During one of our monthly chats over coffee—or in this case, underneath two trees in the campus grounds—my best friend turned to me and said: “The thing about meditating and stuff is that they don’t make you a better person. Not better like Mother Teresa or something. It makes you more you.”
I’ve had—and am continuing to have—a rather busy couple of months. Events and circumstances have been turning up in my life that are making me question my beliefs and assumptions about my life, my ideas about love and marriage and family, and my knowledge about myself. Whether to stay in a marriage or not, how to respond to being lied to about someone’s employment status or lack thereof, what to do when anger and resentment and bitterness squeeze my chest, how to begin to mend the breach between my daughter and husband when I myself am wavering between here or there, asking myself where I want to go from here…
I’ve been busy, is all I can say.
But back to that warm afternoon underneath a couple of trees. I looked at my bestie and said: “I know, right? If I could just go back in time and confront myself as a confused teenager struggling to piece together a sense of self from the mismatched jigsaw people were handing out to me, this is what I would tell my younger self.”
That there is no formula or magic incantation or novena that would ever turn me into a saint or anyone’s ideal person. All I would become is more and more of who I truly am.
“Then again,” I added, “I probably wouldn’t have believed me.”
Back then, I wanted to be everything. A saint. A model, or at least someone who looks like one. A top student. A good daughter. A perfect girlfriend. Famous, successful, rich, mentally and emotionally put-together, loved by all. Everything, except what I truly am. But now, I find myself wading waist-deep into a sludgy, stinky morass of personal issues, confronting the consequences of my bad decisions and my stubbornness, ignorance and willful pride, all borne from my need to prove that I was strong enough, smart enough, mature enough—just enough.
But lately, I’ve been coming up with some odd realizations. Such as my emotions are not wrong or stupid, and they do not make me evil. Even my anger serves a purpose. And my intuition—that first thought or feeling or wordless twinging in my gut—can be trusted, and that obeying it always turns out to be the right thing to do. And while I’m not and can never be perfect, I find that who and what I actually am is pretty damned interesting. And if I do the things I really want to do and don’t harm anyone anyway—if I sing out loud with my headphones on, if I flip the bird at the idiot driver who cut me off instead of swallow my anger, if I cry in front of my daughter, if I own up to the stupid things I do—then the world will, strangely enough, will not end, the planet will not get sucked into a black hole, wolves will not appear and devour me, and I will, somehow, survive.
More than survive, I will be better. I will be stronger, because I will know, deep in my bones, how strong I really am. I will be kinder, because I know what it feels like to be afraid, confused, furious, hateful, helpless, and hopeless. I will be wiser, because the wisdom is coming from deep inside me—from memory, from spirit—instead of from a book or a movie or whatever. And I will be braver, because I now know that breaking down the walls inside my own head will always be harder and scarier than anything in the outside world.
I will know better how to love, and I include myself in that. I will love all of me, from my sludgy, stinky baseness to my highest aspirations. Because all of me is the Universe and the Universe is me, and the Universe doesn’t give a shit about me turning into a saint because all It cares about is me turning into me. That was the deal we made, the Universe and I. That’s why I’m here. To be me.
I never would have believed that when I was younger. But I believe it now.
My best friend, who has gone through her own share of hell and is now beginning a new stage in her life, smiled and nodded. I smiled back.
Seems to me we’re both going to be okay.