Journal writing is for the brave. Dark places rise to the top of the page, sometimes obscuring the way forward. Fear not, there is a way out.
Meant as an exercise to move beyond monkey mind, clinging shadow aspects, and unwanted habitual behaviors, it is a way to get in touch with your higher self, your desires, and intentions. One is supposed to write with abandon as if no one will see it.
Thank God. No one ever should.
It works, until one realizes that even her journals are reflective of the one shadow aspect that clings to her for dear life. I like to think of myself as a my-way kind of person, except my way has always been, “What can I do to please you, so you will like me.” Every journal page reflected that. If I had fur and two floppy ears, my tongue would be hanging out, my tail wagging madly, and I would be softly saying, “Woof. Please pet me. Please love me.” Ah, to be one of those people that says whatever they need to say, with abandon, without worry about what the other person would think.
I want to be her.
I have been this way since a very young child, seeking to please parents, siblings, teachers, children, boyfriends, friends, bosses, animals…(oh my goodness, even plants), basically – everyone but myself, in exchange for their approval and love.
When I realized that, my ego, who has been happily living at the bottom of a deep hole for a few weeks, uncurled its long sinuous and angry dragon body and lifted its head. “Fuck that,” it said. “I am tired of pleasing people.”
For those of you who don’t follow my blog regularly, in July, I buried Ego, along with Anger, in a deep hole after a devastating tree fiasco. I didn’t expect to hear from it so soon.
A shadow fell over its hole, obscuring it from my sight, the shadow with furry ears and wagging tail. Who would you rather pet?
Well, the last time this shadow-self wagged its tail, I got into more trouble than Ego ever caused.
This next paragraph will seem like an odd segue, but bear with me.
I am a fangirl, completely smitten with a well-known Chinese model and actor. I won’t name him here, but I follow all he does, and he does EVERYTHING: everything I would want in a friend, everything I would want in a man. On top of that, he is beautiful to look at. I am a sap, fangirling in earnest. It is embarrassing but important to this story. He’s captured my attention, for sure.
I love sending him notes of appreciation on his Instagram and YouTube sites. If I had other ways to send appreciation, I would do it. The point is…
…one day, I received a note back.
Oh my gawd! Can you imagine that?
It was WONDERFUL.
He was lovely and sweet and seemed interested in making a connection with a fan of his. I was thrilled. But, then something went wrong. I began to suspect that the person I was communicating with was not the idol I so adored. However, I wanted to please this man, because I so admired the person he appeared to be, so I kept my faith that I was truly connected with the One, and we conversed often for three glorious days. I was my best self: polite, careful with words, not only because of the language and culture differences, but because I so wanted him to like me.
Eventually, he felt comfortable enough to ask for money for a pet project of his.
What? Why would he ask that?
Fluffy Pleaser Puppy popped up. “Just chill. Find out what this is about. Give him the benefit of the doubt.”
“Isn’t that the way it always works?” snarky Ego yelled from its hole. “Ha, ha! You’ve been Catfished!”
“No-o-o-o!” screamed my heart.
You would think I would have pulled the plug at that moment. But, shadow self, that little shadowy-self that wants to please so much, decided to hear him out and consider his plea.
Ego came roaring out of the hole like a fire dragon. “You will research this before you commit.”
Okay. Little Pleaser was fine with that.
What harm could there be researching the project he wanted me to join. What I discovered was heartbreaking. The “ask” was well known by the FBI, and my idol’s name was on the list of celebrities catfished for this scheme. If someone ever asks you to help an 8 or 9 year old boy in Thailand who needs a kidney…he doesn’t. It’s a scammer from South Africa.
I am living the heartache of getting catfished. It was alarmingly clear that Miss Please You to the Detriment of Self no longer worked. However, putting this behind me has been difficult. I keep asking, “What if? What if I had only been true to self and said what needed to be said instead of seeking acceptance?”
Okay, okay. I know the outcome would still be the same, but one’s brain still asks the “What if. What if it was really him, and I failed somehow. Oh, my god. He’ll never talk to me again.”
I know, I know. You don’t need to tell me.
It’s that flippin’ tail-wagger that needs to be told. How can I get through to her that this course of behavior is NOT an authentic part of self? And of course, that behavior was the go-to for this interaction like it is for every human interaction I have ever had, especially with men. I am a pleaser. Aaugh. I hate myself sometimes.
I tried poetry:
Cat Fish Lessons
I was greedy
when you wrote,
wanting so badly to hear from him.
ready to capitulate
completely forgetting who I was
to match perfectly.
Your words were so sweet.
They were exactly what I needed to hear.
I loved each chime of my phone
thinking, “He found me.”
I thought you were him.
Wasn’t that what you wanted?
A light suddenly turned on.
I saw what I had become,
Knew what you were…
My heart broke.
But in the breaking, I saw
I became someone I was not,
to please, to earn love.
Forced to look.
How long had I let this happen?
Living every moment of my life
to please others
Working hard to earn love
You, dear Catfish
were my trial by fire.
If the One
I will hold
your lessons in my heart.
And so, I thank you.
You let me know what I needed –
As you fade into my past,
a well-placed and perfectly timed lesson
I will sail grateful
because you showed up in my life.
Poetry does not seem to be enough.
It’s been at least three weeks since I put aside that poem, and the catfish moment still taunts me, reminding me that I am not whole, not authentic. It reminds me I am still willing to capitulate Self for Other. How can I let go of this?
Perhaps an apology is in order:
I am sorry I let you down. I am sorry I used a cry of Catfish to stop the roller coaster of your inauthenticity. Please forgive me. I learned so much about my ingrained need for approval at all costs to myself. Thank you for a much needed lesson.
I love you.
“Meh,” said Ego.
“Maybe I can write a letter as a fangirl,” said Fluffy Pleaser Puppy.
Dearest Person Who I Will Not Name Here,
I am sorry I thought you were a Catfish. Please forgive me. Thank you for all the lessons I learned from you and that experience. I appreciate you beyond measure. I hope you write again.
I love you.
“You’re kidding, right?” said Ego, slapping its tail against the floor.
“No, I wasn’t,” said Fluffy, a little whiny, hoping that she had indeed heard from the one who caught her attention. She sat down, a little worried that Ego was no longer happy with her.
Oh, my gawd. These two are so out of control.
There is only one way out of this.
I said, “You two are right. An apology is needed. And I applaud your attempt at Ho’oponopono.”
I am sorry I lied. I wasn’t authentic. If I had listened to my heart when you asked me for money, I would have said calmly and quietly, “No. I don’t want to do that. Why are you asking?” Instead, I ignored ME and tried to please YOU. I ended up hurting both of us.
I deeply regret that.
Can you forgive me?
Whether you can or not, I am profoundly grateful for all I learned from that experience. Thank you for opening a door on an aspect of self of which I was not fully aware. I can’t express how many times I have capitulated to less than me to please others, so great is my need for acceptance. I place this heavy chain around my heart at your feet. I can’t carry it any more.
This feels like the way out. Time will tell.
A catfish experience can be devastating, but I hope to see it as a practice event, a chance to call out inauthenticity, a chance to find self and reclaim Her. If you, Dear Reader, and I ever meet, I hope to hold on to self for all I am worth and share what I have to give, honestly, without neediness, or expectations of approval. I intend to hang on to ME, because that is the only way I can ever really know and appreciate YOU.
This, for me, is the only way out.
May Peace find you,
AV Singer (aka Valarie S Roddy)