how do we become the people we want to be?

“action has magic” – Goethe

“surrender to being a beginner” – Julia Cameron

how do we become the people we want to be?
(especially considering the vast limitations of present society, compounded by wherever we may fall on the social hierarchy..)

i think, subconsciously, that is the question i’ve been sitting with over the past 2 years.. the “pause” of the pandemic created space i previously never really had..

i grew up, like many aspiring kids, believing i could find happiness, peace, and my place in the structure of modern society.

i dreamt of being single and childless, working as a corporate exec.
(this might be a product of watching the The First Wives Club countless times as a child)

my desires have never been purely conventional per se, such as envisioning myself as a spinster, but they were socially acceptable enough. because i’d pair my more offbeat choices with ones that weren’t threatening to the status quo, such as being a workaholic and climbing the social ladder.
plus, then i’d be too busy to consider the ways my life might be lacking.

considering the state of the late stage capitalism we’re all experiencing, it feels like everyone, even people with class privilege, lives in survival mode, from a place of scarcity.

this makes me think of a point Rebecca Solnit makes in her book, A Paradise Built in Hell, in which she describes the mentality at play in our hyper-individualistic society:
“I will not feed you because I must hoard against starvation, since I too cannot count on others. Better yet, I will take your wealth and add it to mine — if I believe that my well-being is independent of yours or pitted against yours — and justify my conduct as natural law.”

it’s interesting (to put it lightly), the ways we have been manipulated to co-sign the exact mentalities that are destroying us, that are so counter to human nature. cooperation and altruism are not just kinder ways to live — they’re the most effective, sustainable ways of being.

but then there are those of us trying to practice cooperation and altruism in a culture grounded in and system structured around competition, selfishness, and isolation. so when that disconnect inevitably has consequences, people like to use it as fodder to point to why these approaches don’t work.

reading the above quote last night, a recent memory was brought to mind, one i still don’t know how to integrate:

i was in portugal with a lover and friend, feeling conflicted around not giving money to people begging. mostly because i felt like the reason we weren’t doing it was simply because that’s what other people were doing — it didn’t feel like we had a clear understanding as to why we were keeping our resources to ourselves.

in recognizing this, i gave a man some change at a crosswalk. he then proceeded to follow me in a manner that felt threatening to me (whether or not that feeling was based in actuality), calling after me, “sister, sister.” i ultimately picked up speed, wanting to lose him, uncertain as to what to do, until my friend got in his face to tell him to back off — not the ideal outcome, and one i’m self-conscious about.

which brought me to a tricky crossroads of processing — this man, seemingly homeless and struggling, potentially not from that country, was reaching out to me for help, which he clearly needed. and after having helped in a way that made sense to me, in being asked for more, i shut down, scared, intimidated, trying to escape.

which left me to wonder: what do you do when someone needs help, but you don’t necessarily have the resources to help them?

the most polished answer i have is to work to change structures — to create more systemic resources for people struggling. but this doesn’t quite satisfy me..

it’s a situation that’s left me dumbfounded, and also ashamed.

my uncertainty over what to do in confrontations with deep suffering is one of the reasons i struggle visiting big cities.. it’s not as though i’m unwilling to look directly at the suffering of the world, it’s the feeling of uselessness that comes with it, not knowing how to help or what the “right” thing to do is.

it’s a similar experience i have when reading the news — i don’t want to live in a bubble, in avoidance of hard information, but i can’t help but question at times how it helps.. which is why i’ve been working with a loving release practice: allowing myself to receive the pain and suffering, and then releasing it from my being as love, sending energetic care to those harmed (similar to a Tonglen practice).

then again, my energetic care doesn’t feed people, clothe them, house them, stop wars, comfort them in their grief — my current resources are spiritual, and the ones they desperately need are material..

it’s a situation i don’t have a clear answer for.. and i’m not really sure there is an answer.. i imagine it’s one of life’s big questions, one i could dedicate a lifetime to trying to answer (which i likely will)..

and the shame of being scared of someone who’s different than me and in need, who’s trying to engage with me for help, is a hard one to hold.

which reminds me that i need to pick back up Resmaa Menakem’s My Grandmother’s Hands, so that i can practice recognizing and ultimately releasing the physical experience of fear towards the other.

alright babes, i’m practicing creating a timed container around writing these posts, and it just went off. which means this is goodbye for now.

to offer a prayer i uttered to myself earlier:
thank you for another day on this Earth — may i remember to use it wisely.

much love.

❤ ❤ ❤

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