This is the last line in the movie 'The Devil's Advocate'. The devil, getting the last word in, as always, illustrating over and over again, how much the ego craves and cannot resist, adulation.
If ever there was a cause of suffering, vanity would be it. During the week, I was reading the blog of someone - who shall remain nameless - but who's work I greatly admire and from whom, I have learned and continue to learn, a great deal.
As I was reading her words, I felt myself slip into the all too familiar spiral of unworthiness. Features of which are a desperate sense of futility and despair. Insecurity. Inferiority. Envy.
Next thing I knew, I found myself adrift once again, in a hopeless sea of tears. There I was, sitting at my kitchen table, awash with anger and injustice and thinking "What's the fucking point, if I'm not her?"
I reckon it took all of maybe 300 words, written by someone I have never even met, to both motivate and devastate me. I'm embarrassed to even admit this Pilgrim, but it's the truth.
I. Was. In. Tears.
Now, I've invested enough in myself to know, that what had just happened, was a rapid sequence of my most destructive automatic mental habits: projection, assumption, judgement and of course, comparison.
Instead of appreciating what a wonderful piece of work, I had the privilege of bearing witness to and how deeply I admire and am inspired by same, I fell head first down the old familiar, staircase of shame. And with every step, another violent blow to the ego who's vanity cannot cope with the identity crisis that is: 'she is brilliant.... and I'm not her'.
When I awoke to what I was doing, I noticed how far into the abyss my mind had taken me. It wasn't even about the writing anymore! Immediately, I had attributed to this woman, better hair, skin, weight, confidence, poise. She had more intelligence, motivation, energy, money. I gave her the best husband and most interesting of friends. I even bestowed upon her, better weather. I mean, come on!
I don't know any of this to be true. I know nothing of her life. None of it. I don't even know what this woman looks like from the neck down. Does she even have legs? I have yet to see proof and still, I have made her a thousand times, 'better than me'.
And then, just for added drama I concluded 'What's the fucking point? This is hopeless and I am so fucked and omg...*panic attack*
Did I ever mention how exciting it is to be me? Yep. Fuck Tayto Park lads, it's rollercoaster central, right here.
Anyway, fast forward a couple of days, I was working in my altered book journal and interestingly, who did I chose, only Marilyn, as my muse. The ultimate projection of female desirability.
Unconsciously, I chose black to frame the space around my lady and the words that came to me were 'I am not her'. I wrote it over and over again:
'I am not her'.
'I am not her'.
'I am not her'.
'I am not HERE'.
And it's what I needed to do. To acknowledge, make concrete and honour my knowing, that projection is futile. To idolise, idealise and assume is not only damaging, it is false and unkind, because it's untrue.
The truth about Marilyn, was Norma Jean. And what we know now, is that being 'Marilyn' was not all it was cracked up to be. Certainly not for her and in the end, not for humanity at large either. Same can be said for Amy Winehouse, Robin Williams, Chris Cornell, Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, Chester Bennington, my dear friend's brother and so many more around whom, blackness frames the space.
I know how to make blackness, frame my space and futility will do it, every time.
Beware the thought that 'over there', is better. That having 'her intelligence', 'her money', 'his talent' or 'their lifestyle', is what's standing between you and your place of peace.
What's standing between you and peace, is anything but peaceful. You know that. I know that.
What we're doing when comparing ourselves to others, is that we are leaving ourselves and this is a devastating loss. Not only are we bereaved of ourselves, but in the process, we bereave the world of what only you can bring.
Projection of Ideals, comparison to and attributions of worth on 'other', is my own personal portal to despair. It's a trick of an ego, tormented by the fear that I cannot live up to it's vanity.
And it's true. I can't. What a relief.
Thank you vanity, for being my teacher. For serving up your platters of envy. For showing me how heavily you have invested in me, feeling bad about me; who I'm not, where I'm not, what I'm not; doing, creating, earning, weighing.
Thank you vanity for putting in my path, the brilliant humans, who's greatness, inspire me so. Thank you for projecting onto them, the qualities, to which I aspire. Thank you vanity, for placing 'them' above me.
Vanity, you have created a hierarchy of worth, an unconscious gremlin of fear that scathes at me: "unless you make yourself worthy of a place at the table, you will be that bottom feeder. A parasite, for life."
Thank you for the suffering, which trips the switch; short circuits the illusion and brings me back to my senses. Here, in the salt of my tears and hot of my mess, I am realigned with my one true and right path in life.
That, of recovery. Truth. Sanity.
This week, a daily reflection from Melody Beattie's 'language of Letting Go' reads:
"People may have things to teach us. They may have more information than we have, and may appear more confident or forceful than we feel. But we are equals."
We are equals. Vanity, is not believing that. Sanity, is. May I be restored.
Always, Amanda. xx
*If you're interested in Altered Book Journaling, I have a free online class coming up, here.