I’m an extremely haughty person. I tend to judge everyone as better than or less than. Yes, apparently I consider myself the gold standard by which all other humans are to be judged. There’s one a slight problem. Slight. The value of this gold tends to fluctuate, and as my own perceived value changes, so too do my judgments of others.
Today, my friend Gabe asked me, “Do you fear that the things that caused it will come back?” We were discussing my fourteen year stint in prison (bulimia). I had to pause. He didn’t ask if I thought the bulimia would come back. He asked if I was afraid that the causes would come back. And I realized something. The cause hasn’t completely left. The cause is consumption.
I’m not a shopper. In fact, I have been distinctly disdainful of people who shop excessively. Conspicuous consumption gets on my last nerve. I’m definitely better than them. I have stepped foot in a mall to shop approximately one time in the last three years. I do rarely pop into Ikea for home organization products. And I even more rarely hit the outlets for new jeans or underwear. My mom picks me up sale items or the occasional shirt form Costco, but that’s about it. I don’t read fashion magazines or see advertisements very often, so I don’t keep up on how my old clothes aren’t up to snuff. I avoid the clothing section at Target when I go. I just truly loathe how shopping makes me feel. I hate the wanting. I hate the loosing money. I hate the not fitting. I hate the dissatisfaction afterward. I hate feeling less than.
Yeah, that’s the truth. I pat myself on the back, tell myself I’m better than other people because I don’t consume goods, waste money, buy into the marketing. But the truth is that I just try to avoid feeling the depreciation of my gold. It’s a pretty fickle stock. And shopping, particularly clothing shopping, makes me feel so immensely unworthy. My house seems crummy compared to the new stuff. My body seems lousy when it doesn’t fit the clothes. My entire persona, my brand of Heather, feels so dull and out of date and lame when I shop.
But I’m still a consumer. A conspicuous, ravenous consumer.
I hoard positive comments.
I binge on compliments.
I consume praise.
The cause is definitely still there. I just don’t vomit anymore. But I might still be in prison.
Last night someone said something to me that caused me to feel the great weight of my own previous judgment and harsh words. I had to sit through dinner feeling the exquisite pain of having hurt someone. I had nowhere to run. I had only to sit and feel the pain. It began as shame, the negativity depreciating my value. It then became anger, at the other person for pointing it out to me, increasing my value. But then, it softened me. And I looked around and saw that everyone was made of gold.
“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” Pema Chodron.
I’ve been considering getting a tattoo on my hand. I want to have a permanent reminder, a place I can see all the time that will help me to stop, sit and be present. I want a reminder that I am enough. I want a reminder that there is a truth. I want a reminder that the value of my gold doesn’t actually change. Only my thinking changes. I’d like to get three small birds in flight as my tattoo. Three little birds on my doorstep, to quote Bob.
In moments as these, when I have a realization that I’ve been a judgmental ass and hurt someone, when I see my own cravings, my own desire for approval, when I see all of the pain I cause myself and others with my disease of consumption, I have a tendency to fold up. I want to shut it out. I have always struggled to sit with the pain without judging it. And this has led to more consumption, of food, of alcohol, of praise, anything to make myself feel temporarily better, up my value.
But today I’m going to try to be a bird in flight.
“If we’re willing to give up hope that insecurity and pain can be exterminated, then we can have the courage to relax with the groundlessness of our situation.” Pema Chodron