I was talking to a friend the other day about all the ways my life has changed in the past few years (a conversation spurred by a previous blog post) and she said to me, "But what's the one thing, the biggest thing, the most important thing, that is different?"
I had to think for a minute but the answer was right there.
The biggest difference is that I care about people. I really, truly care.
This is not to say that I never cared before, no, of course not...but somehow, before, mixed up in my caring for others was the more powerful force of me caring about what others thought about me. So if I did something nice for someone, sure I did it because I cared about that person, but it was probably more because I cared what that person would think of me. I wanted my actions to be worth some "Now You'll Like Me" points. I didn't really do this in any conscious way, but that's the way it was. I see that now. And it means my actions were never pure, never NOT motivated by some deep, deep desire to be liked.
And now, while I don't want others to DISlike me, I don't live my life wondering if people like me, what I can do to make people like me, how I can change how I look, how I act, how I listen, how I talk, and on and on.
This freedom has, surprisingly, somewhat paradoxically, created a space for deep caring to spring. Because I am not always constantly monitoring others for what they think about me, I am free to really know them. To really love them. To really care for them as people (and not as objects reflecting my own low feelings about myself).
It feels like being released from captivity. It's freedom.