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June 8, 2014 / Karen R Adams

i’m an outsider here myself

outsiderI don’t know about you, but I find this kind of unsettling.  I think the point – given that this was said by Timothy Leary, who certainly celebrated living outside the box – was supposed to be that being different was actually cool.  That being normal was un-hip, stifling, constraining.

But I’ve found that many of my patients are distressed by this feeling of being an outsider.  Certainly I’ve felt that in my own life, especially in my teens.  Remember those years?  How we studied each other, trying to be like the people who were successful by whatever standards we used at the time, so we could figure out how to also be that way?  You know,  the ones making straight As, beloved by parents and teachers.  Or the ones who had tons of friends, joined every club, who weren’t too shy or too awkward, too big or too loud or too outspoken or too afraid, who were so admired by their peers?

Or how about the ones who partied all the time, who got invited to parties all the time?  Or the ones who seemed to know exactly how they were going to live their lives: graduate from high school, go to college, make a million dollars, get married and live happily ever after?  Who belonged and who knew life was a breeze?

Watching those others, the ones who we thought knew how to work life, and trying to figure out how to do that, too, was incredibly painful.

Here’s the funny thing, though.  None of them knew what they were doing.  It’s just that some of them were better at appearing to have it all down.  They looked like they knew how to work it, but they, too, had moments of panic or despair, of feeling like they wouldn’t accomplish anything, of feeling like they wouldn’t fit in.

None of this changes just because we become adults.  Oh sure, many of us get better at appearing as if we know what we’re doing – most of the time.  But most of us feel like we never figured this life gig out – especially when we are suffering.  It makes my heart ache, when I hear my patients grieving that they are not like those others, those successful ones, and because they’re different, because they have this thing going on in their lives, they are doomed to be forever outside the good life.

Here’s a truth, and I hope you find comfort here:  No one knows what they’re doing.  We’re all just making it up as we go along.  We’re all doing the best we can with the cards we’re dealt.

When you know this, your heart will open and soften.  That is compassion… directed toward yourself.


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  1. BrainTwig & Listening Spirit / Jun 9 2014 8:03 am

    Dear Karen,

    It’s good to read your reflections – so true. Each of our unique soul journeys invites us to listen deeply inside, dance from the place of our own evolution with that which appears to happen beyond the borders of our skin, and acknowledge that life is one part focused effort and one part grace.

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