Archive for fulfilling life
(continued on from my previous post, Beauty and Power in the Struggle)
And after the struggle, I am gifted with a stronger sense of the truth about myself. What I doubted so fiercely in the “tug” has gone through a refining process… like the juice squeezing out of a lemon or a bubbling sauce on the stove reduced to thick deliciousness or rich coffee swirling up from the pressure of a coffee press… Belief emerges on the other side, a bit clearer, a bit brighter, a bit more sure, more real. My effort, my decision to pay attention, to listen for the truth and to believe it, has produced another drop of my purified “identity” essence, created a clearer reflection of my true self for my own eyes to see.
To have this end result in my hands is gold, a treasure that can absolutely never be taken from me. It wasn’t forced upon me or slapped together in make-shift impatience. It was created, brought forth from my very own self, my own pain, my own labor, my own process of acceptance.
I rest and marvel at what has just happened… I feel at peace. I have proven something to myself, that in the intensity of the struggle, I have embraced what is true. I have presented myself with flawless evidence that I do have what it takes for this journey. My heart is good; it ultimately wants what is good; it is able to choose what is true.
It used to be necessary for me to ask someone else to take my hands and place them on the “truth” rope… I do not judge myself for this; I had no practice in the better way. I had survived on other people’s help, on other people doing for me what I didn’t believe I could do myself. I will sometimes need this kind of help at certain points along my journey; sometimes is different than always…
But oh the joy in finding the ability to be able to do this for myself…
I do believe there’s a “blog party” going on around here… Truth gleaning after a struggle is one of my favorite times to celebrate, so I think I’m in the right place. If you have any post-struggle “truth treasures” of your own, please feel free to share them here so we can celebrate with you too!
In growing past striving and pursuing a life of thriving (flying), struggle takes on a whole new meaning. Laboring under what is not true, trying to be perfect, acting only to please other people- these are tiresome and fruitless struggles. But the struggle to grow, to change and embrace what is true, this kind of struggle is what helps me move forward. Even though some days I just want to be “done”, (finished!), no living thing on earth ever is… And my soul’s true DNA is not interested in being a plastic houseplant.
Struggle is painful. Sounds like “tug” to me… There’s a feeling of being pulled in two directions, one back towards the old way and one forward into the new way. I am stretched for this moment of time, during which some life-force, life-changing things happen. I have this vision in mind and I face myself towards it. I am, at the same time, encountering my fears and also gathering up what I need to get to my vision. The fear lives to protect the old way: “You won’t be safe in the unknown. You might fail. Maybe this isn’t really ‘you’ anyways.” The gathering up of what I need is the truth (always present): “This and this and this is what is really true, Carla. This is what you really want. This is who you really are. This is what is ultimately best for you.”
For a time I am held in this uncertainty, confusion and clarity all at once. Sometimes the old way still wins… (but there’s always second chances, glorious second chances!) The farther I come along my path, the more opportunities I take to grasp on to the truth, the forward pulling rope. I move a bit further ahead. Guaranteed, as long as my beating heart is on this earth with a desire to thrive, I will engage in struggles to greater and lesser degrees along the way. Accepting this is so freeing for me. To struggle does not mean I am not whole. Interacting with my struggles means I am growing in wholeness.
When it comes to struggling in the process of fulfilling a vision, my Mom is an inspiration to me. She has been learning how to make pottery over the past few months, a dream she has had for long time. I never knew how much work pottery was until now. She has spent hours in learning the art of making a bowl. Before she could make big bowls, she had to master making small ones. Now she can make all kinds of amazing things. But the process and the struggle to make her vision reality never ends. She attempts her visions again and again. Sometimes the clay gets thrown away. Sometimes the glazing comes out unexpectedly. Sometimes something she thought would be a flop turns out to be her favorite piece… Sometimes a bowl turns into a plate or a mug instead. But for the love of what she’s doing and the joy she finds in her creations, she continues to engage in the process and the struggle.
There is a beauty and power in the struggle. Engaging in it when I need to is my opportunity to grow. Deciding to grasp on to the truth rope gets easier the next time, and the next. This struggle thing is really the magic happening deep down in my soil, that buzz that sparks new things to grow and flourish, the life force that can take what has died and make it into something new.
In this post I was wanting to capture the feeling of learning to fly for ourselves. We are untangling, we are, in bits and pieces, letting go of what we thought was true about ourselves and grasping on to something new, something better. These moments of growth, these little steps, are not so small… Allowing ourselves to see a bit clearer, stepping into the freedom of being more of our true selves each day, choosing to live in the truth even though others may find it hurtful, can feel like leaping across a crevice… There is tremendous courage in these moments.
In an excellent fantasy series by George R.R. Martin (the first book entitled A Game of Thrones), Bran is a curious, adventurous young boy who loves to climb as high as he can, whether it’s in the trees or all along the tops of the castle. But one day he is intentionally pushed from a high castle window, falling far to the ground and becoming physically crippled. Just before he wakes up for the first time, after weeks of being asleep, he has this dream. It struck a deep chord with me and I’d like to share it with all of you. In every moment, we move farther along our miraculous journey. With love ~Carla
It seemed as though he had been falling for years… Fly, a voice whispered in the darkness, but Bran did not know how to fly, so all he could do was fall. The ground was so far below him he could barely make it out through the grey mists that whirled around him, but he could feel how fast he was falling. The ground was closer now… He wanted to cry.
Not cry. Fly.
“I can’t fly,” Bran said. “I can’t, I can’t…”
How do you know? Have you ever tried?
The voice was high and thin. Bran looked around to see where it was coming from. A crow was spiraling down with him, just out of touch, following him as he fell. “Help me,” he said.
I’m trying, the crow replied…
The crow took to the air and flapped around Bran’s hand.
“You have wings,” Bran pointed out.
Maybe you do too.
Bran felt along his shoulders, groping for feathers.
There are different kinds of wings, the crow said…
Bran was falling faster than ever. The grey mists howled around him as he plunged toward the earth below. “What are you doing to me?” he asked the crow, tearful.
Teaching you how to fly.
“I can’t fly!”
You’re flying right now.
Every flight begins with a fall, the crow said. Look down.
Bran looked down , and felt his insides turn to water. The ground was rushing up at him now. The whole world was spread out below him, a tapestry of white and brown and green. He could see everything so clearly that for a moment he forgot to be afraid. He could see the whole realm and everything in it…
“Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?” he heard his own voice saying, small and far away. And his father’s voice replied to him. “That is the only time a man can be brave.”
Now, Bran, the crow urged. Choose. Fly or die.
Bran spread his arms and flew.
Wings unseen drank the wind and filled and pulled him upward. The terrible needles of ice receded below him. The sky opened up above. Bran soared. It was better than climbing. It was better than anything.
*Please note, this passage is taken from pages 160 to 163. Though it is quoted word for word, I have left some parts out to facilitate easier reading!*
Excerpt from A Clash of Kings, pg 97, by George R.R. Martin
“Sam squinted up at the Wall. It loomed above them, an icy cliff seven hundred feet high. Sometimes it seemed to Jon almost a living thing, with moods of its own. The color of the ice was wont to change with every shift of the light… The Wall stretched east and west as far as the eye could see, so huge that it shrunk the timbered keeps and stone towers of the castle to insignificance. It was the end of the world.
And we are going beyond it.”
In a previous post, I described the process of breaking through the walls that hold us back, how the light shines through the cracks and we can see the lies that these walls are whispering to us, the lies that keep us trapped inside.
There’s this one big wall that I keep coming up against time and time again. Sometimes I break through it. Other times, I give up. I peer beyond this wall. I know there’s so much to thrive in beyond it! It is a place full of opportunity, growth, joy. But when the lies start whispering it looks all the more unsafe, unfamiliar, there’s not as many people, there is too much to learn. When planning to pursue something new, I sometimes take a few steps in but then start believing (what I see now I’ve believed my whole life) that because I find this new thing so difficult, I just musn’t have what it takes to do it. I am incapable; I MUST just be inherently flawed.
This is such a painful lie to be stuck behind. My true heart says “I want to go beyond! That’s where all the good stuff is, the stuff I’ve dreamed about my whole life! I deserve to be there! I must be able to do it!” But the old rut says, “But it’s so hard. You’ll be uncomfortable. There’s pain to go through. People might think you’re crazy. You’ll mess up and look silly.”
The athletes in this year’s Olympics were champions against that lie (and YEAH Canada!!). A friend of mine pointed this out to me this week. They work and work and work towards a goal, going through all the ups and downs along the way. It’s no bed of roses; there’s no official place of “perfection”, of arrival. They embrace the journey and celebrate the progress towards or the achieving of their dreams.
So the simplest truth dawned on me. A thing won’t work unless I work it. Imagine a car sitting in your driveway. A person could look out there and say, “Hm, look at that car. It’s not driving; it’s just sitting there. It mustn’t work.” But… it’s plain that that’s not the whole truth! A thing won’t work unless I work it. A vehicle exists to serve me, but I have to drive it, get in and learn to work the controls, learn to keep moving forward. We work as a team.
In the world of thriving, there are many new things to actually put into practice, and I will fail from time to time. But my inexperience does not define my capability. It is simply inexperience, plain and simple. In the world of capability, I DO have what it takes to travel the path with all its ups and downs. Understanding this truth is totally freeing… The goals I envision for myself inspire hope in me again, and the resignation Wall loses its power.
I read a really interesting article in the paper this week. The reporter interviewed a few high end restaurant servers who shared how they actually dreaded Valentine’s weekend at the restaurant. Couples sat awkwardly across from each other, looking unhappy and not really knowing what to talk about. Pressure was high to get all the details right. An evening of high expectations rarely fulfilled, with more tension than enjoyment.
My life used to be like this! High expectations of finding some kind of “finally” love to satisfy my hungry heart. The vacuum in me was constantly asking, “Am I loved? Am I okay? Am I loving?” and I believed the warm fuzzies of romantic love would answer those questions once and for all. They did, for the first few weeks with any guy I dated. But the feelings never lasted, and then I was lost again. This was my labor of un-love, the slippery illusion of salvation-by-warm-fuzzies falling from my hands time after time. Not only was I left empty, I also felt these pangs of despair that my life could have no real purpose if I was single.
How grateful I am to know that’s not true… Throughout my depression, having those warm fuzzy feelings were some of the only times I felt truly alive. I believed this was love. The lie entangled me beyond my romantic relationships; I thought loving someone meant I should always have those warm feelings for them and act accordingly (and vice versa). My family believed this too, and so we rarely aired out conflicts in our home. We learned to keep true feelings inside so that no one’s feathers would get ruffled. Some of us labored to get all the details right so that what looked “perfect” on the outside would be proof that we were okay on the inside.
Finding the roots of real love relieves me from this labor. Being whole in my relationships means I am learning to bring my true self to the table when I interact with others. I can see now that trying to please them at the cost of ignoring who I really am only leads to destruction in one way or another- true relationship doesn’t last on that kind of foundation. Learning to love myself means I’m not depending on other people to fix me or fill my “holes”. I don’t need to take advantage of them, and I don’t need to let them take advantage of me either. Instead, we can exchange our real selves with each other. We share our truth and enrich each other’s lives. Real relationship practices mutual respect and equality. It is honest and knows it doesn’t have to be perfect or get all the details right . It desires to grow, to deepen, to learn, to tell the truth, to discover… All these things are at the root of true love.
The warm fluffy feelings are still fun and I have no intentions of banning them from my life! But, I’m not trying to control them anymore. I’m not demanding anything of them in an effort to heal my hungry heart. They come and go based on how real the love I’m practicing is. Kind of like cooking an amazing meal- the aroma is a by-product of the timely combination of good ingredients- it doesn’t happen right away, and it’s free to come and go.
This year I get to spend Valentine’s Day with dear friends; I am so excited to celebrate real love in my growing relationships with them.
For more information on the photographer of the beautiful photo in this post, visit this link!
Today I contemplate the journey of wholeness, with emphasis on the journey… Last week I had my first listen to Alanis Morissette’s “Limbo No More” (listen here). I was moved to tears, not because I will never have limbo days again, but because I have come to this point in my journey where I am actually feeling excited about my life. I feel myself standing on my own two feet, making intentional decisions about things that stir my soul, relying less and less on other things or people to spark some kind of excitement for me. Darlene often talks about being reborn, crashing through the walls… I don’t really know how it happens, but I know I crashed through something last week.
A journey is unpredictable, even the most well-planned ones. This journey of wholeness is wholly unpredictable. For so long I held myself back, figuring there would be all these determining factors to tell me that I had finally “made it.” I figured I would feel this certain way or know this certain thing or behave exactly like this or that. But I am letting that go. I am letting myself be, trusting my heart, trusting that what I truly desire will manifest in my life in good time, enjoying what already has. We are human beings. Wisdom can recommend better and best paths to take, but our souls also thrive in spontaneity (especially when we have seen and let go of the lies that have trapped us for so long.) The spontaneous aspect of my soul has been so squished for most of my life. Now, I see how daring to embrace my spontaneity is another force propelling me along my path.
Last week I felt like I was on a mountain top… I drank in a bird’s eye view of all I have come through so far… The journey of wholeness is not always easy.
I started counseling 3 and a half years ago after 26 years of searching. The tough parts?… I have anguished over my progress/ lack of progress. I have thought a million thoughts, I have felt a million feelings, I have had highs and lows and everything in between. I have beaten myself up. I have grappled with the truth, trying to make it REAL to me, wondering why it didn’t feel real? Trying to put my questions into words… I have fallen, I have pulled myself back up, sometimes wondering if I really could pull myself back up. I have lost friendships, grown apart from people, I have gained new friends, I have renewed relationships. I have messed up. I have tried things and quit things. I have quit jobs, tried new jobs, and felt confused about what I was doing so many times. I have invested so much money towards my counseling. I have been broke, had to borrow, had to sell things, had to take second and third jobs. I haven’t had a real vacation in years! I have argued and yelled at God… I have wept and wondered why some victories didn’t seem to stick around long enough. I have even doubted at times if it was all going to be worth it, if I would end up quitting anyways…
Well, from where I’m standing right now… on this particular mountain top, with the crisp, fresh breeze, the sunshine, and the view… looking out over my journey with clear eyes and a full heart, right now it feels so much more than worth it. I am overwhelmed with gratitude. And it’s not even Christmas, or my birthday, and I don’t even have a boyfriend… I am envisioning new things for my future and learning to delve into the deep treasures of the NOW, based on who I know I am. I am excited.
I am excited…
Wherever you find yourself on this journey, especially if you find yourself going through some of the tougher parts, I just want to say that it’s worth it.
With love, Carla
According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary:
Self Help: 1. The theory that individuals should provide for their own support and improvement in society. 2 the act or faculty of providing for or improving oneself
Selfish: 1 Deficient in consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure; actuated by self-interest
I was recently part of a conversation where someone shared their belief that self-help can lead a person to become self-centered and selfish. Have you heard this sentiment before? I think it’s based out of fear. And I’d like to explore it here!
Does self-help make a person selfish?
The answer could fill a book (now, would that be a “self help, self help” book?…lol!) I have a few thoughts to share, and I’d love to hear your’s as well. For starters, what is self help? From Oxford’s definition, it sounds like it’s a method, an act of learning how to provide for/improve/support one’s own self. I would add that to help myself, I am really learning to lead myself in better ways of living. It goes beyond learning how to cope. From my personal experience, this has involved stretching out to my past (facing and getting rid of a lot of old garbage and lies) and also getting to know my deep passions and goals for my future. Both dynamics are helping me to live whole and alive in my present.
Beneath all of that, I think this is key: what drove my whole process of recovery was that I wanted to be me, the real me. I wanted to live my own unique life to the FULL, and I was willing to go through the pain, years of counseling, financial investment, and time commitment to find that life. I wanted to know my purpose for being on this earth (which has a lot to do with the question: how can I impact the world through being me?) Yes, I wanted to find relief and healing from my own pain. But I also wanted to learn how to live in a healthy outward way. I wanted to be a healthy, contributing, thriving part of this world. I believe this deep desire is at the heart of any person’s pursuit of self help, whether they realize it or not.
Some stages of my recovery do involve varying degrees of self care and inward attention, which might appear to be selfish. And, as I become more of the real me, others might feel like they have to relate to me differently, which is uncomfortable for them (I think that’s where the fear comes in). The thing with recovery is that we can’t know exactly what we’ll be like throughout the process. Our real selves may turn out to be very different than what people were used to before. I can understand how disconcerting that might be to others. But does that mean we’re selfish?
The big truth for me? I feel far less selfish now than I used to. I am less needy and more interested in engaging with the world. I have never been as free as I feel today. I have never understood what it means to give of myself with no strings attached, to be excited about other people’s lives as I am about my own life, to exercise my gifts and abilities in ways I was totally afraid to do before. I judge others less; I judge myself less. I’m learning how to speak my truth in ways that benefit others and myself equally. I take good care of myself because if I don’t, the real Carla won’t be as vibrant as she’s meant to be in this world! In gaining peace and fulfillment for myself, I find I naturally want to help others find that for themselves. I’m no saint, but I have grown. And I wouldn’t be becoming all these things now if I hadn’t self-helped myself.
I know one things for sure: if I hadn’t learned how to help myself, I would not be writing on this blog! So I think my answer to the question is pretty clear! But what do you think? I’d love to know.
This week I was presented with one of life’s challenges. I live in a townhouse complex and have my own assigned parking spot. Wednesday night, I arrived home as usual from my second job, tired and hoping to get to bed as soon as possible. But as I rounded the corner to park behind my place, I was shocked to see a big 4 by 4 truck parked in my spot.
I was furious. The stalls are clearly marked and I couldn’t comprehend how someone would have slipped into my spot accidentally (the person had even taken pains to neatly back into it!)… It was 10:30 at night… Most all of my neighbour’s windows were dark as I looked around. I had no idea who’s vehicle this was and didn’t feel like knocking on doors and waking people up to find out. And as much as I wanted to, I knew it wouldn’t be in my best interest to take a baseball bat to this person’s windows and puncture all four tires… Somewhere in one of the homes around me, the presumptuous owner of this vehicle was sleeping peacefully while I was fuming outside in the cold, trying to deal with my frustration, anxiety and intense feeling of helplessness.
I ended up putting a polite but straight-forward note on their windshield (“This is a private parking stall. Move your vehicle or it will be towed”), called and left a message at our property management company, and willed myself to fall asleep. The next day, I put my frustration to work. I called the property management company again and reception told me that someone would answer my message in time; I called the RCMP- they didn’t deal with situations like that; I called our local towing company- because this was my own titled parking stall, could I have the vehicle towed myself? No… because I’m part of a townhouse complex, I can’t… I called the property management company again and insisted on talking with someone. They told me I should be able to have it towed myself. I called the towing company again… Finally someone gave me the real facts: our condo complex was registered with the towing company. They would come and tag and tow illegally parked vehicles, but only a member of our condo board could call to have this done. The woman at the towing company went beyond the call of duty and called a member of my condo board to have them call me. I was able to talk with this gentleman, and now I have both his phone numbers programmed into my cell phone. The next time I come home and find someone helping themselves to my parking spot, I know exactly what to do to have them towed away asap!
Now, it was a lot of work to find the answer to my problem, and I expended a lot of emotional energy. To some people it might seem like too much work for one small incident. I had been able to park in my roomate’s spot, who wasn’t home that night; the person left the next day; no one got hurt; my life wasn’t at risk. It’s not like they broke into my house and vandalized it… Heck, some people are homeless. Some people don’t even have their own vehicle, let alone their own parking spot!! Some people are dying, dealing with disease and war and far worse things than this.
All these things are true, very true. And I regularly practice gratitude for all the blessings in my life, all the things I am able to enjoy that others do not have. However, comparing our challenges to someone else’s in order to legitimize our feelings or our actions towards them can lead us down the road of resignation and debilitatingly low self-esteem. I have heard this rationalizing/minimizing mindset echoed from people in many different kinds of situations. So and so has this problem, so I shouldn’t be so upset about mine. I’m so irrational sometimes. I should be more thankful and less angry. We don’t want to appear ungrateful or selfish, so we stuff our anger and hurt deep down and try to put on a brave face.
But this is not living. This was my life, my challenge. At that moment in time, at that point in my life, there was this one and only challenge staring me in the face, and I decided that it was worth dealing with. I embraced it as a challenge worthy to deal with because my life is worth it, my anger is justifiable. I wanted to solve the problem this time because I wanted to know how to constructively deal with it if it were to happen again. I didn’t want to live in the lie that I was a helpless victim, not worthy enough to stand up for myself, too worthless to deny how I truly felt about the situation. And after I had taken the action steps I did, I felt alive. I felt satisfied and at peace with myself. I had taken responsibility for myself and my problems. In doing so, I hadn’t stored up my anger to cause me pain later on down the road. Simultaneously, I had gained more skills for bigger challenges I may face, skills I can offer to help others in similiar situations. I had grown.
Life will always present us with all kinds of challenges, big and small. We don’t have to legitimize whether or not to take action with our challenges by comparing them to someone else’s. They are our unique challenges to deal with, and in being so, they are our unique opportunities to grow and practice self-value. Engaging with them is one part of the extraordinary dance of being and knowing that we are valuable and alive.
“Now hold your hand onto the plow
Work your body till the sun goes down
What’s left of death is more than fear
Let dust be dust and the good lord near”
(click on link above, then press the orange play button at the top to hear the song!)
New foundations give me strong footing to start taking positive action in my life, to start working out who I really am, to put “feet” on my truth and walk it out. I have always worked hard at things; I like to do things well. But now that I have this true foundation of knowing who I really am, effort is taking on a new meaning for me.
I used to hate effort. This was the lie at the root of my hatred of effort: if I have to work or try hard to do something, then that something musn’t be part of the REAL me; therefore, I won’t be being a “genuine” person (because if this desired action was part of the REAL me, then it would just naturally happen without me even thinking about it). This lie was fed by my fear of being judged by others as a fake, as pretending to be better than I really was. It made my attempts to change or grow in certain areas very uncomfortable and twisted; it created a self-made prison that limited how far I would go with my gifts and talents or how much I would pursue my dreams. Mixed in with that was my belief that if I could change enough outward things about myself, then my inside things would get better too. It didn’t work that way.
Doing the work of getting true, strong and deep foundations in place has freed me from these lies. I don’t have to be afraid of not being “genuine.” The more I trust myself, my heart, my good intentions, the more I see how good my heart really is. Rooting myself in this truth does a couple things. First, it frees me to see all parts of myself in the light. I am less afraid to see both my weaknesses and my strengths. In wholeness I give all the parts of myself permission to exist and to be as they are. Some parts need a bit more attention than others; some parts are ready for action and exercise; some parts are still in the early stages of healing.
I also see the roots, the beginnings, of my true potential more clearly. I understand that any kind of thriving requires a process of growth, which will at times require effort. The effort that I take now to grow and change is really different. It’s more like “tilling the soil” kind of effort, working with the good stuff that’s already there to encourage it to grow and flourish. I see that it will involve making mistakes, tweaking this or that, and trying again. What motivates me is not a ruthless drive to “fix” myself. I am motivated to become all that I truly am because I know it is good and worthwhile. I know there is reward and fulfillment for me in doing this work, and I also know that in exercising the real stuff of me, others will benefit in one way or another. I believe this is true for every single person.
I hope you find freedom in your foundations and take joy in putting your hand to the plow~ what you have to offer this world is worth the effort!