Bettering Ourselves to Death

She bent her knees to jump. You can’t jump until you sink down a little. And when you are aloft, there is always such dark and sad stuff underneath, below you. But if you touch down into it first, it helps you get aloft.- Anne Lamott (over-saturating??)

If there was a school that offered a Masters in Self-Help Blog Studies, I would have enough transferable credits from the last few years of independent study to graduate without registering for a single class. I have religiously followed vegan hipsters, sustainable fashion entrepreneurs, business/life coach divas, and an everlasting clown car full of other self-helping bloggers down the rabbit hole for longer than I care to remember… and I think I’m finally ready to quit.

Someone fairly observant once said, “If self-help books work, why are there so many?” Yes, why is the eternal exercise of perfecting the biggest corner of the social market these days? And when did we move from pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps to designing a better boot and selling a ten day workshop on the spiritual side of “pulling up?”

As I very hesitantly set out on a more creative career path I’m trying to ask “where is the need?” The answer that comes back is simple: With the hurting, the dying, the mourning, the children, the abandoned, the sick, the lonely. Grossly obvious stuff. But the question has also opened me up to the world of “needs” we’ve created, starting with the biggest: the need to be whole while equating wholeness with completion.

The idea of being complete irks me in three different ways. Yes, a Trifecta of Irksomeness: 1) It’s the myth I always chase until about 1 pm and then, frustrated at myself, I slink into a nearby chair or fainting couch and rest, thinking “Duh, child. Remember? We went through this yesterday. It’s not possible. Now go get yourself a cookie.”. 2) It’s not possible. We’re not complete beings. We don’t come assembled or with all our parts. What really sucks is we’re non-returnable, not even at Target (and they take EVERYTHING back!) We rush the process of growth, trying to fill what isn’t ready for filling with misfit projects, hurried relationships, stupid diets, and concocted anxieties to obsess over. We hear that we’re not the latest model and we believe it. 3) People have zeroed in and started monopolizing on this fear. Seriously, I’ve never heard someone say “I don’t know what I would do without my life empowerment, inner diva expression coach” and yet THAT career option exists.

Thankfully, I do not have an alternative solution for the 10 step books and extreme bettering bloggers. All I can offer is that if we feel like something is missing, the good news is we’re not far off: something is and with good reason. We’re totally capable of not being 100%. Capable and amazing because of it…

Our missing piece, our darkness, our imperfection, whatever we want to call it, is its own sacred and solid entity. The most amazing art (in my opinion) is the kind created by someone who uses space and void fluently, someone who appreciates that what is there is just as important as what is not. If we can stop seeing what we don’t have as a giant stain on our creation and instead as a vital part of our makeup, I think we’ll be doing a whole lot better.

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2 responses to “Bettering Ourselves to Death

  1. Yes, yearning is part of human nature. We evolve, just like every being of this universe. Some mystery calls us forward. Hydrogen gas took 14 billion years to become the markings on this screen and the eyes that see them. It’s a shame that we spend so much effort making ourselves wrong instead of embracing our sacred potential. We could change the word “art” for “life” in your penultimate sentence. Thanks for your post.

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