Welcome to day 27 of my self commitment to write each day for 15 minutes.
Currently listening to Evening Chill on Spotify and contemplating a road trip to avoid any New Years Eve blues.
I have a very serious confession to make. I skipped day 26 of my daily self commitment to write for 15 minutes. It was a long day, my first big day back to work, the day after a late dinner with a dear friend, days following a lot of family time and the middle of a giant storm of self doubt and anxiety in my brain.
Do you see what I just did there? I made rational excuses for my lack of self commitment. This is a game my brain is an expert at playing. For my entire life, I have given away parts of myself at a very low cost to anyone who has needed a part of me. If you check in here at all you will notice that I write a lot about boundaries and the self, because I know what it is like to build a whole life that isn’t an ounce about who you truly are. I know what it is like to wake up one day and realize that you have nothing left for yourself and you don’t even know where to begin to try to change things. As a matter of fact, when you first wake up to a life you aren’t even sure how you began living, you don’t even realize that it can change. You typically get stuck in a loop of doubt and confusion, and then, after much turmoil, comes the clarity that maybe there is another way. That’s when you begin digging.
I have been digging. I’ve been digging in books, blogs, podcasts, films and conversations with strangers. I’ve been digging with my coach, with my therapist, with my sisters, with my dad and with people I love who have become collateral damage because I decided that yes, things must change.
In a very dramatic film, Blow, from the early 2000’s the main character ends the film with this line;
“Throughout my lifetime I’ve left pieces of my heart here and there. And now, there’s almost barely enough to stay alive.”
Contextually in the film it doesn’t mean exactly that he gave pieces of himself away because of generosity, a needing to belong, and a lack of familiarity with the self. Although, I am sure in some interpretations this could be true. But for the case I am making here it is rather relevant.
Have you ever woken up feeling like there is just no way you could give another ounce of you away? Your time? Your heart? Your intellect? Your kindness? Your compassion? That pieces of you are spread out in the world but not a single one is left to make you whole? I have.
Most of the time I don’t realize it until I am too far down the road. Typically it results in a giant change in my life; an upheaval, a drastic shift. Ironically this time, because of my commitment to write each day for 15 minutes, I noticed it immediately. The self pity started first with it’s lies about me being too much for people, with listing all of the mistakes I made to get me here to this moment, why did you have to be so vulnerable? It asked me with judgement. Things would be better if I only would have chosen more wisely. When a part of me brought up the idea of writing, the self pity replied, “Why? Does it even matter?” And unfortunately, yesterday, that was enough to keep me from keeping my promise to myself.
This morning I went to a beautiful brunch with old friends and when I arrived home I took my dog outside and decided that there was nothing else I could do but go back to sleep. Most of my friends are married or coupled up, they talked about their children or Holiday weddings with their partner. These discussions bring me such joy because I love my friends and their happiness is important to me, but it also reminded me of how far I am from that life or those things, how alone I am . Self pity really had me giving up on the day, on the whole thing. And then when I tried to lay back down my dog looked at me like I was crazy and demanded a 45 minute walk. So off we went bundled up into the gray midwest winter. Along the walk we saw some really cute dogs and a few friendly neighbors. My spirits didn’t lift immediately even though he was wagging his tail like it was the best day of his life. Tears welled up in my eyes thinking about how my mom’s dog passed away yesterday and how her best friend and her husband have taken care of him for ten years. Ten years they have loved and cherished and supported our family dog, all for the price of a big whopping nothing—because they are good and kind. I thought about how my mom’s best friend’s heart must be broken at the loss of her animal best friend and the stark reminder of the loss of her human best friend. I called them and did my best to get out a message without too much emotion, I didn’t know what words would really make them understand what they had done for us, but somehow I knew that they already knew.
As we continued our walk I did my best to focus on the trees and the birds. But thoughts of recent disconnect between members of my family bubbled to the surface and I couldn’t help but feel so much pain. I am a peacemaker and when the peace is not made I am not myself. The weight of navigating all of that this past holiday season had gotten to me and it was a part of this self pity I was feeling. When I returned home I lit some candles and grabbed my Rumi cards that were gifted to me by a friend. I asked the cards what lesson these feelings were trying to teach me and what was most important for me to know right now to move forward. If you don’t know anything about Oracle cards you can think of them much like a tool for spirituality. While some might refer to the Bible for their wisdom, those of us on the peripheral of any formalized religion seek our wisdom in various places. For me, I reach for the cards when I can’t find the answer in myself.
The first card I pulled read;
“You are at the point of growth where your mind can hold you back rather than urge you forward. If you have, like so many, used your mind to support you, to sure up your sense of worth in the world and to gain a sense of certainty about how the world works, then this is no easy leap! (…) Your mind will stop and argue for all of the reasons for things to remain the same, making the task seem so much harder than it needs to be, but this is the minds resistance.”
And then the next;
“You shall prosper most now if you are willing to unbecome what you have believed yourself to be. It was never really true anyway, that view. It was partial at best; and just a view, an identity, not a genuine reality.”
“Do not plague your heart with falsehoods and expectations of some disembodied perfection! The perfection of your heart is that it loves still, even if you try to stop it with some notion of self-protection from future hurt through doubt or fear—still it loves. It is perfection that hopes even after despair, that it holds compassion even after experiences of fear. So then, what is there left to do but breathe the grandest sigh of relief and allow yourself the essential luxury of peace within? So then, everything is all right—even if at some moments it seems not to be, still, your heart beats in honor of life.”
This wisdom gave me a bit of energy and relief. It gave me some comfort and shined a light on the brain’s efforts to hold me back. Back in old patterns of self doubt, fear and an identity I never really liked but one that certainly protected me somehow.
So on day 26 I didn’t write. My brain won. I let myself down. I am not perfect.
I gave too many pieces of myself away to have enough left to keep my promise to myself. I am disappointed, but not wiling to waste more time punishing myself. Today I am here, at my desk, keeping my promise. Yesterday doesn’t make today less valuable or less worthy of celebration. My choice to be vulnerable, to show up for the people that I love, to try to mend the broken wings of others, it was a good choice. It served in some capacity, if not only to remind me to be careful how much I give away.
The path of self love and self commitment can feel really lonely at times. You will be asked to give up your coping mechanisms, your addictions, you will be asked to stop playing victim. You won’t wish to participate in activities that may have been easy for you in the past—conversations about other people, negativity and smallness will become agitating and unfamiliar. You will find yourself more interested in staying home than showing up somewhere that doesn’t have deeper alignment with your life. And at times this loneliness will scare you, and you will run in the other direction of this growth—you will deny the gift that is being given to you. You will go back to the old patterns, to the old addictions, to the old conversations and familiar activities and you will stay there for awhile. Eventually everything you’ve learned and seen and become will speak louder than the old you and you will be forced to step into the change that you prayed for. Eventually.
The OnBeing podcast (one of my favorite deep and spiritual podcasts on the market) released an episode with Poet David Whyte this week and in his interview he says.
“Anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.”
What a challenging statement. Terrifying, right? That suddenly you would have to set the bar higher? That you would have to demand more for your life? Let go of things you find comfortable? That you might have to actually trust?
Trust. What a concept.