I am feeling bitter and resentful. That puts me out of alignment with my value of forgiveness, so I know I have some work to do. Mind if I do it here?
It's all about judgment, really. Yours and mine, both.
See, I currently get a lot of kudos for my striving to recover from myriad adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), including sexual abuse, parental alcoholism, and verbal/emotional abuse. Yet, I've been striving for more than 30 years and rarely heard this kind of praise before.
What's the difference now? This phase of recovery is changing my body's size and shape.
Kind of pisses me off.
First, here's about me for a bit, before the big lessons about judgment.
How about this: what if, all those decades when I yo-yo dieted my way to higher and higher numbers on the scale, what if those who are so impressed now were equally impressed by my repeated Herculean efforts at better health, by the miracle of my surviving my childhood at all, and by my efforts to create a coherent, healthy personality. Sure they were chaotic, messy efforts. So is toilet training, but y'all cheer for that.
My layers and layers of protective pounds, my alcoholism and drug abuse, my chaotic drama.... Why did these not impress? Were they not incredibly creative strategies to stay alive and out of a straight jacket? And then, in the years when I started leaving some of those protections behind: my angry defensiveness, my apparent sense of entitlement, the social anxiety that came across abrasively blunt -- why were these genius efforts at recovery not appreciated?
Today, when all that excruciating emotional recovery work is done, when I've built a personality that has integrity with my values and is psychologically and emotionally sound, now my recovery has shifted to my physical body. I'm healing the six-plus decades of buried physical trauma and adverse health conditions that resulted from floods of cortisol and adrenaline regularly surging through my systems, from infancy onward.
Now, I eat healthily, work out, and have lost 100 pounds because I'm healing my systems from that early soaking in stress hormones. Goody for me.
Seriously, this part of the recovery journey is no more impressive than the rest of it. In many ways, it's the least impressive. Yet I am now judged by many to be healthy, strong, a good role model, and "amazing."
So here we are, at judgment. We're all so freaking good at labeling the surface of what we see, aren't we? A single interaction with -- nay, a single observation of -- someone can generate a one-word label that locks down that person's identity in our minds. Done and done. We know who she is now.
I don't really care that, now, the judgments are positive. I long for a world in which we look at each other with curiosity, rather than labels -- negative or positive -- in our minds. I seek in myself the willingness to open my heart to the deeper, wider person who lives beyond the surface that I see.
When I worked in the Independence Missouri School District in the early 90s, one of our program's teacher aides said to me, "When a child behaves badly, I try to look beneath the deed and see the need." I thought it was brilliant, as a teaching strategy. Now, I know it is a pretty great life strategy.
I would have loved someone -- anyone -- to see my old addictions, drama, selfishness, and anxiety as the surface they were...to see them with curiosity. My journey would have been eased and, maybe, shortened a bit by just a few people willing to look beneath my deeds and see the silently screaming needs they hid. I did finally get that perspective from my therapist, who admired the creativity of my survival and helped me do the same.
What do you think? Is there a way we can all begin to admire each other's survival strategies? Can we hold our hearts open, in the presence of another's chaotic recovery, without judging them and sentencing them to a life-term under a label?
Can we replace "He's a __________" with "I wonder what's going on with him?" I honestly think this one shift is world changing!
(*Those of a certain age will recognize this allusion to Flip Wilson's comedy, meant with respect.)
You can hear me next week on Thursday, August 23rd at 12:00 noon on the Author Brand Connection webcast, talking about my experiences as a self-publishing author, including my recent successful crowdfunding campaign. Register at http://daviscreative.com/author-brand-connection/