Self actualization means to me…

After a year of therapy my therapist, who is one of the most wonderful people to ever help me in my life, told me I was self actualized and released from therapy. That was terrific. It also meant the burden of handling the full scope of my emotions fell upon me. And jesus, is that a responsibility.

Self actualization to me means, I make a lot of mistakes, and fuck up many many times. But that’s okay. Sometimes you get thrown on the mat. Sometimes you throw yourself. Sometimes you get a push you didn’t expect. So I get back up from the mat after I make a mistake and try again. I have more confidence now, on how I’ll handle situations. Which is a giant shift in thinking for me because before I thought somehow I could control the situations I found myself in. But the reality is I can only control how I react to things. That’s it. Let’s let the rest go. Right fucking now. Let it go.

Before I turned 37 and changed my life I was afraid of looking deeply within, at my own darkness. However I was a worldwide expert at pointing at the darkness in everyone else. The strange thing is, what I was zeroing in on in everyone else was the darkness in myself that was invisible to me. When you refuse to see your own darkness you separate from yourself. You’re separated from your power. From your wisdom. Your heart. Your instinct. Your art. You can’t let people inside or out. You can’t tell what is the end of you and the beginning of someone else. And boundaries are everything. Control is about boundaries. The more you try to control the more likely you are to crush exactly the thing you desire. Controlling your boundaries too much can keep you from beautiful experiences and people. Controlling your boundaries too little will let in more darkness. Somehow it’s got to be about balance.

I’ve been on this journey in martial arts that began when I was in college and I first set foot on the mat over 20 years ago. In Aikido the more rigidly you hold your body, the more you fight falling, the easier it is to throw you. When you are too rigid and resist change it’s easier to manipulate you, and you’ll you find yourself going in exactly the opposite direction you intended. It’s fear and lack of trust that causes this response. In reality you’re much less likely to get hurt if you’re relaxed, trusting, and unafraid. So I tell myself, be relaxed. Don’t forget to breathe.

Somehow in all of this, all these mistakes I’m making, all these times I’ve fallen down all these times I’ve thrown myself down, the process I’m in of finding myself, there is a lot of pain. A lot of overwhelming emotions, but generally I’m okay with it. Writing connects me to myself. It connects me to my creative force inside and is a bellwether for what I’m feeling and experiencing. Sometimes I have to write it out to understand what is happening in my life. A lot of the time I have to write it out to understand what is happening in my life. Most of the time I have to write it out to understand what is happening in my life. ALL of the time I have to write it out to understand what is happening in my life.

For nearly three years, I couldn’t write. I could do a lot of other things, like watch great white egrets take one slow step after another on the watershed. I could run until I wanted to collapse. I could do aikido and do tai chi until my tendons hurt so badly it felt like I was being stung by 10,000 bees. I could hike 13.5 miles and go bungee jumping and indoor skydiving and take a lot of new risks I was unwilling to try in the past. Because before, I was holding myself to this unreachable standard, this unattainable goal, a quest for a perfect, breakable object that is me. And I thought that once I finally reached perfection, then I would be dashed into 10,000 tiny parts and each piece would shriek and melt, making me unable to be whole again. Fuck that. Break me. And after you’ve broken me once, break me again. I’ll put myself back together again. I don’t need perfection and I can exist in this space and be breakable at the same time.

And so, my creativity has returned and my ability to write has returned, and I can look inside myself and see and feel my creative energy again after a lot of fear and pain and hard work and picking myself up again and again and again. I have so many wonderful ideas for my business. As soon as possible I’m going to rent a studio and create a space for myself to get the fuck back to where I was creatively and professionally when I left my marriage. I intend to surround myself with knitting and my art and artists and that kinetic, energetic, artful and rarely perfect experience that is living. Even if I have to break sometimes to get there. I will get there again. I am there now. In some ways, I was always there. I have my sister’s favorite waterman, my favorite lamy, my old laptop, my newer broken laptop. I have duct tape. I have martial arts. If there’s not a way, I will make a fucking way. I have fear and yet I am unafraid. I have pain. I have happiness. I am whole because I no longer hate the pieces that make me, me. I have everything I need, right here, inside me, already. And I’m ready.

Maybe that’s what it means to be self actualized. It’s what it means to me, and that makes all the difference, and it’s the only difference and it’s all different and yet not different at all. It’s all of those things. All at the same time.

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About Michelle

Knitting Tin Hats since 2004.
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