Truth versus Judgment

Oprah Winfrey at the White House for the 2010 ...

Oprah Winfrey at the White House for the 2010 Kennedy Center Honors (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oprah Winfrey once spoke about how much she had been harshly and unfairly judged at different times.  She had often been taken to court and had always put a lot of energy into defending herself.

But one day, in court, she made a decision.  I’m not doing this anymore.  She said she knew she wasn’t guilty of what she was being accused of, and she chose to let that be enough.  She said no matter what anybody thinks, or how many people damned her, she knew what the truth was.

I remember that moment of watching her as she was talking about it, and how at peace she was with herself.  At peace with herself and in a way

unassailable.  It takes a lot of nerve and courage not to defend yourself when you’re being judged for something that you know you’re not guilty of.

I think it can be important to state the truth and stand up for yourself, but sometimes it’s a waste of time.  Somebody who is judging you has already shown you that they don’t have any interest in knowing the truth about you.  They don’t care enough about you to want to be fair.

It’s tough and it hurts like hell.  But it is what it is.  You can’t let somebody else’s judgment of you be your death sentence.  A friend of mine, writer Ella Camp, said “The past can cast a long shadow over our present- therefore we must at times, actively seek the sun.”

Judgment can be that dark shadow.  It’s driven by stuff in the past – unresolved anger, fear, hurt.   But here’s the thing: nobody’s judgment can actually alter the truth about you.  I reckon to know that is to step away from the shadow and stand in the sun.

I heard the most beautiful thing in the movie The Interpreter the other night.  One of the characters said “a single whisper can be heard above an army when it is telling the truth.”

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Dreams Can Come True – But It Takes Focus

Focus: it’s everything when it comes to dreams that come true.  I’ve spent a lot of time in my life trying to figure out what I must do so my dreams for music and writing can come to fruition.  Other people’s success has often seemed magical, and it’s been easy to believe they had something I didn’t have.  Some kind of natural talent.  Well, some people do of course, but I’ve got real clear about another contributing element.

People who make dreams come true are able to focus, from minute to minute, day to day.  Success is about work, not only about talent.  Work means doing the thing you love that your mind, body and soul is built for, and being able to be practical as well as creative.  Being able to organize your days, weeks, months and years so you can play, write.  Brilliant musicians are brilliant because they play all the time.  Good writers know what to do with words and how to move people with them because they write a lot.

A lot of things can get in the way of focus.  It can take a lifetime to just see them.  Not everybody has to do this before they can be successful, but some of us do.  Think about it, when you have intrusive physical pain it’s difficult to concentrate.  When the pain is emotional it’s easy to not be aware of it, but it’s still chewing up your focus.  It hobbles you – and you can be unaware of that too.  Strange.

Eventually you kind of grind to a halt, though, and then you face it.  The thing is, I’ve discovered it’s not just emotional pain that has held me back, it’s what I learned from my mother and father and the family dynamic about how to do life.  When everybody is consumed with trying to survive an emotional holocaust and a child is at the bottom of the pecking order there’s not much positive stuff for it to learn.

Stuff like dealing with fear so you don’t run from scary things that arise when you study.  Like understanding that all problems have solution, so you just have to persist and reach out and ask for help and you’ll find the answer.  Like it’s okay to be ignorant because everybody is, at some point in their lives and understanding that learning starts with what you can get your head around.   I didn’t know these things.  I also couldn’t concentrate.

In this kind of situation it’s easy to hoodwink yourself into believing you are working hard, and focusing.  I thought I was.  I haven’t been doing nothing – I have written a couple of film scripts and now I’ve finished my book, and I’ve learned how to learn on the piano and I’ve unlocked my voice more or less – but I haven’t been focused.  I’ve done a bit here and a bit there, and I’ve run away inside myself when I hit a challenge.

But I’ve done a lot of re-learning about how to do life, and the old emotional stuff is resolved enough to not disable me any more.  Much more of my mind and energy is available to me, so is my energy, and I can focus now.  I’ve got strategies in place for my singing, my book and other projects; strategies that are about things I need to get done today, this week, this month.   I sure hope I get another chance at this living on earth thing.  I’ve only just begun to be able to do something real with what I’ve got.

don’t worry, be confident, have faith

Woke up this morning to fog bank of fear.   Well, actually I went to sleep with it too, and yesterday I spent the day in it.  Day before that too.  It rather gets in the way of productivity.  Let’s see:  these are the things I need to do every day: Script, piano, singing, blog, blog articles, proof-reading/editing work.  Now you wouldn’t think that was much, would you.

Yesterday this is what I achieved.  Hours spent raging about my family – 2.  Revengeful fantasies about ex lover – 2.  Singing – 2  v. good, 5 gold stars.  Script – 0, blog – 0, work – 1.5  v. bad, not enough, will starve after all.  Blog articles – 0, piano – 0.  Educational TV – 2  but we all know I’m lying, more like 4.  Walking to shop and back in gale force winds having only had 2 slices of bread at breakfast – 2.  Curling up into ball of fear – 14.  Yes I know it doesn’t add up to 24, that’s because time is warping.

The world is persecuting me again.  First I finally get internet job, from English Person.  Payment in pounds, enough to pay for myself and have some left over for singing lessons, maybe even dance lessons, new underwear.  Whoopee, freedom for first time in 7 fucking years.  Uh-oh, is that anger spilling out?  You bet.

Get going with work.  Earning potential up to me.  English pounds!!!   11 of them to R1.  Get inspired for everything else, fantastic creative output, heart stops flip-flopping, nightmares subside, future looks possible.  Then method of payment is Paypal.  Don’t have it.  Finally get it.  Banks fuck up 25 million times, finally sort that out.  Money, food, and epilepsy medication running out.  End of month looming.

Employer not sending me work every day.   I send frantic email.  Doesn’t reply.  Send another message.  Doesn’t reply.  Get paranoid that they don’t have as much work as they promised or they are really Martians and all is an illusion.  Whole security balloon pops.

Heart goes into overdrive.  Money runs out.  Frantic.  No food in fridge, no money in purse or bank.  Terror.  No money to phone anybody.   Then get email from owner saying sorry, we owe you some money and can pay you by bank transfer.  Oh fuck, why didn’t I just ask.  So I say thanks and borrow $7 – for milk and bread.  Fuck toilet paper, that can wait.  Try to hold it together.  Fail abysmally.   Feel persecuted.  Fog bank gets denser.  Panic.  Employer doesn’t send work.  Can’t earn.

CRASH.

Money doesn’t come in.  Rent is due on Wednesday.  Can’t go on like this any more.  If this is what my life is, if this is the level I can achieve, I don’t want it.  You can have it, God, take it back, I don’t want it.

Don’t worry, be happy, be confident, just use your mind.  Right.

Blog Titles and Vagaries of Life

Lately I’ve been sometimes bothered about the title of my blog – or, what’s the word? – torn?   Yes, that’s it, but a more interesting word than that one.   Never mind.   Torn it is.   When I started, I was in the thick of a spectacularly stubborn impasse, feeling hugely disempowered, being super-dependent, becoming super-aware of my inner critic and the warped ideas that are hard-wired into my being.   Facing very uncomfortable truths.

The word I was looking for is conflicted!  Aaaaaaaaahhhhh.  V. Satisfying to suddenly retrieve lost word.   But I digress.

The past seven months – oops, ten months – have been filled with epiphanies, dark tunnels, moments of wild inspiration and thrill at being alive, potholes, rage tantrums, crying jags, plateaux, rants against members of my family, rage against god and the universe, confusion, moments of clarity, of absolute certainty that I’m effecting huge change within, building a foundation.

Time rushing by at the speed of light, my heart getting out of control.   Wildly angry angry angry, sore, discontented.   Feeling lost.   Terrified I’d end my life saying “I tried to change but I couldn’t do it”.    Gaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh.    Scary times.   Inspiring times.   Alive times.

So far I’ve been very sure what my blog is about – articulating this process for myself so I can see it.   But something feels as though it’s changed radically.   For a while haven’t felt like writing about it, not on a daily basis.   It may be time to get down and write the book, so it’s all out in one place.   Tell the story and be done with it.    I’ve tried writing that book a gazillion times, and couldn’t.   I’ve had lots of theories about the why of everything, but I haven’t been resolved about it.   Too sore, too angry and scared.   Probably still too trapped.

Now?   I’ve got a better understanding of my place in it all.   I wouldn’t be writing the book to blame or punish anybody but to show my understanding of what caused my crisis, and how it  lead to understanding what prohibits development of potential.

Hah!   Hahahahahahah!   Success!   Have truly become woman of substance, am finally really Turning My Life Around and Stepping out of History.   Feel v. calm and beatific.   Well, not really calm.   Not v. good at calm.

Thing is, what about the title of my blog?   It’s ironic: when I started, nobody saw the title as meaning “figuring out what went wrong and what part you unwittingly played, then learning how to change so the present and the future can be different”.   Seemed logical to me.   I thought everybody would say oh I know what that means.    Well, when I first Googled the title about 6 months ago, all the search results were about history.   125,000,000 of them.

Oh.

Now most of the first page of those results are either articles of mine or my blog.   And now I ‘m not sure any more that I can justify the title for ever!  Hmmm.   Probably don’t have to worry too much.   Probably haven’t reached penultimate ephiphany state yet.   Probably never will.

Personal Accountability, Prejudice and Blame

I’ve been thinking about personal accountability in the face of a crisis that doesn’t seem to be of my making.  It’s easy to avoid it and cast blame.  I think the need to blame comes from having no entitlement to be angry or sad or scared.  In my head I’m not allowed to feel or express those emotions, but they contain a lot of energy which makes me immensely uncomfortable.  I instinctively want to find a way to let it out.   Blaming will do it.

It’s awfully satisfying, makes me feel very powerful and righteous, but alas it’s counterproductive and destructive.

I’ve learned the difficult lesson that when I’m pointing a finger at somebody else to their face and saying it’s all their fault, it always means I have something going on inside of me I either don’t want to acknowledge or don’t know how to.

That was a hard crossroads for me to even approach, let alone get through.  It seems everything in our social conditioning says we only have value if we’re good and right, if we make money, have successful careers, are successful parents, wives, husbands, children, teachers, you name it.   That imperative is so powerful that it drives us to go to massive lengths to pretend, if we somehow miss the mark.

The weird thing is, all of us miss the mark in some way or another, I really believe that.  It may not look like it from the outside, but I think that’s more the result of how well we pretend to ourselves and each other that we’re just fine.  When we hit the skids, we’re faced with the inescapable truth – I’m not fine.  The acknowledgment is so painful and scary that instinctively we lash out wherever we can – anything to not let that truth come any closer.

It wasn’t my fault.

I’ve watched this dynamic play out in my own life, and also see it playing out on a larger, societal scale.  Yesterday I wrote an article about Arizona’s new immigration law – which gives Arizona police the right to search Mexican-looking people and demand to see proof that they are in the country legally.  My beef isn’t with immigration laws per se  (although I’m not altogether sure they’re a good thing), it’s with the anger and prejudice that seems to have generated this law.  Given that those emotions run very high in Arizona, and that certain groups seem to be pointing fingers relentlessly and remorselessly at Mexicans for a lot of Arizona’s problems, the law is going to provide official justification for abuse.

I understand that foreigners coming illegally into a country can compound the problems of employment and possibly even crime.  Possibly, I say, with a great deal of reservation.  But when those illegal immigrants are used as cheap labor, possibly even by the people pointing fingers at them I start wondering what’s really going on.

This looks like racial prejudice to me, and a total unwillingness on the part of some  to look at what part they are playing in the problems they are facing, because it takes two to create a crisis.   If I’m disempowered and I get overpowered by a bully, I contribute to my situation.   It also looks like the same kind of racial prejudice that the South African apartheid government used to justify its intolerable abuses of human rights.

In South Africa right now there’s a lot of violent child rape. All of it is being done by men. Does that mean that all men are bad?  Of course not.  Does it give the police the right to stop all men and question them?  No it doesn’t.  A lot of Catholic priests are pedophiles and rape and sexually abuse children.  Does that mean all Catholic priests are bad men?  No it doesn’t.

But it’s easier to say all men, or all Catholic priests, are the problem than to say that within the grouping of “men” and “priests” some are good and some are bad.  Even harder is to acknowledge that parents aren’t looking after their children properly or the society has problems which make the children vulnerable to these predators.  The only healthy and sustainable solution is to deal with the individuals who commit the crimes, and to acknowledge and repair the children’s vulnerability, and stay right away from any kind of neurotic justification that allows one party to walk away from the part it’s been playing and try to force the other party to take all the blame.

It takes two to tango.

In South Africa, a lot of Blacks are committing hideous crimes of sexual abuse and murder, robbery, you name it.  Does that mean that all Blacks are criminals?  The idea is completely absurd.  A lot of white businessmen are sharks and criminals in their own right.  Does that make all businessmen bad?  No.  A lot of mothers abuse their children.  So then let’s chuck out all mothers.  A lot of white businessmen are sharks and criminals in their own right.  Does that make all businessmen bad?  No.  A lot of mothers abuse their children.  So then let’s chuck out all mothers.  You can target any group you like and find a reason to justify your prejudice against them, and your desire to hurt them.  And you’re not going to look at how many people within your category don’t actually fit the profile at all.

I’m not saying the people in Arizona don’t have a very challenging and nightmare situation to deal with. Clearly they do and they deserve compassion and protection as much as anybody else does.  But if they are complaining about a criminal element and unemployment, then let them look to the specific people, and stop blaming the race.   In any case do their problems give them the right to take away other people’s rights en masse?  People who in fact are American, not Mexican any more?  And where do you draw the line once you’ve said this law is okay?  A precedent is set.  Who’s going to be next?  Men?  Women?  Priests? Mothers?  Businessmen?

Hallo Hitler.

I believe that a law like Arizona’s generates more anger and fear, more intolerance, gives official justification for more abuse.   It hasn’t, by the way, as far as I can tell, received the official nod from the Federal Government yet.  Perhaps it won’t ever.  I really wish for all the people of Arizona, no matter what their origin and race, that a healthier solution can be sought for all the real problems they are facing.  a peaceable solution that is about mutual accountability and respect.

I’m going to shut up now.

Oh, except to say that the article I wrote on SearchWarp is here (click on the link).

Emotions and beliefs are the tools for not giving up

Here’s the kind of miraculous aspect to searching for solution.  It’s happened over and over to me, in small ways and big ones, in purely material things and things more profound.

If you grew up in an environment where you didn’t see solution being reached –  among family or in your own life – you don’t have a frame of reference for knowing how to go looking for what you need, or that solution even exists.  Often you don’t even know how to define it.  Definitely you don’t know you’re allowed to have something better.

So when you find yourself in an unsatisfactory situation, you don’t know how to get out, or that it’s even possible.   But here’s the kind of miracle: you don’t need that knowledge at first.  All you need is the belief that there is something better for you, and your emotions and a willingness to accept the truth of them (i.e. not run from them).  They lead you to what you need so that you can take the next step towards getting out of your situation.

Think about being in a bad job or relationship.  We stay until we can’t take it any more – if we let ourselves feel – and until we realise there is something better for us.  It’s the unbearableness of the pain that motivates us to leave and find that something better.  Tyrannies are overthrown when the people get angry enough to do something to protect themselves, and when they realise they have the right.

It’s working for me, anyway.   My emotions and my beliefs are my tools for moving forward even when I’m not sure what exactly to do – and for not giving up.   When I feel strongly it’s only because I need something.  If I listen, I instinctively nose around towards that need, because the emotion is uncomfortable.  I need the belief that there is solution or something better for me, so that I’ll push through the discomfort and not give up.

It’s taken a long time to be able to put this into practice.   Six years.   And I’m 55 now.   Sometimes I’m sore and angry about that, and sometimes it scares me – but that’s always about the questions “am I a fool” or “does it mean that time has been wasted” or “is there enough time now”.  Once I clear that up, and get back on track, I’m pretty excited about life and the potential that lies ahead of me.

If it’s taken me 55 years to get here, well then, here I am.  And I have the rest of my life ahead of me.  I started out with pretty shocking self-esteem, lousy entitlement, inadequate how-to’s.   Judging by my history my life was never going to amount to anything.

What chance would I have had of turning that around if I’d shrugged my shoulders and said “oh well, but what can you do?”

Perish the thought.

Rome wasn’t built in a day

Anxiety.  Fear.   

When I first became aware of my own levels of constant fear I thought it was created by circumstances, or other people.  When my first business took a nosedive and in those couple of years when I tried to get two other businesses going in succession I was sure it was caused by my bank debt, scumbag businessmen’s betrayals and there seeming to be absolutely no solution.  I didn’t know that I wasn’t in my power.  Didn’t even know what personal power was.  Didn’t know that my enemy was within.  In fact I got pretty pissed off and defensive if anybody tried to suggest it.  Actually I just got more scared!

But gradually I’ve come to see that my levels of fear reside within me anyway, and they aren’t caused by the outside world, or my circumstances or people.    They’ve been caused by the reality of my almost complete powerlessness.  Life is very scary when you’re not in your power, because you’re at the mercy of everybody’s whim.  And you draw into your world people who need to abuse, who need to throw their weight around.

Whooo!  I get a hot flush even writing about it!

Since I didn’t know any of that, the terror I’ve been conscious of has been that I’ll end up on the street, with no food and no place to live.  That one still terrorizes me – and can be triggered by the smallest of provocations, like my broadband allocation unexpectedly running out yesterday.  But the reality is that even though I’ve often had no money in my purse and none in my bank (that’s the norm!) and very little food in my fridge, I’ve always been able to garner enough money to stay in a decent place and I’ve always been able to eat something.  So my fear that I’ll end up at zero has never come to fruition.

Hallo!  Ergo my fear isn’t about anything real in the world.

I know now that the real generator of my fear is a belief in my powerlessness, that I can’t protect myself and that I can’t access what I need to get ahead.  That’s what it’s really about. 

That’s all she wrote.

Well, not quite.  It comes from low self-esteem and all the things that contributed to it while it was being formed.  It’s the awful terror of aloneness, the dark knowledge of worthlessness which means there will be no solution of any sort for anything big or small because only worthy people deserve solution.  It’s the absence of the experience of unconditional love, protection and promotion.

Fear.  It gets triggered by people’s behavior or material circumstances, but it’s not a symptom of those things, it’s a symptom of powerlessness of one form or another.  When your powerlessness is physical your life can be actually under threat, but my fear isn’t that kind, and nor is my powerlessness.  It’s emotional.  Doesn’t make the fear any less potent and potentially crippling.

Still pinch myself that I’ve been given this amazing opportunity to learn how to overcome my fear.  It’s a work in progress, mind you, but at least it’s progress.  Yes?

One thing I know for sure, if I’ve got anger suppressed, the world becomes a totally terrifying place to me.  So anger gets overlaid with fear.  Move the anger and both anger and fear dissipate.  Without any physical or material change in circumstances.

If fear presents on its own, and I don’t attend to it, I usually experience rage or sorrow!  Get somebody to hear me and hold me or do what I need right deep inside me, and all the emotions dissipate.

If sorrow presents on its own, and I don’t deal with it, I just get more sore.  Want to curl up in a ball and hide from the world.

People often say to me you made money before, you can do it again, and also that I have all this talent and intelligence, creativity blah blah blah.  It’s good to hear it, but the truth is those things alone don’t empower me. I had them all and I still went bankrupt.  That’s what was so scary.  All my blah blah blah was utterly useless to me.  Sobering thought, huh?

So to get out of this hole and MAKE SURE I NEVER FALL BACK IN IT, I’ve needed to develop another part of me.  The part that isn’t so easily visible.  In fact, when you don’t have much of it, it’s not at all visible!!

Inherent talent or ability is like great hardware capacity and brilliant software.  Useless if the operating system is dodgy. 

So is it self-esteem per se or just entitlement that forms the operating system?  Jury’s out on that one, kind of, but I’m leaning towards entitlement.  Look at all the celebrities who have achieved exceptional things in the world, but who clearly don’t have good self esteem overall.

Obviously one wants the whole deal.  Or I do, and that’s what I’ll work towards for ever, until I die and presumably on into the next phase of existence whatever it is.  But for now, I’ll take whatever entitlement I can grab.  Really need to make my way in the world, and have a materially safe place.  Need to know that I can do something independent that’s fulfilling, exciting, and that generates money.  Need to do it.   Once upon a time, survival seemed like a big ask for me. 

The hell with that, I want much more!  I want to FLOURISH.  Survival is no fun.

Everybody’s needs and challenges are different, but I know that up to this point my need has been to learn that I have value and deserve and can have back-up – which is not the same as rescue, it requires that I use the back-up for something I act on, like study, or create a business etc. – to learn there’s not something inherently wrong with me that makes me undeserving of love.  But also I’ve needed to learn that the world isn’t a punitive place, that there’s order, that everything originates from good, that I have choice, that I can change in the way that I make choices.  I’ve needed a parent figure in my world who understands the human psyche and has a practical understanding of cause and effect in human behavior.  Someone who I can take my troubles and my triumphs to, who listens and understands, who has answers that make sense to me, who celebrates with me, who never judges, who knows when I can’t see it that I am succeeding, who never doubts me or thinks I’m a fuck-up.

Who never walks out.  Who’s grounded and real and human and normal.  Who knows how to face challenges in a way that brings real results.

Somebody who could be patient and who I could learn to trust.  So that I’d have the experience of a trustworthy rock-solid person in my world to replace that old experience of my mother.

I’ve needed to learn how to feel my emotions, identify them, express them and how to see what need they represent, how to know that what my mind terrorizes me with isn’t  the reality.  

I’ve needed to learn what it means to say it’s all in your head.  It doesn’t mean you’re a lunatic.  It means what the mind tells us isn’t always the truth.

Lots of things I’ve needed, and will need for ever.  A different way of doing myself completely.  That’s 6 years I’ve been working on that, pretty solidly.  Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it, but actually, I’ve never felt more alive in my life, and a lot of it has been discovering what fun is!

And now I’m drawing more and more real love, support and opportunity into my world as my self esteem continues to grow, not as a theory or an intellectualization, but as a reality.

Money brings relief, but it doesn’t change the root cause of fear.  In and of itself it doesn’t empower you.  It’s the other way round.  Address the root cause, where the fear comes from, and the money problems clear up.

Hard to see it sometimes…

And Rome, alas, wasn’t built in a day!  But it was built.  Let me never forget that.