try a little tenderness

I’m thinking today about how boundaries and defense mechanisms are kind of cousins. I haven’t always had healthy boundaries, but defense mechanisms -- those I had to spare. Sarcasm, hypervigilance, making myself the most useful person in any room… when I didn’t know how to protect my vulnerable self-parts in healthy ways, these helped.

When I met my now-wife, one of the things she was able to reflect to me was the way I distanced from feeling through sarcasm, self-deprecation, and teasing. So I tried to stop. I would catch myself just before or (more often) just after speaking and feel terrible about it, shame myself for not doing better, being better.

Surprise: that didn’t work.

The only thing that did work was examining what was behind these words, what purpose they served. And once I did that, once I unpacked for myself the WHY behind these actions, I was able to let them go. Not squash them or pretend they didn’t exist or build detours around them, but look at them, thank them for the part they played in my survival, and release them from their work.

So often, we try to willpower our way through change, when what we need is some gentleness. To be able to look upon our flaws with love, and gratitude, and let them go so that something else can take their place.

If there’s a task before me this lifetime, that’s probably the one. I know the perfectionists in the room hear me. Let’s just today, just tonight, lift up something that once served us, thank it, and release it into the good air that sweeps everything clean.

Everything brought you here.

Listen.

Everybody thinks they’ve done their life wrong somehow.

One day, I worked with someone who feared she had made all the wrong choices by focusing on her life as an artist and not settling down, having kids, in her words “giving it up to the normal.”

The next, someone who was certain all of her choices were wrong because she’d married, had kids, put her career aspirations aside and now finds herself single, kids out of the house, unsure of where to send her energies.

Everybody thinks they’ve done their life wrong somehow.

If only we could go back. Not answer the phone. Send that email. Say no instead of yes, yes instead of no, take that job, not move to that city, listen to our mother, not listen to our mother, kiss her, get out of the car while it’s still in motion, run for our lives, sit still, actually practice the piano, kiss him, fly back in time to say good-bye, never eat too much, never drink too much, never say those things we can’t forget or take back, never be born.

Listen. Everything brought you here.

And I’m talking to myself as much as to you. Maybe more. I’m the queen of hindsight, the empress of revisionist history, the high priestess of how things might have been if only I were perfect. But man, everything brought us here.

And here, here is where we belong. Even if it’s a hard place to be. Even if it’s the worst. Where you are is a fucking trampoline to the next place, the next thing. Or maybe it’s just a broken lock on the crawl space, and you’re out of here. Or you just need to walk into the next room, say hi to the plants and the mirror and moon and consider who you want to be tomorrow.  

You are so right. You are so necessary. Wherever you're headed has genius in it -- the genius of possibility. God, I love possibility.

Years ago, when I was in the middle of steady making marvelously terrible choices, I was fond of saying I just wanted to make new mistakes. And that was close to right -- that was my unwavering love of possibility making cracks in my stubborn clinging to cynicism, which felt then like a kind of safety.

What’s possible for you right now, if you let go of everything you think you’ve done wrong? What if you just entertained the idea that everything you’ve ever done was exactly right, because it brought you exactly here, just as you are, entirely ready, gorgeously formed in the image of yourself? What then?