I’ve been sitting with thoughts of what it might be like to be average, mediocre even, at being a practitioner of this work since some new developments earlier this week. N brought it up, gently suggesting What might it be like to just let it go and be mediocre and as we discussed it and I processed it in some manner, I feel something has eased up within. It’s given me permission for some space and distance, some allowance for embracing my own pace in how I engage and assimilate this learning.
It’s become severely apparent to me that even as I set off no this learning this year, with no outcomes in mind, feeling the full flush of learning for learning sake, something about my group, the structure and the way in which I have engaged with it all has triggered the deeply help beliefs of perfectionism, performance and excellence. I realise I have always shied away from overt excellence. When things come easy, I have taken it, but when I have to work hard towards something, I can’t seem to do it with ease, without the pressure of a positive outcome.
Sub-consiously speaking, being average has never been an option. Internally I’ve always been wired to strive to always do exceedingly well. Go all in, all the performance pressure and all (and I’ve silently suffered for it many times right through various stages of my life) or back away completely. Black and white. Fight or flight. It’s the same story.
As I’m now learning, these hardwired responses are invariably trauma responses. And I am absolutely flummoxed as to where they may have come from. I didn’t grow up with the pressures many children in my generation did — pressure to perform, be academically excellent, be engineers/doctors, etc. In fact, I had an upbringing where we were encouraged to just be. So I have absolutely no answers, but I hope to unpack this and understand better over time.
It’s amazing what a mere conversation can sometimes do, because that conversation earlier this week, and a startlingly illuminating conversation with S this morning, triggered by some thoughts post our practice session on the weekend, settled some of these truths in me today.
I feel a deeper dropping into myself, a peeling off of yet another layer I didn’t know existed. And I feel ready to re-embrace the idea that there is no deadline, prescribed timeline, and most importantly of all — no desired outcome of me. This was so crucial because I have been struggling with how the pace and stretch of the learning has been sometimes at cross-purposes with my own slowing down. The two have collided more than once, leaving me confused, sometimes guilty for not doing enough, and fearful about a possible consequence.
Today’s conversation was important in reinforcing the idea that I am in this for me. For however and whatever I choose to make of and do with this learning. That I can breathe and take it slow. And so if that means there’s a possible fall out in terms of not meeting a deadline, a “stellar” outcome or a level of excellence, I finally feel ready to see what that might be like.
I know I’ve talked a lot about being mediocre, but I realised this week I don’t know jack about being mediocre. I simply like the idea of it, from a distance. As I get closer to actually practicing it, it is terrifying as fuck. But the good news is I am more willing to give it a try than ever before.
I am continuously amazed and thrilled by how never-ending and loopy self-development is. A deeply personal journey that has so many points of resonance with the world I engage with. A constantly unravelling scroll, revealing newer nuance and deeper detail as we go along. This process of dropping deeper within, discovering myself in such an intimate way. It has been so, so, so enjoyable. I’ve reached a place where therapy is now exactly that — an enjoyable path of discovery. Sure, it’s pock marked with many downright frightening discoveries, lots of tears and snot, opportunities to dive into the deep end. But it has never been so exciting.
Earlier this week after therapy, when I was marvelling at the beauty of this constantly deepening journey with so many wins and milestones and success, but no apparent end, I was reminded of this Cheryl Strayed quote from an essay in Tiny Beautiful Things (that essay is also where this powerful sentence that’s impacted me so deeply came from):
Your life will be a great and continuous unfolding. It’s good you’ve worked hard to resolve childhood issues while in your twenties, but understand that what you resolve will need to be resolved again. And again. You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.
And to that last sentence, I want to add, of yourself first.