Even though we didn't get home last night until almost 2, my inner judge woke me this morning. Well, I had to get up anyway to feed the dog, but the judge was on overdrive -- or maybe it's just that now I'm learning about the inner judge I can hear her that much more clearly.
The thing is -- we went to a birthday party last night for a friend we've known longer than we've known each other (some days it's hard to believe I could have known ANYone for more than 30 years!). The party was being thrown at the home of one of her friends over on Seattle's east side, and the festivities didn't begin to die down until after 11, so we missed the 11:15 boat back and had to wait for the 12:45.
So it's not so surprising, given the shortened sleep cycle, that parts of me were complaining bitterly. But it's also true that we rarely socialize these days, so I'm a bit out of practice. And 12 of the 14 people at the party were essentially strangers. Nice strangers, to be sure. But still... My natural inclination in such cases is to keep a low profile, single out individuals and get to know them -- it feels safer somehow, establishing individual lines of connection -- but the evening didn't really permit that.
Instead we conversed as a group, with the birthday girl mostly holding center stage and then passing the baton from person to person so that each person's conversation became a bit of a soliloquy with everyone watching. I was singled out several times to speak -- which my husband kindly tells me I handled well -- but my inner judge was accusing me of not passing the baton quickly enough; of not being self-effacing enough.
So I was in a bit of a blue funk as I stumbled down the stairs to feed the dog and grab my coffee. Thank God (and Byron Brown) for my readings in Soul Without Shame this morning, which did not allow me to wallow in self-doubt but encouraged me instead to look more closely at the situation. Because it wasn't until I spent some time looking at the way the evening was structured that I began to understand that I had no choice but to step onto the stage from time to time. And upon closer examination it looks like I didn't actually overstep myself; my soliloquys were reasonably brief and to the point. It's more that I just felt really exposed and uncomfortable talking to a group of strangers about such personal topics as my work as a photographer, my decision to go to grad school, my stage roles, and my obsession with color -- primarily because I'm ... well ... shy.
Once I realized that was the root of the problem, I could pat that shy child on the back and shush the judge a bit, and now I can feel a gentle easing of that sort of inner compression that occurs when the judge is on a roll. But it takes work: she's so loud and accusatory I find myself wanting to crawl under a rock until she goes away. Which is good to notice, because her voice is terribly familiar, and not, I suspect, a voice that deserves the authority I've given her.
This week my job is to notice all the judgments -- both internal and external -- I feel; to just pay attention to them, to explore them as I did this morning's spate of vituperation -- and to find ways to respond to them with courage, energy, presence, heightened awareness -- all those responses that should be supporting us when we are under attack. Whatever you may think about those words -- judgment and attack -- it's clear they elicit different responses, and that the responses to judgment have been disabling me for years. So surely it will be worth my time to be more conscious about listening and evaluating.
Hmm. It should be an interesting week...