Owls swallow things whole and later cough up the indigestible bits. There is a lot of owl in my psyche, and I’ve been swallowing things whole for a lot of years. I hadn’t worked out how to cough up the hard, spiky, unusable stuff. Until now. How to hold my sense of self and not continually swallow the expectations, demands and criticism of others. I want to learn from my mistakes, I want to be a better sort of person but that does not mean everyone who criticises me is right and should be heeded. That actually took a lot of figuring out. There are people for whom I will never be enough, do enough, give enough or accept enough crap from them to make them happy. No amount of swallowing the bones can turn those into good relationships. Time to follow the way of the owl, and cough up what I cannot digest.
I don’t know if I would have got here by myself. The support of people who not only love me for who I am, for all of it, but celebrate how I am, relish my nature, my emotions and so forth, changes everything. Seeing myself reflected in the eyes of people who love me, value me, makes me see things anew. Makes me question the need to swallow bones.
I’ve spent a lot of my time seeking affection and approval, willing to jump through any hoop, any kind of conditional requirements because I didn’t think I was worth much. I spent too many years being told that my unhappiness stemmed from my inability to appreciate what I’d got. Asking for more led to recriminations, how could I not see how much I was getting? How could I be so unreasonable as to want more? I should be giving more. I apologised, so many times, for being unhappy, soul hungry for things I did not know how to name. I did a lot of trying to live with less, want less, ask for less. It didn’t help, and I came to feel that any request for care or assistance was too big an ask. I’ve spent the last year learning different ways of being. With love, care and respect in my life, inspiration and kindness, I am not soul hungry any more.
Everybody has faults and failings. Everybody makes mistakes. To love someone is to accept their imperfection and to talk through gently where needs or ideas conflict. I love my child. I am trying to help him grow, and that means that I have to tell him when he isn’t on the right track. I do so as gently as I can, I support him in working out how to do better, and that doesn’t damage his self esteem. Instead, it helps him grow and there is a lot of trust between us. I’ve watched how my beloved Tom has supported me this last year, with patience, listening as I work things through. I needed to grow and change. He has nurtured me and helped me flourish, never clipped my wings or wounded my heart. I am a work in progress. As I learn, I try to find better ways of being and giving.
If you focus on criticism and picking up where a person is wrong, then that can come to define a relationship. The parent who only pays attention to a child to yell at them for mistakes is not helping them develop into a rounded and functional person. The same is true in any relationship. No one is perfect. Everyone needs to be encouraged, to have positive reinforcement for the things they do right. A barrage of criticism pushes people away from each other, and seldom fixes anything. Be kind where you can. Listen. Take an interest. Be as patient as you are able. Everyone has the scope to be learning and growing, we can support each other in that if we choose. If all someone does is pile on blame and criticism, there is no requirement to swallow that whole or to keep it inside and be cut up by the sharpness of it. Coughing up the bones is a liberating process, currently I am learning to see what is not me, and what I do not need to own. There is a new kind of peace in my heart. I accept that I’m not going to please everyone, that in fact I don’t have to please everyone. If who I am is not enough for someone else, I’m not morally obliged to take that personally and strive to be more for them. It is my desire to be an honourable person, to act well and with care and respect. There is only so much you can do when that isn’t reciprocated.
This morning, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the sheer loveliness of my child, and the soul-deep gorgeousness of my lover. Between them, they have changed how I see myself, and how I understand the world as a consequence. They love me as I am. I will strive to be better because I want to, but they love me as I am. Blessed with that, I do not need to swallow any more spiky meals from people who never wanted me as I am. I cough up the bones.