Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Fast-forward to January

I'm growing a bit weary of this retro-active posting. A new year has begun and it's time for me to keep pace with the present.

Last night I finished a short essay for a staff training class on co-dependency and thought that I would include it here as a peace offering to any readers who may have noticed I'm long overdue on posting (Bobby, I'm thinking that's probably you). I'll state up front, I am not entirely satisfied with the following piece of writing, but it communicates a little of where my mind has taken to wandering as of late.

The question that the essay below is responding to was something to the effect of, "what person or thing do you consistently worry over--what benefit/harm would result from detaching--what benefit/harm has been the result of being attached?"

Amy Nee

To Be Right (or Left?)

The person in my life who I find most troubling is me. More specifically, it is the manifestation of me who feels a need to be right, always. Writing this, attempting to explain my thoughts about and feelings toward this aspect of myself, I feel conflicted. It would be wrong to say I dislike her, that I want nothing to do with her. The cliché statement, “we have a love/hate relationship” comes to mind. I hate when she stands so close, with her preoccupying presence, that she blocks my view of others. I love when she prompts me to realize that in trying to hold my ground I’ve blindly been stepping on someone else’s feet. I love when she points out the difference between an impulsive craving and a true desire. I hate when she builds walls around me and discourages me from taking a risk; from leaping into, learning from, and loving through the unknown. Much of the time, I don’t know how I feel.

Her presence is particularly powerful in the presence of those whose good opinion I covet, or those for whom I feel a sense of charitable responsibility. It is manifested through a nagging inclination to perform perfectly. Not that I need to know the most facts or to win every argument, but that my thoughts, feelings and behaviors are at all times appropriate. If I make a mistake, I must learn the lesson, show that I know it, and never repeat the err. I need to be right because of those that look to me as an example. If (when) I stumble, I risk causing others to stumble too. I need to be right, because when I’m not, I may injure another, and I may lose a little of myself. I need to be right because “right” is “good.” Because, I am Amy Nee, and Amy Nee is “good.”

Here, I must halt and redirect the course of this essay. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the desire for “rightness” is not so much at the heart of my agitation as the weights with which I balance right vs. wrong. I do care about how my actions affect other people and how the consequences of those actions affect the me of the next moment. I don’t want to stop caring. I don’t want to stop being cared for. I do want to be free of feeling the need to protect and prove myself. I want to make decisions based on principles that are appropriate to the moment and not reliant on what I perceive another’s expectations to be or on “shoulds” that I’ve developed over the years.

In light of this alteration, perhaps the greatest risk of detachment is the identity crisis I would inevitably experience. Following the old way has frequently rewarded me with favor in the eyes of men, women and children. To detach from the compulsion to be right could leave me bereft of others approval. Not to mention if I detach from this, I have no sense of security, no foundation, and am left to discern my course through questioning, careful examination, counsel, and experimentation. No easy answers. Even answers achieved, at the moment of realization, instantly transform themselves to a question.

On the other hand, a foundation built on ideas I accept because they are “what I’ve always believed” or behaviors I perform because “that’s the way we’ve always done it,” no longer feels secure. Over the course of my life, when uncertain, the test for whether or not an idea was valid was if it was held by peers and elders I respect and love. The edge of uncertainty however, does not diminish but sharpens as new people enter my life whose actions bear good fruit but whose beliefs vary in shade and texture from those with which I am familiar.

The person who troubles me most is me, because I am straddling the fence; ill at ease and irritated with myself until both feet rest on one side. Getting off the fence would mean learning to become comfortable with disagreement, and not knowing; humbling myself to choose a path—even if it means disappointment or discomfort—and not sit in the middle of the road contemplating whether it is preferable to turn to the right or the left. In the meantime, I live. I find ways to love and reasons to laugh. I listen to others and myself. I try to find quiet from others and myself to listen for who else may have something to say. Sometimes I with I could just go back. Go back to answers that, though often not easy, were accessible. I know that I can’t. Even if I could, I wouldn’t.

What I desire to detach myself from is this tentative mode of living spurred by reluctance to miss the mark, coupled with a near-sighted view of what and where the mark may be. I feel that this course has contributed to an unhealthy type of detachment. In my heart, I want what is deep. I want closeness, passion, dedication. In my life, I choose careful distance, measured emotion, half-hearted efforts. But I am not finished yet, and a new year is just beginning.


azuree said...

what a wonderful post amy. i think it's so hard to make decisions in life that will please everyone, yourself included. i feel like you're always going to have to make some kind of compromise. i found myself resenting myself and my beliefs for a period of time in my recent past because i realized that i had not been living a sincere life. all the good i did wasn't out of any goodness in me, but out of wanting to do the right thing or appease someone else or look a certain way. not that that thinking is too far from good, but i wasn't acting on an outpouring of my heart as much as it was knowing it was the right thing to do. like a drone or monkey.

i'm not sure where i am now but since i've lived in community i think my heart has softened and it's helped me want to lend myself to people not because it's the right thing to do but because i appreciate it so much when i know that people are lending themselves to me so openly.

i guess what im trying to say is that although i've learned the right thing to do and the principles which life should be lived by, the actions of other people have inspired me much more than any things i've read about in any kind of book or teaching.

sorry for the essay. thank you for sharing your post, and hey, i look forward to them too!


a.e. nee said...

Azuree, don't apologize for the essay--it was wonderful. I like to hear of your challenge in finding a way of integrity and peace within yourself, and I like especially to hear that you have come to a place where you feel you can recognize and act on what is right. You have such a beautiful heart! Thank you for your words.