Everything you perceive is being processed through your particular lenses. There’s no other way for you to receive data from outside yourself, except to filter it through your own eyes, ears, heart and mind. Sometimes our receptors have gotten really clogged. Emotionally, our ability to discern what’s real is determined by how much we’ve been hurt, and to what degree we’ve been able to work with our pain, process it, integrate it and move forward with the ability to trust again and open to joy. Your pain and your willingness to examine and understand it are your tickets to an empowered and authentic life, which to me includes an ability to face reality as it is.
Sometimes you have a history with someone, and there’s so much pain or disappointment around what’s happened, it clouds your ability to see the person clearly, even years later. We are all in process all the time, it never ends. The way you were three years ago is not the way you are today. There’s been growth, change and movement. And so it is with everyone else. People make mistakes, and no one is operating from her or his highest self in every moment. We’ve all made choices we’d love to go back and redo. Sometimes people have so much frustration and resentment between them, even something small has the potential to create a huge reaction, as if every single affront from the beginning of time is also in the mix. And maybe they just forgot to pick up their socks, but suddenly an apocalypse is happening in the living room.
Sometimes the inability to see a person clearly happens at the beginning. People write to me with their lists of qualities they’d like in a partner. I think it’s good to know what you’re looking for as far as your “non-negotiables” which might include things like loyalty or a good sense of humor, but I’m talking about lists that include eye color and hair color and six-pack abs and an interest in croquet and also salsa dancing. Then they meet a person with the “right” color eyes, and start projecting the entire list onto the unsuspecting person who maybe doesn’t like croquet. And they miss the chance to get to know someone as they are and then see if it’s a good fit. This can come out of a deep desire for intimacy and connection, which is totally understandable, but can create a tendency to sweep things under the rug. Hormones can also fog your lenses right up.
It’s not just romantically, either. Familial relationships are a classic context for this stuff. You may be a full-grown adult who functions well in the world, but find when you go back to your parents’ place it’s as if you regress to the you you were when you were fifteen. Or that your parents still treat you like that kid who should get a smaller portion at dinner. Siblings often interact the way they did growing up, either supporting each other, or blasting each other, or some combination of both.
If you’re feeling incredibly lonely, that can also gum up your receptors. Maybe you think every person who says hi to you might really want to sleep with you. Or you think everyone hates you. There are all kinds of ways we mis-perceive reality, and it’s important to recognize that, or at least factor it into your mix. To ask yourself when you’re feeling heated over something, or defeated, or confused or angry or rejected or mistreated, if there’s any possibility you’re not seeing things clearly. If maybe you have some part in what’s happening, because you do. It can’t be any other way. You have your experiences and your outlook, and it’s essential to understand how those things are part of the equation as you filter the data that’s coming at you, or not. If you think you suck or people suck, your lens is distorted. If you think another person is only ever going to be the way they were with you at some given point in time, your lens is also in need of a wiping. You also might want to throw into the equation your dynamic with someone. Sometimes two people bring out the worst in each other, or push buttons or bring up past pain unintentionally. Just because your relationship didn’t work doesn’t mean other relationships will face the same destiny for you, or for them. You can’t “peg’ people. I know we love to do that, but people are in flux just like everything else is in flux and it feels awful to be pegged, right? To be unforgiven, to have every mistake you’ve ever made reflected back at you every time you talk to someone with whom you were once so close.
There are many ways to wipe your lenses clean or get a new Rx if you need one. If you practice all eight limbs of yoga (the physical part is only one eighth of the equation), you’ll be well on your way. Finding the tools that work for you for your own healing and your own willingness to examine and work with your pain are also ways you upgrade your prescription. You really do want to get on that if you find yourself living in the past, or still enraged about things that happened years ago. If that’s happening for you, then you are actively feeding your rage and dragging your past into your present. You’ll make yourself sick, you’ll miss opportunities for joy and something new, and you will alienate everyone around you. Life is too short for that.
I won’t lie to you. The world is full of pain sometimes, but it’s also full of the kind of beauty that can take your breath away if you let it. That can knock you over with gratitude and joy. I used to think the thing we all wanted was to be happy, but really, I think the thing is to be awake. To be hungry for the truth, whatever it may be, and even if it’s painful. When I say “the truth”, I’m not suggesting there’s one truth. I’m saying your truth, what’s true for you personally. Being able to discern what you need to be at peace. What’s yours and what belongs to someone else when interactions go awry. What’s real for other people. Just being able to see clearly, and accept reality as it is. It’s not easy. Sometimes we want to fight it because things aren’t unfolding the way we want them to, but it’s not up to us. We don’t get to choose everything that comes at us. We don’t get to manage what other people do or want or say or need. We just get to manage ourselves, as best we can, and hopefully with a lot of love and compassion. There’s a lot of power and a lot of peace in that. Wishing you love, and sending you a little glass cleaner if you need it. We all need it sometimes.