"We should always remember--To themselves, no one is just another person."
In my commitment to cultivating this seedling space of writing and connection, these pieces of me, I will be sharing the range, the raw, the now, the then, the tough, the terrible, the terrific and the dreams that carry me through every day. A closed bug, intensely private; unless you're on my hand of friends, I'm a vault. It has been hard for me to peel the onion, especially in times of rampant social media. In my acceptance of who I am, I am committed to living my best life. As one who writes for breathing, it's self preservation, sheer living and sharing the 'excess,' full stop.
In chapter two of Richard Rohr's Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, his words clubbed me over the head. Standing up and shaking off what had to have been a supernatural punch, I was activated, at attention. This chapter titled 'The Hero and Heroine's Journey,' begins with this Joseph Campbell quote from his book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, "We have only to follow the thread of the hero path. Where we had thought to a find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outwards, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world."
I get chills folks. The map to embrace humanity, by truly learning to know ourselves. It's how I view therapy. The more I sought to understand myself, the more I became aware that I was understanding humanity on a new plane of existence. My lens adjusted; my intentions, motives and thoughts altered.
Bare with me as I quote another passage. Good stuff. As Rohr lays out his points, simply notice what thoughts and feelings crop up in you. We communicate so much with ourselves too often without tuning in. "4. The first task, which the hero or heroine thinks is the only task, is only the vehicle and warm-up act to get him or her to the real task. He or she "falls though" what is merely his or her life situation to discover his or her Real Life, which is always a much deeper river, hidden beneath the appearances. Most people confuse their life situation with their actual life, which is an underlying flow beneath the everyday events. This deeper discovery is largely what religious people mean by "finding their soul." 5. The hero or heroine then returns to where he or she started, and "knows the place for the first time," as T.S. Eliot puts it; but now with gift or "boon" for his people or her village. As the last step of Alcoholics Anonymous says, a person must pass the lessons learned on to others--or there has been no real gift at all. The hero's journey is always an experience of an excess of life, a surplus of energy, with plenty left over for others. The hero or heroine has found eros or life energy..."
Sharing the Excess
Though my current average post frequency of once a year doesn't coax a wide readership, I never cease to write. My process is something I am working on. In one unpublished post titled "My Beautiful Pain," I start to circle the edges of the events that changed my entire life's trajectory. Pain is not beautiful. Constant physical pain, emotional pain - it shreds a person. It beats you down through deranged laughter. But beautiful is how I have come to view my pain, which took years and a lot of hard mental and physical work. My beautiful pain, the spiritual catalytic wind that stilled my sails. It navigated me though the pits of hell towards a glowing shoal, and beyond into waters cool and refreshing but with no promise of no pain. The contender still resides. My pain changed me and continues to change me. I no longer resist the current. "I flow with the river of life; I accept change, I accept death, I accept renewal." My mantra, my lifesaving mantra.
Pain messes with acceptance. The most beautiful result of my pain journey has been the unabashed acceptance of myself. Today I can celebrate that. I struggled with this mightily, over decades. I was too fat, too quiet, too unimportant, too anxious, too nervous, too weird, too much of a failure, too much of a sinner, in too much pain, too lost, too everything to deserve anything. I'd see confident folks, believing that must be what this self-acceptance I craved looked like. Believing I just had to become good enough, fast enough, work long enough, succeed enough, make money enough, prove enough to find it too.
As forty inches closer than I care to admit, I have been fortunate to witness folks that have come to find within themselves this self-acceptance. I have been influenced and motivated by their journeys and realize and appreciate how hard-fought it's been, not for the faint of heart. It looks and sounds different from the type of confidence I thought used to denote true self-acceptance. Fools gold. Defenses standing in for something flimsy at best, requiring lots of filters, worship even. Yet for so long all I could see was everything I lacked and everything they seemingly didn't.
I can't put into words the peace or power of how self-acceptance feels. I can only perceive it and know when I am around or near someone else who feels it too. The frequency isn't forced. It's comfortable, unassuming, a butterfly on an open palm.
In another book by Rohr, The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective, he discusses how our gifts and our sins are 'two sides of the same coin.' Somewhere in the Preface titled A Mirror of the Soul, Rohr confesses, "Self-knowledge is tied in with inner work, which is both demanding and painful. Change occurs amid birth pangs. It takes courage to walk such a path. Many avoid the path of self-knowledge because they are afraid of being swallowed up in their own abysses...Because God loves us unconditionally--along with our dark sides--we don't need to dodge ourselves. In the light of this love the pain of self-knowledge can be at the same time the beginning of our healing."
I believe that this healing journey leads to the ability of true self-acceptance.
Self-accceptance does not mean perfection, lack of demons or finally having everything you think you want. Self-acceptance, to me, is perennial peace within despite the ongoing human struggle of life. It's being more than ok with being seen inside my humanity. Weakness, failure, fear, joy, success, strength - I accept my 'two sides of the same coin.' I accept there will be consequences to every one of my actions and am ready to take that responsibility, good and bad and everything in between. I forgive myself often, cause I'm gonna fuck up. I forgive others often too because we are all human. I practice exercising my self-grace muscle and--this is the most important one folks--I laugh at myself. A lot.
I observe this self-acceptance in others portrayed as a quieter voice. I don't mean off-the-grid, meek-and-timid, don't share, don't engage. It's just when there is nothing left to prove to others, rather - when there is the deepest understanding that there was nothing to prove to begin with - the limits dissolve and you just are. Living life. To be around someone who experiences this limitless openness to the possibilities life can offer, you sense it. It's settled into their bones, the radiation isn't toxic, it's freedom. It's given faculty for spilling over into acceptance of others is an ocean because they know what it is to be accepted through their own journey to self-acceptance. Because we see our true worth, we understand all are worthy. If I believe we are created in the image of God, then I believe that too. Each human, each creature has untold capacity and potential. I will respect that dignity and special place for always. We are all unique souls living out unique journeys. When I stopped fighting the world to accept my worth, I had energy and time for my own self to reflect upon my worth. I discovered I actually couldn't see it and set about finding out why.
I see self-acceptance as seeds floating on an endless breeze into perpetuity. I will experience ups and downs, but because I know who I am, I believe in myself and my dreams, I will always be ok, even in death, which is only to release my spirit. There is nothing that can change my sense of worthiness as I live on this ball with everyone else, in our bang and clang and lessons and love. My angst about what I should be doing, need to be doing, controlling the perception--is gone. The world is subjective. That's ok.
I studied Natural Resources. Dealing in terms of ecosystem independence and interdependence. The cycles that sustain and conserve. I like to think of our journey of acceptance through the organic process of composting on a forest floor. Odd maybe but beautiful if you can kneel down and see the worms in action.
When what is shadow comes into light, the air and water and carbon and nitrogen heat and breakdown the matter, dissipate the fears and provide sustenance for growth. When we can face ourselves, we breakdown the barriers that maintain the illusion. We can look into the mirror, see both sides of our same coin and truly love our reflection. And we're not just sayin' it. It's real.
One final quote I've been embracing as I have been thinking about self-acceptance, "I think everything in life is art. What you do. How you dress. The way you love someone, and how you talk. Your smile and your personality. What you believe in, and all your dreams. The way you drink your tea. How you decorate your home. Or party. Your grocery list. The food you make. How your writing looks. And the way you feel. Life is art." – Helena Bonham Carter