Archive for fulfilling life
I’ve been thinking a lot about a one of the last comments made on my post “Groomed to Doubt Through Spiritual Abuse.” The writer said in a nutshell that the people who voiced strong disagreement with my posts were people from my real life who really just cared about me. Words like this can be “catch words”, cause us to stop and second guess… especially in the process of recovering from abuse of all kinds which teaches us to doubt ourselves in the first place. It’s not my desire to pick apart readers’ comments, but it’s the idea behind this particular comment that I want to put under the microscope.
I’ve been writing a lot about spiritual abuse, and it strikes me that so much of spiritual and church abuse happens under this confusing umbrella of “we care about you.” We want you to become a Christian because we care about you. We will confront you about sin and reprimand you with Bible verses because we care about you. We will stand you up in front of the church and tell people about your wayward ways because we care about you. We will talk to so and so and so and so and so and so behind your back and ask them to talk to you or send you an email to correct you because… we care about you.
If the person saying they care about you has known you your whole life, there’s an extra layer of confusion. Somehow, it seems like their opinion should hold more weight, as if they know everything about you. A statement like that could easily put me into a self-doubt spin. My deeper thoughts flashed through my head:, “Carla, these people say they care about you, that they are confronting you because they care. It’s pretty gutsy of you to doubt them… They’ve known you your whole life, so surely they know the real you better than you know yourself…” These doubts come from that old mentality that didn’t know my own true value and didn’t know how to define myself, myself. When I tune in to my true heart, legitimate questions put holes in their claim of “care”. Do they know me now? Have they bothered to contact me in person and have a real conversation? Do they know my true state of happiness and fulfillment in my life? Have they walked the path with me to see how far I’ve come? No, they haven’t. So when they throw accusations and corrections at my new way of thinking, it strikes me as a flat out lie that they really care about me.
I used to think like them too. I believed that pleasing the “system”, keeping myself and others within its rigid walls, would lead to my ultimate salvation. It felt easier to gauge myself and determine if I was okay or not if I kept following the rules rather than following the adventure of a free willed heart… But the truth was that living in these rigid walls was squashing me. My soul was dying a slow death because as hard as I tried, I could not find my salvation in the rules and constrictions of the system. The system DID NOT care about me. It only cared about numbers and keeping those who were blindly following, blindly following. It only cared about protecting itself.
There have been other people in my life, close friends, who have challenged me. Their challenges have not always felt comfortable. But when I ask myself the same question about them, my answer is very different. I do feel cared for by them, because I know that their aim in challenging me is to help me become all I am meant to become. They have no ulterior motive to keep me thinking the same as them or to keep me in line with their rigid, controlling system. They aren’t trying to keep me boxed in, shut down, small minded, and pliable. They want me to become more myself, stronger, less pliable, more fulfilled and deeply happy. There is a huge difference… and I can feel that difference. Real caring encourages real life, not slavery. Real caring cares about the individual, not the system that the individual is questioning.
As we grow and change, there will be those who will try to lasso us back to where we have come from. They are afraid. They are still trying to find their salvation in the systems they are trapped in and they are protecting themselves and that system. We don’t have to fall for this claim of “I just care about you!” We can doubt them instead of doubting ourselves. We can trust that our feet are taking us in the right direction, deeper and deeper into the life we were meant to live. No one has the power to stop us from reclaiming life giving freedom and reconnecting with our true hearts. No friend, no parent, no sibling, no pastor, no relative, no organization, no leader, no spouse, no in-law. I want to send big encouragement to all of you as you keep pursuing your wholeness. You are worth it and you have what it takes.
A Special Note from Carla
These past seven months have been an amazing journey, sharing my truth and getting to know and interact with all of you here. I have been feeling a strong need to take some time to focus on myself and get more clarity on a few foundational things about “me”. In the theme of true caring, I have decided to take an indefinite writing break from Emerging From Broken. I will still be working a bit “behind the scenes” and hope to share a post from time to time and stay connected. I want to thank Darlene for her amazing support in the process of me making this decision, as it really has not been easy! I also want to thank every one of you for engaging with my posts to this point, and for sharing your incredible journeys with me and each other. With much love, Carla
In high school I wrote a worship song with these words: “Cleanse my motives, make them pure. Change my heart to be like your’s. Fill me with your precious love. Dear Father make me holy…” It was really more like a dirge!
By this time, the religious systems I was a part of had me convinced that my heart was very bad. My heart, the thing inside me that feels and is moved, the spirit that holds the essence of what it means to be ME… colourful, pulsing energy that is unpredictable, passionate, unpretentious, desirous, drawn to the truth. The thing inside that feels the most and wants the most… My life force… I had come to believe that this thing inside me was dangerous.
In my young mind, if my heart was bad and in dire need of correction, then my safest choice was to distance myself from it. Why would I embrace, explore, trust or be lead by something that was bad?? I disconnected myself from its vitality. I put up walls to protect me from its unpredictable, ungaugeable movements, and (though I didn’t realize it then),put up walls to protect it from the outside correction that deep inside I did not understand.
The incessant teachings I learned about knowing “God’s will” for my life compounded this dynamic. We were taught that we might have a certain dream, we might desire to get married or climb Mt. Everest or be successful and rich. BUT that- might- not- be- God’s- will- for- you. Because we couldn’t trust our hearts, our deeper motives for any dream had to be analyzed, questioned, examined. We might just be wanting ourselves to look good, or feel important or pursue a dream only for our own satisfaction. Rather than finding our way by getting to know what was inside, we were taught to find God’s will by the signs in the sky or by what other people told us. I was steered into the confounding pain of feeling desire, but not trusting it. Of trying to find my way, but anguishing that if I did something I enjoyed, I might be doing it for the wrong reason. And if I really found JOY in what I was doing, well then I wouldn’t be finding my joy from God alone and that was an unpardonable sin. Somehow, God had to tell me exactly what I should do with my life so that I would not get it mixed up with my own fulfillment and satisfaction. Somehow, I had to contort my heart to match some altruistic, non “self-serving” aim.
This is an extremely anxious way to live. I’m not trying to say that we should follow every whim we feel or live without contemplation, wisdom and learning. But the core of this anxious state for me was being divided against myself… Not feeling I could trust that anything within me was good. It felt impossible to move forward or chart out a satisfying life for myself. I couldn’t trust my heart, but trusting in outside “signs” or other people to tell me which direction to go was incredibly uncertain too and made me very vulnerable.
Abusive religious systems want people to remain disconnected from their hearts because that’s how they can keep controlling them, keep them “hanging” in uncertainty with the need to come back again and again for direction. At the heart of the journey of wholeness is becoming free to connect with and value our true hearts, uncovering the lies that scaled over our eyes before and recovering the life we lost long ago. To me, this process is the true “rebirthing” of the heart and spirit.
~ Carla ~
** Special Announcement!!!**
We want to let you know that tomorrow, Friday July 9th, Darlene will be interviewed by Diane Viere (“Setting Boundaries and Finding SANITY”) on LIVE blog talk radio! The interview will air at 11am Mountain Standard Time and 12 noon Central Standard Time. If you’d like to hear Darlene’s incredible message in person, this is a wonderful opportunity! You can visit this link for more details: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/settingboundarieswithyouradultchildren/2010/07/09/challenging-your-belief-system
In “Cutting Ropes and Sailing Free” I described the roots of my recent depression and the process I was going through to break free. I wouldn’t have had the strength to cut ropes unless I let myself feel what it was I truly desired.
I was born with sails. The ropes that I attached to other ships happened out of necessity, out of a need to stay safe, to stay afloat, to not be abandoned. The belief systems I inherited from my parents, from the church I grew up in, from other survivors notched so many conflicting beliefs into those ropes stretched out to one ship and another. I believed I shouldn’t shine too bright. I believed I had to be happy or successful so other people wouldn’t be disappointed in me. I believed my ship was inferior to others. I believed I needed others to make decisions for me because I couldn’t make my own (good enough). I believed it was selfish to set sail and go after what it was I really wanted…
As I got older, another coping method formed. I chose certain ships to follow. I knew that I wanted to sail and leave the harbor. But I didn’t know how to do it on my own. So I set my sights on one ship than another, trying to live my life just the same as them. I even did this with characters in books I read, people on TV, in movies, as well as the real people in my life. The open seas were too terrifying to sail all on my own. I believed if I could step in the exact steps of others, I could get a piece of the same fulfillment that they had. If I couldn’t feast for myself, I would settle for crumbs from their feast… But, this isn’t how it works for us. The fulfillment I enjoyed was superficial and the crumbs only bore frustration.
I have that unique lantern burning deep within me that holds all the stuff I need to sail my own ship. My desire dwells here. My Mom recently contributed her very honest story of how she wanted to “get into my skin” when I was younger and live my life for me better than she thought I was living it myself. Her belief system about happiness was skewed. In a way, she truthfully saw my capabilities and my gifts and she wanted me to take full advantage of them. But her plan of helping me become truly happy was coming at the process from the wrong angle. The roots of the process of happiness start with validating that burning lantern deep within us. It doesn’t begin with the appearance of our ship, how it is better than other people’s, how fast it is or how pretty. It doesn’t begin with having perfect destinations in place to sail to in a certain time-line (church, accomplishments, early marriage and plenty of children…) The belief system my Mom was trapped in neglected that burning lantern. My Mom bought me dolls to play with, taught me home-maker duties. When I was little, I loved to pretend that I was a business woman coming home from a busy day at work. I pretended I was serving coffee up and down our driveway, pouring water from a watering pot! I loved playing store, counting the money, adding things up on the adding machine. These things that I loved to do spontaneously were coming from that unique burning lantern deep within. These things reflected my true desires. Even deeper beneath these activities was the fundamental desire to love and be loved for who I uniquely was.
After a lifetime of not trusting these desires or paying attention to them, it felt very difficult at first to see them and believe in them. It’s like trying to see the vibrant life and colorful rocks at the bottom of a murky, muddy lagoon. It takes time. But learning to pay attention, to focus my eyes differently, to keep asking myself “what is it you truly desire?” is the process that has connected me to that burning lantern and fuels my own amazing journey. It was the process that gave me confidence to pursue counseling in the first place. In that process is the key to my true happiness. Harnessing its power frees me to furl those sails and gives me the courage and hope to cut away the ropes that I no longer need.
We have what it takes to sail our unique journeys!
I’ve been working my way through a depression over the last few weeks. Maybe “underneath” is a better word… Sometimes the journey to freedom feels easy and the truth is crystal clear. Risks don’t feel so risky. There is a strong pull forward. It somehow feels simple to make decisions based on what I know is true. Over the last few weeks I’ve felt a pull downward, a pull to just stop where I am and hibernate for awhile. Some relationships in my life have become more distant and I have felt so afraid. I think the fear of being alone, of being rejected, is one of the most powerful fears we face in our lives. I found myself listening to old voices (much clearer this time around) that said, “See, you just can’t do this. You don’t have what it takes. If people abandon you, you will die. If you are rejected, you really MUST be messed up. You can’t survive on your own…”
I’ve learned this fear comes to revisit me in varying degrees along the journey of healing (I used to believe that if I had dealt with it once, I shouldn’t have to face it ever again.) I know this depression has some very real reasons behind it. In becoming whole, some things must fall away and others will grow stronger. In my survival, I was a ship that had attached myself to many many other ships around me. One rope here, another there, spread out like a giant spider web. These ropes felt like my lifelines. I sent out distress calls and survived by interpreting the feedback I got from the other ships. As I become whole, those ropes gradually get cut or fall away. Some just shrivel up and die. Others have to get snipped more intentionally. And I don’t mean that these ropes are only connected to “people”. Some of them were attached to old belief systems that kept me stuck. Some were religious, some were cultural “norms”, some were family belief systems. But one by one, I have freed myself… I became free to focus on my own ship and start listening to what it was all about, where it wanted to go.
Some people love freedom when they first taste it. For myself, freedom has not been an easy experience (yet!) Living so long with my ropes tied to other ships, I had so little sense of my own direction, of where my own sails wanted to take me. Cutting those ropes has sometimes felt absolutely terrifying. How will I know where to go? How will I know that I’m going the right way? What if I cut these ropes and sail off to sea all by myself? Will I ever be close to others again? How can I be close to others if we aren’t tied together?… My depression was a way of coping with these fears. If I could just turn the voices down, or just fall back into the old belief that all of my pain really is my own fault, maybe this would feel easier… Maybe I could go back to coasting alongside someone else… or just hole up in the harbor again, or maybe find some isolated island to call my permanent home…
Deep within my own ship is a lantern, burning with the truth about who I am, with the life and the unique journey that is mine to take. Throughout this depression, I have felt its presence. As loud as those old voices and fears have been, my own presence has been loud too. I know that it is there. But I have felt such angst, running back up to the main deck, peering at the ships I used to be tied to, fearing my “aloneness”, fearing that the lantern with my own light isn’t bright enough to trust, isn’t good enough (now I ask, good enough for who?) It’s the most life squishing lie of all time.
My soul won’t give up. As tempted as I have felt over the last few weeks, the light inside wants to win. To keep walking forward into what feels terrifying is what my whole self wants so much more than to fade away back to the place that feels deceptively safe and familiar (it’s not the same back there anyways). I have always wanted the open sea. Facing old fears is part of learning to sail well, and I am on my way.
In this conclusion of our series “A Mother Daughter Relationship ~ From Broken to Whole” my Mom, Debbie Dippel, describes what our enmeshed relationship felt like for her, how she started making changes, and what things are like now. We thank you so much for following this series and for sharing your heart-felt responses with us along the way.
I used to describe the relationship I had with Carla as “very close”, which sounds so warm and desirable. But it was not a healthy “close”. She needed me to be her sounding board, comforter, advisor and rescuer. I needed her to live her life a certain way so that I would feel fulfilled and happy. This enmeshment felt as if I carried Carla around in an emotional backpack everywhere I went. My mood would be determined by her mood. If her day started out well, I would prefer not to hear from her in case it went downhill. I wanted to stay at that level of contentment and if she called to say something happened to cause her upset, then my day would take a downturn. She carried my level of well being around with her. When I worried about her weight I wished I could get inside Carla’s skin and manage how she ate, exercised, dressed, and took care of herself. I saw her as a naturally beautiful person with many talents and reasons to be happy. I felt sure I would be a better caretaker of all those attributes since she didn’t seem to appreciate them. I tried to live my life through her and it was doing damage to both of us.
When Carla started seeing a counselor changes began in her. She stopped sharing every thought with me. She became stronger and started to draw boundaries. She made some decisions that were hard for me to handle. I often crossed the line with prying questions or statements that I knew were subtle hints in order to control. But now Carla responded to these in a way that said, “I will decide for myself”. I knew that I was obsessed with Carla but I felt helpless to break free from it. This was when I decided to begin counseling for myself. What surprised me was that we didn’t spend much time at all talking about Carla. I learned that I needed to become emotionally healthy myself in order to have a healthy relationship with my daughter. My marriage came under the spotlight and I started to pay attention to what my relationship was like with my husband. The more I learned about the lacking I felt in my marriage, the more I realized that I had channeled my desire for relational intimacy through Carla, hoping that she would find what I was missing and be happy enough for both of us. As I continued to grow, I started to see myself as a person who deserved to live in freedom and wholeness all on my own, not depending on someone else for my identity. Having a better understanding of all these things empowered me to begin making changes in my own life. I gained a new sense of confidence and clarity and began to value myself as a person. I started to believe that I deserved a meaningful relationship in my marriage and began making changes in that area. I started taking pottery lessons, a delightful new experience for me, which has opened up new possibilities and enriched my life.
Carla and I enjoy a much more fulfilling relationship today. I still feel empathy for her when she struggles but I know that she is strong and will work them out as they come along. We are both continually growing in better ways of relating to one another, experiencing both the joys of our successes and learning from our mistakes. This is the new essence of our relationship. Carla is a wonderful encouragement to me as I grow independently from her and find interests that are truly my own. She inspires me to look for what is true and good in myself. I am so grateful for what we have learned and that our relationship has become what it is today.
One of my favorite movies is “Yentl” with Barbara Streisand. She sings one of my favorite songs at the end of the movie and these words have often come to mind and brought me inspiration:
“What’s wrong with wanting more? If you can fly then soar! Why settle for just a piece of ground?”
How I had been devalued, the root causes of my struggle with depression and anxiety, was hard to see for the longest time. It was like trying to see through a window with shimmery curtains waving back and forth. There were good things in my childhood too. Those things would wisp across my vision and confuse the painful feelings that I had at the same time. I would change my stance to see from a different view but the curtains were still there, still rippling across the window. I had to focus my vision closer and look at the curtains, see them for what they truly were, before I could pull them back and see through the window to freedom.
My Mom had very clear visions of how she thought my life should look (she talks about these in Part Two of this series). She had specific ideas about what would make me happy. I described my Dad as being the Unengaged Gardener in an earlier post. His belief system about himself held him back from cultivating my individuality, from emotional involvement and interaction with me. My Mom was a much more active gardener. In many ways, I am thankful for the work that she did in trying to help me be a happy member of our family and of society. She took the risk of getting her hands dirty in the soil and because of that I had a lot more material to work with as I sorted through her belief system’s impact on me. But my Dad still had a huge role in how my own belief system developed, whether he meant to or not. Together, my parent’s belief systems merged to create what I believe is a very common and often misunderstood inner “tornado” effect: My Dad’s passivity left a huge hungry hole that I was desperate to fill. My Mom’s belief system taught me to try and fill that hole with the wrong soil, soil that couldn’t sustain deep and fulfilling life. The problem was that her ideas of what would make me happy were too shallow and skewed. They weren’t bad things in and of themselves, but they were not the things that would really help me thrive. She planted a false belief system.
My Mom never told me that I had to get married to be happy. She never told me to be thin so I could attract a man. She didn’t actually say that I would only be valuable if I was married and had children. But I saw her belief system lived out in her own life. I saw how she served my Dad, how she made it a priority to teach me how to clean and cook and sew, how she watched her own weight, how she didn’t find her own happiness outside of these enclosing borders. I knew very well the look of concern that would cross her face when I would take a second helping at dinner. I knew that she was very pleased whenever I had a boyfriend or did something good at church or performed well at my piano recitals. I knew she was proud of me, in a sense… But here’s the twist: she was proud of me when I fulfilled her own visions. She was pleased when I lived out her dreams for me. No attention was paid to whether or not Carla herself was really happy in doing these things. And the things that I did enjoy doing were not investigated. In my play, my parents didn’t join in to find out about me. When I would wake up in the early hours of a Saturday morning to prepare a huge spread of food for my family (food is one of my passions) their subtle response was that I had wasted food and made a mess. The things that really made me tick were overlooked. So I learned to overlook them too.
The roots of my own happiness, the deep underpinnings that made me me were not nurtured. The voices that I was born with, deep in my heart, that held the key to what would create a truly fulfilling life for Carla were not given a chance. They were overpowered by the voices from my Mom’s belief system (and eventually, they would come under direct fire within the religious system I became immersed in).
This was the heart of the devaluing that happened to me. The pain of this devaluing was very real and set me up as an easy candidate for depression, anxiety, fear, and abuse of other kinds. My own pleasure, my ability to listen to my own heart, was disconnected from within myself (where it belonged) and implanted into someone else. I was maniuplated to survive by pleasing someone else, by fulfilling someone else’s dreams. Until now, I didn’t know how to live any other way.
Working to part the curtains!….
There is beauty of all kinds in each stage of our growth. Whether we are courageously turning towards our pain or celebrating a truth that has sunk that much deeper, our personal growth happens uniquely and surely through all the ins and outs of our path. All these ins and outs serve us as we move through them, empowering us along our way, giving light for the next step before us. Ins and outs such as…
Confusion~ Our hungry hearts feel lost, frightened, hopeless yet hoping… We are drawn to sort through our realities to find the answers. We feel the angst of not knowing but we also feel that there is an answer we can find…
Rest~ To grow at one speed all the time would exhaust us. Here and there we take a breath, draw from self-compassion, be gracious with ourselves and say, “It’s okay. I can rest for awhile and no ground will be lost.”
Anger~ This surge of feeling that says, “This or that is not right.” It’s a profound knowing that things were not as they should have been. We allow ourselves to feel ripped off. Sometimes anger gets stored up for a long time and surprises/scares us when we first let it have some space. The more we honor it, the more we will be able to understand where it comes from and we can let it pass through.
Fear~ Because we don’t know everything… The journey is a “one step at a time” thing into brand new territory. We don’t have previous experience, so how can we know exactly what to expect? Fear is always one of the doorways at the threshold to a new phase of growth.
Joy~ A deep re-awakening of our worth and value that we never knew before or had lost along the way. A bubbling kind of peace that feels light and deeply satisfying at the same time… That unstoppable feeling that works its way to the place between our ears and our cheeks and urges a smile.
Excitement~ which may feel uncomfortable and freak us out! I have long been wary, doubtful and afraid of my excitement because I had never learned how good it actually was. I doubted so much about myself that I often linked excitement to some kind of selfishness or a misguided way to make myself more important than I really was. I had learned to “temper” my excitement so that it wouldn’t intimidate others or get me “carried away”. As we heal, excitement is reborn. It’s a whole new energy inside, connected to our purpose, that celebrates what is happening and looks forward to what will come.
Disappointment~ Because nothing is ever perfect. Disappointment is something we pass through. It’s normal. Without letting it evolve into guilt, shame or beating ourselves up, disappointment can help us become more successful at getting what we really want next time.
Observation~ of ourselves, of how things “work”, of how far we have come. Observation means I don’t have to figure it all out at once. I can let my eyes do some work for me and let time sort out the puzzle pieces as they come into focus.
Action~ For when we feel ready or sometimes just before we feel ready… We put shoes on our new truth. We want to try it out, test it out, go somewhere with it, build new and fulfilling things on our new foundation. Our new understandings on the inside take shape on the outside. Action works best from the inside out.
Patience~ Truth plants the seeds in our souls. Sometimes these seeds blossom quickly. Others require more time to take root and flourish. There are no rules or timelines when it comes to our growth. Each of us will own a unique story.
To you as you move along your journey. Please feel free to expand on my list from your own experience!
I’ve just come through a time of feeling really overwhelmed. Living full and free in my wholeness doesn’t always come easy to me. Sometimes I come up against these big “piles” that seem to be blocking my way- challenges, new things that I don’t know how to do, things I don’t understand. In the foundation of my old belief system, there was a lot of self doubt, a lot of confusion about who I really was. Coming up against these piles when I felt so doubtful that I even deserved to be pursuing a fulfilling life was just too overwhelming. Even though I doubted my worth and my ability, I still pressured myself to be some kind of perfect superwoman. I worked hard to fulfill an impossible task with faulty tools and when I failed to overcome the pile, I really believed it was because there was something wrong with me. Each failure validated my self-doubting belief system, and the next time I encountered a pile in my way, it was that much harder to work through it.
It’s okay to be afraid and to feel overwhelmed. Fear is something I will feel often as I pursue new things and new ways of living. But similar to my thoughts on pain, I believed that if I felt afraid, there was something wrong with me too. My fear somehow made me less deserving of the journey.
I recently finished reading hockey player Theo Fleury’s book “Playing With Fire”, the incredible story of his life and his recovery from abuse. In the process of seeing the truth, connecting his pain and anger with what had been done to him in his early life and realizing how he was coping with this pain, he wanted to move forward in new and better ways. After some intense times of hashing all this out, his girlfriend Jenn (who is now his wife) said to him, “Let’s just take this big pile of shit and chip away at it.” Theo says, “So we would do one thing and realize, ‘Oh, that wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.’ And then we would tackle the next thing. We are still working on that pile.” (Playing with Fire, pg 303)
Their mindset moved and inspired me. As I worked through my most recent “overwhelmed pile” I gave myself the space to take one thing at a time from it; I believed that I was worth taking the time to spread all the parts of the pile out and see them for what they were. What was most powerful for me as I sorted through the parts was this voice within me that is gaining more and more life. It’s a voice that comes from the foundations of my new belief system about who I am. It said, “Remember who you are. The Real You is not a loser, not just a quitter or a failure or a coward.” I connected my motivation for working through the pile with what makes up the Real Me. I believed that it was worthwhile for me to go through the pain and the fear involved. I could bear it because of the fulfillment that was waiting in the midst of it and at the other end. As I work the work, I gain confidence that I can go through it and continue on this journey of an increasingly fulfilling life.
“And a woman spoke, saying, ‘Tell us of Pain.’ And he said: Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain….” ~ Kahlil Gibran
We are learning to struggle well. Our desire speaks to us of a new place, a place we have belonged all along but for so long believed we didn’t… Wholeness. A place of validity, entirety, freedom, fulfillment, excitement, promise, purpose.
People and events told us we didn’t belong in this place, we didn’t deserve to go there, we weren’t good enough for it, we had to work harder to earn the right to be there. We got broken. And then we got tangled up in trying so hard to make ourselves “righter”, make ourselves more worthy so we could get there. We got sidetracked on our way in all kinds of other places that promised peace but only delivered disappointment and anxiety. We doubted ourselves. We questioned if we should keep trying to get there…But continually burning deep deep down inside, we knew that we belonged there; we wanted to belong there… Even if at first all we heard was a whisper, a longing, a puzzled feeling, the “click” of a moment when we realized, “hey, this and this and this that I’ve believed all along about myself doesn’t really make sense…”
A dawning starts to happen. And the light draws us toward it. The warmth we feel says, “Yes, this is the right direction. You do belong here. You are stepping in the right tracks.”
The tracks are not always easy. Some feel very painful.
Pain feels like something is wrong, and if something feels wrong our old belief system tells us that we are wrong. We try to avoid the pain because of this misconception, one we have suffered under for so long. We avoid the pain because we are afraid that it will tell us that we really are mistakes after all… But now we see the misconception for what it is. We connect with the new truth about ourselves that is gaining life deep down inside. We see the lies woven into the misconception that fuels our fear and we decide that we don’t want to agree with those lies anymore.
Pain invites us to look deeper, to look through. It is not telling us that we are wrong, just that something is wrong. It draws our hands to feel around us, to feel at what confines us. It draws us to open more windows, to let in more light here, then more light there, so we can see more clearly, bit by bit. It says to us with matter-of-fact assurance, “I can’t leave until you really pay attention to me.” It wasn’t our brokenness that was the problem; the real problem was what caused the brokenness. And what caused the brokenness was not of our making.
We work to understand this. We peel back the layers of our past, we uncover the lies that were whispered or shouted to us. We learn the truth. We realize that all the work we have done to earn our worthiness, the crawling and striving we have done towards feigned acceptance, was not required of us. It was work done for other people’s benefit, not our own. We feel the pain of being deceived, of being discounted, being taken advantage of. We feel the pain of disbelief, of sorrow and grief. And sometimes after we have gotten to this new place of wholeness, we feel the pain of learning. We feel uncomfortable because it is so new. We sometimes still slip into those redeemable ruts. And we are invited into one journey after another of rebirth.
Our pain is a corridor. A place of deep movement towards where we truly belong. It is the breaking with the past, the hope of new growth and new life, the acceptance of reality all rolled into one. It is part of the process that helps us to keep moving forward.
Courage and love to you on your journey…
I went trail riding last summer as part of my vacation. I’m not an avid horse-rider, and though I have this admiring affection for them, I was still afraid. The guides assured me that these horses had ridden this trail a thousand times- they knew exactly what to do and where to go and there shouldn’t be any surprises. It was true. Though some parts of the trail were more open and gave a little bit of freedom, these horses fell into a predictable nose to tail pattern. We switch-backed down through a steep valley; they plodded along with steady, consistent rhythm. But what had intimidated me at the beginning of the trip was there all along; these were big creatures, strong and powerful. And even though they were controlled day by day with reins and the predictability of the trail path, they had all the potential to break free and take me for the gallop of my life.
Nose to tail, nose to tail… plodding along the same path. What happens when a person’s full potential isn’t valued? What happens when a person is actually valued for being less than all that they are, or for doing things (or not doing things) that please only someone else? Value is placed on the wrong thing. In the powerful dynamic between a child and a parent, the child will automatically strive to be more of what their parents value. As a child, I knew I was valued for being good and right, so I strived to be that way. Or what if there is little interest shown at all? Maybe a parent is physically present, but shares no emotional interaction, doesn’t give of themselves or seek to know, really know, their child? The child assumes that she isn’t worth pursuing, her whole self isn’t worth pursuing. Or maybe, her whole self is “too much” to handle, too much to pursue, not worth the effort.
These were the deep conclusions I had drawn about myself that were at the root of my depression. Over time, what I was valued for was becoming far too cumbersome and burdensome to maintain. Like weights around my shoulders, pulling me down… All my effort to be right and good created endless shoulds and should nots and guilt guards and striving . What I was not valued for was still deep down inside, but so afraid to come out, unaccustomed to interacting with others, unsure of whether or not it would be accepted. I did not know that it was valuable, and I didn’t know how to value it myself.
This is the work I am doing. Chiselling out more understanding, more understanding, deeper and deeper. Uncovering these root beliefs truly is the door to freedom for everyone still plodding along nose to tail, nose to tail. We are each filled with unique and amazing potential and value beyond this trail.