I used to be the kind of person who feels at home almost everywhere. I was proud of this chameleon-like trick, until I realized I was never completely at home, anywhere.
I could act at home volunteering with AIDS patients. Taking a skittish horse through a new situation. Learning a new language. Hosting a radio program. Cold-calling door to door. Writing cover stories for the local weekly. I had blind skills with bland opinions –they were no substitute for a homing instinct I didn’t seem to own. I always kept one eye on what I should be doing, saying, thinking, feeling and being. Which meant in part that I wasn’t being at home. At best, I was acting at home (with mad skill, to be sure).
For me, learning has always been easy–but not on this most basic of subjects, being at home with myself.
As someone with a bit of an academic bent, I thought I could read my way to understanding how to be most comfortable in my own skin. I’ve been reading since I was 5. I’ve averaged a book a week for 35 years—that’s 3536 books. I’ve read 3-4 articles a day for the last 20 years. That’s 25,550 articles. You know what? I learn a lot—but it is always an intellectual grasp. The kind of learning I need on this topic isn’t academic–it’s ideas right up against experience. In other words, it’s action.
I tried going deeper into other cultures to broaden my perspective. Maybe learning a new language, like the Russian I studied in college or the New Testament Greek I attempted, would free me? Not really. I just got more ways to talk to myself, but the conversation wasn’t going anywhere in real life.
I tried more education. Education has given me a lot of gifts, and so perhaps it would hold the key to deeper self-understanding. Perhaps taking more sociology, or getting an MBA, or reading more comparative literature would unlock the kingdom of being “on the inside” and “in charge” of my own head? Good stuff, and worthwhile in its own way, but no, I only experienced the outside world as larger, and larger.
With each closer, deeper look, my own ability to gain a sense of mastery or dominance only receded.
In other words, the harder I swam, the further away was the shore.
Are you also one of my tribe, who attains success relatively easily, but doesn’t easily attain a feeling of successfulness? Sometimes that just means you’re a minority in a louder, more dominant culture. Sometimes it means you’re just a little lost, like I was.
What I have learned in my quest to cozy up with myself has changed me. It’s taken me from relatively insecure to relatively grounded. I’ve become a more present and a better person. And I’ve finally learned how to breathe in my belly most days.
The next time you feel like you can’t take a full breath and be yourself, or even worse, you’re trapped against life’s walls without a way out, I want you to stop. I want you to stop, and consider one simple question.
- What if the world is NOT the way you are seeing it right now?
Answer that question and see if it doesn’t change your perspective. It did mine. After all, perception is reality. Your perception right now is your reality–but it’s not all of the reality that you can learn to perceive.
Meanwhile, I’m learning to be downright cozy most of the time. I’m not saying all of me, nor all of the time. Just a lot more of me is a lot more at home a lot more of the time, and that’s the right direction.
Is this the kind of stuff you like to share? Read more in my book, How You Rule The World, free on Amazon kindle.