Who said words can never hurt you?
Well, they were wrong, at least about me. For almost two months I’ve been balanced on the edge of a sword that showed up laser-like out of nowhere and is only now showing signs of letting me off. Mean words have been part of it, and they hurt. I am here to discover my part in it, however great or small.
I am writing about my tough summer not so much to complain (though there may be that); but to help me, and perhaps you, better understand and embrace ourselves and our anguished world.
I share my out-of-the-blue hurts because I believe we awake ones can make the difference the world needs us to make only through keen awareness and deep compassion for our own anguish. (Our denial and attempts to escape our anguish definitely included).
Like it or not—and paradoxically—if I’m to be of selfless service to you (or anyone really), I’ve got to keep clearing the way for—and before—my Self. So here we go.
Pushing Nothing Away
We know that I, and you, too, since you’re able to read this, are blessed beyond belief. Any distress of ours pales against the millions—no, billions—of people experiencing lives of suffering and deprivation almost beyond our capacity to imagine it. Then again, thanks to all news all the time, less and less is left to our imagination, if we’re willing to look. And I am.
In Nova Scotia, where I spent the summer without TV, international stories abound on CBC radio. We heard sensitive, in-depth reports about routine assaults on Afghani women who dare to leave the house; the suicide hanging of a Halifax NS girl gang raped, then bullied on the Internet; a Quebec town and dozens of its citizens blown to bits by a runaway train, and, most horribly, the hundreds of Syrians writhing to death from government sanctioned nerve gas poisoning.
So there’s no question some of the piercing I’ve felt recently is fueled by the movingly crafted, heart-rending earfuls coming at us fast and furious. I have written here before that I want to open my heart so wide I can contain and embrace it all, pushing nothing and no one away. That’s why I choose to pay attention to stories of others’ despair. It can be a lot to hold these days.
But the world’s big miseries, I am embarrassed to admit, have sometimes been less troubling to me lately than my own minor ones. To my surprise, I’ve been buffeted this summer by an unprecedented string of sometimes extreme, sometimes subtle stings aimed directly at me.
People ranging from an old friend to a new neighbor, to the outrageous owners of an inn where we were guests, have treated me more disrespectfully, at times outright rudely, than I’ve ever been treated in all my lucky life. All of a sudden. It’s hard to know what to make of it.
Wake up, little Suzie, wake up
As a friend I was telling about my hard summer asked me the other day, “Don’t you wonder what you might have done to attract all that negative energy?” I do, Andrea, I do.
Although I can usually see that the offenders themselves are in pain, and that their ill behavior may have less to do with me than them, it still hurts at least a little every time. I work through it and get over it every time, too. But the cumulative effect of the many and varied insults (not to mention some significant professional disappointments) has left me feeling sad and defeated.
And that, dear readers, may be exactly what the universe, aka God, has in mind. Don’t we have to keep breaking down if we’re to break open, liberating our dear hearts and crushing ego’s seemingly endless ploys to distract us from the love that we are? Unfortunately, we do.
When we forget our true selves for even a minute, the universe kindly seeks to remind us. If we miss the soft, subtle cues, God ups the ante to whatever it takes to wake us up and bring us back home to the heart. Thank God!
No question since the publication of my first book, Bare Naked at the Reality Dance, I had lost my way a little (or maybe a lot). I got too busy too fast working, and looking outside, for the acclaim and, yes, the fame I’m sure many new authors seek. But becoming dependent on others’ recognition and approval wasn’t a happy-making plan for me as a yogini and spiritual seeker.
This summer’s many humiliations are forcing me back to—and back on—myself. I am beginning to remember that I alone must be my best friend, my own mainstay again.
Lessons I’m being clobbered with
Now that I think—and write—about it, it’s pretty simple. There are at least two lessons I am being clobbered with. First, while I am much improved from just a few years ago, I apparently still have things to learn about humility and the self-love it takes to sustain it.
Second, since some people won’t respond well to me (or perhaps to anyone) no matter how unassuming I am, it will behoove me to care a whole lot less about what others think of me.
So, yes, I’ve probably invited some of this summer’s strange abuse by showing up too forcefully. Had I been paying closer attention to others’ emotional needs, I might have toned down my power and passion around people who may find it (me) threatening. I’d have been more humble.
They say that what we put out is what comes back to us. It makes sense. I brought on disrespect by being less than fully respectful, however restrained my arrogance may have been. I see I can be more considerate—and far less judgmental—of everyone I meet, an important lesson for me.
And yes again, “little Suzie” has foolishly (if understandably!) continued to hope everyone she meets or shares her writing with will fall in love with her. And it doesn’t take a PhD in psychology to realize that the more we crave attention and approbation (let alone love), the less likely we are to attract it. The “everybody loves Suzie fest” ain’t happenin’ and it’s time I got used to it. It’s probably a darned good thing actually, given my nature and nurture tendencies to be too self-absorbed. (And, okay, some not-so-distant relatives were bona fide narcissists.)
The bottom line is this: For a seeker after lessons in self-love, compassion and selfless service, rejection trumps adulation every time. How better to learn to love ourselves—and, by extension, others.
The antidote to the pain of the insults and rejection is to sit with it every time. I must love and hold myself through each particular episode as best I can. I must stay with the painful feelings until they are burnt to an ashen crisp Shiva would be proud of. I must stay with the hurt till I can return to that great, still heart of mine, letting it nourish me, rather than look for love outside.
So, go ahead, great universe. Bring on the affronts and disappointments, if you must. Bring them on until I get the message of humility and nonattachment so clearly that, even less than caring about how I show up with others, I won’t give a damn about showing up at all. I will simply be, which, if my beloved Bapuji is any indication, is surely the most selfless service of all.
Meanwhile, I can’t wait to hear from you, dear readers. Please tell us how you use the occasional slings and arrows of outrageous fortune thrown your way to learn your lessons and grow. Let your words fly and dare to comment—for the growth and good of us all!