I'd grown attached to him since the day I realized he was there almost every time I turned around. It almost didn't matter where I went or what I was doing, he'd show up and make his presence known. And everyone that I introduced him to loved him and raved about him and invited him to come hang out again. My Spirit Animal was one popular guy.
And how could he not be? He was loyal-to-a-fault and had a hero complex. He would stick with things far longer than he should even if it meant irrational amounts of pain over something that wasn't his to deal with AND he always needed to be the one who was able to come in and save the day in any and every situation. My Spirit Animal had all of the energy, knew no boundaries, and was happiest doing all the things all the time.
But then one day, I turned around and I realized that he'd gone a little too far on a lot of things and was taking me with him. He'd stayed too long and exerted too much energy on things that couldn't be fixed and would never be able to be rescued. The pain that I was in because of unknowingly giving him too much freedom to run full speed chasing a solution and trying and save the day was causing me to resent the things I were loyal to and to hide myself from everyone so I didn't have the pressure to go save the day.
The pain was too great and so the kindest thing I could do was to put it out of its pain and misery and end it quickly. And so without much warning, bang, dead Spirit Animal.
I wondered what would happen next. He'd been with me for so long that I didn't know what would happen without him. There was an immediate void that I felt. A void that I didn't fill. When new situations popped up over the next few months, my default was to look for him to know what to do. But then I gradually regained control and started to rebuild how I chose to act and react.
I started to learn how to say no to things that were outside of my scope of responsibility and started to be okay sitting quietly not needing to run to the next event or the next crisis in search of approval or accolades. When I looked in the mirror, I no longer say us, I just saw me.
And each day that goes by, I am more and more comfortable with being me. Just me. I'm taking ownership for what I choose to do and who I choose to be. I don't need a crutch or some figment of my imagination to talk like I wanted to talk, look like I wanted to look, or to be free in ways that I'm nott. Instead, I'm working on doing those things for myself and having that be enough of a reason to do them.
I never valued myself enough back then. The reason I choose to do something had to be for the benefit of someone else so that I could receive the benefit of their approval. But now, I do things because I am enough. I do things that help me be better at being me, not at the expense of others, but to enhance what I can be for others when I am fully myself. But it is a process and I have only just begun.
I would love to be able to tell you that this sort of reflection is possible voluntarily and that it all happened when I got back from my New Years' surf trip to Costa Rica or from doing yoga in Montauk on a long weekend. But I would imagine that if you're anything like me, you've become happy enough with your delusions that until reality actually forces you to confront them with a brutality that only reality can bring, you will just go along thinking you're special, the exception to the rule, and that you can maintain indefinitely whatever self image makes you the happiest right here and now.
While it will be hard, I believe you can start to strip away some of those stories and the narratives that you have been pushing out into the world without having wait for an unexpected extreme set of circumstances. You can surround yourself with people who will mirror back to you your best self and not the sitcom character you've been told to play in your own life. You can find people committed to being that honest with themselves and with the world. Then we can all say RIP to all the misplaced energy in we've been wasting in our endless doing and reclaim that energy for simply Being.