This Human’s Heart is a blog series where I share my thoughts and insights which may not reflect on my writing endeavors.
Image: Heart-Shaped Rock by speedyfearless on DeviantArt.com
Tilting at Windmills
I’ve done some soul searching this month (more than usual), in part due to my new long-distance relationship. I’m trying to improve my communication skills, and in order to overcome some personal obstacles, self-examination was in order. I am sharing this with you in part because I know some of you care about me, and what is going on in my life. But another part is for me. I am making certain commitments, and doing it publicly. This is a measure of accountability for myself, and I hope you all understand. Please feel free leave a comment below, or email me privately. Thanks.
Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no so
oner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”
“What giants?” asked Sancho Panza.
“Those you see over there,” replied his master, “with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length.”
“Take care, sir,” cried Sancho. “Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone.”
—Part 1, Chapter VIII. Of the valourous Don Quixote’s success in the dreadful and never before imagined Adventure of the Windmills, with other events worthy of happy record.
As you may have deduced, I am on a quest. I’ve been on this crusade for a number of years. To my mind, my quest is a noble, romantic and chivalrous endeavor, not unlike that of Cervantes’ Don Quixote. According to Professor Ilan Stavans, “One must live life in a genuine way, passionately, in spite of what other people think. That is the central tenet of “Don Quixote.””
But like that old and deluded Spanish hidalgo, my ideals often exceed my reach. Throughout my life, I’ve constructed my own giants out of would-be windmills—outdated belief systems that were created to protect a younger, more innocent Mark. And over the years I have clung to those ideas and beliefs, regarding them as hard truths when, in fact, they are as imaginary as Don Quixote’s giants. I’ve been a victim to them. Thank goodness I have a patient and loving woman in my life to act as my Sancho Panza, as it were, standing by my side and helping me to see my worth and my truths despite my stubborn tenacity to cling to my stubborn giants.
Thankfully, along the course of my personal journey to better myself, I’ve already uncovered many things about myself regarding my mental and emotional make-up, and I’ve even implemented new ways of becoming a better person. Among the changes, I am learning to shed some of those old beliefs and live my life with hope in my heart, to dare to walk with confidence in fervent pursuit of my passions and goals, and to be my most genuine self.
And as part of this journey, I’ve been digging deeper, and my soul-excavations have unearthed many long-buried remains of my emotional defenses. Okay, perhaps I’ve known about this stuff for years and have refused to deal with it—or have acknowledged it, and thought I’d dealt with it in the past. Hmm… zombie windmill giants? Lifelong habits I’d denied to recognize again and again, back to claw at me?
The fact is, I have been stuck. I’m still stuck. And I will continue to be stuck.
But that is okay. Just like in the Twelve Steps in Alcoholics Anonymous, admitting you have a problem is the first step to overcoming it. See, I’ve fallen into many patterns in my life, systems that might have worked once but which don’t serve me now. In fact, they get in my way more than they are helpful, as I’ve discovered while working on my new relationship.
Among them are:
- I have some long-held, deep-seated fears: Of success. Of failure. Of rejection. Many of my self-image concepts, actions and reactions are borne from these basic fears and core beliefs about my worth, and myself in general.
- I tenaciously hold onto these limiting beliefs which keeps me stuck.
- I confuse commitments with interests. In many ways, what I thought were commitments to myself were in reality only things of interest for me. The difference is: an interest is pursued only when it is convenient. A commitment followed through, no matter what it takes to make the goal a reality (as long as it’s ethical and moral).
- I’ve been using excuses and beliefs to allow myself to feel I am a victim, and to rationalize all the reasons I can’t do the things I want and to be the person I desire to be (or have the things I crave in life).
- I defend my excuses to the point of annoyance. A dear friend called this “lining up my soldiers,” where I would easily (almost casually) list off all the reasons I was unable to do a certain thing, defending my choices and excuses like they were a shield wall protecting my sanity, or honor, or whatever. “Yes, you are right, but…” has become a far too frequent phrase in my life. Yes, I should write more, but I haven’t been sleeping well. Yes, I need to watch my blood sugar, but it is hard when I am not resting well and have no regular sleep cycle (this gem of an excuse is my win-all go-to justification for many of my failures).
- I can argue a good case against pretty much any action, and talk myself out of anything. I’ve been in the habit of avoiding playing big and being fabulous. Damn, being smart isn’t useful here. I need to stop playing the blame game.
- One of my worst habits has been to reject myself before others could do so. If I don’t ask the girl out, she can’t turn me down. If I don’t submit my story, they can’t tell me it sucks. You get the idea. But the worst habit I’ve fallen into is to verbally (or mentally) abuse myself. I call myself stupid, so other’s won’t. I refer to myself as a loser, to take the wind out of an opponent’s sails. This behavior is not only damaging to myself, but it undermines my relationships with others. And in truth, I AM a great guy, with a brilliant mind and I have talent in many areas. I just have a hard time admitting it. I was raised that pride and hubris are bad. But in reality, it is how one shows the pride that matters. I would never put other’s down because I was proud of my accomplishments. I would never lord it over someone. It is all a matter of balance. And respect.
“Rationalization is a process of not perceiving reality, but of attempting to make reality fit one’s emotions.”
― Ayn Rand, Philosophy: Who Needs It?
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