The other night I was watching something…..I think it might have been “Longmire” but don’t quote me on that.
Speaking of which, while watching, I paused the show to write down this great quote:
There is no past that we can bring back by longing for it….only a present that builds and creates itself as the past withdraws.
Since then, I have read it every few days (on account of having written it down right on my in-phone grocery list).
Each time I re-read it, the quote makes me pause yet again.
You see, I’ve never been a “past gazer.”
I’ve just never wanted to go back – not a day in my life.
If anything, I have spent more time gazing into the future, wondering when it will finally get here.
Perhaps this is because for approximately 20 of my 44 years to date, I struggled with anorexia and bulimia.
Even after that struggle ended, I had another good long decade to follow of fighting tooth and nail with cyclical anxiety and depression.
Maturity, medication, meditation (and feathers – plenty of feathers) helped me break free at last.
When I broke free, I felt like my past had released me into my future – the future I had been longing for ever since I was born.
Last month I shared a post about how to stop judging other people.
The post generated some interesting comments.
One particular reader suggested that perhaps the sensation of “jealousy” might have a similar survival-based purpose.
I was most intrigued by her idea!
The truth is, I am personally more apt to look to animal behavior rather than human behavior to better understand why I think and say and feel and do the things I think/say/feel/do.
This is because when I watch animals there is less subtext to wade through.
The link between motive – action – desired outcome is clearer.
In the judging post, I used the analogy of a lady eagle choosing a mate and why judgment might be helpful to that process (especially since eagles mate for life).
In the same way, when I watch television shows about animals, I notice what appears to be a fair amount of what I might call “practical jealousy” – jealousy that could be useful for successfully navigating the various facets of a survival-based daily life.
Pearl doesn’t try to hide his jealousy. If anything, he amps up his efforts at self-expression (perhaps assuming his large featherless housemate is too dense to pick up on anything less than the most extreme outbursts).
You might be wondering, “How do I know that Pearl is ‘jealous’?”
The other night I had a dream that a big lion bit me in the stomach and I died.
It was a sad dream.
My family was there, and many friends, but no one could do a thing to save me.
Please understand – this kind of dream is nothing out of the ordinary for me.
I have always dreamed vividly and do not anticipate this will ever change.
I don’t even really mind it – over the years I have learned my dreams are often teachers – especially the ones that come over and over and over again.
Also, I have learned that often my pets will take on roles as “me” in my dream state (understandably, over the years this has made repeated episodes featuring the dream-time demise of my beloved parrot much easier to bear).
The lion dream especially interested me, because it followed a mystifying two-week episode of intense stomach distress of the kind I used to get when I was recovering from my eating disorder.
The other night I watched one of my favorite actors, Nicolas Cage, in a movie called “Joe.”
If you have seen the film, you know it is a bit, well, gritty.
Joe himself is rough around the edges (although at times he appears nearly genteel compared with some of his neighbors).
Why am I bringing up this particular movie in a column about mentoring and recovery?
The truth is, as I get older, I find hope in the strangest places, and often it comes in the form of a story of “mentee meets mentor.”
Joe and Gary may have appeared on the surface to be an unlikely mentor-mentee match, but they were a match just the same.
And when the movie ended, what I remembered most – and continue to remember – is that mentoring bond between Gary and Joe.
It is awfully hard to believe he is gone.
I am so very sad!!
In a recent Facebook post about his death, Williams’ friend, writer Anne Lamott, shared how sad she is, and also shared how she has always viewed laughter as “carbonated holiness.”
As a fellow depression sufferer, I too have found much-needed upliftment and release through laughter….and often through laughter at Williams’ antics.
He had that rarest of gifts – the vision to perceive exactly where the fine line lies when addressing serious subjects from a lighthearted perspective.
Two of my favorite Robin Williams movies are “Good Morning, Vietnam” and “Good Will Hunting.”
But my current reigning favorite is this six-minute interview clip from 2011.
In the clip, Williams speaks about his work, his life, his kids, his childhood and young adult years, his fame, his addiction, his recovery…..and his fear.
Recently I read the story of Robin Korth – called “My ‘Naked’ Truth.”
Truth be told, I’m not exactly sure how I came across it.
But once I started reading, I couldn’t stop.
Here is a beautiful woman, vibrant and alive in the decade just one ahead of mine (Robin is 59, I am 44) being told by her 55-year-old boyfriend that she is “too wrinkly” to be desirable in the bedroom.
Lately it feels like everywhere I turn, I am confronted with another story like Robin’s.
And lately, each time I read another one of these stories, I discover another courageous mentor – someone I desire to emulate, to embrace, to thank, to join.
Here I have to share that, in the two decades since my eating disorder battle subsided, I have maintained an uneasy truce with my ever-changing body.
I have agreed not to mention the parts I don’t like, and it has agreed not to flaunt them in my face when I look in the mirror.
But I know they are there. And it knows I don’t like those parts.
After reading Robin’s story in particular – and even though her tale is not unlike many others I have heard in the last several months (years, decades) – something inside me just put her foot down.
It said, “Enough.”
Enough of this.
Enough waffling over whether or not to really “go for it” – for the full experience of genuine body love.
Don’t get me wrong.
I don’t love making mistakes.
But I love mistakes themselves.
Mistakes are great mentors.
I usually hate mistakes when I’ve just made one (especially if other people notice) but then I start learning whatever cool new lesson it has to teach me, and everything shifts.
At that point, I fall a little bit in love with mistakes….all over again.
For the past couple of months, I have been successfully guarding a slip of fortune cookie paper from the sharp and eager beak of my parrot, Pearl.
The fortune reads:
It was when you found out you could make mistakes that you knew you were onto something.
Yet for most of my earlier years, I didn’t realize mistakes were okay….allowed….expected, even.
I didn’t think any of the people around me ever made mistakes.
I didn’t think I was supposed to make mistakes either – not if I was living right.
Yet mistakes kept happening, all the time and in so many ways.
I made mistakes about what I ate (or didn’t eat), what hobbies and classes I pursued, what friends (and boyfriends – don’t get me started on this one) I chose, what I wore, what I said, and what I did.
For a time I thought that I myself was a mistake.
This was the most painful time in my life to date.
The other day I cracked open a fortune cookie.
The fortune read:
Better face danger than be always in fear.
I nodded sagely….totally on board with this philosophy.
But looking at my own life, I can see how, time and time again, I still forget I am brave in the very moment a new danger appears.
For instance, I forget I overcame a deadly eating disorder.
The other day I caught myself saying these words out loud:
Today, I am so much closer than I ever have been before to becoming the person I want to be.
I seriously impressed myself.
Not just for having the guts and the honesty to state my truth, but also for recognizing that this IS the truth, and for being able to look at the past-present picture of me and predict such a positive future for myself.
I was all kinds of proud of myself for that.
But the real truth is, I can still remember a time in my life – many years in fact – when I honestly hated who I was.
I didn’t think I would ever turn out to be anybody worth being.
I looked for ways to help others to justify the space I took up….somehow assuming that if I didn’t “pay rent” on my life, it would be taken away and given to someone much more deserving.
Today I know that the real me – the me I thought I would never be able to be – has been inside me all along.
I wish I had known that earlier.
I wish I had known I would someday be proud to be who I am becoming.
I wish I had known I have had it in me all along.
So I am telling you now, here, just in case you don’t know this yet either.
My own tendency to judge (both others and myself) has long mystified me.
On the one hand – yuck. A life spent judging self and others isn’t much of a life at all.
Yet at times, judging others has also felt like it might serve some evolutionary purpose, perhaps even with my safety foremost in mind.
By this I mean – let’s say I am a lady bald eagle.
I tend to mate for life, which means I should choose my mate with great care.
Here, I want to choose a male who is coordinated (otherwise, we both might die during our unique courtship “spiral air dance”).
I also want a mate who is affectionate and persistent (no one respects a suitor who gives up too quickly).
Best of all, I want a mate who is a good hunter, since raising (and feeding!) hungry chicks is hard work.
So in the part of my brain that is wired to choose, as soon as mating season comes around, I am fully engaged in constantly judging, judging, judging.
The same may hold true for us human animals even in our top-of-the-food-chain, big-brained and oh-so-evolved state.
Perhaps we still judge with an eye towards survival.
Certainly we have evolved to judge so we can not just survive but thrive by selecting only the best – the best suitor, the best nesting site, the best victuals, the best of everything.
So then what if that part of our brain just keeps on judging…whether we actually need it to or not?
What if that ancient core of our brain is totally unaware that human life today is not nearly so dire – that it is not quite so absolutely necessary to notice and point out every little (real or perceived) flaw, foible, or fault in those around us?
What if we can’t even really be blamed for judging others – after all, it is in our DNA?