I’ve been in a funk all week. I’m feeling really discouraged that I just can’t seem to be the person that I want to be. The lack of sunlight this time of year doesn’t help; it tends to make things look even bleaker than they really are when I do get down.
The one thing that has helped keep me from getting overwhelmed by this current bout of discouragement is the laughter that so often fills my days at the office. We manage to find ways to (gently) tease each other and things to laugh about multiple times a day. My gratitude for the chance to work in an environment like this knows no bounds.
Our culture tends to idolize the macho, the tough, the strong, those that never share or display their wounded hearts. We instinctively hide our vulnerable parts in order to keep those tender and wounded places safe.
This is sometimes a necessity because there are many times and places where it would not be safe to let our vulnerability show. But when we find those moments of safety where we can risk letting down our guards and letting others in, our vulnerability often becomes a magnet to others who discover in us the freedom to expose their own vulnerability. Giving each other glimpses behind the masks that we so often wear allows us to see a bit of the true beauty that each human being holds.
Today marked the end of both the semester and of my Christmas “doing” for this year. All gifts have been made, purchased, and given (or at least shipped). Cards have been given or mailed. Baking is done. I can now rest.
And as I settled in tonight to rest from the busyness of the last couple of weeks, I had a startling realization: I actually enjoyed my gift giving this year! This probably sounds odd to most people, but gift giving occasions (birthdays, Christmas, etc.) are usually times of intense anxiety and stress for me.
It’s book review time again! Tonight I want to write about Jill Bolte Taylor’s book My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. This book has been on my “to be read” list for several years now, but I just got around to reading it a few weeks ago. It’s one of those books that I borrowed from the library but liked it so much that I turned around and bought a copy of my own.
This book is the story of a neuroanatomy researcher who has a stroke at the age of 37. It describes her experience as she was having the stroke, the story of her recovery and the challenges that entailed, and how her life is different now because of all that she learned during this process. I learned so much on so many levels during the reading of this book.
Part of any process of transformation is letting go of pieces of who we have been in order to make room to grow into who we are becoming. They challenge so often is that it is necessary to let go of who we were before we have clarity about who it is we are becoming. At least, that is the way it works for me.
It is easy to say that I want to become more authentically me, but it often feels like “me” is more of a committee than a single identity. My strengths and my weaknesses, my light and my shadow, all my dreams and interests and patterns and wounds and talents all mixed up together competing for the ability to direct my life. As I let go of the pieces of me that are no longer serving me, I find myself making choices among all of these competing voices to determine who it is that I will become.
My spiritual journey has not been a straight line. No where close to it, in fact. I’ve investigated many different religious and spiritual traditions, and I have found value in each one. Each one has given me new ways to view life and new tools to help me live it better.
But no matter how much value I find in other faiths, I am always drawn back to Christianity despite my issues with the way that it often manifests in the world. I’m sure some of this is a result of having grown up in this tradition and being surrounded by a culture that is immersed in this worldview. That’s not all it is, though.
“It is not judgment that breaks the heart, but mercy and love.” ~Hasidic lore
I came across this quote tonight on Facebook, and it seems to sum up my experience of the day in an unexpected way. It’s been a day filled with blessings—full of mercy of love—that took me completely by surprise. And I’ve been on the verge of tears much of the day.
This didn’t make sense to me until I saw this bit of Hasidic lore, and it clicked.
I have been struggling for many years now with Christianity. I grew up in a fundamentalist Southern Baptist family, and because I was deeply interested in religion and faith from a young age, I absorbed much of this belief system without question. As I got older and encountered other ways of viewing the world for the first time, my belief system got badly shaken as I realized that I could not in good conscience defend the beliefs of my childhood with the world as I experienced it.
My Christian faith has a hold on me in a way that no other belief system I have studied has been able to match, but the baggage I carry from my childhood views of Christianity make it difficult to be part of Christianity as it exists in America today for the most part. The discovery of progressive Christianity has helped make it possible for me to work to reclaim my faith in a way that fits my experience of life, but it is still a daily struggle when even the language of Christianity is often so tainted for me.
I have often questioned why I find it so hard to let go of this old baggage, and I think I might have found a clue today that could explain it.
When visiting the geyser areas of Yellowstone National Park, there are restrictions in some places regarding where people are allowed to walk. The reason for this is that what appears to be solid ground is often only a thin crust covering the boiling hot springs that feed the geysers. Walking through such areas would be dangerous because you’d never know when the next step would plunge you through the surface into the scalding water.
A Writing to Heal group that I am part of is writing about the following prompt (originally from Spiritual Memoir) this week:
Scar: Choose a scar on your body; write your scar’s story, exploring what it means to be scarred and other, internal ways you’ve been scarred.
The only physical scars I have that I ever pay any attention to are two small X’s on the palm of my right hand. During the summer of the year I was seven, I fell in a playground and badly scraped up my palm on some gravel. The skin healed rather quickly, but it had become infected. I am told that my entire palm had turned color, and the color was spreading up my fingers. Surgery was performed in order to place two tubes into my palm to allow for drainage. The exit site of each of the tubes is now one of the X’s cut into my palm.