Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Light and Dark of It

And now, the bread story. It is, alas, a tale of approval seeking but, without being too much of a spoiler, one with a happy ending.

I’ve been meaning to revisit bread making for fifteen years. Back then I was baking quite regularly. I co-owned a guiding outfit and, as such, I had clients and family to feed; bread making became second nature. Best of all, I developed a reputation for it, it was part of who I was. When I left the business (and my partner), however, to start again in the city, bread making died a natural death.

Last spring, the topic of bread, and the baking thereof, arose in a group in which I was participating. I stayed quiet but was almost overcome with this mad desire to be seen by this group, especially the leader, as a baker. I knew that I would have come across somewhat immature claiming a fifteen year old identity but inwardly I was yelling, “see me; see me. I, too, am a baker”. If I baked bread, this part of me argued, I would have their approval, perhaps even their respect. Funny how the seemingly innocuous can trigger larger than life desires. Baking bread became synonymous with identity, validation and recognition.

I didn’t act on this urge right away. There were two main reasons. For one, I had other matters to contend with like irrational fears that the thoughts of baking produced. These were, for the most part about control (safety), or lack of, and included: weight gain (I wouldn’t be able to stop eating), bug infestation (how to keep the kitchen free of flour dust), and the age old “there is not enough time” (I would be drained from overwork). The main reason, however, for not acting right away was that I took leadership over my parts — the needy and the fearful ones. I, in Self leadership, made time to get to know them better, acknowledge their truths (or what they perceived as truths) and reassure them that I could provide for their needs. I let them know I appreciated who they were and why they were so fierce in their beliefs while allowing them to see yet another perspective. The result was that I began seeing a more rounded picture of my parts, the good and the bad; how they served me in times of old and how they could yet do the same today, albeit in healthier ways.

I recently facilitated an evening presentation on interdependence. Interdependence, I suggested was the marriage of self care and harmonious community living: the healthy and respectful care for self results in the healthy and respectful care of others. I concluded by saying that one way to do this was to come into relationship with all of our internal parts. I stated that if we come to know each of our part’s unique characteristics — how they perceive and act upon life— we can not only serve ourselves better but ultimately serve our community to its highest good. It is about trust. If our parts feel heard and validated they are more apt to stop trying to take over — they learn to trust our Self leadership. This is the foundation for interdependence: trust in Self equals good self care; good self care equals healthier communities. In codependence, the opposite happens, our parts take leadership over Self, self care falters and communities suffer.

I have, as most of us do, a variety of parts both interdependent and codependent. Two of my favorite, in the latter department, are the ones that like to go into self pity and the ones that denies any self compassion, treating life with stoic precision. What I like most about these two parts are their unique characteristics or, as I like to call them, their skill sets. Take my stoic part. Sure she’s anal and controlling, rigid and a tad perfectionistic but she also gets the job done. She is disciplined and strong; knows the difference between right and wrong and is directed enough to act on her beliefs. My self pity part, on the other hand, can be whiny and dependent; a bit too self centred and tunnel visioned but she is also in touch with her feelings, recognizes injustices and is self compassionate. As such, she recognizes and is emphatic with those who are hurting. My stoic part is actually quite a leader and my self pity part is my strength, one who is not afraid to show her vulnerabilities or to reach out to others in need. The light and dark of it, I like to say.

In reviewing the skill set of this part of me that wants validation, I note that she is needy and demanding, a bit of a show-off and somewhat given to melodrama. However, she is also motivated, slides past irrational fears— as she did with my fears of fat, bugs and being drained— is not shy and can be quite entertaining. Most importantly, at least right now, is that this part of me that can still feel ignored, neglected and not up to snuff, and who sometimes does embarrassing things in order to get attention, got me making bread again, a hobby I quite enjoy. I, for one, am forever grateful. And, when the person who I was originally trying to impress eventually said, “hey, good bread” it was nice but not necessary. By slowing down and taking time with this part that needed to be seen; by taking care of and calming my fears, I was taking care of myself. I was not only taking leadership over my parts but baking helluva good bread. Creative Codependence at its best.

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