I think I may have stumbled upon a new level of maturity. Either that, or I’ve completely regressed and I’m delusional to boot.
Here lately, I’ve become more and more concerned about what I want. Which at first blush seems to give more credence to the regressed option, but bear with me, I think I can make a better case for development.
For most of my life I’ve been concerned about what others want. I quickly learned to navigate a dysfunctional family structure by learning and then giving my parents what I thought they wanted. My childhood, adolescent and young adult friendships where characterized by an acute ability to ascertain what would meet the highest degree of approval and doing that. School was less an exercise in learning and critical thinking than in intuition and creative regurgitation–give them back what they just fed you, just alter it enough to make them feel like you thought about it, but don’t over do it or they won’t recognize it.
And now? I’m done with that. I’m done with the cringing, snivelling feeling of worrying over whether my thoughts are acceptable. I’m done with worrying over whether or not I can say what I feel inside. I’m done trying to convince myself that somehow I’m the one with the problem and that I must contain and hide it for fear of exposure and rejection.
I know what I want and I’m willing to go get it.
And that, right there, is what makes the difference between maturity and regression. Most healthy three year olds, as they begin to develop a sense of self and identity, know what they want. If you’ve been around one, you know, they can be quite comical and sometimes downright annoying in the strength of their wants, their short, stubby little bodies full of ego and defiance, adamant with their desires, but relatively powerless to actualize them themselves–children may know what they want but they need you to get it for them.
Adults know what they want and take the steps to get what they want themselves. At this point you may begin to consider some of the adults you know who act more like children, not willing to take the actions they need to realize their wants. The truth is, when like this, they’re not fully adults–sad, but true.
So, here I am at 40, embracing another aspect of my maturity, allowing myself to not only have wants but pursue them as well. A sad comment in and of itself, but again nonetheless true.
In my early thirties, while still a pothead and decidedly immature, I had recurring back issues. During a flare up the pain was substantial, I had sciatic pain that burned intensely and radiated all the way down my left leg. I pursued relief from various professionals, holistic therapists mostly. At one point my acupuncturist referred me to a massage therapist named Wilfred Hunt.
Wilfred was a tall, slender man with a long, thin pony tail that hung in a braid, almost to his waist. I remember that my first session was excruciatingly painful, my muscles were so bound in knots and spasms that the direct pressure of deep tissue work was almost more than I could stand. I also remember seeing a picture of the hugging saint, Mata Amritanandamayi, a Hindu spiritual leader whose practice centers around hugging, in his therapy room. I had recently run across her image while wasting time on the internet at work and so I asked about her.
He was impressed I knew who she was and I like to think that conversation set me apart and opened the door for the work that followed. After a few more massages I entered his office one day for my next appointment, he sat me down and explained that there was nothing wrong with my back. “But I’m still in pain.” That, he explained, was in my head, it was my body’s way of alerting me to an incongruence.
He went on to tell me about the concept of body symbology. The idea is that sometimes what we perceive as injury is really our subconscious trying to redirect us. This is frequently done with pain, as it is the most direct way to getting our attention, and in a symbolic or pun-ish way.
‘What are you ‘backing out’ on?” he asked, “What is it you want?”
At the time I couldn’t answer. All of my “wants” were related to the needs of others and I couldn’t access what it was that I wanted.
It’s taken several years of growth and development to begin to figure that out, but now more than ever I have a sense of what it is I want. The funny thing is that it still involves you, but not in the same way it once did.
Perhaps it’s becoming cliché, if you’ve been following these posts for a while it is certainly redundant, but what I want for me is to become the strongest, most vital, most present version of myself possible. That means I both want to be strong enough to be victorious in my struggles, but also strong enough to live in and learn from my failures.
One does not become the strongest version of themselves just by saying they want to be. That may be a crucial first step, but beyond that is much struggle, much trial and error and many mistakes. Perhaps the strongest thing you can do is fully embrace the journey and accept equally the mountaintops you summit and the muddy ravines you slide into, the key to growth being that you refuse to spend too much time in either place.
So where do you come in? You come in because it is not enough to do this just for and by myself. You are part of my tribe. You, for reasons you may not fathom yourself yet, are drawn to me, my story and what I do, not because I’m so unbelievably awesome, but because I’m human, like you, and my story is your story. Everything I have done, can do and will do, you can do, too. Part of what I want is to help you see that.
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