Tuesday, April 10, 2012

how to stay open hearted in a cynical world

I don’t know if you've ever noticed this in your life, but this is something I've been chewing on and experiencing a lot lately in my little corner of the world.

The more I open my heart, the more people seem to want to walk all over it.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m not jaded. I’m not even complaining. I’m just sort of noticing a trend that seems to be emerging lately.

For example, just in the past few weeks I have had several experiences that have burned me.

In the first, I purposely sought out an individual who I struggle with in terms of a certain aspect of her personality. This aspect drives me bonkers to the point that it is overriding everything else in our friendship. I thought it would help to try to connect with her, one on one, in order to remember the things I like about her. I was trying to be proactive and fix something that really upset me by remembering the good things about her.

FAIL.

We had a lovely visit until it all fell apart and just like that I was right back where we started. I was angry with myself for letting her do that to me and jaded by my attempt to reach out and try to mend a relationship with loving kindness. (You know, in a very simplistic, reductive sense of the meaning: treating your "enemies" with kindness…)

I know that I will get past it eventually and learn to accept her for who she is in the end, but in the meantime I will have to work on dealing with my reactions to her. And I react to her. Really, really react because  I find her to be someone who talks the talk but isn't walking it so much. And I get that we will all waiver along the way and fuck up. But until she figures out how to be a spiritual friend without harming others through her insecurities, I know that I will need to take a step back.

Sometimes an open heart can only stay open by remembering when to retreat when necessary. And in this case, this is a moment to retreat and let go of my own expectations and reactions. Which of course, I don't find that easy to do!

And yet, that said, I have another friend who would take the piss out of me for being so "Oprah" in my approach to this issue. And that's where I really want to go with this post: What do you do with the people in your life who demand that you live more open heartedly, only to mock you for your earnest, heart on sleeve self when you do?

You see, I'm not someone who expresses her feelings often. In fact, I often suspect that many of you would be surprised by how aloof I would seem to you in real life. Opening up and sharing my truest heart is not something I do lightly. I wasn't raised in a family that valued such behaviour. I am the sentimental one in my family, and yet, my friends all find me cold, sarcastic, temperamental. As I work to let my guard down and live a life that reflects my ideals and love for others, I find it challenging when I come up against these roadblocks. I struggle with knowing how to stay true and open in the face of such cynicism and reactions.

Growing up on the west coast, I have always had an innate knee jerk reaction to being perceived as new age flakey. But so much of what comes from the heart, for me, is expressed rhetorically in terms that I grew up with in my immediate environment, which is very much new agey. I am a child of the west coast, 90s, new age movement. While I believe in science, I also think there are things that transcend it. I like crystals and believe wholeheartedly that what you put out there can come back to you.

So how do we learn to build up a thicker skin while trying to live whole hearted, vibrant lives in a cynical modern world? This is something I find myself pondering a lot these days! Any thoughts?

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