Here’s a question that you may hear when you are out getting coffee or something to eat. “Do you know what you would like?” We’re asked this question often enough but if you’re like me I’m willing to bet that you often go on what you are used to instead of what you actually feel like having. Some of this has to do with the degree of importance of the task at hand.
For instance, we don’t have to search our feelings everytime we get to the counter at our favorite coffee shop to find out what our deepest self wants to drink for a morning beverage. If you like mochas, it’s probably a safe bet to order a mocha. But somethings are worth the time to investigate.
Learning to Listen Ain’t Easy
If you’ve read my post, “Self Care: Spiritual, Meditation, Am I Doing This Right?” you’ll know that I was raised in a man’s man family. This included most of the macho cliche standards of what it means to be men. Among them, not having feelings, getting what they want when they want it and that being vulnerable was a sign of weakness… the list keeps going. But basically what this meant for me was some things men just didn’t do.
This was tough for me, because one thing men didn’t do in my family was raise children. This was a job done by women. So to my chagrin when my mother told me she didn’t know how to raise a man, that left me pretty much on my own. What this meant for me was, I had know idea how to pursue and develop interests or even to find out what I liked. I was so focused on whether or not I fit in that I didn’t stop to think, “am I doing what I like?”
On top of that when I found out what I liked ran counter to my learned ideas of what men “should” like and act like, I was confused. In the world I knew, men weren’t supposed to like yoga or the Grateful Dead. Men weren’t supposed to be vegetarian or vegan or like running.
They were supposed to lift weights so they could be strong and in charge and hold their own in a fight if they had to. Men weren’t supposed to be about peace and love but they showed anger freely and often. The world I grew up in, men hunted and grilled, drank beer and swilled scotch while watching football. I’m not trying to say that any of those ways of being or personal interests are inherently bad, but when your acceptance hinges on whether or not you fit a specific mold or set of criteria, therein lies a problem. So now that I’ve explored some of the pitfalls of how I didn’t know what it was that I liked, I’m going to take a look at how I found where my interests do lay.
Taking the Deep Dive
It started with knowing how I felt. Truly felt, without the influence of drugs or alcohol or the threat of being cut off from belonging by those who “loved” me. But that took some digging.
First, I had to change the ways I was doing things. I had to slow down first, which meant not drinking so much coffee to force my way through the day. Second, I slowed down on my alcohol intake which was my way of winding down from drinking all the caffeine, to avoid being present in my feelings as they happened. Then I had to stop and listen to my feelings as they were happening.
It was a mixed bag. As feelings usually are, but the more I listened the more I understood what my interests really were and why. For example, I love The Grateful Dead. But the more I explored my love the more I realized that it was the culture I loved. The freely expressed emotions of love and acceptance that I so longed for. I like the blues, don’t get me wrong, but they can be tough to listen to if that’s all you’re listening to. You end up, well, blue.
I liked watching football with my friends. We’d get loaded and scream at the T.V. for a few hours and get into trouble or at least have a good story to tell for the next week. But the violence of the game always made me a bit uncomfortable and reminded me of how I never felt like I quite added up as a man to those that held my belonging in their judgements by expecting me to fit in with what’s expected.
Yoga and running were ways of getting in touch with my body in a way that was soothing. I could take care of my physical needs for exercise while pushing my personal limits and grow in a safe way. They also have a meditative quality to them. You can get lost in the cadence of your heart beating in rhythm with your feet against the pavement. Or get lost in your body as you’re flowing through downward dog to plank, to upward facing dog. All of your body parts moving in a succinct language, freely expressing itself. And you won’t get a hangover from a heavy night of yoga.
Change On the Rise
Getting in touch with our wants isn’t always easy. Sometimes you have to pull them apart from others expectations and your own perceived or anticipated expectations of “if” you’ll be granted acceptance from others. But it’s worth it to find the things, people and places that bring you peace and a feeling of belonging. Not at the expense of what you are like but because of what you are like. And to quote someone really famous, “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.” -Oscar Wilde