October 2, 2016

Why I Kiss my Taskmaster & Cuddle with my Critic.

Mike Lay/ Flickr

How Humor Ended my Duel with Duality.

As a preteen, I jumped on a mini trampoline with ankle weights singing along with Madonna doing my best to skip as many meals as possible. Throughout high school, I avoided fats and rated myself every day, awarding myself a star only if I’d succeeded in losing weight, a grim straight-mouthed face for staying the same, and a sad face if I ate too much or exercised too little.

The obsession used language of health and high performance, but was really a deep dark fear that if I didn’t stay in shape, I’d be unlovable—and if unlovable, ultimately destitute and alone.

There was never evidence for the threats posed by my oh-so-clever Critic and grueling Taskmaster, yet I marched to their orders just the same. Though I graduated with honors from UC Berkeley, moved to Italy, married a man named Love and had two beautiful healthy sons, I was ever discontent. Until Humor showed me how to include rather than duel with my contradictions (such as a desire to be both independent and taken care of). I didn’t have a chance to enjoy my achievements, rest in grace, or trust innate goodness.

Of course the perfectionist tendencies were not exclusive to my obsession with “optimal health;” they also leaked into my relationships and work life. The flip sides of the Critic and Taskmaster were Idealism and Ambition. These would have me believe that if I could find my thing and perform well enough in matters of health, spirituality, marriage, parenting and career, then I would finally live happily ever after. This next greatest thing would have to be “it.” I’d try really hard for a while, even gain some ground, convince myself it was “working,” only to find fault with my effort, give up and move on to try something or somebody new.

When I was a mother of two toddlers living 10,000 miles from my home culture and family, I came to believe that I would find everlasting happiness with another man, returning to my home country and working for my alma mater. After the enormous tasks of moving back to California, achieving a job and securing a place in a good school district for our sons, I outed myself to my husband about loving another man. The Critic/Idealist told me that if I was chanting Sat Nam—truth is my identity—every day in my yoga practice, I had to tell the truth. As a result, I lost my precious three- and five-year-old sons for eight months in an international child custody battle in which I was accused of being an unfit mother.

Whew, what a painful learning crucible! Yes, I did have those precious boys returned to me, and even reconciled with their father for five years. And, honestly, I had some of my best laughs ever in the midst of it all.

I’ve since learned that the only person with whom I need be 100 percent transparent is myself, though the pull to tell all and feel shady if I don’t still tugs. Telling the unfiltered truth of my experience is often not necessary, kind or useful for cultivating authentic connection, one of my highest values. Nor does it contribute to freedom, perhaps my highest value of all. It’s a dance every day to discern what I actually need to do and say in order to live a life of integrity and deep connection.

So what does this have to do with kissing Taskmaster and cuddling with Critic? Until I recognized that this duo was showing up to get my attention, to be included and have their brilliance recognized, even respected, I could not grow beyond their games and hooks. They seduced me into believing them every time, hence outing myself in a self-destructive way to my husband, hence many decisions I made in blind collusion with shadow.

Humor crept in to dissolve the duel when I began to dialogue with all my parts in writing and meditation. I now give the choir of often contradictory opinions full voice before I follow or dismiss them. As a comedy, they are quite hilarious!

I cannot overemphasize the benefits of giving yourself spaciousness to be with and perhaps even learn to laugh about the often messy and inconvenient all that arises. Yes, welcome the wildly unpleasant emotions and outbursts with dramatic flair. Be sure to inquire about their innocent intentions. Rather than requiring much time or effort, this is a practice of pivoting perspective, of seeing all through a smiling heart.

When filtered through the heart, humor and grace reveal themselves behind relentless worry. Taskmaster is all for my high ambition to be of great service to people and planet as a human connection engineer. Critic has much to show about the heart’s capacity to love self and others despite imperfections.

I still mess up. I still set higher goals and intentions for myself than I can meet. I still wrestle with paradoxes such as desiring both freedom and security.

Yet, now I know in my bones that it’s okay. With laughter as filter, fumbling and faltering, and even falling flat on my face or unintentionally tripping another person all have their part in the grand dance.


Author: Karyn Amore

Image: Mike Lay/Flickr

Editor: Toby Israel


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