Sometimes I don’t sleep well. I’ll fall asleep right away, but then I wake up, usually about 2 or 3 am, when the liver meridian is strongest. One of the liver’s jobs is to synthesize the events of the day before, deciding what to keep and what to discard. So when I don’t sleep well, I guess there’s so much to filter through, that it wakes me up.
The good news is that I’m privy to my subconscious thinking in those wee hours. Small situations of the day before loom ominously at 3 am, and since I’m awake I can, if I want to, figure out why.
The other morning I was thinking about someone I barely know and I felt funny—bad funny. Instead of shoving it under the rug I decided to poke around in the depths of me and see what I came up with. And it was this: I was comparing myself to this person and judging myself against them in a little subconscious competition. I realized if I do this with someone I barely know, I must do it with everyone. Not that it’s a bad thing–I think it is in our DNA–survival of the fittest.
But if it is a subconscious behavior it leads me–controls me. If, on the other hand, I am consciously aware of it, then it becomes another opportunity to set myself a little more free. I can realize that there’s no comparison between me and someone else. There’s no comparison between anyone and anyone else. Each of us fits into our lives, hand-made for that life. There’s no one else who can fill it or live it.
We are all incomparable.
One of the things I appreciated about my vacation last week was the perspective I had when I came back. Right now I’m going through something. It’s a growth (aren’t they all) phase, and I call it that because it is so darn uncomfortable. My insides are all churny and I feel as if the old structures that I set up to define me and protect me—the scaffolding and armature of my identity—are breaking off and falling away. The me that is growing bigger than my old façade feels unsure and vulnerable as it is being exposed and it doesn’t have the protection I think I need, hence the uncomfortable feeling.
And therein lies the rub, as they say.
Because the whole point of living is not to protect and wall off yourself, it is to feel your life. Feelings of vulnerability and lostness are part of life. And if I don’t let myself go down there and wallow in it, not only am I missing out on experiencing my life, but I’m short circuiting my process of growth by not acknowledging the feelings that herald that particular growth.
I really don’t like the feeling of not being in control. Trust is not my strongest suit. So guess what, it is trust that I have to learn to grow into. And life, in all its profound wisdom, presents me with opportunities to trust by making me feel vulnerable. I could fight it, and I have, in the past. But that only leads to a stronger, shall we say, nudge, to grow. So now I try to get what life is asking of me. I go down there and I wallow and I feel what is asking to be felt. And then I discover, to my surprise and gratitude that vulnerability is just that—a time of openness and trust. And in truth, it is filled with the joy that is the foundation of life.
There is a trend I’ve been noticing in the public forum lately–that of men publicly respecting their wives. Not the age-old, rather patronizing professed admiration for their mothering skills, but a real respect for them as partners beyond gender stereotype. It is perhaps most noticeable in Barack Obama. He clearly and publicly respects his wife and perhaps this has given tacit, sub-conscious permission for all strong men to publicly respect their wives. My own husband is a case in point, although he didn’t need the permission of the commander in chief to extol my virtues (as he sees them, others may disagree). He has been on my side since day one and made it no secret.
Another notable respecter-of-their-wife is mega-author Stephen King. I don’t know him personally, but I did read his “On Writing,” a book that is part memoir, part writing advice and a paragon of clear thinking. He doesn’t go on and on about how his wife, Tabitha, is the “wind beneath his wings.” He just tells it like it is, inserting her contributions into his success where they belong. There are plenty of them and they are pivotal. In this way, he is paying her the compliment of genuine respect—he’s not overstating it, and not understating it.
It’s a good trend—this trend of men being strong enough to be vulnerable enough to give someone else the credit they deserve. Women are strong. That’s just a fact. And as more and more men stop trying to ignore that and more and more women accept their own strength, we become the partners we’re supposed to be.