As I shared in my last post, bullying and name calling is one possible outcome when we don’t feel like we have enough of what we need in our lives.
Or at least it is one possible outcome amongst the folks who live in my current neighborhood.
And while of course I can’t possibly know if this holds true for you, I can surely say it is true for me personally.
Over the past few weeks, I lost something very dear to me, a global nonprofit community I had created and shepherded from scratch over the last near-decade.
The loss wasn’t entirely unexpected, given that the IRS began reminding me of how hard it is to keep a nonprofit fully funded and afloat pretty much from day one (they are very faithful that way).
But since 99.9 percent of me still felt fairly confident we would be an exception to the IRS’s nonprofit doomsday predictions and current nonprofit survival rate statistics, it was still a fairly jarring loss.
Shortly thereafter, I became the unwitting target of a gang of local neighborhood bullies. It was my own fault, in a sense, and yet, even with all the fallout, second-guessing, self-questioning and newfound safety concerns it has triggered, if I went back to that night and that point in my life, I have to say I wouldn’t do anything differently.
It is just in my nature to fight for balance, for more that just the status quo, for crazy lost causes that everyone seems to know are lost causes except for me.
People close to me often file that character trait under “lack of social radar” and I can’t say I disagree with them. I don’t really have much of that when it comes to detecting a lost cause in advance.
But every once in awhile, as MentorCONNECT’s 8 successful years in operation demonstrates, a lost cause turns out to be not quite so lost after all….at least for awhile.
In the meantime, in January of this year, I embarked upon a year-long journey to discover sufficiency. My mentor in this is philanthropist Lynne Twist, who authored the fabulous book “The Soul of Money.”
As these sorts of things tend to go, what I have found thus far is not the hidden wellspring of eternal sufficiency I was keenly hoping to find. Instead, it is all the not-so-well-hidden wellsprings of scarcity living inside of me.
In other words, lack is everywhere in my own life. Not enough is so prevalent it might as well be my invisible imaginary friend, except it really isn’t that good at staying invisible or imaginary.
And to be truthful, it really does feel all too real, and more so the more I contemplate its opposite.
Previously, I was intent on escaping this neighborhood I live in to get away from all the miser-minded people who live here, who are willing to do whatever it takes to get their “little bit” of enough, whether it means slashing a tire here, shooting off a firearm there, blaring music from a speaker system on the front lawn until 3 a.m. over there, calling me names when I ask if perhaps could we come to some sort of a workable compromise with all this?
But where before I thought, “I don’t fit in; I don’t belong here,” now I see that I absolutely do belong here.
This doesn’t make me want to leave any less. Quite the contrary, as a matter of fact.
But I cannot depart without first acknowledging to myself that, yes, I have so many stories of lack too. I am chock-full of “not enough.” Me and these folks – we have more in common on the inside than will ever meet the outer eye.
Here are just a few of the many lacks that attended roll call inside me this morning….
- Not enough money.
- Not enough time.
- Not enough attention.
- Not enough recognition.
- Not enough beauty.
- Not enough strength.
- Not enough fitness.
- Not enough responsibility (this in reference to both my standard morning wake-up times and to my retirement planning and savings, or (um) lack thereof).
- Not enough love.
- Not enough friendships.
- Not enough success.
- Not enough discipline.
- Not enough good nutrition.
- Not enough energy.
- Not enough, not enough, not enough, not enough, not enough….
It is painful, reciting my own list of lacks.
It is painful to stand in that receiving line, thinking I’m about to meet a bunch of strangers, only to realize that instead I’m finally getting to know my own self.
I never have enough.
To make matters much worse, during the years I struggled to recover from an eating disorder, I got in the habit of rejecting myself as “not enough,” especially when someone else called me selfish, neurotic, stupid, disrespectful, wasteful or some other awful name that mostly related to my behavior while I was in the grips of my disease.
Those were some tight grips, and they caused me to act in some really horrible ways and say some truly hideous things.
This is basically how that time in my life first took shape:
- First, I was rejected by people significant to me for being “too fat” (which I now realize was “not enough” in constructive criticism clothing). My rejectors? My best friend of six years. My piano teacher. My peers and some of the teachers at school.
- Next, I rejected everyone else who hadn’t yet rejected me – just in case. I can’t fault myself for being proactive here, but the biggest loser in all this was definitely me.
- Finally, I rejected myself.
This process only took a few months to play out in full, but once it had, the results stuck to me like super glue.
Today, a full two decades into what I would otherwise consider quite a solid recovery from eating disordered thoughts and behaviors, my recovery work goes on and on and on at other even deeper levels.
I continue in particular to struggle with self-acceptance. In situations which trigger that old, well-learned, much-practiced tendency to assume that anyone who rejects me (in real or in my own imagination) has just cause and knows something about me that I don’t know, my knee-jerk reaction during times of trauma, bullying or tension is to push everyone else away and then to push myself away.
I then proceed with the standard emergency response plan to seek refuge in my personal house of lacks.
I recite all the ways I am not enough and do not have enough and will never have enough. This is not a to-do list or a five-year-plan, it is proof I submit to myself that I deserved whatever pain happened to cross my path on that particular day.
This is – it nearly goes without saying – a very painful process to witness. Since it is unfolding inside of me, it is also a painful process to feel and endure.
Time and time again, I find myself hanging on by my fingernails as new bruises get discovered, pressed, tested and found to be genuine.
I realize, “Oh, this is why [insert awful thing here] happened to me. I needed to see all of these lacks living like freeloaders right here inside of me.”
And it just keeps on keeping on and on and on.
Every so often, just when I think I can’t take another minute, I get a miraculous, wondrous reprieve where I think, “what was I thinking to keep begging God to just take me now – I wouldn’t have wanted to miss this wonderfulness!”
I soak it in, reveling in the joy, the light, the freedom, the love, the connection, the creativity, the expansiveness of ultimate oneness.
Then that door slams shut and the lack starts up its engines again. I can hear them revving.
This is not the same as Murphy’s Law, by the way.
I used to get them confused. I used to be enjoying something good, something wonderful, a new relationship or a new creative project or a financial windfall or whatever it would be, and the thought would waft up, “Hey, what are you going to do when it all inevitably goes away and you are left alone and miserable again?”
Thanks for nothing.
No – this is much different. This is a witnessing of what some meditators like to call the “sound wave” of life – if you’ve ever watched a heartbeat on a monitor and noticed how it rises, falls, comes back to center, rises, falls, comes back to center – that is what this is.
I rise. I fall. I come back to center. I repeat.
The first time I ever arrived at the state of “center,” I asked my mentor what to do about this sudden “boredom” I was feeling. I didn’t know what it was! It was….calm. Nothing was happening.
If I had to describe the feeling visually, it would be like watching a freeze-frame ocean with no waves. With no nothing, actually – no jumping fish, no crawling hermit crabs, no swimmers, nothing.
She told me that feeling I was feeling was “serenity.” Peace. Not boredom. Not being frozen in ennui or apathy.
It was balance.
I liked it much better after that.
I had never liked the highs much (see “Murphy’s Law”), but after meeting “balance” I started liking them much more. I started letting myself enjoy the heck out of them, actually, flying as high as I could fly, absorbing all the joy, the love, the creative inspiration, the beauty and wonder.
I did this because I knew it would not last, and I did not want to miss it while it lasted.
Similarly, while I never liked the lows, I certainly didn’t fight them – the lacks made sure when they arrived that I would receive them with the understanding that they represented my karmic due, certain repayment for past wrongs not yet righted, or simple proof of my total inadequacy and incompleteness as a human being. And when they lingered, I didn’t try to usher them out the door any faster.
Since meeting “balance,” I have learned not to hang on at least. Instead, I feel it, go through it, experience it, do my best to learn from it, and then I let it go, on account of how lows make for the kind of houseguests that will never leave unless you first release them from your death grip.
So over the years I have slowly learned to immerse myself in the highs, keep my hands off the lows and abide in the restorative (if somewhat anti-climactic) balance.
But I still haven’t healed the lacks. I still haven’t turned that half-empty cup upside down.
I still haven’t figured out how to convert “scarcity” into “sufficiency.”
This is just where I am today, and in the true spirit of my fondness for lost causes, I certainly have no plans to give up.
Today’s Takeaway: Do you often feel like you are sufficient in the ways most important to you – like you truly do enough? Or do you continually struggle with lacks, not-enough, insufficiency? What is your daily experience like? How do you cope when you do become aware of an area in your life where the presiding theme is one of “I don’t have as much as I need?”