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I’ve avoided my writing lately.  This morning I paced the floor, circling the table before sitting down with my notebook to see where my brain would take me.

You’ll have to forgive me in advance for my brain has cast far and wide.  My apologies.

I began with a meditation of how different I feel.  Following International Women’s Day on Friday and yet another bruising couple of weeks in the creative media sector, I started ticking off the characteristics that made me feel backwater creek trying to flow against the mainstream.

For instance:
I live far from my family.
I have a graduate degree, in History.
I kept my name after marriage.
My children were born in the care of Midwives, my daughter at home.
I am the main breadwinner.
I co-parent with a great Dad, in a pretty unconventional divorce.
I am constantly having to sell myself and my ideas to get my next job.

 

This self-indulgence runs contrary to the Buddhist ideal that we are all inter-connected.  So I go back through my list. I know that there are millions of people around the world who leave their families for better opportunities.  My graduate degree only feels weird in this social context, if I spent more time at a university, I wouldn’t be special at all, and if fact, at a disadvantage because I don’t have a PhD.  In many places like China (big group of women there) and even in Quebec, it is not the norm for women to change their names when then marry—this is an Anglophone fetish.  Many women around the world rely on midwifery care to deliver their babies.  But like many first babies in Europe and North America, my son was born by c-section.  Not so different right?

Then why build the world this way?

As I thought about it, it came down to—get this—other people.  Now, I do have a thing about people.  I like them in principle, but can get a little overwhelmed by them.  I have usually attributed this to a strong streak of introversion and needing to “recharge” after prolonged exposure to people as described in this 2003 article “How to Care for Your Introvert” from the Atlantic.

Of course I quickly realized that it was more than that.  As I moved to the floor to work on big pieces of newsprint, I realized that Other People represent power to me.  On some level, their judgment determines my survival.  This makes sense in my line of work.  We have to convince people that the film we want to make is a good idea.  Obviously we get more more rejection than acceptance.  Thus, in my experience when I expose ourselves to the judgment of others, I usually don a mask of the person that they want us to be.  I set aside my introvert self and become animated and chatty.

But I also recognize that this is only the most recent manifestation, which is fused onto something more archaic.  This is how it looked when I sketched it out:

(I’d like to point out that I now realize how much energy has gone into building that wall and that a good portion of my energies each day go into holding it up because I am really afraid of it collapsing and letting all that bad stuff out.)

(I’d like to point out that I now realize how much energy has gone into building that wall and that a good portion of my energies each day go into holding it up because I am really afraid of it collapsing and letting all that bad stuff out.)

This mask becomes a bit of a wall.  All of the things I assume will help are allowed on the outside, but all of my perceived liabilities are tossed behind.

Hmmm.  Lots of those things behind the wall look like the ways I understood my self to be so different from the world.   It reminded me of a book I had read by Brene Brown called I Thought it was Just Me (but it isn’t).  She talks about shame and how ultimately, most of us just want to fit in so we don’t want to share anything that will jeopardize that acceptance, so we hide the real us from other people.

So I carried on.  I took out another piece of paper and divided it in two.  On one side I wrote:

People Seem to Control:
(what are) Mistakes
Vulnerability
Shame
Judgement
Power
 
My Tools (or Weapons) Are:
Trust (Me)
Worthiness
Resilience

 

So when I put myself out there on a limb and it seems like a really long way down and that branch breaks, instead of focusing on what I can imagine that they are saying, I’m just going to have to stand up, dust off my butt and carry on.

The Shame

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