For over half a century, I’ve believed in my own skewed image that I created of myself.
I think I’m the only one who did.
One minute I think I’m a good person and the next minute, I’m verbally abusing myself for no discernible reason. To say I can be judgmental is an understatement. I mostly judge myself, but I uncomfortably admit that I also judge terrorists, know-it-alls and certain (former) presidential candidates, to name just a few. I even pass judgment on people I respect, admire and love.
My judgmental tendencies separate me from others and serve to maintain my make‑believe image. I think I’m either better or worse than most other people, alienating me from myself and from those around me.
Earlier this millennium, I had a brief respite from my imagined unalienable uniqueness.
I was walking in what I call the enchanted forest on top of Mount Lemmon in Tucson, Arizona when a feeling came over me. The world as I knew it crumbled, yet I felt calm and excited at the same time. Everything I saw, the trees, the insects, the birds and even the dirt on the ground were somehow connected to me—and I to them.
All that I thought about, people I’ve known, people I read about, “villains” and “heroes,” absolutely everything in the galaxy, past and present were also me. Time and space melted away. I felt no fear or exclusion, just love— there is no high I have ever experienced that compares. My connection to all that is was unshakable and clear. I was the universe in that moment.
Then the moment passed. My experience of absolute love was gone, as was the crisp clearness of my oneness with all. My memories of the wonderment of that blissful moment and the craving to get back there remained. I realized I had no conscious control over being able to return to that delicious space, just as I had no input in arriving there in the first place.
I am sad to say that not only have I yet to return to my “one with everything” experience, the memory is regularly relegated to the temporary amnesia of daily life, only to be reignited when the topic of connectedness or what some refer to as a “peak experience” is discussed among my friends or on media. Even then, the excitement and longing are short-lived before life’s demands again take precedence.
But in those moments when that memory is reignited, I wonder if people I admire could actually be a part of me. What if I have Mother Teresa’s compassion, Michelle Obama’s grace and passion and my mom’s deep love and willingness to grow? I do like that idea.
However, what about con artists who swindle life savings from the elderly? Terrorists? Serial killers? People who don’t return phone calls? Are they a part of me too? How could people who are angry enough to devastate or kill others or incite so much hate be a part of me?
What I do know is, I want wholeness. This desire has me doubt if it’s possible to be the person I wish to be if I’m not also the one I don’t want.
My favorite movie line that brings this together is from the film Dirty Dancing. In the scene after he finds out his daughter has deceived him, Baby says to her father, “There are a lot of things about me that aren’t what you thought, but if you love me, you have to love all the things about me.”
I cry every time I watch that scene.
Perhaps the tears are my acknowledgment that there are things about me that are not what I want—my “dark side,” made up of anger, prejudice, and hatred too.
So today I’m considering a new possibility—that to be whole I have to love, accept and celebrate all of me, including this dark side. A bitter pill it seems, yet good medicine.
While I may not need to act out my anger as some think they must, becoming more familiar, more intimate, more accepting of my own may very well be my prescription to wholeness. Maybe it will even be enough to take me to another (literal) peak experience like the one I had on that mountain top.
What if this prescription is required if I am to know my own passion and my own greatness that has been waiting to arise from the shadows?
I’m tired of getting flattened with disillusionment every time I think I’m a good person, but suddenly find myself with “bad” qualities that pop in willy-nilly. Or times I accept that I must be a loser, but then find myself doing a great kindness for someone. No wonder I don’t yet know who I am!
Whether your non-acceptance is based in anger and hatred as mine is, or lies in fear or sadness or perhaps tenderness, I invite you to join me on this journey of acceptance that will give birth to the greatness that lies inside of each of us.
Author: Susan Marion
Image: Flickr/Ariel Quiroz
Editor: Callie Rushton