I remember when The Perks of Being a Wallflower came out. I was working in bookstores at the time and kept hearing how good it was. I never read it. Now the movie is coming out. This book was very important to a good friend of mine, and it’s thanks to her that this is even on my radar again. One of the most famous quotes from the book is “We accept the love we think we deserve.” I was thinking about this quote in meditation yesterday, thinking first about how it relates to my good friend, and then about how it applies to me.
I think we – humans, you and me – accept the love we think we deserve. I’ve often wondered if my attraction to people younger than myself is because of my easy-going personality and youthful spirit, or because I don’t take myself seriously. How could I have anything in common with someone who has a career, or owns a house, or made a million dollars by the time they’re forty?? I think I never looked for a Grown Up, because I never saw myself as one.
But the love and acceptance doesn’t just apply to romantic partners. It applies to EVERYTHING. What kind of friends do you think you deserve? Are you hanging out with “losers” (my definition: people who have no ambition or dreams, aren’t interested in growing, unwilling to do The Work, and/or accept responsibility for their life)? Maybe your friends reflect your own fears. Do you have weak boundaries, let others take advantage of you? I think we accept bad boundaries because we don’t see the value in our own boundaries, or fear that we’ll be unlovable if we expect better behaviour from others.
We also accept the God/s we think we deserve. Once I got past thinking about my relationships, I realized that this applies to my spiritual life too. I fear the gods won’t show up…. and they don’t (occasionally they have, but not regularly). It’s not so much because I’m ‘doing it wrong,’ but because I think I’m doing it wrong, that I’m not enough, that I ought to try harder, that it should be hard work.
I never used to think I was an ambitious person. I have never wanted to be a doctor or lawyer. In fact, I’ve never had a traditional career ambition in my life. But I am ambitious – I work hard at everything I do. I expect excellence from myself. Yet deep down I fear that I’m just overcompensating for being Less Than, Not Enough, Unworthy. And so I accept a weaker practice, I accept people and relationships (even with divinities) that don’t always show up; by taking myself so seriously I actually don’t take myself seriously enough. I expect it to be hard, and upon reflection I see that I continually choose people who are hard work – and traditions that are demanding as well. This has many rewards, but also lots of challenges, ones I wasn’t aware I was choosing.
One of the things I’ve learned from starting My Own Ashram project is how a simple yet dedicated practice can transform my spiritual experience. I don’t have to overdo things nor be perfect; I don’t have to take myself so seriously that I lose the honesty and reality of where I’m actually at on any given day. By showing up every day in some form or another, I am acknowledging my dedication to myself, to my family and to my gods. I’m taking myself seriously and coming to realize that I deserve a lot more. I’m ready to accept a deeper relationship with the world around me.
I’m starting to see that I deserve more. Oh, I’m still really uncomfortable with that word: deserve. I wonder if it’s from my time in Christianity – in which all things are absolutely unworthy, undeserving. I’m ready to shed that and try on for size what it feels like to deserve more. I’m ready to accept a deeper a love.