What’s on the inside?

Photo above by Julia Joppien on Unsplash

I seesaw.

That’s a nice way of saying that I’m a terrible hypocrite.

I bike and recycle and definitely don’t eat two kilograms of meat a week, but then I book a holiday overseas and release more carbon into the air in four hours than my annual allowance, if I want to play my part in stopping the climate crisis.

I profess that the things that matter most are friendship and love and equitable justice, and spend hours of my evenings staring at a screen, contemplating spending thousands of dollars on another screen.

I dread the emotional labour of a counselling session. I know it’s the journey, not the destination that matters. Every session, I still push to find the right answer. Even if there’s just an answer, that’s easier than saying “I don’t know“. I keep thinking that the safety net of knowing will quieten the voice inside, surely.

I want to be fit, but I still have a tempestuous, clunky relationship with running. I haven’t put on my shoes in two months.

I say yes to things I don’t want to do, people I don’t want to see, because I’m more worried of others’ opinions than my own hauora (health, wellbeing).

I chase longer holidays, a smarter bookshelf, bigger achievements, more money, meanwhile thinking and saying to friends that “it’s what’s on the inside that counts”.

This bit from Taylor Gahm in his TEDxHouston talk ‘The Gift of Inadequacy’ sums my hypocrisy up beautifully.

“I’d rather be the good-looking guy that says, ‘Beauty’s only skin deep’.

“I want to be the accomplished artist who says, ‘Just daring enough to put yourself out there, not getting recognised – that’s what matters.’

“I want to be the guy who has it all so I can tell everyone else that life is about more than having it all.

He’s absolutely right.

Is just noticing this enough? What do I do with all these words? Must I lament my hypocrisy publicly to feel like I’m starting to shed it? How do we change from what we are into what we want to become?

Will I be able to answer myself? Is this a lifetime’s work?

How do I start?

Who else is thinking about this?

When I feel like a fake, frustrated hypocrite, what seems to help (aside from the self-indulgent navel gazing) is listening to people who I love and respect, who are comfortable living differently to me, because they’ve found answers in places I haven’t yet looked.

The ones who turn up to dinner with holes in their shirt and grease on their face. They captivate me with the stories they tell. They are comfortable enough in our relationship that they don’t offer to “bring something” for tea either. They know that the meal is a gift to be received; there is no social debt that needs to be repaid. They can truly accept the gift.

These “angels in disguise” ask interesting questions.

They help me to look up from the minutiae of my own life, and wonder about how we could be better: as a planet, as a city, as consumers, as the 1%.

They don’t really care what other people think of them. They show me a different way forward, without telling me what to do.

It makes me think that one day, I could get there too.

And then arms are stretched and mugs are drained and shoes are put back on, and I think, “it would have been lovely if you’d offered to do that big stack of dishes.”

I can’t see that in the midst of what I profess to want, I’ve been swallowed by my selfishness. My time was part of the gift they’ve gratefully received. I’ve got to learn to give it.

Like I said, hypocrite.

Noticing is the first step. But what does putting the unknown into action look like? That’s what this space is for. Stay tuned as I try and learn what I can.

“Perhaps the secret of living well is not in having all the answers, but in pursuing unanswerable questions in good company.”

-Rachel Naomi Remen