Wednesday, July 8, 2009

"There's Nothing Worse Than Being Ordinary..."

I was thinking back to the bus project tonight as I gathered with some friends in South Philly to eat grilled steak and peppers and corn on a nice summer night, and how underlying this fanciful project to be an "Urban Hermit," I think, was a real desire to be "special," different, unique--to show how 'un-ordinary' my life could be, wrapped and framed nicely in the guise of a calling. It is the classic Enneagram Type 4 approach to living--ie, the "creation of an identity" being the primary desire. Angela Hayes (Mena Suvari) summed it up in American Beauty: "There's nothing worse [for a 4] than being ordinary."

In many ways, though, it is no different than those types who identify their worth with their performance, or their acceptance by others, or their success. The point being--It is not that I am not special, but I should not spurn the ordinary out of fear (the basic fear of a four being 'not having significance'), nor attempt to define my worth by my 'otherness.' Living in a rather 'mainstreamed' fashion (working an unextraordinary job, volunteering, riding the bus, living in an apartment, etc.) after this extreme project has admittedly been humbling and has forced me to re-evaluate my worth not in terms of how different or unique I am, but in how much I am willing to accept and love my inability, my ordinariness, and my fear of it all; in sum, my imperfect humanity. I don't have to be different. My life doesn't have to be extra-ordinary. Maybe it will be and maybe it won't, but right now it is quite ordinary, and I am coming to terms with that. Recognizing also that this fear of living an ordinary life is just that--a fear, a cognition; i.e., not reality. I am not my thoughts; I am not my fear.

On a side note: I am currently reading two good-for-mental-health books: Feeling Good by David Burns, MD, and Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. David Burns is a a cognitive behavioral psychologist who studied under Aaron Beck at U Penn; Kabat-Zinn teaches mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. I have been attempting to use the body scan and meditation techniques by Kabat-Zinn to control occasional bouts of anxiety...I think it has potential. Burns' book has been helpful in the nitty-gritty work of identifying and exposing cognitive distortions. Both, however, require that you do the work. If you don't...well, I guess you are putting your health on hold. Both books are highly recommended.

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