It’s been just over a month since I began my year of celibacy and no intoxicants, coupled with the lesser goals of avoiding sugar and not cutting my hair, for the purpose of supporting and providing a foundation to integrate the metaphysical growth spurt I am going through.
The celibacy and lack of substances has been so natural I’ve barely noticed a change, other than to smile a little when I think about how much money I save by not having a drink when I eat out, which has only happened a couple times since I’m saving for a trailer and didn’t make ‘not obliviously starving myself’ a priority this time around.
Another observation I’ve had is the overwhelmingly positive response of people when I have occasion to share about this – usually when I’m being offered weed or a beer. They offer, or ask if I drink/smoke, and I say yes, that I do, but I’m a month into my year off. They invariably respond with pleasant surprise, immediate acceptance, and sometimes praise and pensiveness and questions.
Which is funny, since I had imagined being cajoled or mocked most of the time.
People aren’t doing that. They are interested and impressed and respectful. That in and of itself has felt very healing and grounding. And it’s been nice for my faith in humanity; It appears perhaps I am not the only one who has grown up some.
I will just mention briefly that I’m very glad not to be putting this aspect of things to the test regarding sex, and simply removing the option from my life has been ideal for me.
The hair cutting thing didn’t go as well, which is fine, because a) I cut my hair myself b) I left part of it the length it was and c) it looks completely awesome.
This will come as a shock to.. probably nobody. But it’s been unsettling for me, after 34 years of manufacturing identity reliant on the opposite. I am starting to get that I am, fundamentally, a really fucking genuinely nice person.
Like, painfully caring.
Perhaps it’s not so much that I’m only just now getting that; It’s likely more that I am starting to finally accept it.
Like, really accept it.
In my guts and in my cells and in my felt senses, rather than just carrying my squish around in the back of my head to fuel my general distaste for dumbfucks and mean people.
I am starting to experience with acute awareness and observation how the things I’ve come to automatically do to protect myself, like blame, and pick arguments, and being verbally abusive, have corroded my integrity and my ethics; I’ve moved beyond simply philosophizing and mentalizing about them to stewing in it — not wallowing, but stewing. Feeling it. Feeling what it really means and does to me to be that way.
Here’s the tip of what I’ve learned:
I value compassion and kindness more now than I used to. I’ve been seeing it in the people around me. In how I’ve suddenly become intolerant to witnessing anger and aggression, even justified anger and aggression, yet have been caught in the reality that I default to being that way myself if I’m not really careful.
I’ve been really fucking tormented by it. Really screaming about it and pushy and compassion baiting and disgusted with people, but struggling to accept my anger and own capacity for cruelty.
“When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people.” ― Abraham Joshua Heschel
I can admit that deep down I want everyone to be ok and for everyone to be harmonious; I can admit that my desire to blow up every fuckass government and financial facility full of fuckass government and financial people in the country is a wish rooted in the desire to do better for the world I live in.
However my sense of self hasn’t caught up to that. I am still in a deep state of transition and identity dysphoria (Ok well to be fair when am I not really THANKS MENTAL ILLNESS THANKS A LOT).
The problem is that while my admiration is shifting, and has been shifting for a very long time, and I’ve made strides in that direction, I still too often value my own intelligence and biting wit more than my kindness.
I’ve as yet been unwilling, and truthfully, unable, to give up and let go of my biting intellectual bratty truth teller call-you-on-your-shit tough love ‘fuck most everyone except you of course’ identity.
Plus, as with all significant personal transformations, most of the people in my life also identify me in that way, and largely unconsciously encourage me to stay there.
Moving further toward the balance point I am seeking there (the snark is staying, mmmkay.) has helped me see how this inner turmoil presented itself in my life; I’ve equated that need for harmony, with wanting people to like me.
Unpacking that has been a real bitch.
I’ve discovered that at the heart of this, I, the person in the room who most often says what others are thinking, who calls out the shit and the elephants, who asks the hard questions and gives the hard answers, absolutely hates confrontation (“Which is funny, since I had imagined being cajoled or mocked most of the time.”).
Yes. I do. I hate it. My face gets hot. My voice cracks and wavers. I shake and feel like I might cry. I feel as though I’m on a chopping block or in front of a firing squad. My guts knot up and I feel prone to attack and rejection and death. My legs shake. I want the ground to open my up and swallow me. It feels fucking horrible.
And I do it anyway. It’s part of who I am and it’s part of what I value about myself. At my best I stand up for myself and for other people and am the person who first says “This is wrong.”
Yet even asking a person to stop rudely yelling on their cellphone in the open lobby of my office building gives me a flowering anxiety deep in my guts, as though I were attempting to tweeze a chunk of corn from between a rabid demon lion’s teeth. With my face. With loaded guns pointed at my head.
Though I call it to me dozens of times in a day, and berate myself when I don’t engage in it (I kicked myself for weeks for not confronting a teenager who hit her dog in front of me; which I didn’t do because I would have been fucking batshit at her about it), I hate confrontation so much that I constantly prepare for it when it isn’t there.
Like the diarrhea inducing anxiety waves I ignored for years when I’d be putting on my face and armor to go out clubbing, a classic example of invented confrontation that I’ve since overcome by accepting myself as an introvert, I’ve known this for some time, but avoided really feeling it.
Ok. This moment, like the last few thousand moments today, might be a confrontation. So let’s armor up. Big breath, suck it down, be commanding, be rigid, be no bullshit, walk fierce and scowl a little, tell them to stop, stand up for yourself, what the fuck is that shaking in your voice, what kind of weakling are you anyway, why are you so afraid of some dumb stranger, you’re in the right, they’re annoying everyone else too you just have the balls to say something, you’re always the one who has the balls to say something, you’re the strong one why don’t you fucking feel like it, see it’s over now but you’re still freaked out, but nothing happened, but you’re still freaked out like 10 minutes after, you won! You’re a FUCKING LEADER! What the hell is wrong with you?
I know what’s wrong with me; Though I’ve cultivated esteem and self caring over the years, and yes, I am a natural leader, I’ve yet to master in myself the art of fighting fair.
And for me, as someone who has a lot of fucking fight in them, that is an absolutely vital foundation to have. And I DO NOT HAVE IT.
I’ve the skills, and knowledge, the drive, and I’ve done a lot of work here; but what I’ve been missing is consistent practice. Only in my direct work with clients, and in very important, long thought personal confrontations, or in rare-ish charmed instances when access to that toolkit was quick and easy, have I consistently actually incorporated my knowledge of compassionate asskicking.
So, confrontation — of any kind or scope — most often feels like an untamed wild card that could explode at any moment. Because I often handle it like an untamed wild card that could explode at any moment, and I desperately want for the person I am confronting to manage that for me; By liking me. And oftentimes I approach that by being, basically, as unlikable as possible.
“It’s not your job to like me – it’s mine.” – Byron Katie
Now that I’m settled into YotN a bit, the experiments can begin. Each month I am going to try to root something new and specific by going to an extreme of some sort. For June, my goal is to not complain for a month.
Yep. My goal, is to not complain for a month. Keep laughing. It’s ok.
There are too many reasons why this is a good idea to list out. The most applicable one here, is that I think fighting fair starts with the little things, and the things I say to myself, which are mostly, frankly, still pretty awful.
And, I don’t really know how to limit my complaining to doing so effectively. I mean, I do, I just.. don’t.
I’m doomed to repeat this pattern as long as the fight in my head stays the way it is; biting, judgmental, self righteous, intolerant, offensive, aggressive, dehumanizing, self-pitying, belittling, alienating and superior. So it’s time for a bath.
Approaching fighting with compassion and fairness is a life long practice. I will never be perfect at it and I don’t expect myself to be. I choose to live an intense life; I will devolve sometimes, understandably, and that’s ok.
But I have seen this as a hurdle to jump over all my life. In this quiet, in my healing cocoon nest space I’m evoking, I see it as a hurdle I can topple over, and start stomping on, instead.