Giving in to How Others Interpret Us

I was talking with a visitor to The Mesa the other day who was concerned about their spiritual path for this lifetime.  They felt unsure about what they were doing as their life’s work and wondering what they had come here to do.  They wanted to be doing something “more” than they were, but felt they had no idea what that was.  They were expecting something important, but to whom?

I remarked that some part of me had always known what I was here to do, having made elaborate plans for it on the other side.  I talked about having packed a spiritual “suitcase” with all the particulars I would need for this lifetime’s work, like how I’d look, my astrological makeup, the energy of my voice, and creative gifts, to name a few.  I had gotten derailed from where I was headed for a while in my youth, but something (my Soul) had helped me find my way because I could still hear it and chose to listen.

To make a point about my little “suitcase”, I found myself telling the visitor about the Mayans’ Tzolkin calendar cycle and how it was used to understand a new born child’s life path.  The system assigns a number “tone” from one to thirteen paired with one of 20 sun signs in sequence to each day, resulting in 260 distinct combinations of energy and spiritual significance.

I mentioned how each of those 260 permutations reflected spiritually significant patterns that the Maya had come to recognize.  They lived their lives in harmony with the energy of each day, and didn’t attempt to push past it to do something not supported by it.  I explained how they saw the energy of a baby’s day of birth as reflected by their Tzolkin “astrology” as an indication of that child’s chosen path in life.

A baby’s parents would review their child’s Tzolkin combination trusting that their child had chosen their entry point into the recurring cycle so as to use specific universal, cosmic, and creational energies (their “suitcase”) to complete their contribution to Mayan society and attain their maximum spiritual growth.  They respected and honored that choice and did what they could to support it.

If a son came into the world on a day that reflected warrior energy, for instance, his parents would make sure that he was trained in the art of war and didn’t encourage him to be a brick mason or a healer.  If their daughter was born on a day whose Tzolkin reflected spiritual devotion, she would be taken for training to serve in the temples, not to work in the fields or be a basket maker.

They would find the most competent teacher in their village to teach their child what they came to Earth to do.  They actively looked for and defended their offspring’s destiny and helped them to fulfill it.

As I told this little story to my singular audience, I was suddenly struck by how amazing it was that I have managed to live the creative and spiritual life I have.  It was stunning to me in that moment how my own parents had so grossly misread my very obvious gifts that I began to manifest at such a young age, and pushed me into doing so many things that were largely against my nature.  I guess they hadn’t checked my Tzolkin.

How could they have not realized what a great talent I had for working with my hands to make art and crafts of all kinds and not promoted it?  (“Oh my God,” they might have said, “look what he can do!  It’s amazing…  Our little boy is going to be an artist!  Let’s get him some art lessons, quick.”)  It was right there in front of them, but my gifts were somehow invisible to them.  They only saw what they wanted me to be and how I was failing at it.

In the past when I thought about my childhood and the abuse I received for doggedly pursuing my muse (I made things anyway), I would feel angry, sad, helpless, or victimized.  This time it was different.  I laughed out loud.  It was suddenly ridiculous to me that my parents could have possibly misread what I was here to do.  It was written all over me, but they were looking for something else; a weird and ill-defined sort of perfection.

Maybe I felt differently now because I was allowing myself to recognize more and more how much innate skill I actually had back then and how I developed that skill over time with hardly any instruction from others.  No one would or could teach me, so I taught myself.  What was changing for me was that I was disconnecting from my parents’ misjudgment of who and what I was.

I had always focused on how they had judged me so harshly, implying that I was stupid, incompetent, lazy, etc, but had just as much trouble as they did seeing what was overlooked—basically, most of my unique and good qualities.  I was springing free of their lack of insight about their own son and reveling in what I had still managed to be.

It felt glorious as I continued to talk about it.  I was feeling my great competency.  Not that I’m necessarily any kind of superhero or renaissance man, but that I’m really pretty good at a variety of things, some of which few people I have met have mastered.  It wasn’t a case of mistaken identity with my parents; not just confusion over what was simply an immature swan rather than ugly duckling.  My parents couldn’t tell an eagle from a ground hog, an artist and “old Soul” from a … well, whatever they vaguely thought I should be.  It was simply absurd and that allowed me to separate from the sorrow of it.

As I laughed, I recognized that what had been driving me crazy in my life was not being judged per se, but bothering to pay any attention to how other people interpreted me—what meaning they had assigned to who or what I was.  Even when I was a small boy, I knew they were wrong about me.  I just got hung up on the insistence of the interpretations.

People couldn’t find a way to “translate” me into their own low vibrational native language, so they made something up about me in their minds.  (“No speako your lingo.”)  For me the trouble came when I tried so hard to blend in with what my parents and others thought they knew about me to gain acceptance and started to lose my native tongue as well as the language of my Soul.  Luckily, it came back to me.

Merely interpreting people is very akin to the danger of learning a tiny bit of a foreign language before traveling to a country where no English is spoken.  There’s a tendency to believe you are understanding more than you are.  It only takes one incident to get you to start really listening up:

I once got yelled at for touching the fruit in a tiny shop near the train station in Innsbruck Austria.  In the town in Switzerland I had just left, it was OK to do so.  I thought the owner was just making small talk, only getting every other word in German until he said very loudly in heavily accented English, “Didn’t you understand what I said?!!  You can’t touch the fruit here!”

In Innsbruck, you asked for 3 apples, they picked them out, and bagged them for you.  It was the local custom.  No touching allowed.  When I went on to my next destination in Germany, I sheepishly pointed to the fruit in the market.  The owner just laughed and motioned for me to pick it out myself.  I have often found myself in the same odd place with people, not really getting the local (Earth) custom of interpreting each other instead of making an effort to understand.

Let’s start taking the time to pay attention, use our discernment, and really get to know others instead of merely interpreting them.  Maybe you can find ways to help them remember who they really are along the way.  While you’re at it, look for ways to shed the interpretations of others you’ve allowed to stick to you like so many brightly colored Post-It notes, covering up your talents and gifts.  Maybe you’ll remember who you are, and laugh, too.  Auf wiedersehen!

About Brad Silberberg

Brad Silberberg, director of The Mesa Creative Arts Center in Burgettstown, PA (Pittsburgh area) is an artist, holistic healer, spiritual leader, and change agent.
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