What stories have I bought into that something is wrong with me, and that my natural inclinations are somehow bad, and that I am not worthy of being loved or valued unless I conform myself to the expectations of others? I received those messages since I was very young. And I internalized them, and I believed them. I’m not sure if everyone else does this, but from the books I’ve read and meditations I’ve listened to, it sure seems that a lot of people are laboring through their lives with the basic underlying belief that they are somehow bad.
I’m sure this starts in school. I was placed in a room, usually near the back because my attention wandered and I was unruly. I did not know that I was not able to see as well as everyone else. How would I know? I assumed everyone else saw things the same way I did. I remember my one season of baseball with the coach admonishing me to watch the ball. I would swing in the air after seeing the pitcher swing his arm. I never did actually see the ball. I never knew that my vision was about 20/200 until I failed my drivers license exam at age 16. I simply did not know that others could see the ball better than I could.
I did manage to get on base one time that season. It was at that classic critical moment at the end of a game when the bases are loaded and there are two outs. I was the last in the batting order and it was my turn. The Coach was visibly frustrated that the game would depend on me. “WATCH THE BALL!” He yelled. I watched the pitcher wind up, I watched the motion of the pitch, and waited in anticipation of the ball, which hit me squarely under my left shoulder in the ribs. I never saw it coming, but the whole team cheered! I walked to first base, and I can still in this moment, remember stepping on home plate a couple plays later as we won the game. I was the unlikely hero!
I did not really understand the whole idea behind a chalk board, as nothing that was ever written on the chalk board was legible to me. I assumed nobody could read it any better than I could. As a result, my handwriting was atrocious. It was completely illegible. I was given remedial exercises so I could make rounder O’s and straighter L’s. It never occurred to anybody that I simply could not see what I was doing or see what was being written on the board. I was simply determined to be lazy.
So naturally, sitting in the back of a classroom, where someone spent the day writing completely illegible things on a board that I could not see, was kind of a drag for me. I was clearly the problem. But I could read books! I would read with the book about four inches from the end of my nose, where with my near sightedness, the words on the page were nicely magnified and quite clear. The printed letters bore no resemblance to my handwriting, but they were not supposed to look the same anyway. Books were my refuge. The worlds of Narnia and Lloyd Alexander, and Middle Earth, and Dune, and Ring World, were my dream worlds and my escape.
I remember when I picked up my first pair of glasses from the optician. It was back in the day when people smoked cigarettes, and there were ashes in the ash tray in the optician’s office. I could see the texture of the ashes for the first time, instead of just a grey shadow. I remember going outside and seeing the leaves on the trees for the first time, and trees were not green lollipops anymore. Patterns of tiles on the floor seemed to be three dimensional.
We went that night to see “The Year of Living Dangerously” and I could recognize the faces of the actors for the first time. I had, for my whole life, gone to the movies without being able to recognize the faces of the actors on the screen. I would ask, is this the same guy as in that other scene? People thought I was not paying attention, but I was just blind. I was bad at sports, bad at writing, bad at a lot of stuff, and the answer was always–MORE EFFORT. If only I would apply myself, I would achieve so MUCH MORE!
I was born with, and half always been blessed with, a liquid intelligence. Geometry and Science just made sense to me. I remember when, in 7th grade, Mr. Kasyan asked the class how to measure the height of a tree. I think I was the only kid who went home and grabbed a yard stick, and measured the shadow of the tree with the shadow of the yard stick. I thought it was fun. I did not, on my own, derive the equation of the relative length of the yard stick to its shadow, but I did get the right answer about the height of the tree. I simply moved the yard stick to the end of it’s shadow in steps, and counted the number of yards. Then I went to catch lizards.
I loved catching lizards and creatures of all kinds. I would generally treat them with great care and kindness, although there were a few specimens who would not agree I’m sure.
I had a deformity as a child too. My chest was sunken in. My sternum was about two and a half inches concave, so my nipples were at the top edge of a bowl that was my chest. Kids made fun of this relentlessly. I HATED playing shirts and skins, especially when I had to be a skin, because everyone would gather around me and make fun of me. They would say “hey look, Spencer eats his cereal in bed!” The fact that I could not see did not help. I could be relied on to drop the critical pass or miss the critical at bat.
And so around 5th and 6th grade, when boys and girls started to “like” each other, I accepted the basic reality of being ostracized. I naturally sat by myself and kept my own company. I was a strong swimmer, and I could see well enough to play waterpolo, with the big, slow moving, bright yellow ball. Water polo really is a lot more about swimming that it is about the ball. These were my sports.
I had a surgery to correct my chest in 9th grade. They cut out the ends of all of my ribs, and cracked, removed, reformed and reinstalled my sternum. My heart moved over into the new space, in the light of the room. Recovery took a year. The next year I got glasses. Suddenly, high school was over, and I was deposited into college with a drinking problem already firmly established. Nobody, and I mean nobody, at college knew me at all. Suddenly I was thrust into this environment where I was meeting all these new people. But deep down inside, I knew that I was not worthy of any loving relationship, and so I kept everyone at a distance. I had lots of friends to party with, but no real connections.
I remember eating magic mushrooms on my 20th birthday. It was my sophomore year of college. We all gathered in the winter at a friend’s apartment. I sat on the sofa breathing the air that poured in through a crack in the sliding glass doors that were left ajar. The room was full of smoke, and this little thin line of clear cold air was coming through the doors. The magic mushrooms made me want to avoid alcohol and cigarettes and cannabis. I drank water and breathed the fresh air, and had a review of my life. I saw how I was fucking off as my college years ticked by. The next year I was married and got straight As. A switch had flipped and I really applied myself to school and work. It was through achievement and my capabilities that I could earn love and respect. Law School was a natural environment for me. I was like a fish in the sea. I graduated 5th in my class of 197 people. My life took off from there.
And now, on the cusp of my third revolution of Saturn around the solar system, I am getting ready to enter the final stages of this life.
I was listening to a meditation from a book this morning about “I am enough.” The meditation dropped me into hypnosis and took me back in time to my childhood and encouraged me to imagine feeling that I am enough and have always been enough. This, of course, was not at all in alignment with my view of myself.
I, to this day, get so many messages that I am a bad person, and that my instincts cannot be trusted, and that I need to be careful to avoid dangerous situations where I might be tempted to doing something bad, and that these situations, since they inevitably lead to bad outcomes, are themselves bad. I need to watch out for who I am friends with, I need to be careful of where I go, I need to do all kinds of things to avoid falling into my natural tendencies, because I am inherently a bad person, and it is only through great effort that I can behave correctly. We have this notion of “Original Sin” that we are inherently bad if left to our own ways. This is an incredibly toxic and unhealthy view of ourselves!
Until I had a stroke. I literally blew a gasket in my brain. I had a brain cramp so severe that it caused me to suffer a cerebral infarction. This has been building in my system for many decades, and it is the little straws of recent events that caused the system to finally fail. But I am realizing that the stress comes not from the external events, but from my believing in them.
I am very fortunate that I have a rich life full of loving relationships. I have built beautiful structures in my life, and there are many people all around the world who count on me to continue behaving in a consistent and reliable manner. This is a great blessing to have such a rich and connected life.
But I have to own my own love of myself. I am a good person, and my natural inclinations will not lead me astray. I can follow the joy in my heart, and this is not a danger or threat to anyone. I naturally seek out and desire to do good in the world. I don’t have to be afraid to follow my instincts, or to enjoy things in my life. If people are upset with me or if people think I should behave differently, that’s really not my concern. People who want me to be different simply want to be with someone different and they are trying to fit me into their mold. All kinds of people do this to us. From bosses to spouses to friends to our mothers and families to the government and society at large. Everyone wants us to conform so that we can be reliable cogs in the machine.
How does one manage this? I don’t want to be cold or unfriendly or defensive or secretive. I just want to be myself. I don’t need to stand on a soap box, I don’t need to preach, I don’t need to change anybody’s mind. I just need to be at peace with myself, love myself, and be happy with myself and my life. It has taken me 56 years to get to this point, and I want to live right the last part of my life.
I love my wife, I love my church, I love my family, I love my friends, I love the work that I do, and I love my home, my dogs, the place that I live, the weather in Miami. I love skiing and Telluride, and I love going on the sailboat. I love my training regime. I love my life. I have nothing to feel guilty about. I release the stress of other people being disappointed in me, and I embrace joy of living as my guide. I am enough, I have always been enough, and I don’t have to change myself to please anyone. These are all gifts of the gift that I receive, and I must embrace them, so that I do not need the gift anymore.
If I do not fundamentally upgrade my internal stress and need to please people, if I do not let go of the belief that I won’t get invited to the party if I don’t bring the cake, if I continue to buy into the story that my natural tendencies and desires are bad, I will continue to live at such an intense stress level that my brain will simply stop working. I have already received a dramatic warning that cost me about 20% of my visual field. The next warning could cost me my ability to speak, or walk. I’m going to take that message to heart right away.
I am the Warrior Spirit of the Rainbow Wind. I live at the top of the Canyon. The Sun is my father, the Water is my Mother, the Wind is My Spirit, and I AM MY FRIEND. The Warrior Spirit is enough.