I realized then that i was still entangled in the cultural trauma of accomplishment: Unless we accomplish something, we are failures and unworthy of love and belonging (the ideas that trigger shame). The measure of accomplishment seems to be shifting for me – it’s no longer the amount of money i make (it never really was my measure), it’s no longer the number of readers i attract or how many people attend my workshops (the measure that seems to be more the standard in the non-corporate world). Now, the measure was a more illusive number of “admirers.” I wanted to do something big – like live without money! And then i would beat myself up for not doing it because there’s something in me stopping me. I admire people who live without money. And maybe that’s the way to go (though maybe figuring out how we can change our relationship to money is more realistic). Yet, i actually rather like some of the luxuries that money can buy me – like going to a folk dance class (well, okay, so my standard for luxury is already lowered). I would prefer living on as little money as possible without doing things i am not yet ready for. Living in a closet is one of those things.
As i was mulling all this over, i noticed more acceptance toward myself. And i noticed something else, something i’ve been reading a lot about as i am rediscovering Buddhism: Presence. As i was letting go of “i have to do something,” i could fully be here right now in the moment. Then it dawned on me: I was doing something! I am studying the impact of cultural trauma on my life. I am learning just how insidious it is: Even when we think we’re living in a counter-culture, we are being influenced by the messages from mainstream culture. I am only worthy if i am counter-culture enough – or things like that.
Now, i do think that things are pretty dire for us humans. We are facing several major challenges (catastrophes?) – global climate disruption, overconsumption, and overpopulation to name some of the major ones. We cannot continue living the way we are here in the United States. So, change is necessary – lounging in bed all day might not seem like it would contribute to that change. However, questioning that we have to accomplish something might. A lot of what we do or buy is supposed to show how accomplished we are: Look what car i can afford! If i give up wanting to accomplish, maybe i don’t buy a car or run that marathon. I could just walk out the door to the beach and watch a sunset. Maybe a new question for me is: Who would i be if i didn’t have to accomplish anything?