*To everyone who commented SO KINDLY on my IWSG post, THANK YOU. I worked myself into a relapse last week and haven't had the energy to even look at a computer screen. I'm back at it today and will respond and repay the lovely visit as soon as I can. Your understanding is appreciated :)
**This is a long post. I thank you in advance for reading.
Those two words glare at us from everything from signs to screens to printed page. Sometimes they aren't written out. Mostly they are inferred, unseen voices whispering just behind our ears, vying for the attention they so desperately want and that we so desperately need guarding. In this age of social media, it's a wonder any of us can focus on anything for more than a swipe, a scroll, or a 142 character rant.
That's not the attention I'm talking about. What I'm talking about is the attention that we rarely give to ourselves, to our deepest thoughts and actions. It's the "why" behind the "what" we do. Why are you eating that when you know it makes you sick? Why are you scrolling through that screen when you keep telling people you don't have time to read/work out/go for a walk/meet for drinks? We all need down time. We all crave time to do something that can clear our minds and free our emotions for just a moment. Dig even deeper than all of that, though, and ask yourself this: when was the last time you paid attention to your Deep Self?
Who is your Deep Self? Well, the easiest way to describe him/her is to say that they are that person you were before you became who you are now. Clear as mud, right? Last week, I pushed myself too hard at work and ended up in another relapse from H-E-double hockey sticks. While lying on the couch in pain, I wondered about this concept of "becoming". Our whole lives we're asked who we are, what we do. I can remember being about 3 years old and an uncle asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. Really? At three? Sure, we all go through the motions of saying things: doctor, lawyer, firefighter, paleontologist (yes, that last answer was mine until the age of sixteen). Many do go on to be those things but mostly we settle down and start thinking outside the scripted box. Yet, if we look hard, we'll find outside the box is still scripted, still what we think we should do, what others want or expect us to do.
Back to the clamoring attention of social media. (Should that be capitalized? I really don't know...) Everywhere you click, people are DOING something, BECOMING something. "Oh, she's really SOMEbody," we say to our friends. "Look at him, he's really SOMEthing, isn't he?" And so we internalize this, desire it for ourselves. For some of us (*my hands are both raised*) this comes at an early age. I don't believe everyone around you does it out of meanness. Usually the adults mean well. "Oh, she's good at such-in-such. She's going to be a so-in-so!" And they say it with such pride and such a glow that you, the child, can't possibly imagine letting them down. So you internalize the so-in-so version of yourself: good at acting? Going to be famous! Good at singing? Going to be famous! Good at art? Going to be the next Picasso! And that becomes the driving force.
Is being famous, being SOMEBODY, wrong in and of itself? Not at all. There are a lot of people out there who wanted to grow up and be a famous something-or-other and made it. But let me tell you from experience, the entertainment industry takes a drive and a determination and a willingness to compromise that I just don't have in me. Oh, now you can do it all on your own and become an Internet star but when I was pursuing a career in music, you did it the hard way. You played gigs at places you'd rather not play. You met with record company execs who cared less about you as a person and more about how much money you could make them before they dropped you went on to the next hot, young thing. Is it still had to "make it"? You betcha and I have friends in the entertainment industry who bust their butts every day to make it in an industry they love. They have my complete an total admiration and support.
I read an article years ago by a woman who always wanted to travel the world. She bought her passport, read magazines about far away places, and yet she never - as of the writing of the article - left the country. She still lived in the town she was born in. One night she asked herself a really hard question: what if this is all there is? She broke down, wept, cleared off her coffee table of travel magazines, tucked her passport away, and poured herself another glass of wine. As the days went on, she started paying attention to what was around her. She noticed shops in her town she'd never visited, noticed places around she'd never been to. She found out her town had a local theatre and started going to plays. She began to enjoy the life she had because she stopped looking outside herself for fulfillment. For her SOMEBODY-ness.
Now don't attack me: I'm not saying that striving for something is wrong. On the contrary. We should all have goals that are attainable and dreams that push us a bit harder than we feel we can go. BUT - and this is a really big but - BUT we have to balance that drive, that hunger, with the life we have right now. If you're life is terrible, by all means, get out! Move, get help, do whatever you can to get out of a dangerous situation. But, if like me and thousands of other people, if you're lament is, "But I'm 40 and I'm still not SOMEbody!" take a step back, sister and re-evaluate how far you've come.
Perhaps like me you went after fame and fortune and got tired of the cock-and-bull handed to you by the sleeze balls that run the system. Perhaps you tried and tried to BE somebody that you forgot WHO you really are? Perhaps like the woman mentioned above, you wanted something your whole life and yet it never quite happened the way you hoped it would. Take a step back -that's it - now take one more. Ask yourself the hard question: What if this is all there is?
Go ahead and cry. Beat the pillows. Let the childhood dreams of fame and fortune drown in an ocean of a spoiled-brat-tantrum. When you come up from air and your eyes are red and puffy and your head hurts from all the snot, you're going to do something you haven't done in years: you're going to see your life through fresh eyes and I can guarantee you that it's not as bad as you thought.
This world is so caught up in BECOMING something, somebody. What we really need to focus on is BE-ING. BE-ING where we are at this present time. BE-ING kind to ourselves and those around us. BE-ING involved with the world around us, the town, the city, the nature that's presented to us every day that we don't want to see because we're so damned preoccupied with "getting OUT!" Don't get me wrong. I long to travel the world. Always have. I have friends who do it for a living, had people tell me, "Well why don't you just go?" Hmmm, last I checked no one's going to let me on a flight for free and I can't swim the Atlantic just yet. It used to terrify me that THIS was all there was. But you know what? I asked myself the Hard Question (yes, that should be capitalized). I asked myself, "What if this is all there is?" I moved to the city and the area I wanted to be in. Was it easy? Hell, no. It was terribly hard and not at ALL what I'd hoped it would be. There's a lesson in that for another day. But the truth is, that goal I accomplished. That dream has been realized and what I should do instead of trying to find that NEXT brass ring is sit down, pour myself a glass of red, and PAY ATTENTION to what's around me.
So tell me: have you had to ask yourself the Hard Question? Have you ever even thought about it? What dreams did you have when you were little still aren't realized? How many of them were someone else's dreams imposed on you? What if this really is all there is? Are you OK with that? What would it take for you to be OK with that? Don't resign yourself to failure, but do ask yourself if you're too busy BECOMING to actually enjoy the life you've been given rather than learning to BE who your child self, your Deep Self, has wanted you to be all along.
Have a wonderful week and may the Muse be with you,