I went back over my posts and found that right before I started Humility Week, I wrote this thing about being a teacher and the humility involved in witnessing the growth of other people, the luck of that, and the privilege. I know that the spark for Humility Week came from that post. Intuitively I knew that what I felt about that post–both embarrassed and exposed–were things I wanted to explore. Because, really, why write a blog at all?
I started writing this blog because the team of artists working on Saint John the Divine in Iowa insisted I should. I imagine they thought I’d write about making the movie, but it ends up I couldn’t do that. The ups and downs of film fund-raising, the constant discouragement and disappointment, how difficult it is to ask for money, to find people who can actually do that work with you–I found myself reeling in the the struggle, I had doubt, resentments, personal disappointment, sudden breakthroughs–all these intense highs and lows, and, as you now know, I am reactive, and I know it, so I was trying not to be and it was really hard. I have real confidence in the story, its value, its worth, the need for it to be told. But since I was struggling, and I have also had a terrifically ambivalent relationship with producing theatre, and knew I was coming to the end of that work (last production is this November’s SLAMBoston, UNCENSORED–going out with a bang), I was worried about how my transition would affect the team. Probably writing about all of it would have been another lesson in humility, but it was too close, too unprocessed, and therefore not wise. So, I wrote about what had started to consume me–these questions about spirituality and meaning, which are the underpinnings of the movie anyhow.
The blog is a journey, as it turns out, not of film-making, but of meaning, of humanity, and, of course, now, of #$%^ing couples therapy.
I believe my intuition led me to write about my faults in order to tear down the walls around my heart. Buddhism is about softening, about easing out of the emotional scar tissue of our lives into a different way of being, that allows for the existence of scars, but lets us open through them or past them or with them. I also want to tear down those walls for other people, because if it’s this much of a burden to bring a perfectionist, overly-responsible, controlling, can’t-end-anything-but-have-to-hide-it-all process to life for me, it must be the same for other people. It’s true I have had to train myself to make small talk, and I’m still not very good at it. I’ve never had much tolerance for the presentations we make of ourselves. I’ve always wanted real contact–and then been afraid of it when I got it, at least half the time. The purpose of writing anything is to discover something you don’t know, and then to share it, to open to the world and open the world to you. It doesn’t matter if it’s a blog or Saint John the Divine in Iowa or a poem or whatever.
I received an email from an old student a couple days ago, telling me she’d been reading my blog. She told me I could use what she said, so here it is: I was that gifted child; I was bullied; I struggle daily with control and what feels like a “light-speed processor” as you so perfectly put it. I block vulnerability and letting go, I run when I sense an ending. I frustrate myself and my partner with my seemingly neverending need to talk through my thoughts, or be constantly self-evaluating. I battle with myself for why I am the way I am and what this means and what I should be doing with my life and why I’m not there yet and why is everything/everyone so slow, etc.
I cried when I read it, so glad that what I’d written meant so much to another person. Really, this is a big answer to why write.
The other part of it is the writing about my faults. That particular 7 blog journey had two potential outcomes: self-flagellation or self-forgiveness. Or, I could have turned it all into comedy, but that wouldn’t have been truly honest, so I didn’t.
I ended up with self-acceptance. I mean, really, the list of faults are endless. It’s one thing to say “nobody’s perfect,” and another to explore exactly how imperfect we all are. I didn’t grow up with an understanding of okayness. Like most of us, I saw adult behavior that was really wrong, disrespectful of other adults and certainly of children. I saw denial, silence, putting up with, excuse-making, and pretending to be perfect. So I came into adulthood trying to find a moral life that would guarantee my own behavior wouldn’t cross the boundaries of what I believed to be right and good. I had no idea how much I would screw up. I had no idea that to be human equals being flawed. It can even mean being broken. (I have graduated to flawed, just as in control I have graduated to venial.) (Really, where do I come up with this stuff?)
The result of writing about my faults for a week is this: I feel almost unbearably happy. I don’t have to change. I’m just as screwed up as everyone else, I’m mostly moral and good, I drive the people I love crazy and this is all just really normal. I’m not doing anything really wrong–I mean, I can see that. I can see I’m going to try not to hurt people and I’m going to anyhow, because I’m still growing myself up. I don’t know, it’s like writing about my faults opened the perfectionist door and I got to spring free of it. I could turn cartwheels. I really don’t have to be perfect. It helps, of course, that I received that email thanking me for doing this. Not having to be perfect connects me to everyone. Perfectionism is the ultimate wall–no one can get in to the places where you hurt, doubt, fear.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s nice to connect where we’re strong. But we live in the balance. We are never just strong. We are never just weak.
Of course, I got a comment on my blog saying if I really want to get out of couples therapy, I should write about my strengths. And I can tell you right now, THAT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. I mean, any more than it already has, because I did sneak them in along with the faults. There’s a limit to how vulnerable I’m willing to get, so I’m not going to talk about how much I value myself, and how beautiful and brave I think I am. Beyond saying it right here, in one sentence. Too vulnerable=not very safe, and I titrate my emotional risks in order to keep my sanity. My love for myself is private.
But, I am going to rest in this temporary happiness, this almost-definitely-temporary humility, this utter okayness. Let it expand through my cells, through my bones, through my back, which today is relaxed and pain-free, not, I’m sure, coincidentally.
I have always known writing as spiritual. Any time we create beauty, any time we tell the truth, we touch mystery.
I am touching it right now.