Well I am calling bullshit. What a load of crap. Yes, she learns you can’t run from your past and you need to forgive yourself but she doesn’t learn she’s a CO-DEPENDENT. She’s just adored by all. Of course she is, she’s a co-dependent, most people like having them around to give and give and give. To take advantage of. Even those who resent it also like it sometimes. Plus, Jilly never gets called out for how her entire esteem system is based on how she cares for others.

People love people like Jilly because who doesn’t like being taken care of and paid attention to. Can you really say a bad word about the person who bends over backwards for friend and stranger alike. No. Because we are under a cultural spell when it comes to charity, self-sacrifice, and giving.

Why is it more meaningful for someone who has twenty dollars to feed their family to drop ten of it in a homeless person’s hand than say someone who had a hundred to spare and gave the same ten. I challenge that idea. In the first case, the 10 dollars is a irresponsible and potentially harmful gift of charity the giver can’t afford. In the second, giving that 10 dollar bill won’t hurt the giver or anyone else.

Would you feel good about taking resources you and your loved ones need and giving them away to charity. I wouldn’t. But should I feel the authentic need to give my resources that go over and above my needs (and dare I say wants), would I act on it. Yes, when and where it felt true to my core.

If that makes me sound like an asshole, so be it. I used to be like Jilly, I know dear friends who still are, who work tirelessly to be the bestest friend and givingest person they can be. Never stopping to breathe and be who they are. Take time for themselves. Use their resources for their own needs, growth, and healing. Give their real amazing gifts.

Here’s the thing. Energy works the same way the money in my example does. A healthy, self-nourishing person can give their energy and gifts freely. A depleted self sacrificing one, not so much. Whatever they do in their desperation to be good worthy people pales in comparison to what they could do if they let themselves receive and be nourished; then gave only what was authentic to them. Guilt-free. Shame-free. Not because it’s just the right thing to do.

Jilly has a past that makes her feel ashamed and worthless, she has had touches of grace and loving people who saved her from the streets. Now, the poor girl feels like she has to save everybody, be everyone’s friend, and make everyone else happy before she can ever be worthy of past aide and present affection.

But what if, someone, anyone, encouraged Jilly and the Jilly’s of the world, to get on with the business of being Jilly. Instead of enabling her to give away her inner light; encourage her to use it to heal herself and then bring her unique authentic gifts out to share.

See, I don’t hate Jilly. I feel equal parts sadness and rage about her. When she without a thought saves Raylene by giving up her gift of light that spirit gave to her at the risk of never returning to the dream world and possibly never being able to use her arm to paint, I felt a little ill. I would have been right there calling her a hero. But I have grown, and I recognize in myself and other people, when bright gifts are squandered for the sake of pandering to other people. For crying out loud, if there was ever a time to learn you have to heal yourself before you can save anyone else, you would THINK lying in a bed paralyzed after being hit by a car wondering if you’ll ever walk or paint again would be it. Girlfriend, at least think about it, you might need that for yourself, for your healing.

What’s even sadder and more rage inducing is how much her friends support her co-dependent behavior. Like I said even the ones who spout things like you can’t bury your past and sooner or later you have to learn to accept it as part of you, will still gush about what a lovely kind person Jilly is.

Can no one see. Does no one love the girl enough to tell her how it really is. Are they that culturally blind as a whole.

Jilly(and all the Jilly’s of the world) is a beautiful worthy soul. Why does she have to go to such lengths to prove it. Why does that have to be her life’s purpose-fixing everybody, championing their dreams while neglecting her own if in fact she has even given herself time and space to dream. Maybe her gift isn’t to save people or see that they are happy, maybe her gift, her light, her energy is better used to serve the creation of her great work. For her that might be the fairy pictures that enchant. But does anyone, even the wise spirits she encounters so much as suggest that or lead her to the place where she could make such a discovery? No, she is of course, heralded a hero. Selfless wonderful Jilly.

But I have to ask does anyone see her at all. Does she see herself? Is she really the hero of her own story or just following the proper script?

What great things could we accomplish if we stopped trying to be good people and do the right thing. What if, instead, we lived our truth!