To Thine Own Self Be True...But First, Know Thyself - Part Deux (an interlude)
Updated: Dec 2, 2020
That whole chapter and verse I went into about the deep emotional archeological dig I embarked on in pursuit of knowing myself on a deeper level? Yeah, pretty sure I went about the whole thing ass-backward.
I started by looking at myself in the mirror. Hard. Then I took a scalpel and filleted myself right down the middle to expose and dissect the good, bad and ugly. I picked at some scabs and healed some others, noticed some scars not previously visible to my mind’s eye, and dug out some new, bloody trenches that would need attention – some a slow saline drip and some serious triage. All metaphorically speaking of course - you know how I love ‘em so - unless you count as a scar the tattoo ink which truth be told serves as both a salve and a salvo.
To be sure, my journey was borne out of necessity, and as my esteemed therapist pointed out in the middle of the shitstorm that had become my life – out of crisis, rapid change is bred. A silver lining, I suppose. And I have to remember that it is own unique journey which as I’m learning unfolds exactly as it should.
I do believe that learning more about who and what you are – and why – is an exercise worth undertaking no matter how difficult. It’s so important for you, for those you love and who love you, and the ripple effect we each have on the world around us. There are so many ways to go about it, and I’m no counselor or therapist, so I’m certainly not going to advocate for any particular way. It’s YOUR journey after all. But here’s some food for thought:
Ask first “Who Am I?” - what makes up the essence of you – what is most important to you, what your values are, what you want to bring to your relationships and what you seek from relationships, where your faith lies (or not), and what your goals and aspirations are – whether spiritual, intellectual, interpersonal, professional, or all of the above. Then set about looking into your thoughts, words, deeds and actions and examining, with a critical but compassionate eye, whether those things are in alignment with the core of who you are. Some things most certainly will be. Celebrate and magnify those qualities. Undoubtedly, however, some things will not be because none of us is, or will ever, be perfect. Where an adjustment is needed, then make it. It doesn’t have to deep, messy and painful, and it certainly doesn’t have to happen overnight. Unless you determine that you are in fact a real asshat. Then you probably need to go ahead break out the medical kit and start the diagnostics stat! For the other 99%, it can be a “one foot in front of the other” process where you’ll end up still being you, just an evolved, more conscientious version.
If I’d have approached it this way, it might have been a whole lot less painful and a whole lot more productive. Perhaps it would have been more like going up, and down, the hill holding Jack’s little hand rather than trekking up Machu Picchu - a simpler, cleaner route than the circuitous one I took to having a deeper understanding of “Who I Am”. It may seem elementary, but it wasn’t to me in the fog of my internal war.
So, there I was, feeling pretty good about myself. I had tackled that looking inward shit with some serious gusto. I crowed about my evolution – loudly and often to (i) myself, (ii) my mother in Heaven, (iv) God, and (iv) the few, actual living people I had trusted to share in my journey and thought would champion my growth. I’m beyond grateful that my sister and my dear friend have remained steadfastly at my side, whether I was standing up straight or hunched over in heaving sobs. I felt like I’d hiked up a mountain, finally reached a plateau from which I could rest a bit, go on some more excursions and then return again for respite. I knew it wasn’t over, but I hoped (still do) that I had launched an emotional lifestyle change that wouldn’t be a fad diet for the feeling and reacting parts of my brain – lose 10 pounds of emotional baggage only to gain back 15 by unearthing more crap buried beneath the surface. Maybe less South Beach and more Noom?
One of the things I may have mentioned (or you may have noticed) is that I can be a bit compulsive. Some might say obsessive. Others might say addictive personality. Eh, pah-TAY-toe – pah-TAH-toe – musings for another day... In any event, my Netflix binging fell away, and in its place landed the wide world of podcasts. While Netflixing served only as an escape valve (there aren’t many bingeable series I haven’t started and finished, and Friends was so heavily in rotation I can recite pretty much every line with the exception of the ones around the Joey/Rachel relationship - ugh), my podcast subscriptions include several that I hope will keep my emotional, intellectual and spiritual path moving forward and charged up. Don’t get me wrong, I’m also into the straight up ear candy, but mixed in with all things political and true crime are Dan Harris’s Ten Percent Happier and Deepak Chopra’s Infinite Potential. I also subscribe to Deepak’s Daily Breath – a short, daily mindfulness jump starter – usually between four and ten minutes.
One afternoon I was listening in the car, and Mr. Chopra was addressing a question he’d been asked: Why does it matter if I know who I am? Why does it matter when there is so much else bigger to worry about in today’s world? [Daily Breath - Essence: My Soul Profile - April 29, 2019]
He, in typical Deepak Choprak fashion, had a rather simple answer to the question.
“Seriously?” you ask.
Uhhhhh. No. It had to do with the interconnectedness of everything and everyone and all that jazz. Which I may agree, could be the ultimate point and the prize upon which to keep your eye. I am not far enough into my spiritual development to fully grasp the depth and intricacies of those concepts, much less speak or write articulately about them. Luckily for me (AND you), he focused instead in this episode on the question “Who Am I?”
Here’s what he said: “Let me ask you some questions and you can just write down or think of three words or three phrases in response to each question. And when we add up all those words, that’s your Soul Profile. It’s what creates meaning, context, relationship and story. Our life is a story.”
Well, that got my attention. I’d done all this bending and twisting and digging and hand wringing and laughing and crying – sometimes like a hyena on steroids. (If you’re wondering whether it was the laughing or the crying that was hyena-esque, the answer is yes. Sometimes in public, no less). Now recharged and full of piss and vinegar, I thought I could condense all those mental and emotional gymnastics into some simple words and phrases and have – shazaam!- a Soul Profile! The meaning of MY life! MY story!
These were the questions:
1. What are the happiest moments in your life?
2. What is your life purpose? If you had all the money in the world, and all the time in the world, how would you express your unique skills and talents and who would benefit?
3. What is going to be my contribution to the world at the end of my life? What is my contribution to my family, society and the world?
4. Who are my role models and mentors - in history, mythology, religion, culture and business? And why?
5. What do I contribute to my most important relationships? What do I do for them and what is expected in return?
6. What are my unique strengths and talents and who benefits from them?
7. What is my story? My back story, my present story and my future story?
Then he said, “When you put all these things together, that’s meaning, context, relationship and story – that’s your life. That’s your life as it plays itself out.” He inhaled deeply and exhaled audibly, as he does at the end of each episode, and that was it. Deepak out.
Da Fuck? I felt like I just got sucker-punched by that world-renowned mindfulness guru who champions thoughtful introspection and mindfulness with care and compassion!
I jest, of course. It was only his words, and it was only a little love tap, which were meant to be helpful and instructive – which is, after all, his life’s purpose. And he don’t know me (not a typo – sometimes my southern roots are at odds with my academic training and my NYC attitude and mindset – it’s anybody’s guess which will prevail at any given time).
Fortunately, I happened to be sitting at a red light because as Deepak blew out his breath I did too, but not with any meditative purpose. It felt as though the wind had been knocked out of me and I just put my head down on the steering wheel. I probably would have cried had I been able to. I didn’t think I could answer a single one of those questions (with the exception of a part answer to #4 – my mother). It was like I had turned into a mindless boulder and rolled right back down Mount Everest as if it had been George Mallory’s hand I’d been holding on the way up (Google it. Gnarly.).
I gathered myself up and moved on, probably because I was forced to by the red-faced, red-neck dude honking angrily behind me in his 1979 Ford pick-up. (No judgement – I gots more than a little redneck in me too).
When I got to a quiet place I decided to listen again, more closely this time. The second time, it registered that for several of the questions, such a #2, he had offered a bit of direction to narrow down their inherently broad nature and bring more focus. I got a pen and jotted down the questions on one side, intending to write my answers on the other. As they started to formulate in my mind, I quickly realized they were going to be some long-ass answers. My cocky self should have thought about this going in - I don’t do ANYTHING in short words or phrases. Brevity is not one of my strengths – and it didn’t require any deep dive into my psyche to discover that little nugget. Since he had admonished after almost every question to keep it to two or three words or phrases, I felt completely hog-tied.
Another thing that’s not a strength is keeping up with personal resolutions that require a consistent commitment. Having become a bit of a Deepak Dabbler – I had pledged to listen to Daily Breath each day. I mean, no excuse on this one - it’s usually under 10 minutes and slides easily into my short drive to the office. Thank goodness at that point I was (WAS! - still working on that commitment thing) still listening each morning because despite my frustration, I listened to the next episode. [Daily Breath - Essence: My Soul Profile - April 30, 2019]
In this episode, he shared his own Soul Profile. He started by answering a question he hadn’t asked in the previous one - “Who am I?” His answer was simple – for real this time. “I am Deepak Chopra,” he stated.
Seems like a pretty easy one, right? One would think so, but apparently I like to overcomplicate matters – not a criticism I’ve not heard, but c’mon - the answer is, uh, YOUR NAME. How does one overcomplicate that? Well, this is what immediately popped in my head:
1. Amy Bason
2. Amy Hubbard
3. Mack Hubbard
Well, shit. There’s THREE of me? A brief moment of panic set in that my emotional struggles were well beyond that of a pseudo-Desperate Housewife – do I now have to take on the massive undertaking of integrating my multiple personalities? And do each of them need their OWN Soul Profile? Dear Lord…
Good thing my hand took over before my head did because rather than grabbing for the phone and calling some kind of mental health crisis hotline and babbling on about my Deepak Dilemma, here’s what it reflexively wrote:
1. Amy Bason: wife, mother, sister, friend
2. Amy Hubbard: me
3. Mack Hubbard: writer, speaker, observationalist, and (sometimes) humorist
Holy. Light. Bulb.
Deepak continued by going through his own Soul Profile, answering each of the questions in two or three short words or phrases - which can be no easy task with his astounding curriculum vitae. This gave me a road map which, together with the simple act of tying my “names” to how I identify with key elements of my life, allowed the answers to flow more easily and clearly. It helped me sketch the outlines of what I see as my purposes in life, set me on a clear path to pursue my aspirations, and think about what I would like to leave behind as my footprint, even if it’s only a small one – the ripple effect and all.
I want to live in a way that is consistent with what I want my story to be. I have to work toward my life goals in order to leave a legacy that I am proud of. Life goals and legacy ambitions don’t have to be change-the-world lofty. There’s only so much room for the Ghandis, Oprahs, Obamas, Bonos and Steinmans in this world. My mother’s life goal was to be a wife and mother – a homemaker – which I would argue is actually an incredibly lofty goal. She was damn good at it, although I will admit I may not be exactly the best evidence of her success. And, on paper at least, which used to mean resumé but now I suppose means Linked In, I still look like I have my shit totally together. At least I would if I had an actual updated Linked In profile.
Another thing the Soul Profile exercise did was to help me identify some of the positive parts of who I am and/or strive to be, and to identify some of the ways I act and think in a way that are consistent with that. This is a particularly important one:
Some weeks before, I’d listened to an episode of Infinite Potential during which Deepak’s guest had proffered that the most important things that you can bring to a relationship are the five A’s - Attention, Acceptance, Appreciation, Affection, Affirmation. I had already made this evaluation with respect to my relationships with each of with my distinctly different kids, and I knew I was successful in four of those five aspects – and working hard on the fifth. I bring these into my other relationships as well, or at least I try to (some relationships are harder than others, to be sure) and to my approach to people in general. So, not only could I answer question #5 of the Soul Profile – I could do it in short words or phrases. Nailed it!
Some have posited the questions to me: Why are you doing this? You’re such a private person. How can you be okay with putting these things out there for all the world to read? Are you just excising some demons? Good gracious – they have confessional booths for that, you loon!
Well, the answers stem straight from Who I Am as revealed by my Soul Profile, in large part my responses to questions #2, #3 and #6.
For starters, nowhere appeared the word “lawyer”, which is what I have spent the last twenty plus years doing. Being a lawyer, whether a transactional one like me, or a litigator, takes up incredible amounts of emotional and intellectual energy. For me, this left no space to pursue what really wanted to do, and that is to write. A big part of me, the Mack part of me, identifies with being a writer and yet I spent almost no time making that a reality (several have asked where the “Mack” came from – I’ll share soon, but we’ll do that later. I’m working on brevity, people!). A great piece of advice I once heard from an established writer is to write what you know. And damnit, I know me.
I know who I am, and I want to speak about and write about my truth, openly and honestly. I want to connect with others who are on this roller coaster of life. The roller coaster may be a smooth ride like the ones at Six Flags or be one of those rickety ones at the state fair. It may be a kiddie ride with a couple of minor twists and turns or one that goes upside down and lets you dangle there for a minute with the blood rushing to your head. They all take you up, and they all take you down - sometimes it’s a short trek up with just a little dip down, and sometimes it’s a steep, steady climb with drop that bottoms out your stomach. Whether you laugh and throw your hands in the air with wild abandon or you clutch the safety bar and hang on for dear life, the key is that you have to stay on the ride once you’re on and see it through to the end. And, friends, we’re all already on the ride.
My hope is that by discovering more about who and what we are, and sharing it with others, we can connect simply as souls on a quest, that we can learn from each other, that we can share painful, aspirational, hopeful stories, and some of the funny life fails that we all have from time to time. To help others realize that we all messy masterpieces, and to remember that we are perfectly imperfect. To never strive for perfection, but to always keep striving and to stay on the ride.
So, that is why I do this. I’m evaluating this thing called life - albeit through the strange little lens of clichés, quotes and truisms. I’m writing about it – warts and all - although not anywhere close to doing so “in short words or phrases”.
I’m being true to myself. Which is the third and final part of this series coming next.
After that, I’ll lighten this shit up and take on a funny cliché. So hang with me. Deal?
"Who are you? Who are you? I am a walrus."
Anthony Michael Hall as Brian Johnson
– The Breakfast Club
Sidebar: I don’t know how many times I accidentally type “Who I Amy” – pretty sure we shouldn’t pull at THAT thread…