“Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” – Albert Einstein

As you noticed, I didn’t blog yesterday.  It was, from a work standpoint, A Bad Day.  Again, the details of my work are not exactly fodder for breathless blog reading, but suffice to say it was a day that resulted in emergency contract renegotiation, meetings that resulted in more questions than they answered, and yet another in a long line of protocol revisions that leave me with nightmares of animal necropsies.

I didn’t want to just dash-off a quick blog, or rely on my usual standby of posting pictures of my oh-so-adorable-and-endlessly-interesting-cherub-angel-son, because I really wanted to take Sarah’s Quote Challenge.  It deserved a bit more than my usual snarky commentary.  I realize that naked self-examination in front of strangers is a stretch to my limitations, and it was going to have to take a few deep-breathing exercises that might alarm my co-workers.

 Accept everything about yourself — I mean everything. You are you and that is the beginning and the end — no apologies, no regrets. ~ Carl Moustakas

I think fifteen or twenty years ago, this would have elicited a more in-your-face response.  I was still in the painful throes of figuring out that person I was supposed to be accepting.  I think I am not unique when I say that we spend a lot of our youth from the teen years forward in an angry demand of “Accept me! Respect me! Above all, NOTICE me!”  Yet we really have no idea WHO we are really asking people to accept.   The hypocrisy of the situation is glaring in retrospect.  We demand acknowledgement for every extreme act of absurd self-actualization we put ourselves through – the tattoos, the piercings, the clothes, the lifestyles, the music, and yet we are the people that have the hardest time accepting who we are.  Some people never outgrow this, and it has the effective air of an 80-year-old woman in pink lipstick and a miniskirt.  Yes, there are a few that can carry it off, but for the majority, it’s just rather sad.

As I entered middle age, I will admit to developing an eye-rolling impatience with the shock-tactics that screamed “Look at ME!”.  But in that period of self-evaluation that comes when more of your life is statistically behind you than ahead of you, I developed the realization that so much of the bluster is a plea for self-importance, a need to look inside and find yourself without the worry that what you will discover is that you are nobody at all.  We cannot live with the fear that we will pass through life transparently.  Even if people roll their eyes at me, they notice me.  I exist.

People who resist growing up are under the mistaken impression that growing up is giving up the person you always wanted to be.  For some, who never manage to connect the person they are inside with the image they build on the outside, this may, indeed, be true.  But in the very best of the human journey, becoming older is simply becoming more yourself. Necessary to this is the acceptance that we are not the only arbiters of that self.  We come with a baggage of genetics, culture, and perceptions that we can no more deny than the number of fingers we were born with.   If we spend a lifetime fighting the uncontrollable manifestations of our past, we will never really know ourselves.  We will grow old grasping for an image of our own creation, but never wholly owning that creation.  Understanding where we came from allows us to accept it, embrace it, and move beyond it.   We can only drop the baggage that we realize we are carrying.

As self-centered and self-glorifying as our culture has become, at the root, it fights that acceptance.  We are taught simultaneously to hide our flaws in the relentless worship of perfection, while maintaining the illusion that we are selfless.  The roots of Puritanism simultaneously deny self-love in favor of the love of the other, while insisting that outward perfection implies divinity.  Virtue is all about the sacrifice.  And sacrifice is the denial of the self. 

But Divine love can only come from self-love.  Only when we recognize, accept, and embrace our own flaws, can we tolerate and accept the flaws in others.  I love my friends, not in spite of their idiosyncracies, but BECAUSE of them.  They are what make them unique and loveable.  They are not icons of immeasurable goodness.  They are people.  People who make me laugh and cry, who frustrate me and enchant me.  And, most magically of all, even though I know I am a rigidly linear-thinker with an absurdly dry sense of humor, and who suddenly displays passionate attachments to the abstract at supremely inappropriate moments – they love me too. 

I am who I am.  And really?  After 42 years I am nothing like the Buddha, but I am okay with that, too.

October 31st, 2006 at 12:15 pm