Getting along can be challenging, especially during these days of pandemic and polarization around so many topics including masks, race, politics, and climate change. Solutions are needed more than ever, but we can hardly find a way to talk to each other much less find common ground.
And when I get my hot button pushed, forget any chance of reasonable discourse. Any sense of logic or reason I had just flew out the window because my flight-or-fight nervous system just got triggered. Aggravating the problem, sometimes I don’t even realize it’s happening. My late husband Chris had a nose for this, sometimes needing to ask me a couple of times, “no, what’s really going on?” before I’d realize that I was carrying around emotional garbage that was poisoning our interaction.
I started this blog about 10 months ago, writing about my gradual disenfranchisement from nature during my lifetime, and the recent journey of finding my way back. Like a child who finally learns to appreciate the wisdom and sacrifices of the parents only when becoming a parent herself, it’s taken me over half a century to realize I had done the same to Earth, infecting our relationship with my emotional garbage. The pandemic slow-down has revealed to me how much resistance I still had returning to our natural world. My increased visits have been at arm’s length: short in duration, or long visits from a screened porch, rarely removing all physical and psychological barriers to being deeply connected to the Mother.
I stopped recently to examine my objections. It’s too hot, too humid, there are bugs, it’s uncomfortable, there’s nothing to do, it lacks privacy, and on and on and on. What if I gave these excuses to avoid visiting a beloved family member or friend? “It’s just boring being with you, your house is uncomfortable, etc.?” Is that a way to make our ailing loved ones feel appreciated and cared for?
This has me doing some real soul-searching, especially while learning to manage my objections to spending so much time outdoors. First, I realized there’s nothing wrong with having a preferred routine for visits including bringing what I need for comfort. After all, during Chris’ convalescence, I brought the things I needed like comfy socks, extra blankets, and snacks. Second, I learned to schedule visits in a way that feels manageable and optimizes the conditions for which I most enjoy the experience. No more mid-day sessions in July, thank you very much.
Most importantly, I’ve been coming to grips with what I don’t like about being outside and understanding that those objections are more about me than Earth. Earth’s plants, animals, and minerals are perfect as they are. So am I. I’m not saying I/we are perfect in the sense we never make mistakes, or are always beautiful or comfortable for everyone and everything. Rather, what I mean is that I/we are imperfectly perfect because that allows room for evolution and growth in a way that is precluded from perfection.
For example, I don’t like that the hot, humid weather. Being outdoors makes me feel uncomfortable, sweaty, and dirty. I don’t like the creepy crawly creatures that make me imagine or feel claws or exoskeletal feet on my skin. I don’t like anything too wild or Earthy near my food, mouth, or eyes (never mind that all our food comes from Earth). That yuk factor, the disgust response. Eww.
But that’s all projection, just like everything else that offends us. Projection is one of humanity’s most un-endearing habits of complaining about someone or something that we hate in ourselves. Most of us don’t believe that we are guilty of that habit, but social science tells us otherwise. We all do it, and to be in denial of it just adds hypocrisy to our list of sins.
In other words, my complaints about being outside is more about prissiness and my inability to keep me and my environment clean as I would like, even within my home. Earth isn’t making me dirty and messy; I am. I also don’t like my own tendency to create discomfort for myself or others. I’m blaming these things on Earth to justify why I don’t spend more quality time with her. In actuality, these complaints are just mirroring my own objections about myself.
I’m also projecting in the sense that I’m creating these very problems for Earth. My habit of using Earth’s precious resources to maintain my standard of living and quality of life is harming her, making her dirty and sick. I crawl all over her, leaving footprints and a trail of long black hair. The invasive and destructive behavior of our species pales compared to the idea of having a little bugs, grasses, or humidity to add to my discomfort.
I’m writing this blog from the banks of the James River in the mid-morning. A cool breeze is blowing, the grass is tickling my legs. I am enjoying the vista that includes the river’s rapids, and the historical structures of the city, which are blended with the modern buildings and amenities. I feel in alignment and connected to which helps me to be my best, intellectually, physically, and spiritually. Projection is working in my favor now, because holistically loving all people and things reflects my love and acceptance for myself, something I have also struggled with at points in my life. Feeling whole inside allows me to feel whole with everything outside, too.
Make no mistake, this is a work in progress, not an endpoint. My blind spots are unlimited but provides an endless resource for discovery and inspiration when I avoid judgement or fear. I’m being proactive in choosing acceptance, love, and gratitude for all of Earth, humanity, and me, in hopes of bringing my full slate of resources in service to us all.