From my mother, I inherited a buzzing sense of dread and the tendency to ignore blatantly unpleasant facts. From Dad, I received guilt, a distrust of others, and an intensity of personality that could knock a buzzard off a shit wagon. Without meaning to, my parents taught me to suppress my feelings, to put on a happy face for propriety’s sake.
The problem with disconnecting from my emotions, instead of addressing them, is that eventually, I separated from my self. A gigantic hole grew in my center that I didn’t know how to fill. Vaguely aware of the Gulf within me, I spent much of my life trying to satisfy an inexplicable hunger. I turned to food, grand ideas, and men who I thought could fix me. Even after I married, I continued to feel like an outsider, someone perpetually adrift. I was 35 before I realized that, when you can’t connect to yourself, you can’t connect to anyone else either. Little by little, I began to understand that compassion—for yourself and others— is a byproduct of opening yourself up.
Take it from me. At some point in life, we all have to reach out to other people, and trust we won’t be chopped to bits. We must recognize that when we are judgmental, it’s simply because we’re so afraid of being judged. And that brassy attitude we think we’ve got the world fooled by? It’s crappy camouflage for how vulnerable we really feel.
As free-willed mature adults, what must we have, do, or be in order to let all the stuffed feelings, distracted activity, defensiveness, fear, and guilt go? How can we finally give all that crap up, if only for Lent? I believe that the secret lies in looking outside ourselves, connecting with one another, and perhaps even to a larger Whole.
And it’s about cutting people some slack, so we can relax about ourselves. And forgiving those who trespass against us, so we can forgive ourselves. It’s about stopping long enough to simply notice. To pull ours head out of a book long enough to look about. But, most of all, it’s about busting out of our bad selves. Reaching out. And allowing in. People, kindness, and new experiences.
Because feeling connected lets us breathe easier about ourselves.
It doesn’t hurt to experiment.
- Next time you’re in line, talk to the person in front of you.
- Instead of snubbing the pretty girl at the office, ask her where she bought her dress.
- Ask a total stranger a question.
- Find out where the waitress grew up and what she does for fun.
- Let someone know you’ve made the same mistake.
- Stop acting like you know it all.
Don’t do it for other people, do it for yourself.
This from the Dalai Lama:
To the extent that our experience of suffering reminds us of what everyone else also endures, it serves as a powerful inspiration to practice compassion and avoid causing others pain. And to the extent that suffering awakens our empathy and causes us to connect with others, it serves as the basis of compassion and love.
Ann Sheybani, 48, is a high altitude mountaineer, ultra-distance runner, and blue water sailor. She is a speaker, coach and author of the popular blog, Things Mama Never Taught Me. Visit her atwww.annsheybani.com. © 2011 Ann Sheybani