The Tyranny of LIKE

Sleeping six hours, going to multiple 6:30am fitness classes a week followed by 8 hours behind a desk, drinking too much coffee so my energy spikes and drops like a bungee jumper -- each of these actions do result in my feeling, at times, exhausted. Surpise surprise. Yet nothing, no thing, no behavior or excess of behaviors in my current life makes me feel as tired as being fake. And perhaps nothing, no thing, feeds and fuels a tendency towards inauthenticity as much as a desire to receive the life equivalent of a Facebook LIKE. Efforts to please others by dolling out my own life LIKE approvals, as if I'm Santa Clause on Christmas Eve, is equally self stifling. Not that there's anything wrong with a Facebook Like that's authentic. Them, I LIKE! If I ever have my own page, I will ask you to LIKE it, then hope you only do if you really, really mean it. Then, I will detach from whether or not you do or don't. I spent Thanksgiving weekend out east in a home that feels like a cabin on an island that feels like a cloud in the sky, so removed is it from the activities below on earth. I am literal and it is Shelter so I am safe. A morning walk along the beach with my uncle, his partner, and "the kids" (the cutest, most darling dogs ever) cleared my head of my Thanksgiving feast induced hangover. There were pies. Many, many pies. The walk also pinched a hole in the high pressure balloon of stress I've been carrying around with me in New York City. Pop. I could relax and breathe in ways I rarely do at home, as much as I try to find ways to decompress. I followed the walk with a bicycle ride for an hour. The island is so quiet. So few people. So few cars. So little noise. I found a used book store on my bike and bought a book for $7. Maya Angelou's Letters to My Daughter. She doesn't have a daughter but wrote these brief, soul stirring life lessons to her collective daughter, that is, all the women who look to her for advice, wisdom, leadership and learning. I spent the weekend with my own mother, whose lessons for me are becoming more frequent, rapid and exactly what I need. We spend more and more time together and I get to know her own stories, the adult equivalent of being raised. Which brings me back to this conversation about the tyranny of LIKE. At 34, I am only just beginning to find the courage to be myself and with that, drop the conscious and below ground campaigns I've waged over the years to be liked. Like and its cousin Nice were constantly coming to dinner. It was important to my family, the community in which I was raised, the professional world, and in most places where anything but your talent becomes the defining factor and your likability quotient as important as your skills. Perhaps that is what drew me to the arts. :) Instead of like me, can I please you by liking you, I will be nice nice very nice, there was the seduction of being like a rocker on stage with the primary purpose of pissing you off. I'm talking the kind of artist who would rather die than be popular and prefer to go without food and water for a few days in a hot , Afghan cave than have a career like Justin Bieber's. The root? Fear. It's always fear. In this case, fear that expressing myself completely and authentically would lead to my losing certain things I have, people, and the belief that being liked and nice would help me gain and keep things I want. The freedom is coming. For me it starts with accepting a host of personal dislikes and no longer blunting the feeling. Then it continues with taking myself off the hook. Trusting that my personality as is, is enough. That my work speaks for itself. That I can be kind without needing to people please my way into a corner. That the love I have inside of me does come out without forcing it. Did you know (I didn't) that acceptance, neutrality or a Zen approach to something is actually an option over liking it? I am only learning that I could go through a whole day of doing things in acceptance without forcing myself to LIKE it. I can move with a neutral approach instead of forcing a guise of false cheer. I can't deny my attraction to courageous souls who seek nothing besides freedom to express who they are without external forces controlling their voice. I saw that in the PBS documentary about Woody Allen. The man controlled his voice and projects. After his script for WHAT'S NEW PUSSYCAT was completely altered to suit the Hollywood studios, he vowed never again to lose creative control. Nothing would come between Woody, the keys of his ancient typewriter and the eventual execution of his story on film. Those were the terms under which he'd say Yes to a project. Nobody allowed to interfere. Woody is an example of No More Mr. Nice Guy. Any actor worth their salt knows not to force anything. A faked feeling is like a death trap on stage, mainly because once you start forcing what you think suits the scene, you're no longer acting from an authentic place. Better to breathe, be patient, connect to your objective and let the feelings come as you continue to trust the text and what's happening between you and your partner. Very similar in life, I think! The less I try to be anything other than present, the more authentic I feel and then, here's the surprise, the more I actually DO like. Appreciation and gratitude may be practiced (witness my last post) but sometimes I think they're most enjoyed when they sneak up and make you catch your breath in wonder.

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