A few months ago my brother turned to me and said, “I think you should start a barbell program.”
What the hell is THAT supposed to mean?
“Uh, ok. What is a barbell program?”
“It’s a program where you only lift. There’s no CrossFit.”
“What makes you suggest it?”
“Because you’re not doing the gym workouts. You haven’t for weeks.”
*PANIC PANIC PANIC* He found me out! I’m a fraud! How did he know? Has he been keeping TABS on me?? Does he not TRUST me?? Is he JUDGING ME??
“I do so! I did the workout… last week…?”
But it was true. I was found out. Caught. I didn’t like doing the CrossFit workouts. In fact, I hadn’t really been working out at all.
So that was really nice of my brother to notice that and give me another option.
And then I thought, “Wait, am I not doing the workouts because I don’t like the gym workouts? Or am I not doing the workouts because I don’t want to work out at all?” Perhaps another option isn’t what I needed; perhaps I just needed a six-week-long nap.
There’s a line from Jung that goes,
You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.
I think that line gets hijacked a lot, and used to guilt trip people.
But I don’t think Jung really played games with guilt. I think he was talking about how our actions strip away all our pretenses and show what’s really true.
The fact that I didn’t work out was an authentic expression for me. Even though I was supposed to work out, supposed to want to work out, I didn’t work out. Period.
And that action, despite all the shoulds from Bitch Boss or the external collective, was authentic for me. I should have wanted it, I should have done it, but my actions spoke differently.
Jung also says,
I’d rather be whole than good.
That’s an idea I really love, but the truth is, guilt relies on the fact that it is not okay for me to not be good. It’s intolerable for me that anyone would know how not good I am.
I’m not “allowed” to be a gym owner that doesn’t work out. And exploring that is important. Who am I not allowed to be?
Protecting that shadow saps life force energy. You can’t believe the contortions I’ll go through to make sure no one sees me not be who I’m supposed to be. I’m sure you have parts of this inside you too. You might lie about how you spend your days, what you eat, who you like, the clothes you like to wear. You might be self deprecating at all times, or reject compliments (I’m not supposed to boast or be proud), you might rationalize your behavior (“Here are all the excuses for why I didn’t do this thing” instead of, “I’m supposed to be passionate about this thing but I really don’t give a shit” or “I’m petrified and I don’t know how to get help”). You might spend your free time numbing out with internet or TV.
Don’t underestimate your need to be right. Your body and mind will mobilize to help you feel in control and to block out parts of you that “shouldn’t” be. It seems like a kindness, and in some ways, it is. But it keeps you small.
Sit with how you really feel. Sit with the truth of your actions. I didn’t work out because I couldn’t deal. I just couldn’t. I didn’t vote because I don’t give a shit. I didn’t call that guy back because I didn’t want him, even for one date. Traffic didn’t hold me up today; I hate this job and want to say “Fuck you.”
Go deeper. Be bigger. Let yourself be whole, even when it seems intolerable. Even when guilt threatens to kill you.
Assume legitimacy, set judgment aside, and gaze upon yourself and your actions.
I want to mention that I’m writing a lot about letting yourself be, and I know we have a lot of discourse in our culture about doing. Or being better, which is not really being as you are. It’s not my intention to discourage your doing new things, or growing and evolving, or asking for help to do something that’s scary. I think that’s really powerful.
But what I want to say is, your existence is more than enough. You don’t have to perform for that. You don’t have to “do” anything to be worthy. You can just be yourself, and it’s enough.
Imagine when a little kid comes into a room when you’re hanging with friends and family, and everyone stops, mid-discussion, turns to the kid, and goes nuts over the fact that the kid is there now. You know? Have you seen that? How we all fawn over little kids, and they’ve done nothing except walk into the room?
Start there. Let all your change and evolution come from that place, rather than the place of “You’re not measuring up and I’m going to beat you over the head until you comply.” Don’t worry so much about being good.
Be whole. Be magnificent.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
– Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”