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?
This month has been a month of interesting contemplations …. specifically, about the costumes we wear and how we relate to ourselves and others when those costumes look different.
For instance, my brother and his wife recently added a new little one to our all-Caucasian family – a sweet, brave, chubby Chinese infant who just set foot on American soil for the first time last month.
In the same month, one of my dearest friends has returned home to Houston to build a counseling practice supporting LGBT kids, teens, and young adults.
And my personal dreams lately have been full of memories of my long journey away from anorexia and bulimia and towards fully recovered life….a journey I consider to be still “in progress.”
So when I happened across a recent article in Time that focused on the plight of transgendered persons in America, it hit me right in the heart.
As I read about how transgender, transvestite, and transsexual individuals have been mis-addressed and mis-labeled through the DSM (the Diagnostic Standards Manual – a worldwide “bible” of sorts for diagnosing and treating mental illness) it reminded me of my own struggles with how eating disorders in the DSM have been repeatedly re-labeled and often mis-labeled, and how that has affected my experience of seeking support, treatment, and recovery over the years.
One line in the Time article especially caught my attention – a comment by women’s and gender studies professor Elizabeth Reis (University of Oregon):
Most people are happy in the gender that they’re raised. They don’t wake up every day questioning if they are male or female.
The article continues with author Katy Steinmetz commenting:
For many trans people, the body they were born in is a suffocating costume they are unable to take off.”
Over the years I have talked with and met so many folks who can relate – but not because they are “trans” in some way that is specific to body parts or gender.
Some of the people I’ve met who feel trapped in a costume they didn’t order and so they want a smaller costume. Others want a larger costume. Some people want a costume that is shaped differently. Still others want a younger or older costume, or a costume that comes with a different story, life, partner, or family attached to it.
In some way, we all feel “different” – oh so very different – inside our “costumes.”
Right now I only get two magazine subscriptions.
Birds and Blooms was a gift to my avian from his doting grandma (aka my mom).
Time was yet another attempt to use up those expiring airline miles.
While you can probably already guess which one I find easier to read all the way through, Time does have the occasional newsworthy highlight.
For instance, this week’s edition shared the passing of an Austrian painter named Maria Lassnig.
Lassnig was an artist who spent much of her career exploring the felt experience of existing within a body (a style she termed “body awareness.”)
I found this quite intriguing!
In fact, I’ve been pondering Time’s little blurb about her for the last week or so. The question on my mind is this:
What DOES it feel like to be in a body?
As of this year, I am in the 3rd year of my 40th decade.
First of all (just for the record) I can’t understand why anyone dreads turning 40.
The 40′s are awesome!!
When I turned 40, I dyed my hair purple. At 41, I added bright blue. In my 42nd year, I launched a blog about my pet parrot. This year, at age 43, I added a mini-tortoise named Malti to our little family.
In addition to these many wonders, I am also finding that, in my 40′s, I no mostly longer desire to be perceived in any particular light by others.
In my teens, 20′s, 30′s….heck, basically all the years up til now….I was pretty concerned about being perceived as a “good” person.
As such, I took any leadership opportunities SO seriously that letting someone else down, disappointing another person, or crossing horns (or swords) left me waiting for the handcuffs to arrive and the cell door to swing shut.
In fact, I looked forward to it – I felt that was exactly what I deserved for being less than perfect.
Today I know there is no perfect. Thank goodness.
Which brings me to pedestals and people.
My mind has not always been my friend.
In fact, until quite recently (within the last couple of years) I often felt my mind hated me.
Listening to the inner stream of meanness, I would sometime fantasize about how peaceful my life might become if I could just take my mind out back and shoot it between the eyeballs.
No more mind…..no more pain.
Interestingly, as I have worked more with my mind over the last couple of years through meditation, contemplation, and study, I am finding ever more confirmation that I am on the right track with my efforts to quiet my mind.
In fact, recently I read an article that lined it out in stark black and white (and I paraphrase):
A mind “crowded with thoughts” is a weak mind. A mind free from thoughts is an “extremely strong” mind.
In the last few months I have at times felt overwhelmed by the number of prayer requests making their way into my life.
Many of these prayer requests have been quite specific, too – for healing, for safe travels, for comfort after breakup or loss, for successful adoption, for a cure…..
It also feels important to mention I’m not just talking about folks I know only through Facebook….I’m talking about people who are so close to me that imagining life without them kind of feels like imagining life without breathing.
In other words….not good.
Of course, being the type-AAA personality that I am, I have eagerly leaped at each and every prayer request, taking my commitment to offer up such prayers as I can manage to compose quite seriously.
I mean, a person can’t just say they will pray and then not do it. That is like lying to God (a lose-lose situation no matter how you slice it).
Plus, it is highly comforting to ask someone I care for who is struggling, “What can I do to help?” and receive specific and detailed instructions.
Yet when it comes to handling prayer requests, this doesn’t always sit well deep down inside.
Not everyone is a “dreamer.”
However, I am.
What I mean is, I have always had exceptionally vivid dreams. In fact, sometimes the dream-me can pack in several different dreams in a single night.
Often (and increasingly as I get older) I also have repetitive dreams.
While I do realize here that scientists are moving ever closer to understanding the possible biological nature of the human dreamscape, they are not moving quite fast enough for my liking.
So instead of continuing to wait, I have chosen to adopt a different strategy for dealing with my dream life, and especially for dealing with repetitive dreams, and most especially for dealing with repetitive disturbing dreams.
I’ll give you one example of a repetitive disturbing dream I am having frequently right now:
I am back in my anorexic years. My family life is in shambles. My folks and I are at continual loggerheads. I want to die and I also want to live, and I have no idea how to accomplish either. I wake either right before or right after my parents and I have the “argument to end all arguments” and I am leaving the house with nowhere else to go.
That is the dream, in a nutshell. I’ve already had it two nights this week alone.
About a month ago, I acted upon a long-delayed dream.
I became Mommy to a hatchling red-foot tortoise named Malti.
Malti is an Indian girl’s name that means “small fragrant jasmine flower.”
She is very small indeed (3″ from nose to tail tip).
Her fragrance comes in the form of trust.
Even as I type, she is sleeping off her lunch in a mossy corner of her new habitat – totally trusting that her every need will be provided for…..by me.
I, on the other hand, am cramming on YouTube like only a newbie turtle mommy can, ever hopeful of keeping this baby alive for one more day.
We are making a lot of progress, Malti and I, but I have to give her most of the credit.
Years ago one of my mentors told me it takes great strength to be happy.
At the time she said this, I was very intrigued…..and also very unhappy.
I also stayed very unhappy for a great many years afterwards.
But I never forgot her words.
They compelled me to periodically confront the unhappiness within me, like a journalist intent upon exposing the presence and mechanics of a long-running and very successful scam.
I wanted to know everything about my unhappiness.
In this way, questions like these became a standard part of my daily inner dialogue.
Out of this ongoing questioning process, these two key facts have become my most trusted navigators.
From here, my search for the inner strength to experience happiness has become fueled by a surprisingly simple daily practice.
I have a tendency to hold on too tightly.
My particular problem isn’t with things, per se, but rather with situations or outcomes.
From an early (oh so early) age, I was raised to set goals.
Along with goal-setting came the instruction to create a plan to achieve those goals.
So basically, I was supposed to set my goals – preferably as far in advance as possible – and then create a step-by-step plan to achieve those goals.
If I had been sports-minded, this might have been called “keeping my eye on the ball.”
The only trouble was, I was so busy keeping my eye on that. particular. ball. I failed to see any and all warning signs, obstacles, even helpful hints or shortcuts in my path.
And if a better-looking, more suitable ball were to come along, well forget it.
It was that. particular. ball. or no ball at all.
(By now you are probably beginning to perceive the issue.)
Lately a series of circumstances has invited (forced) me to take another look at whether the time-honored personal practice of setting-planning-and-achieving-specific-goals-in-advance is really a way of life I wish to continue.
Questions I’ve been asking myself include these:
My answers (thus far) are no, no, no, no, yes, yes, and “see the definition of insanity.”