The other day I gave a talk to a fairly large group of people about my journey in real love. I’d post it here, but it deals primarily with spirituality and because religion is such a divisive topic, I’m not going to write about it through this medium. Happy to email it to you if you want.
It’s been years and years since I’ve done anything I was good at.
The first time I met Greg three years ago, he told me that I was such an expert at manipulating people that no one I’d met thus far in my life had ever had the guts to tell me what I needed to hear and that if I walked away from him, no one ever would again.
Boy, was he right. I had such a myriad of talents (mostly useless but also mostly impressive) that there was always something in my bag of tricks that was sure to please– at least for a little while. At least until people found out that I was fucking nuts. Didn’t take long sometimes.
So after I discovered what really matters in life, I took a step back, identified an addiction to praise (If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck…) and I detoxed. I dropped out of college around the same time which easily wiped out most of my usual avenues for impressing people. I stopped writing publicly, stopped following politics and staying on top of academia– pretty much I stopped everything that I had any natural talent for.
Meaning I did very little, because I’d always pursued many interests to fuel my addiction.
I worked some average, minimum wage jobs for a while. Sold some lotion and clothes at average retailers. And I became a mom. Probably the most rewarding thankless job there is.
It was a good time. I learned how to just be instead of just earn.
Knitting was the one thing I allowed myself because I had absolutely no natural inclination towards it. I spent hours wrangling with patters and more hours wrangling with tangled yarn and just learned the skill strictly for my own enjoyment.
While the detox was certainly nice and helpful, there comes a time when it behooves me to put a few useful talents to work. Public speaking, for instance. Teaching. Writing. Other people can benefit from my experiences and from my ability to describe them accurately.
So now it’s a matter of learning how to do these few things in the unreserved spirit of compassion. It’s a totally different way of life for me. As I’m starting to branch out into these things again, in a way it feels almost like it’s something I’ve never done before. I don’t get that same high or feeling of smug self-satisfaction from doing something competently.
But even if I don’t use these occasions selfishly, there’s still loads of room for improvement. I may not make the whole thing about me, but I also haven’t yet explored the full potential of using these opportunities to really love other people.
For instance, after I gave this talk, I immediately jetted out of the room to avoid all the people gushing about what a great job I’d done. It had been a rough morning. Better than how I would have acted and felt in the past, but I realized part way into it that it’s also not the most loving course of action. When people complimented me, it wasn’t about me, it was about them. So when I stopped and actually listened to some of the people, they began talking to me about their own difficult experiences in life.
They just wanted to be heard.
I thought I’d done my part by speaking, but all I’d done was open the door. I now had the choice to actually follow through on that offer. If the whole point of my talk was to help people feel connected and like they are not alone, well, wouldn’t that purpose really be achieved if I actually stopped, held a stranger’s hand, looked into their eyes, and just listened while they told me about some of the most difficult experiences in their life?
I realized this soon enough to offer that to a few individuals. I hope to do “better” next time, but I hesitate to even use the word “better” because it’s so tied into the old way of doing things. I hope to have more to offer in the future.