If you asked me, earlier in my life, how I dealt with anger or anxiety, I would have been puzzled, and felt kind of sad for you. Anger? Anxiety? Sorry pal, those are your problems, not mine. Me, I’m super chills. Easy going. I enjoy life to the fullest! No regrets!! Just take it easy, maaaaaan. Stop taking yourself so seriously.
I should have realized these were arrows, pointing in the direction I needed to go. Because if you don’t feel some huge domain of emotion, I can practically guarantee you that the reason you’re not feeling it is NOT because it isn’t there; it’s because you’re not allowing yourself to feel it. Freud had some crazy ideas, but he was bang-on with his idea of repression. For many of us (probably all of us), we can’t see what we’ve repressed, but we ARE what we’ve repressed (not entirely, of course, but far more than we generally realize…). And when we wonder why we have a drinking problem, or video game addiction, or just feel empty a lot of the time, or worry that we’re getting older and haven’t “really lived” yet, etc., our numb-spots are clues to the direction we have to go.
More generally, the things we think are stupid or we turn our noses up at, or just think, “yeah…..maybe….whatever…..that’s not for me”, are often exactly, exactly the thing we most deeply need to nourish our growth. I’ve learned this lesson several times in life.
When I was 12, I was going to do a school project on meditation and biofeedback. But I was told that it was too hard for me; I was too stupid; I shouldn’t waste my time. So I did a ridiculous project on how to fix a motorcycle. Which was really me copying out a handbook of how to fix a motorcycle. It took 20 years before I returned to being interested in meditation, and I’ve often wondered what might have happened if I hadn’t closed myself off way back then.
When I was 15, I was given a deeply spiritual experience by a woman who was some kind of shaman or earth-witch, or something. And I felt a deeply authentic connection. I was inspired, more by her groundedness and sheer Presence than any ideas she had. But scientific skepticism took over and I rejected the obvious light in her eyes and gentleness and love that radiated out of her, and thought, nah, I don’t need that Age of Aquarian mumbo-jumbo. I’m “too smart” for that. I’m going to be a scientist! I’m going to stare into Infinity through coldly rational eyes, and I’m not gonna flinch! I’m going to deal with Reality as it is, not as the angel-believing crystal-worshippers delusionally believe it is.
Then there was the revolutionary idea of getting a good night’s sleep, eating well and exercising. Yeah, whatever. Who needs that? That’s for do-gooder losers. The boring, earnest people who don’t know how to “really live”. I want to live on the edge. I want to be a wild child. Long before Katy Perry, I wanted to be a firework. A supernova. I wanted to be Jack Kerouac, On The Road, on my own glorious rampage. Like the bad guy in Highlander said, “It’s better to burn out, than to fade away.” Right?
Then there was aikido. Then community work. Then self-compassion. Then shamanism. Like Chandler always finding something wrong with his dates, I was always able to find a reason why these things were too “something”, and so, not for me. I’m just going to stumble along being “fine”, thank you very much.
Now I’m 43 years old. And I see all these doors opening into richness. But I didn’t step through them.
Am I going to, before I’m 53? 63? 73?
If not now, when?