I was in a relationship with someone who told me once that there is a “beautiful seriousness” to me. It (kind of) sounds like a compliment, I know, but… wasn’t. The subtext was that I was too serious — too hard to play with.
Hearing this — and being the subject of a judgement that “light” is better than “heavy” — I felt a rush of shame course through me, despite the fact that what also coursed through me were memories of total hilarity and absurdity in the company of people who, to be honest, knew me a lot better than Dude.
For a little while, I internalized his diagnosis. In seeing myself through his eyes, I let what he valued become what I valued, not (yet) recognizing that couched within this back-handed “compliment” was a lack of acceptance of my nature, however serious it may or may not have been.
I heard it said once that most arguments between couples can be boiled down to WHY AREN’T YOU ME??! It took me a little while to recognize that I was carving bits of myself away. And then when he complained to me that he always seemed to find himself in relationships with women who slowly started to become like him, I understood twofold what was happening: 1) he, by criticizing me (however unconsciously) perhaps wanted women who didn’t threaten him, and 2) I was starting to believe that being what he liked was better than being what I liked — which, as it turned out, was just myself.
In yoga teacher training, they teach you about the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. One’s in charge of keeping you hyped up in case a rhinoceros attacks while you’re perusing cook books in Barnes & Noble, and one tells you it’s cool to sit with your face toward the sun, relaxing with your new cook book.
Both, though, are constantly asking, “Am I safe?”
The trouble as I see it is not that we tend to look for proof of safety in the people around us, in the form of their approval or lack thereof, but rather, that we don’t spend a lot of time knowing the safety of simply being ourselves.
I choose not to combat this ever-present question by dismissing my hunger for safety among my people; I choose to invite this question into the spaciousness I have learned to create for myself, in which I’m allowed to show up, exactly as I am. We don’t need to shut down our very human desire to be seen and to belong, we just need to also remember that we belong to ourselves.
And (if you wanna know my opinion) we also belong to a knowing, loving universe that’s quite delighted with however we show up, just so long as we show up at all.
Beautifully serious or not.