It turns out that the perfect training for being a guru is having your ego destroyed before the age of two.
Apparently, the earlier you find out that your desires & intentions are irrelevant, that the only way to be smart & safe is to let go of your own needs and serve the universe, the easier it is to let go of the ego in later life.
My Aspergers parents lived in their own worlds. My father was benign, wanting to be part even as he drifted off, so my precious reading skills — I read Time magazine at age four — made it easy to connect. My mother, though, dragged everything into her world and her context, ready to steal what was good and blow up over what she saw as an insult, an assault on her status and happiness.
With these role models, I quickly learned to live in my own world, accompanied by books or television. (My mother lost a daughter before I came along, so a TV had been purchased to comfort her.)
I knew very early that I was not going to get what I wanted, so I learned to pacify & entertain myself. The stoic was the obvious defence strategy, learning to take the hits and not show anything, holding onto my mind to stabilize and keep attacks at bay. The hypervigilance was always there, always ready for the next blow up, but within myself I let go of desire and learned to withstand.
This approach lead me to æsthetic denial, letting go of desires and making the best out of whatever came along. I knew I would be challenged on liberties with facts, making up stories, but as long as I understood that all I could get was all I could get, managing those scarce resources was what had to be done.
If I couldn’t have what I wanted, I had to learn to use what I had.
This influenced my own approach to emerging as trans. I had no illusions that I could rewrite my history & biology, no sense that I could get whatever I wanted. Instead, I took a spiritual approach, working towards more androgyny, more integration. Working with what I had was the only choice that seemed reasonable to me with my flattened ego.
Most spiritual paths try to tame the ego but they do that by replacing it with a formalized desire shared by group members. People still strive to create change for the glory of their sect, knowing that the common goals were deemed virtuous and blessed.
Because my spiritual path has always been very singular, unable to find myself a spiritual community, I wasn’t able to use that shared ego strategy.
The personal ego is a powerful force for change in the world. I know many people who want something — applause, affirmation, significance, status, money, fame and so on — that has driven them to a useful and valuable public presence. Unchecked ego may only lead to hubris & disconnection, but having the ego to stand in the spotlight, take your own power and be a force in the world is important.
I have struggled with this balance all my life.
My approach has always been that of a guerrilla fighter, making change from the corners, putting humility first. This was what I learned to do early with my parents, nudging rather than jumping out front, and what I did until their last days as I played the concierge role, of service and of demure power.
The line between taking power in the world and standing for ego has always been very tough for me. Others have wanted me to get out front and speak but I knew that my deflated ego made that difficult for me. Learning to be the visionary, exploring & reporting from dark corners and dusty roads always felt better than being the missionary, repeating and repeating the stories of transformation. I am much more a television person, wanting fresh and fast, than a theatre person, able to polish a role to perfection.
Without the healthy ego that allows me to expect the affirmation of an audience, though, I never built the kind of standing that allows my voice to be heard over the crowd. People don’t know and follow me in a way that can build deeper understanding and more subtle nuance over time.
A blown ego is useful for a seeker, allowing vision without being clouded by desire, but it is much less useful for a leader who needs to have others follow by the force of their beliefs.
Should people care about me? Should people engage me? Should people fight for me? Should people encourage & empower me? Should people love me?
Those are questions that I never had the luxury of pondering, knowing that what I got was what I got and my only choice was to use those offerings to the fullest.
Very early I learned that the world is as it is, not as we would wish it to be, and if that isn’t a fundamental guru teaching, I don’t know what is.
I am proud of how I used what creation gave me, how I made the most of it.
That doesn’t mean, though, that I don’t acutely understand the price of having my ego blown so early, long before the dream should have been squashed.
Even this week, I have just let go of things that I wanted for the ease, the comfort and the simplicity of it. Loss has become part of my discipline, a part of the denial of self which is both righteous and arrogant.
Standing up to demand, to take my place, to gain at least some of what I need and want was part of the cosmic plan, a piece of the balance every human has to claim.
Finding a way to rebuild a crushed ego, though, well, that I haven’t found, even as I refused to knuckle under, becoming compliant and silent. My ego still exists in my defiant queer voice, creating incantations which I believe share the eternal truths in modern language.
That doesn’t mean, though, that it couldn’t use a bit more stroking.