Against All Odds
It happened on the dance floor of my eighth grade cotillion. My boyfriend of six months broke up with me and it went down like this. We slow danced as Phil Collins pledged his love in “Against All Odds”. The lights were dimmed save for the sparkle of the rotating mirrored globe on the ceiling casting blue flecks across the hopeful face of my beau. And then he said it,
“When are we gonna go to 3rd base?”
“Umm neVER!” I blurted. At thirteen I knew that we’d of course be together forever, but the thought of progressing our physical relationship past french-kissing and holding hands hadn’t infiltrated my naivety.
“Then I need to break up with you.” he said flatly and with that dislodged from our slowdance embrace and walked away into the cavernous dark stretch of the dancehall.
His words short-circuited my brain, leaving me in a state of complete incomprehension. He may as well have spoken Swahili to me. For weeks after my parents referred to him as “Mr. Boo-hoo” because every time I heard his name, saw him, heard a song, ate a food, saw a commercial which reminded me of our unrequited love, I broke out into a desperate sob.
Here’s the kicker. I, like many of the girls my age, happened to be taller than our male counterparts. In fact at age thirteen I was a towering 5’8″ compared to his 5’5″. Therefore I immediately decided that he broke it off with me, not because he was a typical testosterone-fueled adolescent boy who wanted to just get to third base, but that I was an overgrown freak who would never again have another boyfriend because of my vertiginous height. The fact that I had just won a prized place on the dance team or had just booked my very first runway show due to my longitude didn’t matter at all. All was lost on the rejection I took on and made my own.
Rejection is one of those life experiences which can make us stronger or weaken us based on our perspective. The verb ‘reject’ means: to refuse to hear, receive, or admit. Think about that for a moment. Think about another person, refusing to hear you, refusing to receive from you, refusing to admit you. Sounds like a pretty closed person, right? So why do we so often own it and wear it around like someone else’s coat? It’s as if we’re saying to the person, “Oh, I see you’re wearing some funky, narrow-minded imprint that is making you a closed person. Here, let me take that off your shoulders and wear it around for you awhile so you can feel better about yourself.”
We do this all the time! And it eventually inhibits us from being open and in our hearts. How many times have you wanted to help a stranger, but didn’t because you thought you’d seem awkward or weird? How many times have you wanted to express your heart to a friend or lover, but didn’t because you were afraid of what they would say or do? How many times have you not applied for that promotion or job because, even though you knew you were qualified, you feared being turned down? This is how our fear of rejection informs us.
Our fear of rejection lies within a primal instinct. If we’re rejected from our mother in infancy then our very own survival is impacted. This feeds into our makeup and when we’re triggered it’s the undercurrent of our behavior.
Rejection is part of life. We’ve all rejected someone or something countless times. It’s an inherent filtering system for self-preservation. It’s why I’d politely decline a plate of habanero peppers, or why I’d say no to an opportunity to jump off a 20-story building sans the parachute, or why I’d say no to a job offer at the DMV (I mean c’mon..it’s bad enough when we have to sit there for half a day, but could you imagine spending 40 hours of your week in that dull, fluorescent hole?).
So we’ve established that rejection is a necessity in certain instances. But how do we reckon with someone like Mr. Boo-hoo? Do we cast blame or shout horrible names at him? Do we sulk away and wear that nappy old coat of his? This is what we do when we’re not properly equipped in life. We either project or take it on, rather than truly looking at and speaking what’s true.
Here’s the truth mantra: “I’m not going to attach myself to someone else’s incapacity.”
I literally heard this message one day heralded down from one of my angels while I was journaling years ago at Dolores Park Cafe. But I wasn’t journaling about Mr. Boo-hoo of eighth grade..nor any of my other Mr. Boo-hoos of late. I was journaling about family and friends and experiences and navigating the why’s of certain behaviors which had formed my own beliefs and patterns.
As I sat daydreaming looking out at the muted spangle of the morning when this message hit me so clearly and it was so truthful, and compassionate.
If someone is incapable of hearing, admitting, receiving you, why would you take that on? Why would you attach yourself to their incapacity and be so intent on wearing it around? In addition, we know that there is most likely something in their own makeup which is inhibiting them from being open. So why would we project our pain on to them when they clearly have enough of their own?
“I’m not going to attach myself to someone else’s incapacity.”
When we look at what’s true, we acknowledge the circumstance and persons involved and sift out the story. By simply repeating this mantra to ourselves we’re able to shift out of the stories which mire us and begin to let it go.
Mr. Boo-hoo didn’t break up with me because I was an overgrown freak.
Your rabid boss didn’t scream at you because you were underachieving.
The crotchety old lady didn’t yell at the boyscout trying to help her cross the street because he was a weirdo
And the child doesn’t get abused because they were a bad kid.
These are examples of how we take rejection on and allow the fear of it to infiltrate our lives and flatten our resilience. So the next time you think about a Mr. or Ms. Boo-hoo in your life, or a stranger who looked at you like you had two heads, or a even family member who is unloading their malarkey on you, I want you to do three things:
1. Stand back and take a good look at yourself
2. Stand back and take a good look at the other person
3. Find the truth, and simply say, “I’m not going to attach myself to someone else’s incapacity.”
Notice how that light within you shines a bit brighter afterwards.