My closet is dissolving.
By this, I don’t mean the clothes are disappearing because I feel the need to redeploy my overflowing half-organized mess of dresses. I mean my closet is dissolving. Literally. Because it is made of bamboo. And termites like bamboo.
Last month, I went to an island for an awakening and healing course that involved yoga, meditation, breathing exercises that made me feel like my lungs would pour out of my chest and float up into the clouds, lots of crying, dancing, roaring like various animals and watching sunsets that were so magnificent they sometimes made me angry.
My favorite thing that I learned?
I do not have to live by anyone’s rules except my own.
I grew up in America with an engineer as a mother, and with that came teachings of efficiency, tenacity and severe independence. Throughout school, my teachings were rewarded with good grades and teachers who loved me. As I went from high school to college, these good grades and approving teachers increased my happiness so much that the cause and effect switched. My wellbeing became a direct effect of approval of teachers or adults or any person, really, until I wasn’t fulfilled and didn’t feel happy unless others thought I was great.
And I was great because I was efficient, tenacious and independent. These three attributes became my box, my rules for living. And I was happy.
But I had trapped myself. I had become a person in a box that wasn’t even made by me.
Because of this, I would spend a day every couple of weeks in hibernation. On this day, I could do all the things my box wouldn’t allow me to do: I would lie around eating with abandon and changing my mind and filling myself up with media and not answering my phone and ordering things I didn’t need online. I was lazy and wasteful and indecisive and needy and unpredictable. No one could see me and because of that, I was just who I wanted to be.
After that day, I would go back to being that person in a box.
Every time I did this, it took another piece of me away until it chewed up all the extra pieces of me that didn’t fit inside the box, until all that was left were both extremes: one piece that was capable and reliant and another that was drowsy and uncertain.
At the retreat last month, one of the leaders talked about how we can trap ourselves with words, expectation and pride, and suddenly I saw everything.
I had given my power away. Others made the rules; I followed them. Others said I was good; I believed them. Others didn’t say I was good? I changed myself to someone they would like and convinced them.
To own myself. To have power and to see it.
That is it. That is all.
Since I left the retreat, I have been practicing seeing my power, making rules for myself and then breaking them. I’ve discovered that as much as I like to make rules, I love to throw them away and make new ones.
Always smile when passing someone on the street? Only when I feel like smiling, dammit. Always work as hard as I can? Not when I’d rather look at the sky or think about the color of that cloud or what kind of bird I’d like to be. Never change my mind? I will always be changing my mind.
Feeling something I “shouldn’t” be feeling? How can I change how I feel? I will feel however I am feeling because I am a powerful roaring flower tree whispering leaf child lioness of a woman.
I don’t even care that the termites are eating my closet. They’re just living their lives according to themselves, not according to anyone or anything else.
Feast all you want, termites.
The Insight that Finally Killed my Perfectionism.
Author: Faith Star Leslie
Editor: Caroline Beaton
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