Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Identifying and Owning Our Dust
There's an old saying in 12 step programs: "You are as sick as your secrets." While keeping a secret about an affair or clandestine meetings is difficult, it is equally as difficult to keep emotional secrets. We try to act big when we feel small or act cool when we are shaking in our boots. Our secrets can be so stealthy that we forget we have them.
I once had an opportunity to meet with a celebrity. There was talk of us doing a TV pilot. Some friends watched a show I produced and thought I should be on TV. The show was to be centered around me, but since I was an unknown, we needed someone with a name for the show. The big meeting was in a restaurant. We met: the real big shot and I. I felt less than, being the nobody I thought I was. We made small talk. I was full of myself, but underneath, I was afraid. Someone who did not take on new talent had offered to be my agent. Of course, I slung that fact around. I came off like a braggart. No, I actually was a braggart. Later, I asked my friend how the star liked me. She replied, "He didn't." She went on to say, "You were boastful. You were bragging. What was going on with you? We want you to stay, but we'll have to find something else for you to do. Maybe you can find the guests to be on the show." She was right. The meeting had been important to me. It could have been my big break, and I acted like a stuck-up jerk. I drug shame about the incidence around for years. Every time I thought back on the event, I could feel may face turning red. I wasn't broken up because I didn't get to be a star; I was embarrassed, to the core, that I had been so full of bravado. I didn't want people to know how low I sank. I wanted everyone to love me, and if they knew, they would think I was a charlatan. "Some spiritual person she is." As a full-time minister, the whole event gnawed on my self-image, which, I admit, was quite overblown.
I kept a deep secret from myself. I was not aware of how afraid I was, and because I swept those feelings under the rug, I blew it. If I had been in touch with my feelings and been vulnerable, the meeting might have gone differently.
I've grown since then. I frequently reveal my weaknesses without identifying with them. Who I am is clean and pure, but my body, my past, my hang-ups, my emotions, and my behavior – not so much. I remember someone saying to me, "You are like me. You put yourself down a lot." I just smiled. It wasn't easy to explain that when I remain vulnerable and don't hide my faults and fears under some pseudo self-confidence, I disarm my ego. I don't talk about my weaknesses to put myself down. I often think my weaknesses are funny or somewhat universal; therefore, understandable. I talk about my foibles to fertilize my compassion, not to denigrate myself.
When I am around people who brag, it is tempting to one-up them. Rivalry is alluring, but whenever I try to show off my knowledge, I feel crummy. It's my ego. It has to show off, but I find it better to stay quiet, even when I'm hooked into a baseless competition. Not that I can always do it.
There is a fine line between putting ourselves down and owning up to our character flaws. I may cross that line at times, but since I am not omniscient 100% of the time, it's okay to flail. I can be wise and still not be in touch with my entire psychological portfolio. We demand too much from ourselves. Our human part is but one piece of the large tapestry of being. In this tapestry there are large swaths of sky and specks of dust. We are the sky and the dust. When we are in our dust moments, we can't pretend we are the sky, but when we are in our sky moments, we can fly. And when we do, life can be EZier and EZier.