If the state of the world wasn’t enough to have to deal with, we all go through life adding on and disposing of mental baggage. Sometimes it’s a lack of confidence. Sometime’s it’s rejection. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s much more serious. Many times, however, our baggage accumulates from the myriad of mistakes that we are prone to make or the poor decisions that we felt would end with a different set of circumstances.
What complicates life is that we can have an aversion to just coming clean – of telling someone that we messed up, that we’re not perfect, that we haven’t got it all figured out.
Success in 2010 depends on a great deal of self-promotion. We have to be conscious of presenting the idealized self. And so on Facebook we tell other’s about the books we’ve read that affirm the image we’re trying to project. We careful craft our status postings to reflect the level of sophistication we want to portray. In real life we buy suits and cars and homes that reinforce our status and dress for the job that our ideal self deserves.
So it makes sense that we hide the aspects of our lives that are less than desirable. Having skeletons in our closets can be scary (I do not want to be attacked by zombie skeletons when all I really wanted was a sweater… just sayin). Admitting these skeletons can mean that you won’t get that job, or that thing, or that you will lose respect, or admiration, or that you ego will no longer be stroked.
Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, it is the catharsis that comes from telling another human being about your shortcomings that may help you deal with them. While I can speak only anecdotally about this (that is, I have no proof), there is a change that happens when you move from a defensive, hidden posture to an active, humbling posture in relationship with someone. There is a definite shift. It may be just the simple reality that the truth has been spoken and yet the world around us has not spontaneously erupted with laughter or ceased to exist whatsoever.
My situation on this front was one where I falsely believed that I had to live up to an idealized version of the real me. And so there is baggage that I’ve accumulated over the years that I made every effort to veil. To have someone else know these things, I rationalized, would have been far too costly and, frankly, embarrassing. Mine was a personal struggle, I reasoned. There were times when I even tried to convince myself that it would actually be harmful to the OTHER PERSON if I were to tell them.
(As an aside, I do realize that I’m speaking very cryptically at the moment. This IS intentional. If I’m interested in going into detail, I’ll do it in person… not to the safety of my computer screen).
I want to be able to say that the act of telling people about these experiences has been very rewarding. They’ve not. Or, at the very least I would not use the word rewarding. Perhaps I need only to go back to the opening line, here, and say that it has been cathartic. The world, in fact, has continued, as have my relationships with those on the receiving end of my confessions. Now there are people in the world who seem to think about me in much the same way as they always have, except now I KNOW that they know that I am not, and cannot be, perfect. And, so, I no longer have to chase after this unattainable ideal with the same fervor as before.
The other interesting component of this experience has been the affirmation of “there can be good in every situation” mentality. For me, this good has been a new down-to-earth-edness that didn’t exist before. For you readers of Velvet Elvis, it’s the take “super-whatever out back and end his worthless existence.” This humility has come in waves. The first recognition come with an admission to myself that something was amiss. My behaviors didn’t line up with my beliefs and claims. I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. That took a while to sink in before I could move on to step two: needing someone else to know that I’m not as good as I thought I was.
Step two is altogether hard, incredibly worthwhile, and sometimes unexpected. For me, it started following a flippant, passing remark during dinner one night at a local pizza place. The opportunity blindsided me like nothing had ever blindsided me before. Within the eternity that was just a couple of seconds, I reasoned that this was do or die; a “you HAVE to walk through this door” moment. So I did. And with that, the remorse and guilt and fear that saturated my consciousness for literally half a lifetime began to precipitate out. It was visible. It was just there. In the open. It could be measured and poked and prodded and evaluated.
But it couldn’t be ignored. And it couldn’t easily be dissolved back out of sight.
And then today I had the opportunity to be the first to walk though that same door rather than simply responding to someone else’s first move. It was undramatic and worthwhile and altogether incredible.
Once and for all it suddenly seemed like something separate: something that wasn’t me, but something that had continued to live parasitically from me. It didn’t drain me of happiness or joy or life. It just took the excess. It didn’t need all of my self-confidence. But it took enough so that other areas of my life suffered. It thrived when I should have been thriving. It lived when I should have been living.
It suddenly seemed so overdramatic to have spent such a great deal of the last fifteen years working to hide and feed this life-sucking leech.
And so freeing to live free of it.
From here, your guess is as good as mine as to which way this will go. I’m not expecting it to be the easiest thing in the world. Once you get used to living a certain way, changing is a challenge to put it lightly. But it’s intriguing to me that it’s in my weakness that I’m strong. It’s in my shame that I’m proud. It’s in my pain that I’m alive.
There are a few moments that I can honestly look back on and say they’ve changed my life. The day I learned about “active and passive” living and my wedding day are two that come to mind. I suspect, in a few years that I’m living another of those moments right now.