There is a certain variety store that I frequent right across from work if I have a break to grab a snack or get something to drink. The last couple of times I’ve been there I’ve felt both insulted and ignored. The first time I was roughly reprimanded for not having enough change to purchase a pack of Combos. I had a five dollar bill and the combos were about $1.65. The fact is that I didn’t have enough change but I was not about to defend myself over a five dollar bill. Here I was thinking really? How rude? The fact that I was shocked, highly insulted and angry at his behavior must have shown on my face because he forcefully explained that he was running out of singles and didn’t have much change. While I was infuriated because a) I would never treat a customer like that and b) I’m in that store at least once a week, I politely refused to purchase anything and quietly left.
The second time I went to purchase a large bottle of water on behalf of my supervisor even though I was still quite infuriated about the way that I had been treated previously. This same cashier, who I think is also the owner, was counting out singles from the register (imagine that) and didn’t even look up to acknowledge me when I made the purchase. He just took the money and gave me change. Now I was willing to put the other day aside and say maybe he was having a really bad day, shoplifters or personal problems but twice in a row and he was more than beginning to rub me the wrong way.
Writing about it now it seems like such a trivial matter but the fact is this whole incident left me feeling disturbed and highly upset. I mean you could have fried an egg on the top of my head I was steaming. What was it about me that gave him permission to treat me so disrespectfully and with such callous disregard? Was it the colour of my skin, the fact that I was female, or the fact that I still look between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one? What was the issue?
I recounted this story to my sister and a fellow colleague of mine and while I tried to dismiss my feelings as the petty ramblings of a supersensitive soul, a bigger question began to eat away at my core. Why is this bothering me so much? I could just stop being a patron of the store and move on with my life. I mean if he was racist, prejudice or sexist, there was nothing I could do about it and it had nothing to do with me, right? As an individual I deserve respect, love, affection, and good customer service among other things, regardless of my age, race, gender and that is a fact.
These pep talks were useful to a point, but a part of me somewhere deep inside couldn’t help but put a question mark after every affirmation. This is why positive affirmations don’t work on me. You tell me something positive to repeat to myself over and over like a mantra, and something inside of me will say really? Is that true? Dude, I’m not an f@#* idiot!
Here’s an example:
Positive Affirmation: “I am enough”
Inside voice: “Really? You dress like a teenager. You don’t take the time to take care of yourself. You eat too much chocolate. You waste money. You’re indecisive and scatter-brained. You have horrible time management skills and you’re too shy among other things. Plus you were acting like a total b!@tch to that guy the other day. You could really make more of an effort to work out and eat better…if you managed your time better you could probably get more done…you should make more of an effort at work, spend less money on crap and save blah blah blah blah…
Need I say more?
So, in effect, what the positive affirmation actually does is remind me of all the ways I’m flawed and provide me with “solutions”, or at least remind me of all the ways I should be working to make myself a better person and hence worthy of respect, praise, admiration, love and affection. Sounds perfectly normal right? Normal maybe but it’s what I’ve been doing my whole life, telling myself how I should feel instead of acknowledging what I am feeling; telling myself I need to be better, work harder, be faster, thick-skinned, stronger to be worthy of all what is already my birthright and you know what I’ve found? That this has been to date nothing but a pattern of counterproductive self-loathing that’s exhausting and uninspiring.
What I’ve really been telling myself all of these twenty-six years, soon to be twenty-seven (God I’m getting old) is that I need to be perfect, or aiming towards perfection to be worthy of all that is good. But is that true? Is the constant movement toward perfection my sole or soul purpose in life? What do I do in the meantime while I’m imperfect? Do I just settle for whatever I get because I probably don’t deserve to be happy anyway seeing what a crappy human being I have a tendency of being? Do I just bargain my energy, my time, my strength, my “love” for whatever little piece of heaven I can get and hope that someone Suppose I never reach perfection? What then?
That isn’t good enough for me, and that is not the definition of love that holds true for me. Love is that thing that liberates. It’s that unconditional love that doesn’t seem to exist in The Bible or in the kind of marriage vows that say to “love”, honor and obey until death do us part.
“Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold-that’s ego. Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says, “I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.” – Dr. Maya Angelou
“love does not mean surrendering, losing oneself; it is a call to ripen”- Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (the movie)
Love says, “You are not accidental. Existence needs you. Without you something will be missing in existence and nobody can replace it. That’s what gives you dignity, that the whole existence will miss you. The stars and sun and moon, the trees and birds and earth- everything in the universe will feel a small place is vacant which cannot be filled by anybody except you…”- Osho
This is love for me. It says, I’m not asking you to be anyone, do anything, or go anywhere. I’m just so happy that you are here in this Universe, breathing air, walking around, eating, talking, sleeping, doing all of the things that you do. I’ve created a space especially for you and only you. The fact of the matter is that there is no one like you in this entire Universe and if you were gone all of creation would mourn and miss you.
This alone is confirmation that I deserve love, respect, admiration, friendship and all things good and holy. Why? Because there is only one me. I am a child of the Universe. I am supposed to be here, doing this, walking, eating, laughing, sharing…being me, and if you don’t agree, if you don’t want to give me these things then you’re not supposed to, it's not your job too.
"How do I know this is true?" Byron Katie's The Work might ask.
Because you aren’t giving me these things, and I can't make you. I can't get inside of your head and change the way you think.
And it’s a good dose of reality. It reminds me that I am looking in the wrong place for what I already have, and it has been painful, depressing and exhausting searching and searching for someone, anyone to take care of me, fill me, complete me, and make me whole. And silly me, I keep forgetting. I keep bouncing from wholeness to emptiness. I keep thinking I need and forgetting how much I already have. I keep forgetting that I am already all I need, even if there are people I want to know, places I want to go, and things I want to do. I am enough.
I am enough, it's as simple as that.