|Photo courtesy of unprofound|
Being in two 12 Step recovery programs has taught me something important: that I'll never be a "good girl." It's not in my DNA nor do I want to be perceived that way anymore. I used to want to be liked by everyone and would alter my persona in ways so that I'd appear to be someone likable and good. But my attempts always failed in the face of my own personal integrity and a subconscious need to experience life on the deepest levels possible. Finally after all these years I can take the label "bitch" and claim it not as a way of being or representing myself but as an energy I have a right to claim that is defined by my willingness to not be liked or perceived as good girl. For me being a bitch is not about running roughshod over others or puffing myself up as a woman to boost my ego and win arguments or dominate energetically. Instead, being a spiritual bitch means I connect with a force (that I don't fully understand) that allows me to be as big as I need to be in a given moment or situation, without apologies or permission.
Vengeance is a bit like yummy meal from a chain restaurant such as Big Boy. It can be tasty but you know in the end it's not good for you other than to satisfy a basic desire. To this day my favorite movies are revenge movies because they satisfy the craving I have for the quick-fix version of justice. It's nice in a way to think that a little (or a lot) of violence will make everything better, and free my mind & heart of suffering. Of course in the movies there is a taste of supposed justice, but whenever I exert my will to enact my own version of "justice" I'm never satisfied. In my head the scenario repeats itself in slightly different versions depending on just how thoroughly I think I "got" someone with my words. Even if I think "I got them" I still wind up holding that same grudge, but now with a new hue. I'm not really satisfied and a real opportunity to explore justice has been missed for the time being.
Yesterday I read a post by therapist Connie North about manifesting peace. She discussed a fictional but very thought worthy scene from the film The Interpreter. Ultimately it's about vengeance and choices. Do we take the short cut and enact violence as a means to deal with pain, anger, and grief, or do we walk into the pain, embrace the suffering, and perhaps even help the very ones who have hurt us (in a non-codependent way of course). This brings me to another post I read by a spiritual acquaintance of mine, damali ayo. This paragraph really struck me:
This is a hard fact for some activists to accept. When I finally got it, I was in the middle of a workshop and I ran out of the room crying. I had invested so much of my life in trying to dictate to others how they could and should think and behave. It took some time, and some serious recalibration of my world-view, but eventually I realized that the way I make the world better is by changing myself. I had to change the way I thought and behaved.
I must concede that my own attempts to control as an activist have often wound up causing myself pain. It was like the old adage, taking poison in hopes the other person would get sick. I tried use my words in ways that would get others to submit to them so that I could not only feel satisfied but safe. These attempts only brought fleeting relief. The realization that doing activist work as a means of forcing my will didn't really come to me until I suffered enough of my own consequences by means of alienating myself spiritually from others. As an addict I can readily admit that it's usually pain that forces me to change. So when I finally was in enough pain from getting into Facebook fights or email fights or actual yelling matches on the streets with supposed "enemies" or "unaware" people, I finally got this important spiritual tenant: that even racism, sexism, homophobia, able-ism, transphobia, and other isms are all part of the same spiritual dis-ease, and only when others suffer enough under the weight of that disease will they change. No amount of my anger towards them, my attempts to control them, or my fear of vulnerability or jeopardy will change them. As damail said "Only people who are willing to change from the inside can sustain the social change around them, because they will not be directing it, they will be being it."
Yes it is true that we have to be the change. I have had to go within and see certain horrors for what they are, which is spiritual sickness. Whether it's drone bombing in the name of correction, a drunk driver, a racist, or a mentally ill loved one, we cannot fight crazy with crazy. It's like talking to someone in a mental health crisis who is wearing a straight jacket and putting on our own straight jacket to get them to behave. Not only would it not work but then we're the ones restrained. Our bodies tighten up when someone else's bad day becomes our own bad day. They get cranky so we get cranky back. Then our stress response is engaged and we cannot do Great Spirit's work until we have looked into our pain and have made choices on how we want to approach our living from that point.
And the truth is we all fall into these control traps. And we always will struggle with them. Haruki Murakami makes a beautiful point in the phrase: Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Of course we will at times react rather than respond. We will see that resentment train coming and get right on. But the point isn't to berate ourselves when this happens, for we know that others do it too (which is why trying to enact suffering upon others doesn't work because they, like us, got on that train). Instead we can recognize when we're on that train and when we remember to, or when it hurts enough, we will get off and try to connect with our own pain and our own capacity to love and thrive. We may get hooked in when our government spies on us, when liberal or conservative paternalism attempts to control us, when we don't get a raise because of our gender, when our neighbor's dog poops in our yard, when our spouse won't wash the dishes, when our parents act crazy. The work when this happens is to recognize what is happening and remember we have choices. We can stand tall in knowing there is a Divine Mystery that will guide us to a more serene place for our own sake. We can pause and breath into the pain. We can cry, or talk to a friend, or write, or take a break, or dance, or we can attempt to manipulate and control others with our own spiritual discomfort. No matter the choice there will be a lesson. Some lessons bring joy, reverence, serenity. Some bring suffering. We have the right to experience our own consequences, and we begin to understand that others need to experience their own consequences, without our added vengeance.
It is okay to make mistakes. And it is okay to move on from them. Regular reflection has helped me grasp my own tendencies when I feel hurt by others. This is how I came to embrace being a spiritual bitch. Because my job isn't to be liked. When my will is in the background and Great Spirit's will is in the foreground I know that my words and deeds may not make others feel pleased with me, but they will be of some use to those who can benefit from them. I don't have to agree so that I'll be liked, but I don't have to be disliked because I am disagreeable. Instead my activism and my personal life can be places where I observe my actions and interactions and practice the practice of spiritual non-perfection. I can get hurt and remember others usually cause pain when they are in pain. I can hurt others and do my best to catch it, attempt amends, explore my own pain, and forgive myself. In this practice of being big without being ego driven, I can remember that just for this day I have the strength to love.