This past week I received an email from someone I do not know personally offering me an opportunity that I did not think was possible. My immediate reaction was to re-read the email and make sure I had read it correctly. I had, and my heart quickened at the possibility that one of my dreams might actually see the light of day!
My secondary reaction, however, was to dismiss it and put it in what has become an increasingly larger collection of things that are for me “too good to be true.” Mind you, all of this was going on in that interior space where members of my Inner Commissariat decide my fate based on information supplied by my Inner Critic, Ming the Merciless, and ad hoc mercenaries from my past who have determined what is best for me in any (every) given situation.
Fortunately, I am a retired mental health professional and am totally and completely aware of my inner conversations, have superior strategies at the tip of my fingers to compassionately and sensitively address the vagal nerve stimuli and return myself to blessed composure and internal bliss.
I do have a rather advanced capacity to watch my inner workings and not stay as hooked to the blathering and fear-mongering that seems to have come as a pre-loaded app in my original (not-upgraded) software. All of which to say that I was able to let go of some of the negativity, reach out to folks who I know are supportive of me and my dreams, and get some feedback.
This has led to what I hope to be a fruitful exploration of why, at my age, I am still influenced by, knocked cattywampus, and all too easily fall under the influence of poor self-esteem or self-worth.
I have always felt fortunate that by the time I came to the study of therapy and psychology, some of the more extreme theories of why humans behave the way they do had been proven wrong, or if not wrong, soundly discredited. These included phrenology as a basis of measuring intellectual capacity and refrigerator mothers causing schizophrenia.
I also appreciated that there seemed to be universal experiences that knew no boundaries of time or culture, many based in the hard-wiring of our brain. For example, our autonomic nervous system. Different explanations of how and why we do the things we do could be traced to spiritual beliefs, technologic tools, but regardless of the source, to be human means to doubt, fear, misinterpret, jump to conclusions, and make meaning of things. It also means to love, feel deeply and passionately, laugh, and experience grief and loss.
The Root of Human Suffering
Descartes could have just as easily said, “I feel therefore I am!” – and actually, as a Frenchman, I am surprised that he didn’t! But he is credited with, “I think therefore I am.” And here we have it. Two essential qualities – thoughts and feelings – that seem to be at the root of so much of human suffering; or at least my suffering.
The thoughts that arose when I received that email covered enormous interior territory: “How wonderful to be acknowledged!”, “Finally! Somebody gets me!”, “Don’t get swell-headed!”, “What do they want from me?”.
The feelings ranged from elation to flight-fight-freeze. They included a quickening of my heart thinking about an increase in cash flow and a gut check thinking about whether my products would be “good enough”.
And these experiences were all within minutes of opening and reading the email.
Countless Hours of Therapy; Hundreds of Pages of Shelf-Help
As I contemplated what the possibilities were (making meaning out of this), I found myself defaulting almost immediately to casting doubt that something this wonderful could happen to me. The storyline here is familiar: I am not Cinderella! There is no prince who will sweep me off my feet. I will always be the one left behind to clean up after the ball is over.
The incredible, magical, and most spectacular outcome of all my years of therapy, training, and polishing my craft, is that I recognized that I had gone down the rabbit hole of self-doubt and low self-esteem. Being acutely familiar with the pathways, I knew my way out and was confident I would soon emerge.
And I did.
What Happens When I Drop the Storyline
I don’t know who deserves the attribution for this most wonderful instruction, “Just drop the story.”, but I am forever grateful to him or her. But it is not an easy thing to do, requiring multiple deletes and erasures, and even more re-writes and edits. Because telling a story is so essentially human!
One of the blessings of being a writer is that I now am so much better at understanding the process of creating something. I put words down on paper. I step away, re-read, change my mind, edit, and finally commit to sharing. Sometimes my efforts are met with approval; sometimes with nothing at all. Sometimes I am given feedback, other times I am given advice.
Revising My Storyline
I can only revise that which I am aware I have written. When I don’t (or can’t) question my storyline, it becomes fact, or worse, TRUTH. My fear is that you, my reader, will see my TRUTH and reject me for it. That is my storyline.
Based on evidence I have collected so far (people who unsubscribe), this has only happened a handful of times. And honestly, it hasn’t hurt. My story was much more painful than my actual experience.
Searching for an Inner Editor
I have had the pleasure of working with a number of editors. All did their best to corral my words and thoughts and help me put them into a cohesive narrative. I want to develop that within myself.
I want to have an Inner Editor who is as insistent and influential as my Inner Critic has become. Who can help me corral thoughts that are not in service of who I am becoming as an authentic, loving, talented, compassionate writer. I want an Internal Editor who will help me cut out the nonsense and clearly state what I mean, yet allow me the flexibility to explore many different ways of saying things before I settle on something.
Most of all, I want to claim for myself what I am so easily able to help others see in themselves – that they are special and have worthwhile things to share with others, and they will be valued for doing this.
Too Good Not to Be True
One of the first things I did after my journey down the rabbit hole was to send out an email to some trusted friends asking them what they thought about the offer contained in the email. To a person they said, “Do your research and then go for it!” After I continued to express doubt about the possibility that such generosity was actually available to someone like me, one said, “Don’t be silly! Of course there are people out there who are generous and see value in what you do!” Until she spoke those words, I hadn’t allowed for that plot line to be present in my narrative.
There is more to come, and I promise, I will keep you in the loop. In the meantime, thanks for reading my blog.
2 responses to “Too Good to Be True; Lessons in Gratitude”
I am looking forward to celebrating with you this next step. Death to Ming the merciless. The mystery beckons and I am glad to hold you in gratitude as do so mmany,
Want an internal editor like the one you described!!