Inside vs. Outside: Some Reflection...
There are many things that I like about the outdoors - nature, the weather, the beach. The way the sun feels on my skin. The smell of spring and autumn in the air. Why I did not pick an outdoor profession is beyond me. I really don’t know. I prefer being outside to inside. However it is always a challenge to get myself out there. Inside there is always so much to do.
It is funny - I want to be outside in so many ways. Outside is where I feel most at home. Inside seems like a prison. Maybe this is what oriented me toward the outward in the first place.
While a lengthy discussion about outside vs. inside could happen here - that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about where I look to find myself. I look “out there”. Seems like a good idea because out there - there are any number of people who can tell me who I am, what I am and if I am good enough. “Out there” there is a lot of information. Inside seems irrelevant.
So I have fashioned my life around the external. What I projected, what I said, how I dressed, wore my hair, what I sought for in a career - it was all designed to impress YOU. It is like I saw myself as some canvas and my only job was to paint a pretty enough picture so that you would buy me and take me home. I spent a lot of time on the external. Way too much time.
I can honestly say that the whole of my life before 25 was spent on this external quest.
I was also running. Running from you and from me. I could not sit still and just be. I could not do it. I was lonely and there was something out there that would fix me. New clothes, new guy, alcohol, a new car, new place to live, new city to live in. It was always out there. I don’t think that I even really thought about looking anywhere but out there. Every person in my life was meant and designed to give me something that I needed - approval, love and acceptance.
To say that I was constantly and completely disappointed all the fucking time would still be an understatement.
I am not sure where I got the message to never look inside. I think that I was so afraid of what I might find in there that I launched my outward search in an effort to avoid any thought of the internal. Much like my children avoid dog poop in the middle of the living room floor. If they don’t see it they are not responsible for it!
I won’t lie, there is a fairly large part of me that I wish could have remained on the external - outward bound quest. I liked the superficial. I liked being aloof and having things just glance off me most of the time. I liked shopping and prettying myself up so that I could attract my next victim. I also liked creating this other persona where my ego told me that I was actually a deep thinker and much more of substance than any of you. It was the perfect cover. Don’t look at what is on the inside - focus solely on the outside - then feel better than everyone else because your outsides are pretty darn good. Well that works until you come across someone whose outsides are objectively better than yours. Ouchie!!
It also works until you find someone whose insides are way more attractive. Then I would become like a computer program with a glitch - does not compute, does not compute. So what is a gal to do? Dislike you of course! Make up some bullshit reason that you are not cool, nice or worth knowing. I have successfully eliminated a lot of really fine people because outwardly they had something about them that I determined was better than me. Or because inwardly they just had it going on and I knew that I could never, ever measure up.
So from birth to 25, I was hiding right in front of you - decorating myself so that you would like me. Never once did I stop to ask if I liked me.
Then the crisis of 25 hit hard - Who the fuck was I and how did I end up wanting to die at 25? How did I end up with all this outside shit looking ok and drinking myself into oblivion on the daily? What the fuck happened to me?
I was living an unexamined life. I so wanted you to fix me - be responsible for me and take care of me. I wanted you to make me ok. I needed you to have that power. I really really did. (And still do on occasion). Then I resented you for even trying. I could never admit that I felt this way or be vulnerable enough to let you take care of me, but I wanted it nonetheless. ?Total set up for us both.
What I really did was firmly plant myself toward all things external and avoid all things internal. I did a pretty good job and was pretty successful until it almost killed me. Standing on the edge of life and death and being pretty apathetic about which way I went was a wake up call for sure. Walking around dying everyday while pretending to be FABULOUS almost did me in!
In March of 1995, it all came crashing down. I could not take one more minute of me and go on. I didn’t know it at the time but I was really not choosing life over death but internal over external. I was choosing looking at me rather than looking at you.
I sure wish someone would have told me that this was what I was doing. That I was going to have to go inside - deep inside to find my link to something greater than myself. I met myself with resistance and a deepening conviction that I could and would make the outward search work for me...until about 6 weeks ago. Now I made progress in the intervening 23 years. I really did. I focused on the internal when it suited me or when I had no other ideas but I did not welcome it as my path until much more recently.
I think that I thought that I was on the right path all along I was just too drunk for it to work. So I set about the next 20 years or so creating a life that I was sure you would find remarkable and valuable. It worked well enough I guess - my life long obsession with “wresting satisfaction if I can only manage well” came to a screeching halt more recently but it was about 3 years ago when my marriage fell apart that I really saw myself. I mean REALLY. SAW. MYSELF.
I did what any good coward does - I set about focusing on all the external shit in a new way - with a new commitment and the conviction of a true believer. I found others to join me on my quest - people who were just as committed as I was to decorating the outside to keep you from looking too much at the inside. I did this so that I was never really alone...but the more people I recruited, the more alone I felt.
Three years later it all came crashing down. And I here I sit in a bonafide mid life crisis. Fuck me! All of my extraneous bullshit stopped working. Men - nope - didn’t work anymore and I could not convince myself anymore that they ever would make me feel better. Shopping - nope - I had two closets full of shit and it did nothing to stop the loneliness and feeling less than. People - nope - despite my constant and continuing using of you to entertain me and distract me - it stopped working. I felt empty and hollow and lost.
So I began looking inside again much like my children look to see if there is crap in the living room. “Maybe there might be - no wait if I find it then I am going to have to do something about it...” In an word, I did not want to look inside. I wanted the universe to fix me with completely no assistance from me. But since all my old exits were closed for repair, I had no choice but to continue forward never realizing that I was on a circular drive that looped back to the place I was avoiding in the first place...me.
So I sit here - writing, reading and learning to not want to kill myself every time my text message icon on my phone is blank. Really no one has thought to text me at all today? Why?
At first, I used this as proof of my lack of worthiness. Now I see it is as detox. The lack of messages is the only fucking way that I am going to look at me. You have to get out of the way because I will always find you more interesting and alluring than me.
I still desperately want to believe that the answer is out there somewhere. In a new pair of jeans, a man, chocolate ice cream, a trip. I thought that life’s purpose was to have relationships with others. But I think that I missed the point. I think that relationships with others is an important part of everyone’s life - we are all interconnected after all. But it is this relationship with ourselves that makes us interesting to others. I think that people do not just want to see back a reflection of what they like about themselves but something interesting - something novel and unexpected. How many dates have I been on where I am have said to myself “not him again!” We are all looking for the WOW factor. Someone who encourages us to look to the ordinary and find new ways to make it extraordinary. I can honestly say that the only reason I ever thought of doing inner work was to impress you. I never once thought that I might need to do it so that I could live comfortably in my own skin.
It is hard to dismantle a life time of being outward oriented. Hard to be ok being alone and quiet. Hard to stop trying to dress up the outsides because the insides feel so paltry. I spend a lot of my days wandering around watching my mind tell me all sorts of amazing shit. I see me ready to jump into old deep worn grooves that assure me the safety of the foxhole but under fire for sure. The only thing that has worked for me is to pause. To be able to see all my amazing thoughts but stop buying into them. “You should call Lane.” Really that is a very interesting thought - why don’t we think that one all the way through. Sometimes I still end up thinking it is a great idea but I have this newfound ability to just pat myself on the shoulder and say “let’s just sit with this for awhile and see what happens” I then laugh at myself and know that I have just circumvented another turn on the lane-merry-go-around - a fun ride for sure, but always seems to end up with me feeling sick and despondent.
It is always fun in the beginning but I have to ask myself if I want to ride that particular ride all the way to the end.
I use poor Lane as an example here but I really do it with everything. I see my mind throw up all these distractions - like balls thrown from chuck its on the beach to the waiting mouths of dogs - I have always chased. Now I act more like an older dog - who isn’t so keen on running that far to pick something up in my mouth that is covered in sand and takes like salt. I wait and see what happens.
I thought my orientation was wrong - turns out that the only way to see the inside is to allow the outside to just happen. To watch and wait and not get all caught up in it. This has been a revolutionary shift in my life. One that I get to choose to go with or resist. I still desperately want something out there to fix me but I am beginning to see that it is an inside job. My only real need is to pause and wait for the next thing to happen and I am led to a deeper understanding of who and what I am. Sometimes I don’t like what I find all that much. Sometimes I am amazed at what I find. What is on the inside makes me see the outside with more clarity, compassion and humor. What I know now is that it is always worth the look.