The thought came to me yesterday: suppose we act as if – as if we are whole. We don’t most of the time. We often start, biblically, from the position of original sin. Christians, apparently, feel less virtuous after looking at a picture of the Pope because they are reminded of how miserably they fall short.*
Much emphasis today is on “fitting in” or being politically correct. I was certainly raised to be afraid of being not OK, not acceptable. And how many of us like our bodies? Who doesn’t squirm at memories of teenage angst?
I spent a lot of psychic energy on not appearing disabled when, in fact, as long as I didn’t behave disabled, no one treated me any different – even in a wheelchair. Similarly, presenting as a celiac in a new community caused me much grief. I was afraid of being too much trouble for anyone to bother with me. Even worse, that Bill would be equally marginalisd. I could just see the scenario: being asked to a meal. “I’d love to come, but I can’t eat anything with gluten or milk – and can I bring my own chair?”
How different when I got the confidence to handle it in a relaxed way, when I didn’t expect rejection. When I stopped hearing the tape of my mother resenting guests with dietary needs. When I felt whole.
Being whole isn’t the same as having pumped up self-esteem. It is not about being a succes or measuring oneself against a standard. Nor is it about being OK, which immediately brings up the spectre of being “not OK”. It’s not about being, but whole – so the rest is irrelevant clutter. I don’t even have to persuade myself I am OK or justify my acts, just think, “How would I be?” And donning that feeling it like a cloak. Suppose I did that for a day, how different would it be?
How would I be when I clumsily drop something? Casual and unphazed instead of red-faced and awkward?
How would I be when I make a mistake? Calmly correct myself or acknowledge the other is right, instead of feeling ignorant and rather dim?
So I watched, in passing (not too earnestly) and I learned a lot. First, I noticed how often my knee-jerk reaction was defence. But if I were whole, there would be no need. I could just quietly act on the situation, not on my perception of misunderstanding or failure. I would be on a level plain, not a see-saw.
Throughout the day, much changed. No, I didn’t become patient and angelic, but I did recognize my reactions. I could feel my centre holding fast and I could see I had an alternative way of reacting. It also removed me from centre stage in my head to a position more like an observer. Literally a different point of view.
An interesting and a humbling day!
* Mark Baldwin, University of Michigan