Friday, January 8, 2016

How to Tell If You're in a Toxic Relationship (With Yourself) - Or My Goal to Exploit Clickbait-y Headlines


I suppose it's good to have them, but I can't help but feel that our (US) culture has a pathological, toxic obsession with goals - a hold over from our Puritan cultural roots that shouts guilt and crazy-making exhortations at us all.


What? Only me? Yeah, I didn't think so. Well let me tell you something. You're fine. Exactly the way you are. Whether you feel tiny or shredded or possibly shattered. It finally occurred to me recently that human beings are only perfect when they are imperfect. It's only through the cracks that our souls shine through. It's from our places of vulnerability that we make the most meaningful and lasting connections. And if you create anything - art, cakes, a home, a family, anything at all, your hurts and regrets and shame are powerful fuel for that art. Not so say that joy and love aren't powerful generative forces, too, they are - but they come after you accept every aspect of yourself. Newspapers and magazines offer up a lot of click-bait-y headlines in January: HOW TO TELL YOU'RE IN A TOXIC RELATIONSHIP. If you read through the lists of signposts, you may nod your head sagely, glad you aren't putting up with any of the verbal, mental, emotional, physical abuse of a toxic relationship - but have you tried applying those signposts to your relationship with yourself? I'd fail. Would you? Most of us don't want to be abusers and we'd sooner the ground swallow us up than hurt someone that way, yet we never bother to evaluate how we treat ourselves.

So if there are goals for the new year, let them these:
  1. Pledge to be gentle with yourself - adopt a policy of nonviolence in thought, word, and deed concerning yourself. Seriously. Just listen to how you think at yourself. You will be horrified by what you hear.
  2. Make time and space for doing nothing at all. It needn't be much time. Fifteen minutes a day. Not for meditation. Not for reading. Not for yet another course on how to do or be The Thing. To do nothing. Most of us have forgotten leisure and how to be alone.
  3. Vow to help someone else. Whether you volunteer on a regular basis or just offer a cup of coffee to the homeless kid on the corner once in a while - totally up to you. But if you want the cure for a bad day, bring a smile to someone else's face.
Goals can be a fine thing. You can't get to a place if you don't even know it's where you want to go. Just don't hold on to goals so tightly that you can't take a detour to see the sights. They aren't supposed to be used to flog yourself with. This isn't the Dark Ages. There is no widespread plague calling for parades of penitents flogging themselves to drive off the scourge. Unless, you know, you're into that kind of thing. Then by all means. Make that a goal and flog away.

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