I have lived my life trying to please others. As many know, this can never be attained….and it will never be enough. It can never be enough when the judge and jury is seen as outside of yourself…ready to pass (mostly negative) judgment on what you say, do, look like….everything. And that jury then becomes internalized and the harshness taken up a notch (or a thousand) in intensity, condemnation, and the inevitable verdict of “guilty”, whether earned or not.
And so the drive to please continued, and the instinct to hide and try not to be seen too much, so that others could not condemn. But the self recrimination never left.
I have had enough….not that I don’t slip into this all too familiar pattern easily. But now, I try to catch it sooner, and dismiss the jurors within, and let the jurors without know that they have fulfilled their service and are no longer needed. Actually, the invitations for their jury duty were sent in error.
What is helping me to get to this point? The ever growing reality of mortality. One of the bittersweet gifts of aging. It is becoming more real that indeed death awaits. Not that I want to rush it and not that I don’t want to live the best and fullest life possible, but it is becoming increasingly clear that there is an expiration date on this human body that I have been allowed to borrow for a while. I see the signs….the changing skin and body, the slowing down (not necessarily a bad thing, as it does allow more time to notice things and simply “be”), the waking up with new aches and pains, the realization that going to the gym is now a necessity for continued best functioning, movement, and strength and no longer for the never realized goal of getting completely fit and “chiseled”. (I don’t seem to have a body that lends itself to the chiseled look….As I read on a greeting card once, some of us are built more for comfort…)
So I find that I am challenging myself (on my braver days) to risk leaving my comfort zone more and more. I reason with myself and ask “What difference does it make? What will this matter when I am gone?” Why not try new things? Why not take more calculated risks? Why not try and keep working on dreams that I never seemed to have time for when I was busy working for a living and coming home to recover from the day, only to start over again the next morning? I did enjoy what I did (social worker) and I loved helping people, and the time came to stop and take a look at who I am if I am no longer a social worker (one of the gifts and challenges of retirement) and what my purpose may now be.
I love to write – and so I blog. I didn’t even really know what a blog was when I started this. So what? Why not? I want to write a book. Why not?
I love to paint, and have done so up to now mainly for my own pleasure, which has been great. I now have the chance to actually put my work out there – possible art shows, submit photos to magazines and other venues to see if anyone may enjoy them. Why not? Who cares if they don’t sell or if I don’t get chosen? I feel like the point is more to put the work out there, to allow myself to be seen. What is the point of hiding? What is the danger of being seen? Why not?
I love animals, and so I volunteer at the local zoo. I get to be around the elephants. They have taught me much ….about being in the moment, about no apologies for a larger size and wrinkles and saggy skin…..about being absolutely beautiful just as they are. They are beautiful for the beings that they are. Can we all possibly feel this way about ourselves? Why not?
I remember giving one of my (very anxious) housemates in college a funny little plaque. It read “Don’t worry. You’ll never get out of this world alive anyway….!” I didn’t realize how much wisdom was in that.
So here I am. I have days where I forget all that I have written above – that’s human and ok too. But now there are days that I truly ask myself, each time I hear those internal jurors trying to pipe up and hold me back, why not? Why not live life to the fullest? Why not try things that interest you? Why not dare to follow dreams that were put on hold, with no real expectation of any outcome – but simply to follow them and see what that feels like? To finally let that being that you were initially were come back out to play. And live. And be. While you still can.