I was “off” yesterday. Not sick exactly, but off. Not feeling right. Not depressed exactly either, but somehow I felt like nothing was connecting correctly. Like I could get nothing quite right. Like I was not thinking straight, and was unable to think straight.
I don’t think I understood exactly how wrong I was until late in the day. I had gone to my favorite diner after church. It was full, raucous and there were no tables left. I sat at the counter with my computer and wrote, as is my habit. I was convinced the poem was terrible. Awful. It burdened me.
I don’t expect every poem to be a masterpiece. My poetry is not that kind. I write nearly every day. Often two or three poems. They are more therapy sometimes than art. Or blurts of the spirit. (I won’t call it the holy spirit, because they are not the religious definition of holy, but it is sacred time for me.). No, I have some that are really good and some that are ordinary enough. I know this. I accepted it years ago when I decided to start posting them.
But this one seemed, well, bad to me. All afternoon as I did other things, it weighed on me. Finally, I could not stand it any more, I deleted it. I mean totally, Into the trash, the equivalent of burning the thing in computer land.
Then I went to do my daily peek at stats. Along with the stats are any comments people make. A friend of mine down in New Jersey had written the most heart felt note about what that (now trashed) poem had meant to him.
Guess I was wrong.
Truth is, I am often wrong. I constantly overestimate my flaws and underestimate my values. I am way, way better than I used to be, but still, it happens. It seems maybe, that my being “off” had to do more with my perception of where I was than actually where I was.
And that happens to all of us I think. Or at least a lot of us. I know so very many people who are smart, beautiful, compassionate, talented – and their inner critic robs them of the joy they should have in those things. I’ve been there. We get so wrapped up in our flaws that we cannot revel in what we are good at, where our beauty is, that we are deserving of all the love and admiration that people give us. We get a compliment and go right into apology mode for not being MORE, losing the greater truth of what we ARE.
It’s a scourge, I think. I didn’t used to think that, but the older I get, the more people, amazing people, I get to know who are like this, the more I realize what a scourge it is. We are robbed of the joy of what we are.
And as someone who once lost all of his joy, and have gotten most of it back, it pains me in a new way, a powerful way, when I encounter people who do not see themselves more clearly.
Generally, that inability to see our own wonderfulness started with others. People, parents, schoolmates, well-meaning friends, ex spouses, someone or a combination of someones, has told us, often what we are not. And that takes a toll after time,. Particularly if we are young.
But we are our own worst enemy. For every time those outside people have told us something, once we adopted it as truth, we repeat it to ourselves so many times it becomes truth.
I am a huge fan of neuroscience. My second therapist, who I took on when I moved from Virginia to Vermont, had a background in neuroscience. And beyond typical therapy, she could explain what was happening in the brain when I was suffering this or that. Seeing the science behind the therapy was a huge help to me.
And one of the things I learned is that our brains are a little lazy. They don’t think for themselves as well as would like to think they do. As kids, the brain listens to people we deem important. But as we get older, it listens most of all….. to us.
And what are we doing? Reciting the false truths of what we are not, without the full truth of what we are. We tell it you ourselves constantly. And our lazy brains just scoop it up, file it under “Truth”, and it becomes truth. The problem is, it’s an incomplete truth. And an incomplete truth is a lie.
That’s why it is so important that we tell those around us what is wonderful. What is valued. What is loveable. Now and again, enough of that kind of talk seeps in and the other person starts to hear differently, Starts to see differently, and most importantly, starts to talk to and about themselves differently.
I used to think it was mumbo jumbo, this whole idea of self affirmation. Now I know it is Neuroscience. Something smarter than me. Something I should pay attention to. (Maybe you should too? Just guessing.)
It’s not an easy path back to seeing ourselves complete with the good stuff. My journey certainly has not been. And as my episode with yesterday’s poem shows, I am certainly not there yet. I had an off day yesterday. And that’s OK. We all do. And that is all it was. Today I will write something I like. Today I will do good work. I will come to myself, and mostly, that’s pretty good.
That’s what I tell myself,
Be well. Travel wisely,
PS: The picture is of a bridge that crosses a small pond in a nearby nature reserve. It looks shaky and dangerous, but it is far more firm than it looks.