Thursday, May 8, 2008

Family

The last few days have been a concentrated period of family gathering. Many family members came into town for my Grandpa's funeral, including my two brothers and their families and two of my cousins who live far away. It was sad, intense, wonderful and exhausting. Now we are decompressing.

It is so fascinating to me how we all interact. I love my family. I am also exhausted by them. I think that when you're with these people who know so much about your history you become this exaggerated version of yourself to somehow mark the distance you have come. And I get so swept up in it all. I think we all do. Through the years I have come to define myself with the ideas and things with which I identify. And around my family I'm almost a caricature of myself. It's bizarre. It's not something I try to do. It's not even something I want to do. I just find that I become so much MORE of whatever it is that separates me from the Minter herd. Things that I actually care about become like medals on my Girl Scout sash. "Oh yes, we're very conscious of the environment. We recycle and conserve water and reduce waste. We're so responsible. We're even thinking of composting." Yes, that is all true. And it's very important to me. And I want it to be important to everyone. But in that moment, with my family, it becomes more about them seeing me as this mature, wise, responsible person and less about how important it is to not be wasteful and take care of the earth. And I believe I'm not the only one who does this. I think we all seem to come to the table with the things we've learned, the ideas we've come to believe, and go from person to person looking for praise.

Don't get me wrong. I genuinely want to know how everyone is doing. I truly care about what's going on in their lives. But part of me also wants them to know what's going on in my life, who I am as different from who I once was. And I guess I'm also comparing each of them to who they were, wondering what path took them to this point. I'm judging them, just a little bit, about the decisions they've made, the things they've accomplished, what they are basing their lives on now.

What upsets me about this is that this is the exact behavior I have been working on lately. I have been really focusing on bringing my attention to my ego and to the ways in which my pain body pretty much takes over and runs the show. I guess I shouldn't be upset with myself. The whole idea is that I'm at least bringing awareness to these thoughts and feelings. I'm aware of the ego's desire to define itself and to measure itself against others. And I'm seeing how my pain-body is drawn to the drama, the gossip, the failure of others. It sickens me, but I can see it pretty clearly. I don't necessarily stop it. I am trying to get there. But at least I'm able to see it as it happens. I am able to stop and say, "Wow, you are totally feeding your ego right now." And I'm trying not to judge myself for being such a crappy person. I'm trying to just observe it and see the state of things. Even this work on the ego and the inner growth I've had can become another mask of the ego when I start to define myself as someone wise and mature and strong. Breathe. Observe the thoughts. See the ego for what it is - a craving madman trying to feed on anything it can. Get back that space between the true self and the ego. Push back and give the self that breathing room to be in the present moment. Damn, that ego is a son-of-a-bitch.

Can I learn to just live my life and make the best possible decisions and not make those decisions another way of defining myself? Can I get to the point of living in the now so much that the decisions I have made are of no consequence? Who cares that you composted yesterday? What are you doing right now? Are you busy thinking you are better than someone else who throws away plastic bags? Who cares that you don't go shopping very often? Are you right now defining yourself as someone who is not a conspicuous consumer - are you bragging? Now is all that matters.

And right now I'm feeling sad about my Grandma. I'm feeling overwhelmed with the coming days of having so many people living here. I'm moody. I'm getting mad at Marco about everything. I'm being completely lazy about the laundry and unpacking. Right now I'm trying to sit with all my sadness and negativity and just let it be part of my experience of Now. Things won't be better when blank happens. Things can only be better right now. So I'm just going to try and sit and be still with my mean little ego and see if I can't try and give my true self a little breathing room.

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