Will this make me MORE or make me LESS?
Will what I’m about to do make me more of who I am, be a truthful representation of who I currently am, or speak to the kind of person I want to be? Or, will it simply make me less of who I am? By “Less” I mean any action or word that isn’t the whole truth, an indirect look into the source. You’re either a lamp whose light is bright and vibrant, or you’re a lamp who wears a lampshade. You’re comfortable (and dare I say complacent) with obscuring the real, authentic source.
C.S. Lewis illustrated a similar point on the matter. And although the application of his idea was slightly different, I feel it still relates. He pointed out that there is a sound difference between looking along something rather than looking directly at it. Truth be told he was in his garden tool shed on what I’d imagine to be a sunny afternoon when he had this idea. He stepped in and the door closed behind him; but it only slightly closed. It was left ajar. As he turned to exit he noticed the outside light, a sunbeam likely reflected by particles and dust, slicing into the shed. I’ll let him finish:
“I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it…Then I moved, so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no tool shed, and (above all) no beam. Instead I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam, and looking at the beam are very different experiences.”
We almost want people to look along us instead of directly at us. If we let them look directly at us, we fear what they’ll think. We default to offer a certain perception of ourselves instead of the real un-obscured self. I suggest that this is why we make “things that make us Less” choices instead of making “things that make us More” choices. In truth it’s easier to tell a half-truth, to have that extra drink, that extra slice, and to avoid that person you need to talk to. I’m not suggesting that just because it’s easier, that it’s bad. If you’ve genuinely fallen in love, that’s often described as “easy”. And it was likely easy because not much was said; there was a true connection that made both parties feel like they were more.
When you decide to be MORE, you then yield to the possibility of growth. Growth in your awareness, both for yourself and the world around you. And aside from being More for yourself, wouldn’t you desire to be More (and not Less) for others in your life? Let me be clear: More isn’t synonymous with being perfect. Being MORE is a road, not a destination, so cut yourself a break if you make a “Less” decision. But walk the More road, and don’t concern yourself with the end.
That’ll work itself out.
In my recent talks with friends and mutual friends alike, there’s been a common theme that appears to surface — a theme I’ll affectionately title the “What I’m Not” theme.
You’re on a walk, on the phone, or at lunch with a friend and the conversation gets “real”. You go deeper. The topic usually centers around what they want and why they don’t have “it”. The whole of the conversation is built around trying to flesh out and understand this disparity between these two points. I want “X”, but don’t have “X”. And this is fine. It’s nothing but a universal dilemma most humans experience day in and day out. Since most of us are a practical sort, we can typically map out a plan to achieve whatever we set out to do. But what of those who simply feel like they can’t (and perhaps feel this way every time they encounter this want)?
I suggest that there’s a debilitating narrative at work and most of us aren’t aware of it.
In my experience, the conversation begins with sharing seeds of frustrations (personally, I don’t take these lightly when listening to a friend, for I feel that at the root of every frustration is some kind of fear). The frustrations then bloom, showing at length how deep these conflicts go. I then notice a set of patterns in their speech. I sum up these patterns of speech (regardless of what was specifically said) into a “What I’m Not” speech.
I wrote a previous post about demons; they are the voices that seek to undermine your joy, peace, etc. By way of illustration, I’ll call this the “What I’m Not” demon. Its intention is to place emphasis, to turn your attention, on everything you’re NOT versus everything that you ARE.
When what you think, say, or do about is based on what you don’t have, you lose yourself to the wrong tense – the future tense (because you don’t desire what you already have). And the problem is that you exist in the present tense. “Are” is a present-tense verb. I’m not saying you can’t make plans for next week; just make plans for next week while consciously staying in the present. Anxiety lives in the future, depression lives in the past. If you need a little more resolve about how to stay in the present, just know that the shape of things now are likely the shape of your future. So if your not happy with things now, then don’t be too upset if you haven’t made any changes a year from now.
Consider what now has become a common expression in popular psychology: “You are enough”. I hope this becomes a cultural maxim and not a cliche, because it’s true. Start to believe it. Take solace and comfort and perhaps be willing to alter your narrative from “What I’m Not” to “What I Am”. As to “What you are”, I don’t know, but I know this much: You want to be loved and understood — therein lies your answer. What? Strangely enough, you may find love and understanding when you decide to actively love and understand others.
This whole foray into the “What I am” narrative might be awkward. It was for me. When you start taking stock in what you are, confidence surfaces like that flower in the cracks of the concrete; it breaks through and crumbles your fears and insecurities.
I call them demons because they may as well be. They are the voices in your head that seek to undermine all your attempts to feel joy, hope, self-forgiveness, truth, etc. They’re the “I’m not enough” or “I don’t have what it takes”, or even, “I’ll just have that talk with so and so next week”.
I suggest that they work to ensure you never get something started (inertia); and if you already have something started, they work to ensure that you never finish it (entropy).
The demons are spawns of fear. Fear is the catalyst of doubt, worry, anxiety, and stress. There is the intrinsic “healthy” fear that tells your body to run from the lion — and you should. But that dance you have to choreograph, that paper you have to finish, that (again) difficult talk you need to have with your friend or spouse is not a meat-eating predator. And yet we treat the most important things we need to face as if they have sharp teeth. And not facing them only makes it worse, for you either pay now or you pay more later. Paying later sucks more for all parties involved.
The demons like to keep you in a complacent limbo, and if they’re really successful they’ll have you forget or lose sight of what you set out to ‘initially’ start or ‘eventually’ finish. They’ll employ distractions. This comes in the form of people, entertainment, or go-to coping mechanisms (pint of Ben and Jerry’s, pints of beer, or a pint of self-deprecation).
Neurologists (each in their own way) will tell you that your brain has a lazy disposition, and if it’s not challenged, it will move into states of rigidity. Hence the expression “Can’t teach a old dog new tricks” — it’s not that the dog isn’t willing, it’s just that the dog neurologically can’t. Okay, point being..?
Point being is this: I suggest that you have a certain set of agreements, whether you’re aware of them or not, that keep you from starting or finishing something. And the good news is that these agreements can be changed! NEUROLOGICALLY! How? The same way you’d attempt to learn a new language: time and repetition. I don’t know WHAT agreements you have that keep from openly feeling joy, hope, love, peace, or contentment. That’s something each of us have to work out with fear. I know. You have to partner and collaborate with fear to overcome it. It brings light to the expression, “Know your enemy,” I suppose.
To beat the demon, face the demon.
Pushing – Don’t do it. It’s your ego’s proclivity to prove it’s right — to prove that it’s bigger, stronger, faster, smarter, whatever. I let God do the pushing. If you don’t believe in God, then for semantic’s sake perhaps replace “God” with “Universe” or some other ethereal entity above and outside your finite existence.
Presuming – Don’t do it. Don’t make presumptions about how you should be treated in any situation. ANY. Don’t make presumptions about other people. Be curious. If you’re curious, you can’t be angry. This is beautiful when you come into contact with someone with a completely different set of life experiences, world views, life styles, etc. You might make a friend and in the process actually learn something.
Pretending – DON’T DO IT. Let’s put that expression “Be Yourself” into practice. In my experience, this has been the most difficult for people. Well, to be yourself is to not be another, right? Let’s quote-drop Gandhi for help on this: “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” A helpful synonym for “Happiness” (as it pertains to the quote) would be “Wholeness”. Truth leads to wholeness. If you’re whole, you’re undivided. You then proceed to be your true self.
These three “P” words have had a significant impact on my life. I often repeat them as a kind of mantra to center myself (“Don’t push, presume, or pretend”). Just the other day I found myself delivering a half-truth about an experience I had just to make it sound more interesting. I (we) do this unconsciously at times because deep down there’s a need to be accepted, affirmed, and understood. I feel these “P’s” can aid in helping us to live our most truthful and truth-filled lives.