from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Monday, 13 August 2012

on habit

I've been thinking, here, because I've had time to, about habit; habitual ways of being in the world, many if not all of them in one way or another conditioned. One of the reasons for being here is to challenge my 'habit' of perpetually responding/reacting to the world, my perpetual engagement with others. (You will see in the number of blogs I've written this week, even though I didn't post them when away, that the flow hasn't exactly stopped, however.)

I've mentioned my habit of simply spilling towards the world (*see Young Things). I know that this can also be intrusive, invasive, for more reserved personalities. One of the things I'm learning at this stage in my life is containment; learning to hold my tongue, keep my own counsel, let others come towards me, if they wish to, rather than rushing myself towards them.

It's worth knowing, I think, whether your personality is that of the introvert or extravert. I have a sense that there are many of us who are the one who behave as if we are the other. (That might be more true of 'natural' introverts than of extraverts, I don't know.) In order for the self to be in harmony, the many aspects of being need to find a balance. Where there is inner conflict and incongruence for long enough the friction can create unease that can morph into disease, physically or psychologically.

Psychology suggests that we become more introverted as we age. It makes sense, a gradual withdrawing inwards.

For many reasons, I act as if I'm an extravert, and aspects of my work – the groupwork, for instance – require and nourish this. I also, on the whole, know I do it well. But I realised maybe 10 or 12 years ago that at the very least I'm on the cusp between the two, and more likely I fall towards introversion. This was a surprise as, perhaps for reasons of family dynamics, I have mostly acted the extravert.

But it has come at quite a cost to my quiet self, and I can no longer go outwards without balancing that with quite a lot of solitude and silence on a regular basis. I am so easily over-stimulated these days, and deep inside am chronically weary. I easily reach saturation with the human world, all aspects of it, and need the non-human natural world alone surrounding me. It seems to be hard for people who aren't like that to get it. And I find it hard to give that to myself.

It's also easy for me to feel over-responsible – again maybe early family dynamics, fed by being the sole breadwinning single parent I was, and living always on the edge of extreme financial poverty (though with plenty of other arguably much more enduring riches) – and within that is that some kind of grandiosity, a habitual sense of being in some way indispensable, unable to let go. This can become a kind of controlling; and, as with everything, underneath that is fear.

So this week I have been looking, too, at my fear of not engaging. Has the world fallen apart? Not as far as I know. Have the people who loved me stopped loving me? Ditto. Do they know I still love them? I imagine so.

Have I been severely remiss in this week, not to say selfish, in putting my needs first; in not engaging with them? – Ah, well, that's a tough one. So often it seems there's a choice between needs of self and needs of other. Is this how it always is?

But isn't it, finally, about being authentic with both oneself and with others? 'To thine own self be true; thou canst not then be false to any man' etc. That would be the best possible habit, no? Or at least en route towards it; as with love, how can one be true to another without first learning to be true to oneself?

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