Monday, August 1, 2011
How to Sell Yourself (Not)
Shelley tries so hard to - what? to be important, to be right, to be accepted, I think, and down underneath that, to be loved. Down under that, to feel the relaxed security of "I'm okay." I am inferring this from her strategy, which is to buttonhole a person, and tell her story, or push her opinions, which are more like resentments. She asserts her Self. Part of her story is that her mother doesn't accept her sexual preference. She is 50. Her mother is 75. Her mother hasn't accepted her for two decades now.
You can tell from my description that standing on the table screaming "I'm important, I'm right, I'm okay, love me dammit" doesn't get her what she wants. In fact, I have to wonder at her mother's patience.
I suppose Shelley is blind to what she's doing. There, an opening to talk about spiritual practice. Awakening means opening your eyes to reality, that's all. Sometimes great mystical experiences, some times small ones, some bliss, but the basic thing is becoming more and more aware, here. That means conscious of your own actions. When you are awake, you know it when you are boring someone with your story and irritating them with your demands. You see them, not just yourself.
Sounds simple, doesn't it? And all you have to do to get there is just sit like a frog. Sit still every day and let reality catch up with you. In Shelley's case the reality seems to be that she feels terribly wrong, inadequate. She has been fleeing that painful feeling for a long, long time, so I can imagine that once it knocked on the door she'd never meditate again. That's what most people do.
Trying so hard to Be Someone, someone important, lovable, accepted, all right. When Wun does that, she is acting, presenting, putting forth a false self - in Shelley's case, an inordinate amount of grooming, clothes, every item from earrings to shoes screaming for attention. Somehow to my mind comes a picture of the musician, Amy Winehouse, a manufactured figure whose misery led to drugs and recently, death by overdose. This kind of thing is downright common in the world of celebrity artists and performers who make a living selling themselves. It turns out that all the adulation in the world is never enough, because what comes from outside can be taken away in a flash.
And I'm not saying you can learn to love yourself that directly, despite society's message that pampering yourself with a day at the spa will turn your life around. In my experience, the great thing, the freedom, is in letting go of your self's yearning for a security that can never come from out there. Turn your focus out away from how you feel, what you want. Give something small to someone else. Think about what someone else needs. Shut up and listen. Sit like a frog and stop that infernal croaking.
I know what it is to feel like Shelley, so my heart goes out to her. I wish she would ask me how to get her mother to accept her. I would say, "The question is, how can you learn to accept your mother? How can you be kind to her?" There's something a person can work on.