Apr 2, 2012

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May I Please Be Excused?

May I Please Be Excused?
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Learning new things about ourselves isn’t usually pain-free. There’s the minor lessons, of course, like, “Oh, now I know I don’t like capers.” I guess there is only mild discomfort there. But what about the tougher discoveries, like, “Oh, I’ve been telling myself I’m not-enough my whole life,” or “You mean my feet hurt because I’ve been unconsciously scrunching up my toes?” There’s probably a bit more work to do than just excluding an item on the grocery list.

Today, with the help of a loving witness, friend, and assistant searcher (all the same person), I learned something new about myself. It took a while to get there, and it wasn’t very pretty for a moment or two, but I uncovered a very old desire to “be excused.” From what, you ask? Apparently whatever I damn-well please. Just because I’m me – and I’ll tell you whatever story will convince you to agree, or at least let me off the hook. There is a slight element of ‘please feel sorry for me’ in there, too. I guess I learned somewhere along the way that people who are pitied are more likely to be excused.

What does this look like in my life? Just a few examples: Emails, texts, and phone calls that begin with an apology of why I didn’t get to something sooner, taking personally things that most likely have nothing to do with me, and expecting all others to create a space for all of my baggage in order to make space for my Light. Yikes. Somewhere along the way I fear I have equated freedom with screwing up and being loved anyway. When I view it this way, it no longer seems so free…

Looking back into my childhood, I immediately think of getting sick and getting to stay home from school. I did not enjoy school, so I would use this sick thing to get me out of it as often as possible. It worked better with Grandma than with Mom, but it worked enough. I had the habit of getting the flu every year at Christmas (did I unconsciously think I’d get better presents?) for most of my childhood. I recall getting upset stomaches a lot, and every time I was ill, post-recovery my Mom and I would go to Sizzler. I loved Sizzler (notice the past-tense). It may seem now like a reward for getting better, or maybe just an attempt to comfort a child, but I didn’t just get to go to Sizzler for being well all the time. I assume there has to be a psychological implication here.

Also, my best friend since first grade was chronically sick. She had Cystic Fibrosis (and a Mom who I wanted for my own – you know, the nurturing, my-whole-life-is-about-you, super-crafty and creative type). Erin was amazingly brilliant, but got out of class a lot, out of tons of homework and tests, and got special treatment wherever it was available. Somewhere in me there was  growing jealousy and judgment, which became a story: she was smarter than me but didn’t have to do as much work. I, on the other hand, got very little slack and was expected by my Mom to perform perfectly or I was punished by having privileges taken away (or the promise of cool stuff in the future revoked). I got a 99 percentile on the G.A.T.E. test in kindergarden, after-all, so there was no reason in the world why I shouldn’t have the best grades in the class, according to my Mother. I’m totally getting the “only child” and “not fair” vibe from these forming beliefs at such a young age.

Being intelligent was also something I wished to be excused from at one period. I was really having emotional and psychological trouble in Middle School. After moving in with my Grandmother (who physically abused my Mom and Uncle  their whole childhood, but was old and tired and pretty much stuck to verbal and mental abuse by the time I lived with her) at the age of 12 and finding my social life had shifted without me in the six months I had lived in San Louis Obispo, I became even more distraught. I tried out for everything and made nothing. My grades began to slip worse than they ever had, and after getting a really bad grade back from the teacher I remember getting myself all worked up waiting for my Grandmother’s van after school. By the time she arrived, I was ready for my performance: “I can’t believe I failed this test! After all the hard work I put in! I don’t know what is happening to me – I’m just not smart anymore. I used to be smart, but now I’m not.” It worked with Grandma (would have never passed by Mom), who became more sympathetic to my frustration than disciplinary toward my grade. Honestly? I didn’t study for the damn thing. School was nothing compared to the emotional fury of my inner life, which I used as justification to be excused from the whole ordeal.

Bringing it to the present and seeing through this newly discovered filter, I have to work at not being too self-critical. For, just in a matter of hours of being aware of this function of excuse, I observe it all over my behavior:

  • I use physical and emotional pain to be excused from too high of a standard.
  • I use stress and stories as an excuse to back out on things or constantly be slapping stuff together at the last minute.
  • I expect every group of people I am involved with to, on a small unconscious level, feel sorry for me so there will be room to fuck up.
    If I get right down to the icky stuff,
  • I secretly expect everyone to excuse me from whatever commitment I have agreed to  because I have “stuff”, and obviously my stuff is way more important than whatever else is going on in the world.

Damn, I sound self-righteous!

This is the part of the process where a whole lotta self-love is required in the forms of forgiveness and acceptance (thanks to my decade of reading New Thought books and taking Science of Mind classes, I have tools for that!). And thankfully, this is where I get to make a conscious choice by asking myself some real questions:

  • Is that the kind of person I want to continue to be?
  • How do I feel about people who are constantly making excuses to get out of commitments with me?
  • Where does my own compassion end and irritation begin with others?
  • Does all this feel like Freedom?
    And, to get to the heart of the thing:
  • What false belief(s) about myself and my life is this behavior protecting?
  • What am I getting out of this?

I am working on answering all of those. Sometimes, I still feel stuck.

For me, I know my idealism gets me hung-up. While I work on accepting the world the way that it is, I also hold my vision of the world as I know it can be. In my eyes I see community and relationships being the things that save our species from who-knows-what. Something in me screams to break out of a way of life that expects us all to behave as robots, doing exactly what “they” think we should (which easily and unknowingly becomes what we think we “should”), aspiring toward a cookie-cutter existence called “success.” In my vision of a world based on relationships, there would be a natural tendency to be flexible toward individual needs, for each individual is necessary to the whole of the group. Of course, it probably wouldn’t look nearly as focused on me as my ego would currently like (damn!), but there is still a natural compassion we all have, and I believe we all yearn to practice it every day.

Alas, we are not there yet. At least not as a society… but we as individuals can make individual choices. We can have compassion over the circumstances of our lives, and make a bit of room for our humanness and the humanness of others. I think the problems come in when it just becomes a pity-party. I have to make sure I don’t get caught on that hamster wheel.

So, I return to concepts of balance. Or what my Practitioner calls “the AND.” I must both accept  this part of myself I have discovered (but would rather pull out like a weed) AND admit the limitations of continuing to behave in this way. I must release resentment and anger over the way the world currently seems to me AND hold true in my mind my Vision of a beautiful world filled with more love and Inclusivity than fear and isolation. It is time to be conscious of my habit of needing to feel excused (and somehow equating it’s fulfillment with being loved and accepted by others).

Thankfully, as my Practitioner and friend pointed out today, most of the things we do that we don’t like are just habits. These habits are based on old beliefs, and we can shift those. This makes it a little less personal, and – for me – easier to imagine changing. If this excuse thing is me, then there is a desire to believe I am a horrible person. I don’t believe in horrible people. Making excuses and expecting to be excused has taken over as a habit, and now I get to make a new one. That, in itself, may be a whole other process.

And I’m willing to go through it! No more excuses!

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  1. mestarr says:

    As I was journaling today I remembered something that fits here. In the book, Eat Pray Love, the main character keeps remembering her Guru’s words, “Don’t give yourself permission to fall apart, or it will become a habit.” I think that applies to making excuses and trying to get out of things, too – don’t give yourself permission or it will become a habit. Instead, I give myself permission to only say yes to things I am committed to doing – and then doing them!

  2. Mike Watters says:

    What a brave post. Breathtaking. I KNOW that what you have written here will result in a lasting change in your life and the lives of those who read it.

    As Wayne Dyer says, “Excuses Begone.”

    • I appreciate your feedback, Mike. Yes, it took a lot to write that! And I’m still feeling the effects of my ah-ha. Thanks to you and Wayne!

  3. You go! Well done! Feels brutally honest and 100 percent accountable. Good work, Starr. Bonus round – you are a great writer. Xxoo

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