The other day I met another young man with MS. He is the youngest person with MS who I have ever met. Anyway, in the course of our extended conversation, I remember him asking me whether it was hard for me to express my emotions. I said that for me it was not but that I imagined it must be harder for men. He asked me why and I said, "Because it is harder for men to be vulnerable."
As a society we make little room for vulnerability. I imagine that it is sometimes harder to be a man with MS for this reason. I also imagine that it can be harder for men because so many of the people with this disease are women. Not only are more sufferers women, but by nature most of us like to talk to each other and we like to talk about our feelings. The generalizations I make here are by no means to be regarded as universal truths, they are merely my own musings. This is also not my main point. My main point is that although it is often more acceptable for women to make themselves vulnerable, it is hard for human beings to make themselves vulnerable. It is hard to look deeply at ourselves and it is even harder to let even our closest friends take a deep peek. When I started this blog I resolved to write with as much as honesty as I could for both myself and the benefit of my readers. What follows is some of my own reflections of late.
It is hard to take a good honest look at oneself. I look at myself deeply and regularly but with some things, I just don't delve into them all the way to their darkest depths. I don't go there because to do so causes too much anxiety in my daily life and takes my focus off my day-to-day commitments. Now I have been on vacation for almost a week and so I am much more relaxed than usual. I have taken a portion of my time away from home and work to really look to the sources of my anxieties and discontent.
Shortly before my vacation I taught a yoga class focused on the concept of "asteya". This can be loosely translated to mean "non-stealing" but the author of Meditations from the Mat noted that it can also be about attachments. I encouraged my students to think about their own attachments and to let something go. This led me to think a bit about my own attachments. One of the things that occurred to me is that I am a bit addicted to drama. Talk about vulnerable... It disgusts me just a little to even admit this to myself. It seems there is a part of me that is addicted to suffering. At some level, I am unsure how to operate without feeling bad about something. Most of the time I choose to hate myself or to fixate on the worst of my situation. Really it is no wonder that I feel anxious.
During my vacation, I have had time to look further. I see two things at the center of most of my angst. Actually, there is really only one thing manifesting in two ways. There is fear. I have a deep fear of not doing things well or being unable to do things. I have another deep fear that somehow I am deeply flawed. My interactions with others are colored by my second fear. I always assume that I am being judged for my flaws. I find criticisms where perhaps there are none. For some reason I always think that other people will find something wrong with me. I try so hard to do everything well but I leave little room to be human. I am driven by a fear of being less than perfect. I loathe myself for my imperfections. It is as though I believe there is this giant scorecard measuring everything I do and I must constantly find ways to give myself points. I am looking at myself from the outside and making assumptions about the ways others may see me. Even as I write now, I imagine the reactions of my various readers. I am an addict. I am addicted to this way of seeing things. Change is hard but I am determined to change. I realize that this change I seek may be long and hard in coming but in the end, I will feel much better having ceased to judge myself in this manner.
If I were my own friend I would say, "You are fine the way you are. Nothing is wrong with you. You are not flawed. You are a beautiful person and nobody is judging you." I would tell my friend not be so hard on herself. I would point out to her all the things inside her that are beautiful. I would remind her of all the unselfish things she continually does to help other people and how much she really gives to other people all the time. I would remind her that it is ok to be human. It is ok to fail at times. It is ok to be sick when you are sick. It is ok to take a break. It is ok to say "no" and to focus on your own truest needs and desires sometimes.
Today I am thankful for these insights into my own patterns of operation.
To be continued...