Bias, Take Two

Last post I spoke of my own biases in spiritual exploration.  Today I will speak briefly on what I witness as other people’s judgments.

We live in a culture where there is actually bias against overt religiosity.  Many people cautiously claim themselves as spiritual, but not religious.  That has been my default for years.

When someone proclaims a specific faith, there is often a moment of pause, and an almost visible recoiling backward.  We frequently have fears that their belief system may include recruitment or that we are now being judged as somehow unholy and lesser than.

It’s somewhat akin to the reaction I sometimes get when I say that I am vegetarian.  That immediate need to decry one’s “need” for meat or cheese.  I realize that is how I have reacted in the past to a friend mentioning that she is Catholic.  Or another stating that she is Jewish.  It became a moment where I felt impelled to explain my lack of religion.  The cultural stereotypes of the faithful led me to make assumptions about how such a friend might live and how they might view me as a non-believer.

As I explore my faith base, I remain hesitant to reveal it to people, fearing judgment from the other side.  I am a rational, intellectual person and I feel sheepish about admitting that I am looking for something bigger than myself.  For believing that such an entity could exist.  It creates a great internal discord, as my academic and questioning mind is confronted with the needs and leanings of my soul.

I strive to remember that kindness is a universal quality and part of kindness is being open to other people’s experiences.  My journey is mine and no matter where it ends up, I will maintain an attitude of acceptance and compassion to all.

Bias

This spiritual journey of mine continues on and it is quite interesting to witness the implicit biases that exist, both in me and in others.

Today I speak of my own biases.

I feel pulled toward Eastern philosophies and practices.  Yoga, Buddhism, meditation… these are ways of being that make sense to me.  I feel a sense of peace while moving through the movements and I feel communion while sitting in silence with strangers.  There is a wholeness and unity that draws me in.

I want this spirituality to be all I need, and yet, it feels beautiful but incomplete.

On the other hand, when I enter a Christian Church cathedral, I feel like I have come home.  There is a quality of safety and comfort that wraps around me and fills my heart.  I am strangely resistant to this.  The stories of Jesus and the idea that as humans we are all sinners… these concepts make me uncomfortable.  I believe that people are inherently good and I bristle when I am told that we must repent.  Yet the house of God (specifically the United Church) stirs in me a feeling that it is my house as well.

It’s all confusing.  As mentioned before, my goal is to keep remaining open as I continue this exploration.  That openness includes being open to finding a resonance that I didn’t expect.  It means that maybe I will learn that certain tenets may be viewed differently from how I think now.

My journey continues…

Avoidance

I’m realizing how obsessive I can be.  It almost doesn’t seem to matter the subject matter, but I can so quickly move into an overwhelming laser focus.

This past week it has vacillated between my online dating search and the afore-mentioned potluck.  Each has alternately taken over my mental space to the exclusion of everything else.  Which I think has been the point for me.

I’ve been avoiding myself.  Manically, desperately, frantically avoiding myself.

My goal for the next while is to halt this pattern and get back in touch with me.  After all, many of my challenges seem to stem from this constant pushing away of all that I am.  This ever-present feeling of unworthiness that keeps me fearful of just *being* with myself.  This despite the evidence and protestations from those who know and love me that I am actually interesting, and loveable, and fun.

I don’t think I am particularly unique in this revolving door of distraction techniques as so many of us strive to find meaning and affirmation of ourselves while we fear what we may see if we just slow down and look in the mirror.

I want to be different.  Well, actually, I want everyone to be different and slow down with me, but that seems rather outside of my control so I will just start with me.

When I experience those moments of peace and grace, it is when I finally run out of ways to turn my back on myself and I relax into who, what and where I am.  And what do you know?  There is a simple and peaceful joy when that happens.  An easy gratitude and acceptance that this moment is enough, for me, regardless of how it may or may not appear to others.  The striving stops and I breathe and feel and trust in myself.

Simple.

Breath.

Love of life just as it is, without wanting for the next story or pleasure.

Methinks I need to reread and repeat my blog name as a mantra. 🙂

“Now.  Here.  Life.”

Potluck

To go or not to go, that is my question?

Next week is the last class of the semester for what has been one of my favourite courses of this degree.  As part of the culmination, we are set to have a potluck to celebrate.

Oy.

It’s over a week away and already my anxiety it through the roof about the whole thing.  Even before my eating disorder, these events were difficult because of the diabetes… trying to crunch the numbers in my head and adjust the insulin during an event that is usually grazing over a few hours – it’s not easy, I tell you.

Throw in the recovery process and the whole thing becomes a bit torturous to navigate.

So why go at all?  Because I want to be able to do it.  I want to be free of this weight pressing down on me and preventing me from engaging with others.  I want to feel connected to people rather than feeling so alone in this illness. And yet I don’t know if I am there yet.

I find this part of recovery hard.  Well, I find all parts hard, but this is the part I’m talking about today. 😉

This stage where I am becoming more and more committed and I know that I want to change (and AM changing) and I want my life to be different.  This stage where I am not recovered yet, though, and I know sometimes I need to accept there are limitations and know it won’t always be this way.  While I am in this place, it seems that every decision about events and food become laden with double meanings… is it something that will affirm my choice to recover?  Or is it something that will set me back because at this point the anxiety is so high that I make poor choices?

I know there isn’t a *right* answer and yet my mind keeps turning it over and over again as if there is.

As I write, I am channeling my therapist and imagining what she might say.  I believe her advice would be to table it in my mind for the time being.  I don’t need to decide today and so there is no point in agonizing over it.  Instead, I will set it aside, discuss it with her during our therapy and make the choice with her support and assistance.  Just like the ketchup, this are no dire consequences to this and so I can take the pressure off for now and work to rest easy and know no matter what, I am okay.

Distortions

I  had a moment of clarity about my mental distortions today.

I have known for quite some time that I am a perfectionist and that pervades much of what I do.  It is a large component in my overall anxiety and likely in my eating disorder as well.  Today I managed to step outside myself and see it in full-on, dysfunctional action.

This morning I offered to help with the hot meal program where I am doing my internship.  They were short on volunteers and I had the time.  I was given the task of squirting the ketchup on the eggs.  Should be no big deal, right?  There were a few minutes before the meal began and so I sat down with some of the clients.  It was quite illuminating as I observed how my mind immediately turned to figuring out how to do the task perfectly, and, along with that, how I might would mess it up.

We’re talking ketchup on eggs here, people.

Suddenly, though, my mind was ricocheting around like a caged bird.   Should I wear gloves for this?  How about an apron?  There are two bottles, which one should I use?  Do I squirt it over all the food or just the eggs?  How much is enough?  What if I spill some?  Are the regulars that I chat with going to think I am avoiding them?  What if I forget to say hi to someone I know?  Am I being judged by the coordinator for not offering to help more often?  Am I going to be expected to do this every time now?  Should I apply the ketchup immediately or wait until I get the nod from each client?

Seriously, this is how my mind works.

The good news is that I noticed.  As I’ve written about before, I really do believe that noticing is the first step to being able to alter my habits and my thinking.  What’s more, I was able to laugh at myself and how I was reacting to this simple task.  In doing so, I relaxed a little and tried to just focus on being there in the moment and trusting that I could navigate this situation.  Or, if for some crazy reason I couldn’t, it was, after all, just ketchup.

This awareness is good… it is helping me to remember to keeping turning a kind eye inward in these moments.  To have compassion for my experiences.  And, once again, to revisit mindfulness.  When I am able to truly be present, I am not worrying about messing up.  In being mindful, I distance myself from the obsession and rumination.  I am able to accept myself whatever the moment or the outcome.

I’m happy to say I successfully managed the ketchup application with no customer complaints 😉