“We hold a treasure,
Not made of gold,
In earthen vessels wealth untold.
One treasure only
The Lord, the Christ
In earthen vessels.”
This song brings me to tears. Inside every single one of us- even the people we abhor- resides the Divine. It’s easy for me to see the Glory in the face of a child, in my pets, in my garden, but I have struggled accepting it could also be inside of me. Can’t relate? Seriously fantastic! But for everyone else, please ask yourself a few questions….Are you a perfectionist? Worry over things which you have no control? Always expect yourself to do better….and better and better? Can’t forgive yourself for the same things you would willingly forgive others? Are relentless in self-criticism? Hopefully today’s post will help you to love yourself just a little bit more, because you deserve it!
Tell me if you can relate to my example? I was raised by two people who suffered through very traumatic childhoods. As a result, they spent so much energy struggling with their own personal demons that they didn’t have the energy or emotional resources to be parents. The One Inviolable Rule was that children did not get to think. Period. For two people who were so out-of-control personally, that rule made a lot of sense! After all, kids (being kids) bring chaos and there was plenty of that already being generated by the parental units. The Number One Rule was enforced by strict disciple and/or constant humiliation at any attempts to have an opinion, dream, or independent thoughts. As a result, I grew into adulthood terrified of myself and my abilities. I looked to others for answers as I knew I could not possibly know myself. I have a vivid memory of meeting with my High School Guidance Counselor in my Senior year. My class had just completed a battery of aptitude tests and she was going to tell us what would be good career choices for us to pursue. I went into her office with eager anticipation and relief…She had the answers! That poor woman. She kindly told me that I was exceeding capable of doing anything which I desired…but she could have been speaking in squirrel because that absolutely freaking terrified me! She was supposed to be telling me what to do, not the other way around! I left her office crying and shaking. It was like someone gave me a new car with the keys, I was never taught how to drive…..and now I was expected to drive it without any instruction ON THE FREEWAY and not get myself killed!
This blind acceptance of authority and fear of trusting myself brought me ALL kinds of pain through my early adulthood. Predictably, I dated men who were bullies and eventually married one. I accepted neglect and abuse as my lot in life. I chose a career which every fiber of my being screamed against pursuing. I moved across the country away from my friends and loved ones because I believed other people knew what was better for me than me. In short, I eventually landed up in a place with no resources, no family, nothing left but me. Alone. My greatest fear realized…..and surprise, surprise, surprise! I found myself. Seriously. I am not making this up.
With the help of an incredibly compassionate therapist, I realized what had been taken from me as a child and reclaimed my Self. I started to remember this Voice inside of me urging me to take a different path at each crucial juncture in my life. Although I didn’t listen, it was a huge relief to know that all along I really did know what was best for me. It was literally like I was being reborn. And when I was most afraid, a comforting blanket of Love would sometimes envelope me and I just knew I was going to be alright. I began remembering when I was a small child and speaking with this Source of Comfort directly….and then I began to wonder if I could be connected to Source as an adult. Here. Now. So I started writing down all the little serendipitous events that came into my life and all the things for which I have to be grateful. As they accumulated, I clearly saw that there was a gentle and loving Divine Hand supporting me and encouraging me to Trust myself. Gradually the fear that has always defined my life was being replaced with Love, one little bit at a time. Gradually I began to see that the Radiance pouring out of children and sunsets and my loved ones and my garden….was also residing inside of me….. was, in fact, the Animating Force in all Creation. Love/Source/Whatever-you-want-to-call-It was sustaining me along, through all the fear and sadness….Love was there encouraging me and holding me. I learned that our natural state of being really is LOVE.
I love the Jungian metaphor of a vast underground river which represents the Divine. In this metaphor, each of us are a well that goes deep into the earth and connects with this underground Source of Life. But what do we do? We spend out lives at the top of our well looking out on the world. Leaves and debris fall into our wells and we spend all out time trying to keep the surface of the well clear….and all the while ignoring the powerful Source of Life found at the bottom of our well. Why? Well, it’s dark and quiet down there…and we are afraid of our dark and the quiet. We actually avoid the very thing that gives us life because we are afraid of the Power and the Love. Fear keeps us in the shallows when our lives could be rich and deep.
Several things have come from this knowing. The first is the opposite of love is not hate, it is fear. Yes, we should be very suspect of anyone who uses fear as leverage over our lives! This is exactly why watching tv can be so hazardous to our emotional health! And no, I’m not going to even wade into the political waters- gah! Love/Truth is like a light- the Light of the World. Viewed from the safety of Love, the world is now a friendly place full of wonder. Yes, there are people who are disconnected from their Source and do harm to themselves and others. They cannot be trusted. Worse, they do not trust themselves resulting in a community of pain wherever they are. But they are not the world! The world is filled with Love and Joy and we do not need to be afraid.
The second and hardest lesson (which I am still working on) is the whole “walking by faith and not by sight”. Trusting myself means I do not know if my choices are always going to work out the way I hope, but knowing that whatever happens, I will be ok. It means I don’t have to do everything perfectly. Trusting myself means I let go of the future and just do the “next right thing” day-by-day. Trusting myself means I learn to trust the Source of Love and let go of having to control all the little details of life before they even happen (as if I ever could! Ha!) Now I actually have moments of real peace! And there are even times when I finally “get” that all that future-tripping and worry (fear and more fear) achieve absolutely nothing and keep me from doing anything productive, honest or joyful. I am finally creating a life that I love…after all these years.
At the age of 56, I am finally treating myself with real lovingkindness and respect. I do not tolerate abuse of any kind. I have left jobs without a safety net because it was a bigger threat to stay. I have found employment and created relationships with people who treat me with the respect I deserve. Somewhere in the mash-up, I actually started treating my body with lovingkindness and quit fighting my body like it was some kind of enemy that needed to be conquered! I quit dieting, began moving, and starting eating the healthiest foods I could find. No, I haven’t entirely given up ice cream, but I eat it in moderation. BIG win!
But the real miracle? The real miracle is that I am know that I am not alone. All I have to do is get quiet to get connected to Source and get my little earthen vessel refilled.
So what is the take-away for YOU?
First, know that you know what is best for you better than anyone else. No one else has to walk your path so they may offer input, but in the end, it’s your life and your choices. You CAN trust yourself. Really.
You don’t have to have it all figured out to be happy or successful. It’s ok to make mistakes, make wrong turns, have do-overs. It’s all a learning experience so be gentle with yourself.
Be your OWN best friend. Treat yourself with the same patience and compassion you would your best friend. Do you expect her to be perfect? Always available? Happy? Cut yourself the same slack.
Trust the process and let go. You can’t control the future; no one can, so quit trying. Trust the Uni-verse has something GOOD for you instead of something bad. Good things happen too!
Finally, know- really know- that you are not alone. Even if you don’t believe there is anything-out-there-somewhere that cares for you and loves you, just start keeping a journal and write down all the little joys and blessings that come your way. Feel the gratitude well up from deep inside and be happy.
Peace be with YOU! I really mean it. Namaste.