Some Honest Thoughts About my Forthcoming Repatriation
Well, our time here is running down and I still don’t feel cool. And in addition to all the other reasons I feel sad about leaving this amazing place, my ridiculous ego is telling me that my cool chance is up when I no longer live abroad, when I can no longer post pictures of Big Ben on my Instagram or blog about visiting Europe.
My ego loves the idea of people being jealous of me, until someone actually says those words to me. “JO! I’m so jealous!” When I hear those words my ego collapses and I want to just unload on that person how all these things I’m trying to use to look cool are really just things, and I’m still me with all my insecurities and troubles in life. I want to reassure people, “I’m just me. Living here doesn’t entitle me to any more happiness or contentment than you. My worth isn’t connected in any way to my circumstances.”
And yet, if I didn’t really believe that my worth was connected to my circumstances, my ego wouldn’t be perspiring about my upcoming change in circumstances. My ego tells me that my circumstances are EVERYTHING to my worth/”coolness”. I am worthy/cool when my children excel, when my wardrobe is fashionable, when my life is full of interesting and exciting adventures…
Adam Miller is a Mormon philosopher who wrote something that dramatically influenced the way I feel about my ego, and my attempts at being cool. He talks about our “story”, and how we spend our time trying to make the reality of our life match the story we have envisioned for ourselves.
“Everyone knows that little blush of pleasure that comes when you feel like your life and your story match. And I’m sure you know the pinch of disappointment that follows when you feel like your life hasn’t measured up. These blushes and pinches tend to rule our daily lives. They push and pull and bully us from one plot point to the next. ‘Now I should be this,’ we say, ‘now I should have this, now I should do this…'”
Moving to London was the climax of my pleasure at the synchronization of my life and my story. And now with four months remaining, I feel a blanket of fear settle over me, that there is an impending pinch of disappointment. A pinch that will be the climax of my disappointment that my life hasn’t measured up. If this didn’t work, then nothing will ever make me cool.
As I ponder on all this pushing and pulling that I do to try to get admiration and attention, I realize that it leaves very little room for gratitude, and makes it difficult for me to set space to feel the really humbling and sanctifying feelings of sadness about the things I’ll be leaving behind, that have nothing to do at all with my story. The people, the memories, the quiet moments of awe known only to me. I wish I could say that I’ve learned my lesson and I’ve overcome the part of me that thinks true joy will come from validation and adoration. Unfortunately I’ve only achieved awareness and not mastery. This experience in London has taught me so many things, not the least of which is this.
“Even if you can get a story to work for a while, you’ll still be afraid. And when it fails to meet the measure of life, as all stories do, you’ll feel ashamed and your shame and guilt will manifest once again in that familiar pinch of disappointment.”
As I face my fears of being inadequate, of moving back to the United States and just being average, of losing out on all the attention my time in London has brought me, I catch glimpses of what it’s like to not live as a prisoner to my ego. There is such freedom in surrendering my story, in relinquishing my need for validation, in living in a state of gratitude and not comparison. At age 34 I am just starting to consider the possibility of leaving “cool” on the altar.
Some final thoughts from Miller.
“Life is full of stories, but life is not a story. God doesn’t love your story, he loves you…[and] Faith is about sacrificing your story on his altar.”