A former mean girl ex­plains how med­i­ta­tion made her change her ways. MED­I­TA­TION

Kate Carraway shares how med­i­ta­tion tem­pered her mean-girl ways.

Fashion (Canada) - - Contents -

There are two kinds of peo­ple in the world,” says any­one who thinks they’ve made an in­ci­sive, sin­gu­lar ob­ser­va­tion about hu­man­ity at large. Here’s mine: There are peo­ple who stay fun­da­men­tally the same, and there are peo­ple who change.

I’m pretty sure about this be­cause I’m tight with peo­ple I’ve known from the get-go whose emails from yes­ter­day could have been writ­ten in 2007. Then there are other peo­ple who show up on Face­book with new names, faces or iden­ti­ties that ren­der them un­rec­og­niz­able to who­ever sat be­side them in home­room.

I am, as Joan Did­ion ad­vised, on “nod­ding terms” with who I used to be, but I’m a changer. I don’t think one way is bet­ter than the other, but, for me, trans­for­ma­tion has al­ways been my sal­va­tion.

A for­mal doc­u­ment is FedExed to girls on their 11th birth­day, no­ti­fy­ing them that ado­les­cence will trans­mo­grify their fun and dis­cov­ery of life into some­thing else. (This was be­fore Tum­blr made hav­ing “feel­ings” OK.) I was con­fused, some­times crushed, when, as an ex­citable, cu­ri­ous kid, my in­ter­est in know­ing ev­ery­thing and say­ing any­thing was sud­denly con­sid­ered weird or rude—and def­i­nitely bad. The heart beat­ing un­der my over­alls was as in­no­cent as ev­ery­one else’s, but I could tell I was now be­ing re­ceived as some kind of prob­lem. In­stead of in­ter­nal­iz­ing the mes­sage to shut up, I pushed against it—hard. I also re­mem­ber feel­ing tiny, in pain and aware that some­how I had to sur­vive.

Af­ter that, I was kind of a bitch. Not all the time, and not with ev­ery­one, but I eye-rolled my way through high school and most of my 20s, tak­ing on the of­fen­sive-as-de­fen­sive pose of a mean girl. I wasn’t the Regina Ge­orge edi­tion that uses clique war­fare. My tar­gets were the try-hards who didn’t know enough to at least pre­tend to be cool. I felt con­tempt for their in­se­cu­rity.

Ev­ery­one’s mem­ory of their high-school self in­cludes some his­tor­i­cal re­vi­sion­ism, but I don’t think I ac­tu­ally meant to be “mean.” I wanted a laugh; I wanted to be right. I was bored, and rest­less, and I thought that that was how ev­ery­one rolled. What kills me now is that I wasn’t ma­ture enough to act right. I wish I had un­der­stood, long be­fore “We Should All Be Fem­i­nists” T-shirts be­came a thing, that what I was sup­posed to do and say, not do and not say, had been de­cided by a pa­tri­ar­chal cul­ture and shouldn’t ap­ply to me—or any­one.

I was still, of course, a be­yond sen­si­tive, highly emo­tional book nerd—which is, coun­ter­in­tu­itively, op­ti­mal raw ma­te­rial for be­com­ing a short-term bitch. Like other mean girls, I was mostly us­ing the ice to pro­tect my in­sides, which I knew were softer than peanut but­ter M&M’S in a hot car. I turned my em­pa­thy against it­self: Be­ing “nice” felt re­gres­sive and weak—what girls who wanted to please peo­ple aimed for. I wanted to be sleek, sharp and above it all—above the de­mand to be nice and above the peo­ple who went along with it.

A trans­for­ma­tion based on fear and fu­elled by ado­les­cent anx­i­ety can’t, and shouldn’t, last. While I was slow-rolling to­ward 30, a se­ries of small, spe­cific mo­ments con­firmed that I wasn’t liv­ing up to my re­spon­si­bil­i­ties or in the di­rec­tion of my values. I started to feel em­bar­rassed when­ever I was part of friend drama or gos­sip—or any other bitch be­hav­iour that cooks in fear. One day, in my nat­u­ral habi­tat of sit­ting around riff­ing on pop cul­ture with a group of peo­ple where cyn­i­cism and crit­i­cism was the shared lan­guage, I re­al­ized that I had been us­ing my best qual­i­ties—good taste, quick mind, so­cial ease and ca­pac­ity for de­light—in the ser­vice of neg­a­tiv­ity. I walked out of the con­ver­sa­tion, the room and the at­ti­tude.

I also knew by then that, like all women, I have ac­cess to enor­mous, in­her­ent power and started to see how I’d been us­ing it wrong— de­con­struct­ing with­out con­struct­ing any­thing bet­ter in its place. My power is a lot about how my won­der and gen­uine in­ter­est in peo­ple let me sort of see them and make them feel some­thing: I send friends on blind dates with guys they end up mar­ry­ing; I rec­om­mend a book that some­one tells me changed their life; I in­tro­duce a col­league to their next men­tor. In­stead of ca­su­ally dis­man­tling their Face­book post or cock­tail con­ver­sa­tion, I wanted to flex my po­ten­tial as a con­nec­tor, wran­gler, lis­tener, ad­viser and fixer—as some­one whose ur­gent burst­ing-open­ness could be warm and use­ful.

I started ob­sess­ing about my life and my choices and read a lot of bad self-help books, but my en­ergy was still go­ing off like am­a­teur fire­works: I would spend a day start­ing things (recipes, laun­dry) but never fin­ish­ing them; I made “some­day” plans with no plan to do them; I was all ideas with no mo­men­tum. In my first ses­sion with my lat­est ther­a­pist, she said, “You’re fast” (and it wasn’t meant as a com­pli­ment). “Fast” was my de­fault; it got me ev­ery­where I wanted to go, but it was slow­ing me down. I started med­i­tat­ing a lit­tle, be­cause that’s what ev­ery­one said to do, at first fol­low­ing on­line in­struc­tions for mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion and then us­ing an app called Calm. Re­al­iz­ing—af­ter much silent, in­fu­ri­at­ing sit­ting—that the thrum­ming anx­i­ety was not the same as in­tel­li­gence or en­ergy and the fast­ness was not “me” at all but a mis­ap­pli­ca­tion of me made me a for­ever med­i­ta­tor.

Med­i­ta­tion to ad­dress one’s anx­i­ety should be a ubiq­ui­tous so­lu­tion (or, at least, part of a so­lu­tion). The ben­e­fits of mind­ful­ness med­i­ta­tion will re­veal them­selves to any­one who breaks their phone and for two days is as bliss­fully un­en­cum­bered as Kim Kar­dashian wan­der­ing the empty streets of Cleve­land. Even a tem­po­rary or sym­bolic break from ac­tive dis­trac­tion will re­veal what daily med­i­ta­tion makes pos­si­ble.

When I started med­i­tat­ing twice a day for at least 20 min­utes, I be­came in and “of” the mo­ment, ap­pre­cia­tive of it in­stead of us­ing it to make some­thing hap­pen. Even­tu­ally I re­al­ized I was mov­ing through more of my days with some­thing close to in­ten­tion—ac­tu­ally do­ing the things I needed to do in­stead of think­ing end­lessly and about ev­ery­thing all the time. One of my best friends de­scribed my new vibe as “peace­ful”—an ac­tual im­pos­si­bil­ity for me a few years ago.

Now, I don’t say any­thing I wouldn’t say to any­one’s face and rarely have an oc­ca­sion to apol­o­gize. I don’t feel any guilt, em­bar­rass­ment or mega urge to be right or crit­i­cal or with­hold­ing. I’m cool just be­ing.

I’m a changer, so I’ll surely trans­form again, but med­i­tat­ing en­sures that what­ever hap­pens next is go­ing to hap­pen bet­ter.

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