Divine Goodness?

I was reading, yet another spiritually grounded self-help book (Iyanla Vanzant), as that is my jam, and came across this sentence: “I choose to accept myself as a divine demonstration of all that is goodness and greatness.” WOW.

animal-animal-photography-beak-409828See, in my “journey” (I really need to come up with a new word there), I have trod many miles from self-loathing to thinking I really am pretty darned okay, even wonderful sometimes, but a “divine demonstration of all that is goodness and greatness?” That was taking things a little too far for this WASP-y well-mannered and duly humble girl. This declaration of choice was asking me to look inside and see something magnificent, to see the peacock feathers fanned out and on display. I wasn’t there.

For so long when I looked inward, all I could see was the hurts, the damage, the wounds. They were real in the sense that there were things that happened in my life that caused real and lasting pain. The scale and scope of these events, however, was exaggerated not out of a tendency toward drama or a penchant for self-pity but because over time those hurts and my reactions to them evolved into a story about myself – that there was something fundamentally wrong with me – a gentler, more modern notion of being a sinner at heart in the way that allows for no real expectations of anything good – that explains away bad stuff as being the natural consequence for living.

That story got so big that the hurt and the wounding was all I could see. It was like a giant wall of barbed wire and old rusty fencing that kept me from seeing the good parts.

Even now, the most natural solution to this problem seems like it ought to be finding a way to see those good parts, but I know that’s only a partial fix. The reason all that hurt is so rusty and barbed is because of the other story I tell myself, about how things SHOULD have been and choices I SHOULD have made differently in response. Fighting against all of that made me so tired – too weary to challenge the story about my worth and work to see the good. Fighting against all of that reality about what actually happened and what I did was exhausting.

I didn’t know that I could accept the hurts and wounds without saying I wanted any of it. I could forgive my choices without fear of making those mistakes again (although I might). I could stop fighting with what has already happened long enough to see what is – in and around me – to see the breathtaking beauty all around me.

Things have happened.

I was hurt.

Sometimes I still hurt.

And I am still whole, complete and capable of being divine love in this world.

animal-bird-colorful-50557When I can see that… when I can touch the duality of accepting the parts that seem broken and wounded and know that I can still be love, then I see divinity in my own human-ness. Then I see myself as a demonstration of goodness and greatness. Then I can allow myself to shine in a way that makes it safe for others to do the same.

I see your light.



This is Me

adult-ancient-art-204649I’ve described a few times that I have a morning practice that involves some inspirational reading of some kind, some prayer, a little writing, a little meditation, now sometimes a little Reiki. I kind of go with the flow and see what comes up.

Some days this practice sets me up with clarity and a sort of fresh, clean feeling for the day. Other days it helps me unload something that’s been on my mind. Still other days I get hit between the eyes with something I’m still working on. That’s what happened this morning. Once I got past the annoyance of having the same old story come up over and over again (because why not judge myself while I feel bad), I had an opportunity to see a path forward as pieces that have been all around me assembled themselves.

What set me off? This affirming set of lines:

“There is nothing missing in me. There is nothing wrong with me. There is nothing that I cannot be, do, or have as long as I remember who I am.”

~ Iyanla Vanzant

I couldn’t even get to the empowering declaration in the last sentence because I got so hung up on on the first bit. These sentences were part of a prayer that I recited aloud. In reciting it, I skipped those first two lines. I didn’t even notice I’d done it at first. Let’s just skate on past that bit, shall we? Let’s not call it out. Let’s not challenge that old story. That old path tempts my mind so thoroughly. It is a go to.

When things aren’t going precisely as I want them to – even if everything is okay, the default explanation is that there is something fundamental that is wrong with me, or at least that I am somehow getting this ALL wrong – and the follow-on judgment and guilt.

I see two things here. I see myself wedded to an outcome, a certainty about how everything should go that I never seem to question rather than abusing myself about whatever result I did achieve. I also see self-sabotage in the form of that old thought, that thought that there’s something wrong with me. That old thought has gotten in the way of so much success in the past. I forgive myself for that. I truly do. I forgive myself and I know that I was doing the best I could at that time.

I can’t change what I’ve already done, but seeing that pattern can serve now, in this time and place. I see the thought that I am inherently limited because of some basic flaw. I see the way I gather my failures around me as evidence. I see myself push away the evidence that flies so contrary to that old rotten thought. I accept that struggle within me. I see the fear that my old demon generates and I send a flood of love.

The song from The Greatest Showman has been ringing in my head, not just because it resonates, but because my daughter plays it nonstop. I feel the lyrics in my bones, and I know the sharpest words are the ones I tell myself: “When the sharpest words try to cut me down, gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out. I am brave. I am bruised. This is who I’m meant to be. This is me.”

abstract-background-beach-355288Sometimes I just need to talk to myself. Sometimes saying the words out loud matters. Sometimes speaking the truth we discover when we are wisest helps those old wounds heal, helps those reflexive judgments slow down, helps put those old sharp stories in their place. It’s okay little girl. It’s okay teenage girl. It’s okay reckless young woman. It’s okay Mrs. Kemp. It’s okay not Professor Jones. It’s okay Mom of 2 instead of 4. All of what has already happened is okay. And everything that is happening now? Also okay. It’s okay life coach/writer/whatever else shows up. This is you and you are so loved. Just let me know when you need that flood.

Learning Surrender

I’ve been sick this week. I struggled to type that because what I’ve had is a migraine, and for whatever reason, in my mind that is not the same as “sick.” I didn’t realize had a separate category for migraines until just now. This is kind of a tangent, but maybe not. Bear with me. I’m loaded up on caffeine (helps with the headache) and a little addled.

adult-alone-black-and-white-551588I felt this beast coming. I can usually tell a migraine is coming. As early as Sunday I was getting signals. Persistent headache, geographically different than other “regular” headaches, which honestly I don’t get many of anymore. As we move into Monday I noticed that my teeth were starting to hurt. I don’t know how to describe this any more specifically, because it’s really weird, but it’s also a sure sign for me. When all of the teeth on the top of my mouth hurt, we’re talking migraine either on the way or here. I ignored these signals. When I mentioned the possibility to my stepmother, who also suffers from migraines, she said: “You know it’s better to just take the prescription if you know it’s coming.” I mumbled some kind of agreement at her, knowing full well that she was right, and didn’t do it anyway. I didn’t want to have a migraine. I didn’t want to take migraine meds (that can sometimes leave me feeling a little loopy and deflated). I didn’t want to allow the whole thing. I had plans for the next several days. I was going to fight this migraine in a super passive-aggressive “wait and see” kind of way, even though all of the signs were there. I was going to keep my commitments.

And so it came, and it came like a freight train. Tuesday morning I could barely get out of bed and was clinging to counter edges and furniture to navigate the lower floor of the house. The prescription was unearthed. I retreated to my bedroom, and read in the semi-dark until I feel asleep again, hoping for relief. It was not to be found and it became clear that this migraine was going to a be a medication maximum situation. I added the second dose, found my darkest sunglasses, donned a baseball cap to block more light and cancelled everything for the day, something I pretty much never do. I had no choice. the pain was so bad I was sitting on the couch just crying – quietly so as not to aggravate my headache further.

I looked at my calendar with some remorse about the day. I looked at Wednesday’s schedule and thought about the appointments and end of the year choir party I knew I was likely to miss. I felt the discomfort of needing to miss things I really wanted to do. And then, for the first time maybe since I was pregnant, I fully surrendered.

I stopped trying to see if I could maybe be well enough to get something done. I stopped hoping I would be well enough to make an appointment or an engagement. I stopped worrying about tidying up after myself. I stopped wondering if maybe by the afternoon I could work. I surrendered. It felt like I didn’t have a choice, and really I didn’t, but there was still a moment of consciously acknowledging that and giving up the internal debate, acknowledging the need to do my body this kindness, seeing the peace available to me if I just stopped wondering if I could do more and rest.

bed-bedroom-blanket-1097116And so I did. I figured out what I could to make myself as physically comfortable as possible, and adjusted according to how that changed throughout the day. I listened intently to my body when it said “no food” because of the associated nausea and then what specifically it wanted when the wave of nausea subsided: “bell peppers? OK, will do.” I proceeded gently, quietly. I read and napped and occasionally hopped on line to communicate for a few minutes and then hopped off to save my eyes from the screen light. When TV became an option, I watched whatever I wanted with no guilt or remorse for wasted time. When I’d had enough of the stupidity, I turned it off again and rested and read and made myself tea.

In short I did exactly what I try to help my kids do when they are sick. I took excellent care of myself. I let go of expectations and judgments about being sick and about what I “should” be doing and I gave my body what it needed.

Here I am two days later, not completely recovered (this is usually a multi-day phenomenon), but significantly better off and free of the sense of dread that can come with facing what we’ve missed. I missed nothing. Clients have been rescheduled. Plans have been changed. Everyone understands and it will all be okay.

That struggle not to surrender? I think I do that a lot. I find myself going halfsies on lots of things – and there can be a benefit to that. Halfsies can be helpful (when you have twins sometimes it feels downright necessary), but so can wholesies. Going all in, not because we want to reinforce feeling sick or whatever it is, but because that feeling we’re fighting or avoiding by staking out the middle ground really just needs to be felt. There is a peace in surrendering to it. There is a peace in allowing it. There is a kindness in acknowledging what is really true and then making it as comfortable for yourself as you can. Where could you maybe use a little surrender? Where are you straddling the line and suffering for it? What would happen if you just let go?