Every day, I squish and squash my giant self into this body, this mind, these behaviours, to be allowed the privilege of feeling a sense of belonging among the humans. For a long time, I lived on the belief that, as long as I could contain myself enough, I would be tolerated by some people out of respect (or even love) for the aspects of me that are actually lovable. For most of my life, I saw self-improvement as a task dedicated to making me more acceptable to everyone else.
Trying to break that habit seems to cause me to fluctuate rather than balance, which becomes just another not-good-enough to fix. I’m still a selfish, spoiled, ignorant baby as well as a generous, wise, accomplished woman, and if people are around me enough, they will see it all. If self-improvement is about changing myself to be more acceptable, I still have a long way to go. But I am forced to abandon that path. It made me sick, detached and unhappy. I'm not joking when I say, this is as good as I get for awhile, with the kind of resignation that comes of knowing I only have so much time and energy, and there’s a lot to do.
Since my self-improvement is now about making me more whole, rather than making other people more comfortable, I’ve decided to focus on 4 primary and interconnected goals right now: staying healthy, staying connected with my family, moving forward my business, and managing my anxiety. While I do my best to be nice, I think maybe I should wear a t-shirt to warn people:
“Warning: Flawed Human, not currently trying to be a nicer person.”
I’m about as nice as I’m going to get for awhile, so if my worst scares you and my best doesn’t inspire you enough to overcome it, we probably won’t spend much time together. I wish I could just tell people all of this up front and be done with it. Maybe I should make a flyer and hand it to people like a business card. It could say something like:
Dear new acquaintance:
I’m very pleased to meet you! Before we invest our time in becoming friends or deciding to work together on a project, please be aware of the following 13 conditions:
- At some point I’m going to handle a situation badly and you’re going to be pissed with me.
- Sometimes I’m going to see things so differently from you that you wonder if we’re on the same planet.
- It’s possible that I might say something, at some point, in a way that sets off something uncomfortable in you.
- I’m clumsy enough that I might hurt your feelings by accident once in awhile.
- I’m lazy about taking care of other people’s needs. I expect them to take care of their own needs.
- I believe one can’t enter a fray and expect to be safe. Earth is a big fray. Safe is an illusion.
- I will sometimes express appreciation in ways that you don’t notice, and other times, fail to notice things I should appreciate about you.
- I actually like several of my blind spots – they let me stay sane enough to hold it all together (please don't shatter my illusions).
- I’ve been known to become impatient and emphatic with surprising speed.
- I'm more interested in understanding the next step than judging the current state or worse, the past.
- I’m clueless about some things (to offset my genius in others)
- I am learning to navigate True North without a compass.
- I can’t promise never to let you down, but I can promise it will never be for lack of good will or trying.
Your New Acquaintance
What do you think? Print it up? But maybe such a letter is like a Spoiler. Maybe people just have to figure it out for themselves. As I do, about them. That's the work of life in relationship with humans - figuring out how to take care of ourselves and each other with enough slack to find our way in the dark.