Lessons, lies, and self-love...

So many are alive who don’t seem to care. Casual, easy, they move in the world as though untouched.  

But you take pleasure in the faces of those who know they thirst. You cherish those who grip you for survival  ― Rainer Maria Rilke

I've had a lot of words in my head lately, most of which don't make sense when put together in sentences. And so, I've kept them to myself, in my own secret place. I think we all need to do that — have  an innermost place where we can retreat and feel safe, where we can encounter the most unadulterated versions of ourselves without fear of rejection or loss. Maybe this dark corner doesn't start out that way. Maybe we go there, and in the silence and the stillness, we realize that the person who rejects us most, the person we have lost the most of, is ourselves. Once we become aware of this, we can start to grow.

On December 8th, my divorce was finalized. It hurt. Deeply. But it was also peaceful and calming to realize I was no longer in limbo. You see, I like completion. I was about to say I like endings, but much like the Doctor, they are not my favorite thing. I've probably ripped out a number of last pages myself to avoid them. But this time, this ending brought with it some solace and some peace. Something about the internal statement "I am divorced" brought closure. In fact, that night, I was able to talk with my ex, and we were able to laugh and cry together, sharing a genuine moment of thankfulness for the time we had together, and sadness for what we were letting go of.

The lie: don't let anything end, for when it does, you won't be able to survive it.  The lesson: not all endings are bad, and no ending has to destroy you.  The self-love: when something comes to an end, give yourself the grace and compassion to feel what you feel, and find a way to share it with someone you trust to hold it with you.

If you do not tell the truth about yourself you cannot tell it about other people ― Virginia Woolf

I have this nasty habit of being whoever I feel like I need to be in order for the people around me to approve. For whatever reason, I grew up believing that I was the only person who did this, and because of that, I was worse than everyone around me. Everyone else was genuine, and I was the fake, always afraid of being found out. Then seminary happened, and then ministry, and then residency, and now real life. I discovered that we all do this to some extent, somewhere in our lives. We tweak our personalities and alter our identities however we feel we must in order to avoid the experience of rejection and abandonment.

Most of December, as the days grew longer, the dose of sleeping medication, and consequently anxiety medication, I took grew higher. I got home most nights, and did whatever I could to numb myself into a fog. During the daytime, I'd continue to text and communicate incessantly with others in my life, always hoping and waiting for some kind of rescue. I shared this with my therapist, who responded with a word I knew but had never applied to myself: codependent. We started to work through a book at her suggestion, and my own codependency reared its ugly head. The internal message, "Everyone will eventually leave you or disappoint you, and silence is a sign of the inevitable rejection" boomed loudly in my head. But for the first time, I could hear this message, and question its truth. My journey is just starting, but I feel hopeful that I can find some peace, some balance.

The lie: take whatever kind of intimacy you can get, even the scraps, because you'll never deserve anything more. The lesson: I am worthy of being loved and valued for who I am, where I am, and of experiencing relationships that give me affirmation and belonging.  The self-love: turn off the phone, turn on some music, and spend some time with yourself — you're worth getting to know. 


It has a sound, a fullness. It's heavy with sigh of tree, and space between breaths. It's ripe with pause between birdsong and crash of surf. It's golden they say. But no one tells us it's addictive. ― Angela Long

Deciding to stop numbing myself, I've recently gone off of both my sleep and my anxiety medications. Needless to say, when it comes time to lie down and rest, this is when my internal voice decides to pipe up and start chattering away. It's only been four days, but when your body and brain are used to having a benzodiazepine escape plan, and when that plan stays in the bottle (literally), then you're left with something altogether different: yourself. No quick fix. No numbness. No forgetting. No ret-con. Just your mind, your body, and your heart.

"It will still be there tomorrow." I feel as if I've said this phrase to myself a few dozen times every night this week. Paying attention to my stream of conscious, my train of thought, I find myself quite tangential, obsessive, and more than a bit irrational. So, I do the only thing I know how. I find that tight spot in my chest where much of my anxiety and worry stores itself throughout the day, and I tell it, "You're okay. Everything is fine right now. You did good today, and what is left can wait until tomorrow. It's time to rest now. It's time to give your body what it needs." Surprisingly, the tension and tightness dissipate a bit, enough for my eyes to close, my breath to slow, and my body to drift off to sleep.

The lie: I always have to be alert, because if I let my attention go only to myself, I'll miss out on something.  The lesson: I cannot be all things to all people. I can only be myself, and doing so requires less energy than trying to figure out all the different people I feel others might need me to be.  The self-love: pay attention to your breath and your chest — they usually tell you something about your heart. 

———— photo credit: Brook Ward (via Flickr)