In early July, I posted an article called “My 40’s Manifesto”. I have made it a point to keep the tenets of my manifesto top of mind. Also, I decided I’d provide updates intermittently. Perhaps some of you will get some enjoyment on my trials and tribulations during my search for enlightenment post forty.
There are five tenets to my manifesto:
- I will work on connection
- I will be authentic
- I will accept love
- I will think deeply
- I will engage in relationships
Here’s where I’m at five months in.
I Will Work On Connection
I have done several things to follow through on this piece. I have regularly continued to write letters, made calls, visits and reached out even when I normally would not. I have made an effort in this realm. I have regained a relationship with a friend that I believed was done several decades ago.
In addition, I read Matthew McConaughey’s new memoir, Greenlights.
I did not see this one coming.
I remember McConaughey as the “romance movie guy”. Kind of a jock that I didn’t really connect with. The guy who I was trying to beat, who had it easy! My antennae did perk up when I saw True Detective and Interstellar. Nonetheless, I haven’t poured over his catalog as I’ve done with other favorites.
What I found in the book was incredibly relatable and a welcomed shot of positivity. The book’s trip through Mr. McConaughey’s life illustrates a fierce passion, a sense of adventure, a sense of self-discovery and knowledge, and a determination to go deep that borders on foolishness (the best kind, I think).
The book has reconnected me with parts of myself I hadn’t reckoned with in a long time. I’ve been acquainted with things that I love about myself that I haven’t watered in quite a while. It’s revealed some harsh judgements on myself the cause of some standard without a purpose. I now have some tools to balance a severe internal inquiry with a healthy sense of self-love. This self-love has made it much easier for me to connect with everyone from family, friends to coworkers.
It’s important to note that just when you think you’re in a state of complacency in the cycle of life, there are are works of art out there that will awaken things within you that you’ve forgotten were there or haven’t quite found yet. It’s a great book, check it out.
I believe my friends and family now have a much greater sense of the esteem that I hold them in. Much healing has happened this year in those relationships with much more to come. I am now becoming interested in just connecting with the people on the periphery, the small conversations that I always avoided. Small talk. I don’t do it for fear of getting stuck there, listening.
All in all, I’m connecting more to myself and more to those in my life without fear of being rejected or misunderstood.
Current Challenge: Remaining connected consistently. I love my solitude. Sometimes, I get stuck here. Staying connected to yourself broadly is a good thing. While good on staying connected to me, it is an area of balance that needs some management.
I Will Be Authentic
This has been a series of events. Oh how we can trick ourselves into believing such crazy things! I won’t take the opportunity to make fun of myself. Instead, I’ll just discuss my process. In being mindful and aware of my feelings, through a combination of meditation, journaling and other self-discovery tools, I have discovered that I often disregard my needs. There is a thought that says, “Hey, Watts, if you were tough enough, you’d just grin and bare it.” At this point, I don’t request or communicate how I feel to anyone. No, not at all. Instead I become mentally foggy and irritable. I become mean, petty – even arrogant as a result of this.
I have come to the very quick realization that there is no reason to feel weak in sharing my feelings. In fact, the act of sharing is what is defined as a relationship. When you share something and become vulnerable, you feel something happen. The feeling is changed at its core by its sharing. It really is magical.
At the advice of my significant other, I shared an impactful story with my father. When I was young, I recall a time when he referred to be as a “freckled-face strawberry”. Then, he said something along the lines of “…he wont be winning over any girls any time soon…”
In a very uncomfortable situation, I explained these memories to my dad. He didn’t have any memory of this instance. I didn’t want him to feel bad, I prefaced the story as the simple sharing of information. He assured me that he had no idea what he was saying and was most likely just joking with his friends. (Honestly, I did have quite an awkward phase where I was quite covered with freckles.) Nonetheless, this was a thought that played in the background for my entire life. I was obsessed with the fact that I might be ugly. However, once I shared this with him, it’s power in my mind, lessened.
Lesson learned: Don’t hide your feelings from those closest to you. Sharing could prevent a lifetime of pain.
Presenting your authentic feelings to those you’re closest with can be a magical thing. This is true even when they are difficult feelings that perhaps are not easy to share.
Current Challenge: Remembering that not fully sharing yourself is not good for anyone involved.
I Will Accept Love
There is something lurking beneath my awareness that keeps whispering (just out of earshot), saying “you’re not enough…” I’ve taken some time to look around me and truly understand that most of us have this issue to some degree. We may blame this on family, friends or other things externally, but the truth is – we do this to ourselves. It’s just a cognitive, mental habit.
I’m going to work hard to show them I’m worth it.
If I keep on giving in this relationship, sooner or later they’ll ask me what I need.
If I take enough pain, at some point I’ll feel worthy.
The sad thing is that this self-denial often gives us purpose. Purpose is generally a good thing, but not when it is based in this. Not too long ago, I felt that the quality of my relationships was simply the promise of future quality, potential. Ideas of personal boundaries and discussing needs with significant and other close relationships, just seemed an idea that was impossible to manifest.
It is not. It is necessary to think about these things otherwise you end up a slave to your own ideas about relationships that may not be fully dependent on reality.
There have several ways that this has appeared in my thoughts. I wouldn’t call people because “what if they didn’t want to talk?” I wouldn’t express my needs in any relationship because “what if they say ‘no’ and leave?” I wouldn’t ask for help because “what if they think I’m weak?” If I had a question for my boss, I wouldn’t ask because “what if he thinks I’m dumb?”
When you say these things out loud, they sound ridiculous. But we are all in a negative thought spiral most of the time. Eighty percent of the thoughts we think are both negative and exactly the ones thought yesterday. Our psychology pays attention to the negative. We evolved this way in order to survive. To that end, we aren’t designed to be happy. We are designed to survive, and thusly scan the environment for negativity.
It is a human need, connection. We are wired to be connected and love is the mechanism in which we connect. However, this also contradicts our other evolved characteristics meant for survival. For example, the need to be aware of threats. This is what happens in the case of our obsession with what we perceive as negativity.
In the end, you have to practice. Ask for what you need. Don’t be hurt if another’s boundaries make it impossible for you to receive your need. It is more about them than you. However, don’t deny yourself what you need!
Current Challenge: This all goes back to self-acceptance. Believe people love you just the way you are.
I Will Think Deeply
I am deeply enjoying this one. Taking the time and creating the space for deep thinking is paramount to a healthy mind. I have learned so much from just connecting the dots, just a little deeper, just a little deeper. Sometimes you just keep diving, but this is a way to connect with yourself.
Much of what I’ve learned about relationships has been due to following feelings to their corresponding thoughts. I have this need to be publicly adored. I always just reported that it was due to being the oldest of six and naturally a show off. These are external things that may have had an impact on me, but weren’t really the root cause. I’ve spent many nights awake to understand where this came from.
However, one of my earliest experiments sharing this with others, backfired in a severe way. I had created a rap song for one of my science classes using a karaoke machine that recorded overdubs. I created what I thought was a great song to share with my class. When I began playing the tape in front of the class, it sounded completely different. It sounded…bad.
At this point, I turned and hid behind the podium as the song played. In my mind, it sounded so much better! So I locked myself in my bedroom and practiced and practiced and practiced. I had to redeem myself. Each time I perform even so much as a speech or a presentation at work, I see this as a chance for redemption. So of course I want to take the chance! I want to compare how it sounds/looks/feels in my mind with how the audience perceives it.
This hope of redemption burrowed deep into my character. It has caused me to seek out this experience.
Thinking deeply has brought me to this thought.
But there’s more, thinking about psychology, the origins of human nature, purpose and consciousness has become a passion.
Current Challenge: Becoming overwhelmed with the information that I have left unexamined for so long.
I Will Engage in Relationships
This one (more than any of the others) requires an extreme presence. Often referred to as being “in the moment”. I often close myself off for fear of being judged and misunderstood. This is a terrible, terrible, terrible way to deal with these situations. It still is probably my biggest challenge.
I have an interesting baggage with relationships. By relationships, I mean friendships or intimate relationships. Friendships and relationships require (in my mind) me to be the hero. I have to be saving someone or fighting for some cause. I need to be offering something that is extraordinary. Perhaps, the person who is receiving these gifts doesn’t necessarily feel that way. But here’s the catch. In the process of trying to live up to my ideal, the hero, I have a moment of doubt. And so, I often (in the case of intimate relationships) need the point of view of the other person. Guess what? Often, this greatness is not recognized the same way in my partners or friends. So I grow cold, mean and resentful.
The pattern is still here.
Strangely enough, I believe that I’ve dealt with the emotional core of this behavior. Yet what remains is a vestigial cognitive process, a habit. It’s not even fueled by any emotional baggage. I’ve had this play out in countless ways with family, friends and ex’s. I work to change my behavior by being mindful of it and making sure that I keep my sense of self-love in check when with others. Often, I can be overly concerned with them and bend myself in an inauthentic way to prove that I’m worthy. Codependent anyone?
Current Challenge: Again, self-love. If you don’t fully accept yourself, you aren’t going to get it from anyone else.
More updates to come…