DO I SEE WHAT YOU SEE?
By martin free ramos
Once upon a time, I was a strong, decisive, emotionally-aware romantic who knew what I wanted, what I didn't want and even what I didn't know I wanted! I was open to what life would throw my way and could skillfully navigate my way through what to do when I didn't know what to do. I had a clear understanding of human nature and could rely on that understanding to trust my judgment of people's character and allowed me the diplomacy and ability to communicate to all kinds of people. But now, I'm finding, all you have to do is throw romantic emotions into the mix, and everything I know gets tossed off the boat! I become a confused, floundering idiot who doesn't know which way is up! It's kinda nice. It makes me feel human. But still sucks, all the same! Not too long ago, I lamented about how always knowing what to do on any typically difficult emotional situation wore on me in an odd way. I kept saying that I wanted to be just like everybody else. I wished that I could just be confused, be depressed, be angry, just... feel! At the time, I just chalked it up to being so emotionally self-aware that I was able to process the situation so quickly, I barely felt the emotion. I was never confused about my feelings, nor was I unsure about what it was that caused those feelings or reactions. But after a life-changing breakthrough in April , I came to the realization that I had intellectualized my feelings to such an extent that I was mistaking my brain's processing of a situation and the emotional reactions I believed to have as actual emotional responses. I had detached myself from my own heart! And this had gone on for about four years, since my brother's passing back in 2003. So, here I am again: an emotionally self-aware romantic attempting to navigate my way through the dating scene, whilst at the same time, becoming reacquainted with my heart. A heart I had lost communication with for quite a few years. But I have to be honest! As wonderful as it is to finally be reunited with my heart, so to speak, it's throwing everything I've learned in the previous four years into question. Now that I'm re-assessing my emotional self again, am I taking several steps backwards in order to forge forward? Has everything that's been learned and experienced to date been a waste? Does questioning where I've been going, devalue where I'm going now? I've always been taught that there are no accidents and everything happens for a reason. Being a practicing Buddhist, you learn how to continue building your life with all the building blocks that come your way, whether you think they fit or not. It's a concept that's never been hard for me to grasp. And those of you who know me know that I live by that tenet every day of my life. But being faced with the prospect that the way I've been going these previous years has been on a path that was completely different from what I had initially thought it was, certainly puts the growth made during those years into question. The best way I was able to describe those years was like a "pin the tail on the donkey" game.
After you're blindfolded, you get spun around until you're dizzy, and you go forward in the direction that, with every fibre of your being, you know to be the correct way. Only, after you've removed the blindfold, you find that you've been heading in the exact opposite direction! That's how it has felt. It's both sobering and humbling. But if I believed that nothing in life is an accident, and everything happens for a reason, I was forced to find the value in all that I had learned, whilst being on the "wrong" path. What made it so frustrating was that each time I tried to interpret each revelation with my new understanding of myself, I would end up with the same confusion I had before! I felt like I was still going around in circles. I started questioning my own abilities of self-evaluation; my assessment of every situation; my own judgment of the people I came into contact with. Nothing made sense anymore. And it led me to question my very self-value. I was now the proud owner of a new set of baggage, but had to figure out which ones they were as they were coming around off baggage claim. Outside of the insecurity issues regarding my looks, which I've long figured out since being back on the dating scene (though, I am still dealing with them quite actively. Watch for a future post about that!) I had to face my own limitations. I had to not only accept them, but embrace the fact that I didn't have to always have the answers. And even though I was open with myself regarding what I did and didn't know, I had to start realizing that my emotional responses also grew and matured right alongside my intellectual wisdom, so to speak. I just had to learn what they were all over again. I started feeling things that I hadn't felt in years, so processing those feelings became a whole new ball game. It was more than just figuring out what to do about a particular situation, but I had to go all the way back to understanding how I was feeling before I could even figure out why I was feeling it. It was territory I'd forgotten how to navigate. But I was so happy to be feeling again, I welcomed the challenge, having absolute confidence in my ability to handle anything and everything that came my way. And handle them I did... although, not always necessarily as well as I thought I could. I was fast realizing the same processes that I once used to approach issues in my life, could no longer be utilized in the same way, taking my new emotional awareness into account. I always preached that one's heart and mind spoke two different languages. The heart's responsibility was to "feel," the mind's was to "think." Both had to be taken into account when figuring out how to overcome obstacles. I always said you want to listen to your heart to know how you feel about the issue, but that was only part of the information your mind needed to take into account, whilst it would think about what to do. You couldn't just do what your heart felt, nor could you discount it completely and let your mind solve the problem alone. And here I was battling that very issue, and becoming humbled by my own advice. Balancing the emotional responses with my intellectual processes was becoming more of a puzzle than whatever issues I was dealing with! It was then that I began to discover a new humility and a resource I once took for granted: my friends! Previously, I felt I was never able to come to my closest friends with my issues. Not because I felt they were incapable of helping me, but because I felt that since I advised many of them when they were dealing with their issues, I knew there wasn't anything they could advise me that I hadn't already considered. Sounds ridiculously arrogant, in retrospect. But that's the truth of how I felt. And I would
use my friends merely as sounding boards to ensure that I covered everything, and typically finding I had. However, once I found my heart again, I started noticing that my friends became more than just sounding boards to make sure I didn't miss anything. They allowed me to hear my thoughts outside of my own head. When they would ask me a question about a particular aspect of a situation I was dealing with, responding out loud with the answer I initially thought satisfied the query, allowed me to see that answer in a different light. Sometimes finding out the answer was not as correct as I once thought it was. The most valuable of these questions were those that directly asked how I was feeling. I always knew the easiest person to fool was yourself. I just never realized how gullible we were to our own thoughts when we wanted to be. So I finally found the value of my disconnection from my emotions. And with the intellectual growth I gained during my hiatus from my heart, and now aligning it with the new strength I have found in rediscovering it, I carry a much deeper sense of humility and appreciation for my life, my friends and the input I gain from them and everything around me. I allow myself to hear the insights of those around me and to challenge my own evaluations. But most of all, I am embracing my fundamental darkness, and allowing myself to see that I don't have to always have the answer. It's more than just admitting what I don't know. It's embracing the understanding that the solution to an obstacle doesn't have to come from someone or something giving or showing me the answer, but having the openness of heart & clarity of mind to see the answer, wherever it may lie. Be it within myself, or in a place I least expect it. Quite often, it's in the very design of the obstacle itself! But that may be best reserved for another post!