There have been certain times in my life where the Universe seems to be trying to teach me about something. Either that or it is just alot of random coincidence converging on me in a short amount of time. Two particular cases that really stuck with me were the topics of baptism and the book of Revelation, back in college.
It seemed like every time I turned around during my junior year, the topic of baptism would come up in church, in lectures, in random settings. I could not get away from it. I now know every baptism related scripture verse, every possible understanding of the texts, and have probably heard almost all of the possible jokes surrounding baptism-like, does it count if you’re baptized in a mirage? Or, what if you drown while being dunked and don’t make it back out of the water before you die?
During the last half of college and for a while after, every time I turned around or visited a new church, it was all about Revelation. Pre-tribulation, post-tribulation, amillennialism, amillennialism with moderate preterite tendencies, Jesus rapture or no Jesus rapture…on, and on, and on. In many settings, my being unwillingly thrust into another Revelation experience was preceded by (read this in a sing-song, Southern accent): “We’re going to be doing a Bible study on the book of Revelations!” By the way, if you ever hear someone say the book of Revelations in regard to a Bible study, I can tell you with about 99% accuracy the specific content that will be covered and with what degree of literalism.
Was the Universe really concerned about my grasp of the various permutations in understandings of baptism and Revelation? Meh, I don’t know. But I can say this: whenever I attend a church who announces they will be covering either of these topics, I will decidedly not be showing up those Sundays.
On to the point of this post. I’m encountering another period where the same topic keeps showing up in my life from multiple avenues. Maybe it’s the universe, maybe it’s just because of the tribe of people I hang out with, the books I read, the podcasts I listen to, etc. This new idea that is hitting me from all angles? The need to show up for YOURSELF.
So, last night I went on a date. It turned out to be a date with myself and my 16 oz Blue Moon, because the guy that was supposed to meet me never showed up. Years ago, pansy, no self-confidence Julie would have been humiliated, feeling rejected, and completely anxiety-ridden about having to sit by myself at a restaurant. I would have told myself stories like: “He probably saw me from the window and took off.” “I bet he magically figured out from my online profile that I have nystagmus and he just couldn’t handle someone whose eyes involuntarily move ninety-to nothing.” “I probably screwed up again and miscommunicated about where and when we were supposed to meet.” “I’m a complete dork…of course things would go this way.”
In the past, I would have projected all kinds of stories onto the situation and ended up feeling horrible. But, because I’ve learned a thing or two over the last decade, and even the last month, and I have had people show up for me in life, this is how I responded to the situation: “Hmm, too bad for him…I’ll see if some of my friends are available to join me. Oh, they’re not. Well, hey! I get all the chips and salsa to MYSELF!” And I proceeded to chow down on the chips (which I’ll have to run off today) and enjoy my beer and….it was fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed my own company.
Last night’s no-show was a great exercise for me to practice showing up for myself. Unlike unwanted insertions of more baptism and Revelation into my life that make me want to gouge my eyes out, I willingly embrace this learning to show up for myself. Because, myself is all there really is.
No, this is not me being narcissistic and thinking that everything exists for me. Rather, it’s about the three following ideas:
- I’m the only one that will always be with myself. I will never leave myself, even when others come and go
- My ideas about other people are really just my projection of my own beliefs and stories onto them.
- People mirror back to me reflections of myself.
Point number 1 is pretty easy to grasp. We all know we’re stuck inside our bodies until we die…there’s no hopping around to other people, and we can’t really check out from ourselves.
Point 2: What we see and believe about other people comes entirely from our thoughts and perceptions about them. We can never REALLY know another person or their motivations. We can only speculate about them based on our thoughts. And just because a thought comes down the pipeline of our brain does not make it true, no matter how true it might feel. It is still biased and subjective on some level.
Point 3: Scientists frequently talk about mirror neurons in child development. They suggest that children learn behaviors and skills by watching the adults in their lives and then mirroring it back with the help of specialized “empathy” nerve cells. Anyone with children knows this phenomenon is true, both for good and bad. It’s super cute when your baby mirrors back peek-a-boo, but not so cute when they mirror back the “God dammit!” that you let fly out of your mouth when the toilet overflowed from excessive toilet paper insertion.
People mirror back to us what we believe about the world. If we see the world as malevolent and dangerous, we experience anger and danger from other people. If we see the world as good and abundant, we experience that abundance in our relationships and daily life. It’s all a matter of how we perceive things and what thoughts we believe about reality.
Back to showing up for myself. If I’m going to be the only one who is certain of sticking with myself through it all, and my life is really just about the stories I project onto it, then it seems like I need make myself a priority. Obviously, I’m not talking about doing whatever I want at the expense of others. What I’m talking about is getting to know and value MYSELF at the deepest level possible.
Our tendency is to worry about how others perceive us, and then mold and present ourselves in ways that will please them, or at least grant us some level of favor in their eyes. We frequently do this to the detriment of our hearts and betray our own core values. Which, when you think about it, is really kind of dumb when there’s no guarantee that those people will ever come through for you or stay forever, and what you think they think of you is probably a projection anyway.
The things I’m talking about here can feel kind of nebulous, and maybe won’t resonate with anyone. The first time I heard these kinds of ideas I thought it was alot of New-Agey crap. But the more I observe my own life, the more and more I believe that it comes down to me. Of course, I’ll pursue meaningful relationships, and I’ll do the best I can to really KNOW other people, and I’ll try to live my life in such a way that others are benefitted. But…in my mind’s eye I’m thinking of an asymptotic curve (you learned about these at some point in high school math). An asymptote is a line that a curve approaches as it heads toward infinity, but it can never quite reach that line. My analogy is this: we may be really, really accurate about the way things are and know about other people, but we can NEVER be completely accurate. And so I am left with this: I am the asymptotic curve. All I can really know is myself and where I am. I can never completely know anything for sure outside of me. And so, showing up for myself, and really being authentic to my core, and loving myself, is all there really is.
Others will leave you, but you will always have you. So, love yourself well, and make sure and show up every time.
I should recommend the book Loving What Is by Byron Katie. If you pick it up, the first time through you will think she is a nutty old lady who does not have a firm grasp on reality. But if you hang with her, what she says about only having yourself in life will start to make sense.