The moment of deciding to go to bed at night brings about mixed feelings for me. On the one hand I’m looking forward to throwing off my day clothes that are filled with the vibes of work and sneaking into the fresh clean sheets to let my mind dissolve into the black nothingness of the night. And on the other hand there is always the question: “Am I grounded enough, will I be able to sleep?”
For so many years I have been living my life, dependent on the outcome of my actions. I always had to feel-good-about what I was doing or what I was not doing. I needed to go on working on things until I would reach that state of feeling-good-about-myself. Or reach that mood by totally approving of the behavior I displayed, always demanding from myself to do the right thing–so that I wouldn’t run the risk of being blamed when things were to turn nasty.
As a musician I used to practice so long and so hard to avoid that my solos could come out wrong. As a mom I made sure that everything in the house would be taken care of so that there were no unexpected obstacles in achieving my goal to feel-good-about-myself. I had no idea that this feeling-good-about-myself was the closest I could get to experiencing myself. It was a feeling of being okay and having lived up to the expectations. Little did I know that later on I would discover that this feeling was all about approval; it was all about my parents approving of me and not rejecting me.
Feeling-good-about-myself meant that if my mother would have known what I just achieved or how well I just behaved she would not have looked at me with those eyes full of pain and reproach that say to me: “what are you doing to me? Why do you make my life so hard, why can’t you just be a happy person? Why can’t you just bring in joy and happiness, always make me feel good and never have a problem?”
“Why can’t you just be the way I need you to be, so I can feel good about myself? Why can’t you just sleep well, so that in the morning I don’t see your pale face that screams: I’ve failed again, I haven’t lived up to your conditions, mama. I am sorry I fail you all the time?”
It’s so many years later now. I still have a hard time getting used to the idea that, tomorrow, I don’t need to earn a feel-good-about-myself as a Substitute for sensing myself, because I AM already. I don’t need a Substitute Sense of Self, I have a real sense of myself, a restored sense-of-self!
It is a huge change in my life but (for now) I have to keep reinforcing this new way of looking at myself and sensing myself. I need to keep awareness of the fact that I now am able to actively sense myself and that I, therefore, don’t need a substitute to experience myself, that I don’t need to earn my right of existence by doing things optimally to be able to end up feeling-good-about-myself, which is nothing more than a substitute for my parent’s approval. In order to successfully implement this new mindset I need to correct myself continuously and realize that I don’t need to do things perfectly, following the criteria of my mother, because proving-that-I-can is no longer my (hidden) goal.
I have to repeat it over and over again in order to make sure that I can sleep. Sleep now is no longer an achievement. I sleep for myself, only for myself, not to feel-good-about-myself as a (virtual) parental approval.