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The goal is to nourish

December 23, 2022 - thoughts

I just finished watching the movie called Stutz, a movie created by Jonah Hill about his psychiatrist. Through the movie, Stutz gives bite-sized practices drawn from Buddhism, psychiatry, and his own experiments. One of the themes is to accept that connection is the goal (connection with others, ourselves, and our body) and we connect using, among other things, vulnerability.

For years, I've thought about a conversation I had with a friend of mine. He had worked with David Schnarch, a well-known psychology that wrote books like Passionate Marriage. In my friends work with David, they worked towards an end goal where yes, we should recover from our pain and trauma, and that will be work we continue with, but that we also have a choice to put light back out into the world.

I knew as I talked to my friend about this, that this was unshakeably the goal. I knew that I could put my fears and trauma out into the world, but I also knew that without the light, it wouldn't end up helping myself or others. Not in the sense of sugar-coating my experiences, but rather that there is a light within us that is part of who we are, and that we can share our experiences and share our light at the same time. We don't have to hide our light for others to see our pain. We can show up as ourselves.

Showing up, being vulnerable, being willing to fall on my face has always been hard for me. I wanted nothing more than to the gifted kid that never made errors. I wanted people to look up to me. To see me as some kind of spiritual giant. Or great intellect. To do nearly super-human feats.

It wasn't until I got older that I started to see those desires as part of wanting to hide. If I do super-human feats, perhaps people will be distracted from the fact that I'm still a very human human.

In recent years, I've started to slowly understand how intimacy and vulnerable don't have to come with rejection. Sure, someone may respond poorly to what I'm sharing, which hurts my feelings and makes me want to hide. But I'm also there in the room as I'm sharing. I'm also able to be a light for myself in that moment. When you carry your own light, now others can have their experiences, too, and you can hold space for them.

Maybe it's from playing too much Stardew Valley, but I just get this mental image of waking up every morning and watering the crops. It becomes so routine you almost don't think about it.

It teaches a subtle lesson. That if you nourish other beings a little each day, you grow as a result. I don't mean giving when you have nothing to give, draining the last bit of blood from your body. I mean just like you breathe oxygen, exercise, and try to eat well, giving a little to others is part of a healthy life.

This morning I struggled with derealisation. It's an uncomfortable mental state where everything feels unreal. You may feel like you're watching yourself or your surroundings, but rather than you being the focus, it feels like you're watching a movie. I didn't panic. I just told myself that in the coming hours that it may go away and that I should give myself time to check in a little later and see if it's improved a little. By afternoon, it had lifted.

I don't recount that as a kind of "wow, I'm great" moment. Instead, I share it because it's interesting to contrast what it was like 10 years. Months of gray weather in Seattle was too much for me, and I would go through weeks of on and off dealing with feeling like I was in a movie. It drained me. I panicked, worried, and felt like I didn't really have any grounding.

While I think part of being able to deal with it comes with practice, I also think there's another important component. Feeling more connected, feeling like you can still live your life and use what you have to connect to other people (even in small ways) meant I didn't have to solve the problem right then or risk losing any hope of love and connection in my life. The love and connection are there, whether or not I could see and feel them. And they'd be waiting for me. And that comes from the regular nourishing of those connections, both with myself and with others.

I'm not entirely sure how best to end this post. It's not like there's a magic formula that if you follow it you never hurt and never feel alone. I just wanted to share that having moments of appreciation with other people - even during difficult times - has been an important piece of the journey for me.