I am cherished. I am okay. I belong. You are cherished. You are okay. You belong.
May this belonging be a litany to our hearts…
An invitation: Let’s set down our stories of broken, need to be fixed, must get better, can’t go on. I know they are sticky. Attached to our hearts by a million gossamer threads. If broken is how you know yourself, who are you when you set it aside? I don’t know about you, but I find that a terrifying question. A question that draws me out of my habitual self-identity, turns me on my ear, and challenges me to see with new eyes.
Let’s imagine broken is a lens – a set of goggles strapped onto one’s face. Goggles that obstruct peripheral vision, hone attention forward, color everything with a dull gray tinge. Perhaps they’ve been on so long, they’ve become the norm. “Oh, this is just the way it IS.” When has that ever been true? Really, lastingly true? In my experience rarely. In my experience, those goggles are forged from the meaning I make about the events unfolding in my life. Each new event seen through the grayed lenses solidifies their presence. Digs me deeper into the hole.
When I can see that, I have a choice to make. Keep wearing those goggles. Keep seeing myself as broken, needing to do something to make it better or giving up and resigning myself to a small dark cloud hanging over everything. That choice keeps me stuck. There’s a story people in recovery tell about the Four Ways. It goes like this: one day I was walking down the street and I fell into a hole. It took me forever to get out. I walked down that street another day, saw the hole, and fell in again. It took even longer to get out. Next time I walked down that street, I saw the hole and crossed to the other side. Finally, when I walked next I simply went another way.
I wonder sometimes if believing in “I am broken” isn’t a kind of addiction.
I wonder because I’ve been falling in that hole for years. Those gray goggles are ditch magnets. When I have them on, they’re just the right shade to obscure the shape of the hole and down I go over and over again. Yet, I find it hard to take them off. They’re attached. Have worn grooves into my face. Deep slots they fit right into. I worry about looking odd without them. Sometimes I pry them off only to find them magically back on my face again later. Habits are like that.
I keep thinking about this idea of broken, incomplete, the opposite of whole. Something I imprinted when I was very young. Young enough not to know that when I slapped on those lenses labeled: ‘incomplete, must be fixed’ it would be hell getting them off again. How does one break a habit, climb out of the hole? Well, I’ll start by sharing three ways that don’t do a damn thing for you:
- Force. Force does not work. Not in the long run. Force is the key ingredient for baking a falling off the wagon cake. Sure, you can use willpower and fortitude to stop doing something. You might last a couple of weeks. You might last six months or a year. But the day will come when the reserves of will dry up and all you’re left with is you and your goggles. If you’re anything like me, those babies end up right back on your face.
- Positive affirmations a.k.a. self-cajoling. Oh, my God, NO! Look I’ve been around the bush a thousand times with this positive affirmation business. Have tried talking myself up out of the hole repeatedly. Positive affirmations are no substitute for a good, sturdy ladder. I can sit in the bottom of that forsaken hole for weeks. Thinking happy thoughts has never, not once gotten me out. Want to know why? Because the mind is smarter than that. There’s this deep reservoir of knowing called the subconscious. If it calls bullshit on your positive affirmations, you’re toast. Toast in a hole. End of story. And the subconscious loves to play a good game of bullshit. Will call you out every time.
- Self-help stuff. You can read every book on the planet (as long as you can get them delivered to your local hole). If those goggles are latched onto your head, guess what? You’re gonna read that book from inside the perspective of those lenses, baby. No getting around it. Goggles = content filters. Content filters = translation centers in the brain. The brain loves to make meaning and the meaning it makes is inherently colored by the content filters you’re sporting. So if you’re stuck in the hole and the self-help stuff you’re feeding yourself isn’t working, remember this – chant it like a mantra – “It’s not my fault.” Most of those books are slightly predatory. Catch you when you’re low, feed you a solution for your problems, leave you feeling miserable and guilty when you can’t make it work.
So what does work? Sister, if I knew that I’d be a millionaire. I suspect the trick is that what works for me doesn’t necessarily work for you.
This digging ourselves out of the hole business is the heroine’s journey of our lives.
We make it up as we go along. I think we forget that. Get so lost in our need-to-fix-myself-goggles that we forget we’re writing a story – the story of our lives.
I’m starting to see the wisdom of taking another street, stripping off the goggles – finding new perspective. It comes easier for me when I’m out in nature. Something about trees and oceans makes it so simple for me to let go. I breathe easier. Recapture the wonder of the world. I don’t know what that thing is for you, the only clues I can offer are the way I feel when I’m in that place where I know I am cherished. I am okay. I belong.
I feel soft inside. The armor melts away. My heart expands a bit. My breath makes it all the way into my belly. I feel connected to the world around me.
Simple. Small. Oh, how I love this particular feeling of small. It’s not small as in hiding or not sharing my gifts with the world. No, this small is about perspective taking. Recognizing myself as part of a much larger pattern. I can make my problems so big in my head that I might never get out of the hole. Small is a relief. The things I’m dealing with are temporal. They won’t even last 1/1,000th as long as this redwood in front of me. Not 1/1,000,000,000 as long as the ocean reaching out against the horizon, no end in sight. I see my place in the pattern of things – no longer distorted out of proportion.
What brings you there? How do you get soft? What makes your breath extend to your belly? Where do you go to put your stuff back into its right-sized proportions? Do that. Repeat. Repeat again. Forget all the things you’ve been taught, trust the wise, wild animal of your body to lead you out of the darkest of holes.
Not my body’s truth, or someone else’s truth – your body’s truth. No one has your answers but you.
When you do it enough – take yourself to the places that feed your roots, nourish your soul, make you feel alive – the addiction to broken is so much easier to release. It falls off like an old snakeskin. Slipping off behind you on the trail. In this new skin, be conscious of the goggles you pick up. Know that the stories they tell about your life wear deep grooves in your brain. Teach you how to think about who you are and what you do. That kind of shit shapes us in ways I still haven’t figured out.
At this point, I figure, if I’m going to tell myself stories they may as well be about how much I am loved and how much I belong.
New goggles, new street, new take on life. Join me there some time?