Somewhere along the line, I swallowed some lies. Lies like 'I'm in the way,' or 'I'm too loud,' or 'I don't matter,' or 'I shouldn't ask for anything, I don't deserve to be.' Well originally I was going to write happy...I don't deserve to be happy. But then when I got to the word be, that might have been the lie I swallowed. 'I don't deserve to be.'
Children soak up the world in gulps and gobbles, un-discerning, unyielding, impatient to grow and become adult, eager to be treated as an equal and a whole human being. As a child we might mis-read or misinterpret the heart of a message, or maybe we get the underlying meaning more clearly than intended...who knows. The thing is that when I was young I believed the world reflecting me back to myself through how others treated me was an accurate mirror. Now that I've grown older I can see that there are many fun-house mirrors mixed in with good reflectors. The fun-house mirrors at a carnival are only fun because you know them to be distorting. But if we took them as a real and accurate reflection, they'd be truly terrifying. In life it becomes important to treat distorting mirrors differently, giving them less credence, and maybe even a little compassion, since we do not know their story of how they became their warped selves. Maybe I'll write a short story about human fun-house mirrors wandering around unable to figure out which ones are warped the least...what a wonderful children's book that would make...!
In any case, the life changing taco was an experience at dinner last night, and I must try to convey into words the magic of the moment before it slips away into the minutia of today's magical learning opportunities!
After a day of darting around town hunting for items at stores, comparison shopping, weighing options, and getting things done, we navigated through the sea of food options and I finally found myself in line looking at a menu of food options. For more context on my level of vulnerability after all the option-weighing, you can read about it in one of Malcolm Gladwell's books or find Sheena Iyengar's TEDtalk. Basically, not only was I hungry, but I was mentally exhausted from all the weighing and choosing. And I was just relieved to be done making decisions. (Or so I thought...)
I had no trouble deciding on the burrito, but as hungry as I was I wanted a taco as well, either a pork in adobo or a mushroom and onion taco. The thing is, I am avoiding four-legged foods at the moment, so as delicious as the pork in adobo is at this place, I was ordering a chicken burrito. And I was thinking a pork taco might be a nice compromise (being small), but then the mushrooms sounded really good, and since I was having them hold the yummy mozzarella from my burrito I thought maybe I could substitute mushrooms (or something at least) since I was not having the cheese. On the register I saw that my total had jumped up by $3 once I said to add mushrooms to the burrito, and in that moment I let go of ordering a side taco in addition because I wasn't interested in paying more, but she hadn't said 'by the way there is an additional charge of $3 for adding mushrooms to your burrito,' she had just assumed I wanted them at any price. Also there was someone in line behind me, and they were typing in to go orders from the phone in between taking my order and the person who had gone before me...and I felt myself shrink. I didn't want to slow things down. I didn't want to be a nuisance. I didn't want to make a fuss. I didn't want to gum up the works or ask more questions. The cost of adding those mushrooms was more than a side taco would have cost, but I couldn't bring myself in that moment to change my order, change my mind, say 'hey, that's not okay with me, you didn't give me a warning or an option!'
Flustered, hangry, irritated with myself for not standing up for what I wanted, I huffed my way to a table to wait. Swirling accusations in my mind, what's the fucking big deal, it's only three dollars, why do you care if the mushrooms are in a taco shell or on your burrito, why are you even so upset over something so insignificant, and on and on the litany in my mind, mocking, deriding, unforgiving, relentless. And then tears welled. For god's sake, am I really crying about a taco? Or three dollars? Get a grip! The inner judge and jury were having a field day.
And I let the storm roll over me, through me.
And after a little while, glassy-eyed, but clear, I rose out of my inner meltdown, walked myself back up to the counter, and bravely asked 'Is it too late to switch my order? Can I get the mushroom taco instead of the mushrooms in my burrito?' And whoever I spoke with needed to know my order number, which I knew, and she made it happen, and I walked myself back to the table feeling worthy. Feeling brave. Feeling I had gone to bat for myself. Feeling my request was totally reasonable, and knowing that my asking was all that was necessary.
Giving people credit for wanting to please me too is something I'm still working on. I have a long habit of people-pleasing, but it's sort of like learning to take a compliment rather than brush it aside. Or like allowing someone else the joy that giving generously can bring, by receiving too now and then.
It may have been the most delicious mushroom taco I have ever eaten. I earned that taco, in more ways than one.
I am so grateful to myself for weathering the storm of inner insults, and rising above, beyond, and taking care of my desires in the moment, allowing me to celebrate, and rejoice. I have a track record of not asking for what I want, and later being sad and that old pattern is (slowly but surely) dissolving!! That old pattern of swallowing my true desires in favor of not rocking the boat, not being a pain, not being the squeaky wheel. The thing is, all my life I guess I've secretly been jealous of squeaky wheels. And the external and internal rewards of not being squeaky aren't that great, to be honest.
Maybe I've been robbing other people of the opportunity to please me, all these years, by keeping my needs and wants to a whisper. Or on mute. How can anyone even try to please me if I don't share my thoughts, my dreams, my heart?
Next time, perhaps I won't even have to go back to change my order. But that too will come.
Thank you for visiting!
The Double Meaning behind the blog title 'Dream Follower:'
First, for 14 years I was a ballroom & social dance instructor, and have studied both leading and following. I feel that learning to follow is full of nuance and is often misunderstood. I made it one of my personal goals to become a really excellent follow on the dance floor, and will probably talk a lot about the art of following - both in and out of the context of dance.
Second, I am a huge fan of author Michael Ende, probably best known for The Neverending Story. The book is incredible, and the first film captured some of the essence. (Please don't watch the other two films...I urge you to read the book though!) Anyway, at least twice in my life I have been caught in a storm of my own indecision, and my inner Moon Princess yelled to my inner Bastian...'Why don't you do what you dream?' I tear up even now as I write this little blurb. The tension between being practical, keeping my feet on the ground and my head out of the clouds (at the risk of compromising my inner vibrancy, true self, and who knows what else)...and reaching for my true dreams (at the risk of losing everything) is still a very real struggle. In fact, one of those struggles lead to my 14 years of teaching dance, so we can see which voice won the battle that fateful day when I was staring at the want-ad...
And so I strive to be two kinds of Dream Followers in my life. One has to do with connecting with others, and the other has to do with connecting with my inner Moon Princess and the world of possibility that opens when I do...