Jack and I were watching a documentary last week called, Advanced Style; a wonderful film that showcases women over 60 who love fashion and seem to embrace not only far-out and fabulous clothing, but life as well. I feel like it would inspire anyone to get outside of their comfort zone as far as fashion goes, and it did this for me, but it also made me feel braver and more open.
I cannot even count the times when I’ve been shopping and an unusual piece of clothing would catch my eye, I’d try it on, love the colors, textures, and feel, only to return it to the rack because it seemed too “out there”. I know that the source of my apprehension was fear of rejection…fear that someone would look at me with raised eyebrows, a scowl, a frown, or god-forbid a sneer. The words, “Tone it down, Mary” still echo from somewhere in my past.
I wish that I could eradicate my fears by understanding where they came from, and I spent years trying to do that. Was it my parents, teachers, friends, an unfriendly priest or nun, who first implanted the idea in my subconscious that I was somehow too much and at the same time not good enough? Probably all of these people did some of that and the big question is not, “Why?” but, “So what?” Mine is not a unique story. I’d even venture to say that everyone I’ve ever talked to, no matter how successful, seemingly together, serene, or happy, could say that at some point in their lives they have felt unacceptable, not OK, not loveable, capable, or full of joy at being themselves. And I think if we were being honest with ourselves, most of us would have to admit that we still have moments, or hours, when we feel like this. I know that I do.
We cannot think our way out of our irrational fears, we must walk through them. I’m not taking about ignoring guidance that says things like, “Don’t walk down that dark street” or “This person is not right for you” (no matter how much you want them to be). I’m talking about the feelings that say, “I’d LOVE to do this, but I’m afraid I’ll be rejected, criticized, or ridiculed” so I’ll just stay small, shut my mouth, watch from the sidelines, put the silk multi-colored shawl with the beaded fringe down and buy the brown scarf instead because I’m not really a “shawl person”. What does that even mean?
Who am I really?
I don’t think that is a question that can be answered. I heard a lecture by Alan Watts where he was taking about Bodhidharma who was asked that question and he replied, “I don’t know who I am. Planting flowers for the butterflies”, which seemed to say, “Do what brings you unspeakable joy. Don’t try to figure out the unhappy past. Do what you love now, and life will make sense.”
“If you use your mind to study reality, you won’t understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you’ll understand both.” Bodhidharma