On Being Heard

All my life I wanted to be heard. I wanted to be heard by the mother who was on her 4th child, the second “pleasant surprise,” and was just beginning to wrestle with the notion that motherhood might not be her only or most beloved goal. I longed to be heard by my father who for many years was largely absent due to work and then emotionally unavailable as his marriage crumbled. I craved being heard by my siblings who noisily jockeyed for position at home.

backlit-beach-clouds-289998I longed to be heard and had no idea that I always could be but that turning to everyone else was a losing game. I had no idea that what I needed was to sit quietly and tend my own inner flame, to hear the heart and soul whispers that I had no words for, to honor my own longing to be valued, to love and care for myself deeply and thoroughly.

My constant outwards reach for attention and affirmation took me to some places that in retrospect, well sometimes not even in retrospect, were pretty dark. I made choices that didn’t serve me because they promised some kind of attention that at least for a little while felt like love. I made pretty big decisions that I thought were destined to make me good enough to merit a seat at the grown ups’ table with all of the seemingly glorious benefits that conveyed. I self-destructed in myriad small ways in an attempt to prove that I was worth noticing, worth admiring, worth listening to, worth loving.

And it all fell on deaf ears – not because my family doesn’t love me but because in the scenario I created I really kind of needed them to NOT love me. You see all of that approval and attention seeking wasn’t a reflection of a deficit of their affection, but a grim revelation of my own complete and utter lack of self-esteem. I hate to use that term because it makes it sound so, I don’t know 1970s. There was a whole movement about that, right? I may have more to say at a later time about THAT, but really that’s what it boils down to, right?

If I had enough self-esteem – a sense of self-worth, I wouldn’t need all of this outside approval for everything. I’m not saying I wouldn’t need any attention or interaction, I’m just saying I might not need so much (in quantity) and not getting it wouldn’t mean so much (like a reinforcement of basic flaws). All of that trying fell on deaf ears because my own ears were deaf to messages of approval. Even if they had approved or attended or given me applause, I would not have heard it because it wasn’t enough to drown out the voice of the critic in my head. It couldn’t be enough to make me feel like I was enough.

afterglow-art-backlit-556665I had forgotten you see. I had forgotten who I am. I had forgotten that like each of you I am a miracle. The moment of my conception was a moment of biological and cosmic interplay that has never occurred before and will never happen again. I had forgotten that it is perfectly normal for me to be “different” from whoever I am comparing myself to and to be grateful for that difference, even at times when its usefulness was not so clear. I had forgotten, in all of my trying, that I was okay. That I am loved. That I am whole. That my purpose here is mine and no-one else’s. I had forgotten that I am stardust.

And so I reached out for reminders. I begged for confirmation of my value. And in doing so I made choices that diminished my own magnificence by confusing it with other people’s desires. I longed for proof, always seeking it from the outside rather than starting the work within, the work of building trust in myself, of listening to the small still voice that says “Yes, you can,” the work of loving this body/mind and life as the container for all that I am and all that I can be here and now. That is the work I have undertaken in the last several years.

What comes from this work is a glowing fire of confidence and self-assurance, a quiet knowing of enough-ness, a tenderness for myself and all of my choices past and present, and a deep felt sense of really being okay. It’s okay. It’s all okay. I don’t need anything from you. I delight in your company. I delight in your you-ness. And here in this space I want to assure you that you are also a miracle, that you are stardust, that there is a small still voice inside of you.

If your need for love and affirmation is falling on deaf ears, I’d love to help you listen.

The Path of “We” and “Me”

I went to a masquerade ball on Saturday night. Yes, that’s what I said.

I hesitated to go. My husband is away for monthlong classes at seminary. It was EXCEEDINGLY cold (not really conducive for ball-wear). And I had a great lunchtime event that I felt like called for a few hours of putting my feet up.

But my friend wisely said: “Your children are with your sister. My husband will drive us both. C’Mon Cinderella. It’s time to have some fun.” And so I did.

photo-booth-wedding-party-girls-160420And I had SO much fun. I danced like I haven’t danced for YEARS. Got all sweaty haired and disheveled. I felt the freedom of doing something that was fun and doing it exactly the way I wanted to do it. I drank champagne. I nibbled on divine snacks. My girlfriend and I tried to figure out who was who behind all of the masks. And when the songs were right, we tore it up.

People expressed some sympathy that Scot couldn’t join us.

But honestly, he’s having SO MUCH FUN doing his thing. He calls all excited about theology… I try to keep up.

Last year I saw this month long requirement of his as a huge burden. I was angry. Not necessarily at him because that felt mean, but at the school for running things this way, at the extra work I had to do, at the inconvenience of it all.

This year there’s something different happening. A coach friend shared a vision of relationships as a path, and that sometimes there are divergences on the path – like when you’re hiking and there’s a little side trail that avoids the big rock in case that’s not your jam. She said people are often afraid of those divergences – what if we grow apart? But here’s a question I’d offer instead: what if we stop growing at all? What will we miss out on if we never take that divergence – if we always stick on the “we” path and never sidestep for a “me” minute?

When I was at the ball I noticed a young woman (her gown was fabulously sparkly) who very clearly LOVED to dance. She was dancing and singing along with the music most of the night. Her partner in crime was NOT as enthusiastic. And so, she spent a good bit of that dancing in a sort of muted way next to her partner’s chair. When she couldn’t stand it anymore, when the song was just too good ,she’d rush to the dance floor without him. I also saw him graciously concede a few times and join her for a slow song.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd I couldn’t help but wonder if she wouldn’t have more fun if she just followed that side path a little more often. If she wouldn’t feel more like herself, and he wouldn’t love the confidence and magic that comes with that feeling, if she could just trust that the “we” path could survive a few more minutes of unrestrained “me.”

How about you? Which path are you on? Do you like your reasons for being there? Do you feel like yourself? It’s worth a moment to consider.

I’ve done that. I’m going to go dance some more.