So, my last post spoke about Rawness… the experience of suffering that cuts close to the bone and leaves me feeling unprotected… raw. It isn’t the kind of suffering that leaves me crying in the dark loneliness of my bed at night. It is the kind of suffering that opens me to the less-than-attractive parts of myself and my life. I’m definitely a glass-is-half-full kinda gal… and this foray into the harder, denser parts of my experience was not the kind of serene, happy romp that I would rather be on.
For most of my life, it has felt important and even necessary to see the positive side of things… to find that glimmer of silver lining in any cloud. I have been able to talk myself into myriad states of denial that way. I’m sure it started when I was young but the most poignant example of this in my life was when I literally talked myself into a major life decision even though a part of me was screaming “NO!” from somewhere down deep. I remember the choice-point very clearly and it felt significant even at the time. But, also, at the time, it seemed like I would lose everything if I did not turn my back on myself. I know it sounds like a contradiction… because it was.
Instead of seeing all the aspects of that relationship, I hung desperately to the positive ones and kept myself in denial about the negative ones. I’m not saying he was a bad person, nor am I saying that we should never have been married. What I am saying is that the refusal to see the darker, less-pretty parts of the relationship was my way of refusing to engage with those parts… and therefore, a refusal to be fully committed to that relationship.Ultimately, it led to me leaving it.
My first posting on this site was about Commitment.My intention with that posting was a commitment to engage with the world as fully as I can… to bring my full self to my experience as often as possible and to pray for grace when I cannot. It’s ironic that I was prepared to make that commitment to my world, but not myself. Now I see that my experience of Rawness has been about making that commitment to myself… something that is not in my egoic nature to do.
As a little girl, I had a hard time claiming my own “psychic space”… I always felt like I had to work hard to figure out what other people needed from me, or what they didn’t like about me, or what they did like about me. I had the belief that I didn’t deserve to be “here” (wherever “here” was) and that I’d better figure out something to do that would either keep me below the radar or make myself useful. I certainly could not have any needs or demands of my own. I’ve got story after story about this and none of them matter, because I truly believe that no matter what my circumstances were as I was growing up, I was going to turn my experience into this anyway. I believe that we all come into the world ready to tell ourselves a story about who we are.
My early church experience didn’t help with this. I remember talking about the “Be Attitudes” in Sunday school. I was even given a little cardboard book with all of them in it. I’m sure that no one thought I needed help interpreting this. I was a precocious kid… I got the message… “be meek, be mild, be poor, be humble…” I know this isn’t a direct quote, nor is it really what the text is really saying. But, that is how I interpreted it as a child. Actually, it was more like… “The right thing to do is to give up your space in this world to everyone else. Be less than who you are.” When I became a young adult, I thought that this was the most damaging thing to ever tell a child and secretly turned my back on Christianity. I couldn’t do it openly… that was too bold.
I don’t say these things to garner sympathy… they are hard for me to admit to as there is alot of shame around them. I say these things to underline that I never gained an understanding of how listen to myself, how to support myself, how to care for myself, or how to commit to myself. I’m sure I’m not alone here.
I’ve been on this journey for about 10 years now and I think I’m finally beginning to “grok” this. Although, I’m quite sure that God is not done with the lesson plan.
I went to a workshop at the end of June… it was called Dancing Warrior… an apt title. My wonderful teacher Sara challenged us with the question, “Do you have the discipline to nurture your Soul?” At first “glance”, the idea of nurturing one’s Soul sounds like a wonderful and welcome, if not easy, proposition. Who wouldn’t want to nurture one’s Soul?
I get these catalogs sometimes that advertise ways in which you can nurture yourself… supportive workshops, self-help books, scented lotions, pretty wall hangings, warm blankets, lovely jewelry… I even saw a kit to support you in taking naps… it cost $60.
Buying nurturance… hmmm. Somehow, I don’t think that this is what Sara was talking about.
I knew that my answer to Sara’s question was something much tougher for me to do… something that actually takes discipline… something that takes a commitment. Here’s what came out:
in the discipline to move without caring about what people think
so that I can move to care about people
To have the discipline to move in this world without caring what people think so that my Soul can breathe… so that she can be nurtured.
That is truly scary when I’ve spent most of my life being the catcher in the cosmic softball game of life… squatting there, immovable, ready to catch or block whatever got pitched in my direction. My softball coaches instinctively knew I’d be a good catcher, even though I wanted to play 2nd base.
You see, that’s the place I know. I wait… watch other people do their dance… then, with the space that’s left over, if I can do it without getting in anyone’s way, I’ll dance without drawing attention to myself. I have to give myself credit though… at least I’m finally getting on the dance floor. But now, can I move without caring about what people think?
This discipline means that I must have a commitment to myself. This is where it starts… this is where it has to start. If I really want to bring myself to the world as fully as I can, I have to be willing to meet myself first… my whole self. If I’m not willing to see myself, in all my glory/misery/beauty/suffering/grandeur/pain, how can I possibly bring all of me to fully engage and care about anyone else?