When I can only access the lower, insecure self, I feel like life is a game I don’t know how to play. The rules are written in an unknown language. Maybe that’s the devil in me.
When I’m allowing my Higher Self to come through, I can see that I only have to follow Mother Earth’s guidance- surrender to the flow of life, be kind to all living beings, stand tall and true like the trees. Then there’s freedom. Maybe that’s the god in me.
The Land of In-Between
Here on Earth, we wander in the Land of In-Between. Between Mother Nature and Father Sky, soil and stars, between joy and pain. I think this is really what was meant when people first spoke of purgatory, the space between joy and pain, but Catholics made it something else. Something “bad”, that’s really not bad at all. It’s a land of growth. One where we will all surely make mistakes. Suffer. Cry new rivers. A Sacred Beauty, really. As I type those words, I can’t help but think of the passing of my older sister passing away from cancer at 36. My family was gathered around her. The experience brought us to our knees. As my teacher said, the “sacred is whatever brings you to your knees.” My sister went Somewhere Else. Her body in the ground, and her spirit, I believe, to the Heavens. Wind, the Great Connector, connecting us to all worlds, Mother Nature and Father Sky, all living being and all beings who ever lived.
Rain. One of Mother Nature’s greatest gifts. Earth’s life flowing. The source of our food and spring flowers. A gift we often complain about. We stay inside and close the shades.
Tears. One of greatest gifts. A release of emotions, born to flow. Forthcoming gratitude and growth. This rain to is often shunned. We turn away and choke back the rising energy in our throats. Shunned.
For as long as humans suppress their tears I fear that Mother Earth will suppress her rain, leaving all of us to burn.
Where I live in Northern Colorado, our relationship to rain is changing. With wildfires now a yearly occurrence that has no seasonal bounds, many of us now praise the late spring snow and perform rain dances weekly in each of the other seasons.
All of us have stopped in pure awe of a miraculous mid-summer rainbow, born only after a late afternoon thunderstorm. “Let if fucking rain” we all scream, curse, and pray simultaneously.
I wonder too…what would happen if we started to praise our own tears? Thank them for their magical healing powers. Let them just flow…I wonder what type of rainbows humans could create.
Driving to the canyons of southern Utah a few weeks ago, I came into awareness of how many times I had felt my throat tighten over the past few months. The energy it took to dam those tears up. The damage it cost me to dam them. Now when I start to feel my throat tighten and the energy start to rise, I consciously remind myself to surrender to my emotions and let the tears happen. There’s nothing to be ashamed about by my big emotions. When I limit my emotions, I limit myself. And I want to. be. free. expansive. serene.
A list of my rain in the past week…
-Leaving my dog when I left for a trip. -Searching my sister’s Spotify for a workout playlist and finding one for my (grad school) graduation in 2019. -Missing my older sister, and knowing my Mom was without a daughter on Mother’s Day. -Accepting (grieving) my Achilles injury may never go away AND all the times I ran through the pain. -Learning about a friend who lost her dog. – Watching a close high school friend get married, then watching her dance with her unabashedly joyous dad, the dad who at one time expressed displeasure when she came out as gay. -Realizing my shame and fear could be the end a relationship that never had the chance to flourish. -Saying goodbye to my parents before I returned home to Colorado. -Giving space for my voice during my therapy session.
My tears are what happen between the joy and pain of life. Between Sky and Earth. They let me know I’m alive.
“We’re a couple of misfits We’re a couple of misfits What’s the matter with misfits That’s where we fit in! …. We may be different from the rest Who decides the test Of what is really best? We’re a couple of misfits We’re a couple of misfits What’s the matter with misfits That’s where we fit in!”
-“We’re a Couple of Misfits”, Burl Ives (from The Island of Misfit Toys)
[Note: When I talk about fitting in vs. belonging, I’m often going off Brene Browns work. To paraphrase in my own words, fitting in is needing to change who you are, or making yourself a certain way, to fit into a group. Belonging is being accepted for exactly who you are, free to be your true, authentic self. Often when working with younger clients, I see the need to fit in as something negative. As an adult who can choose to only surround myself by people who accept me for who I am, I wonder if fitting in has value…for example, we choose different groups to hang out with based on interest, hobbies, etc. If we’re a bowler hanging out with a bunch of skiers, I may belong but not fit in.]
For most people, the affirmation “I am enough” is empowering.
Nice and pretty enough to make it through the high school cliques and college clubs. Nice, pretty, smart, and athletic enough not get bullied and move around different groups, without fitting in to any. Depending how much energy I had, I could hide behind athletic gear or school books to stay out of the way or present to the world a facade of looking like I fit in.
I never did.
That’s not to say I never belonged. I have a group of 5 friends from high school (some from elementary school) that I still see at least once a year. While they may still good-naturedly make fun of me and my lack of millennial technological abilities, they have always fully appreciated me for my oddities.
In my late 20s, I joined an intimate group…a cohort of graduate students training to be wilderness therapists. As we were becoming helpers an healers, our program required each of us to go deep inside of ourselves and share our vulnerabilities in the heart of Mother Nature, the one place I have always felt I belonged. My cohort was patient with me. It took me nearly 2 years and weeks of backcountry travel (hiking, climbing, paddling), but eventually I felt like I was part of the group, part of the Whole.
In my 30s, I realized some people appreciated me fore my eccentricities, I think because it allowed them to be more themself too, and it helped me embrace them.
Still, I felt trapped between two worlds…or perhaps, a world I never belonged to.
“If you feel like you don’t fit into the world you inherited it is because you were born to help create a new one.” – Ross Caligiuri
*To be clear, I will admit that part of my current personal work is looking at how I create more distance by the story I tell myself of how or why I don’t fit in and realizing that the distance is a protection/defense mechanism.
The other weekend, I texted a friend: “I’ve told myself I belong 50+ times this weekend so far. Eventually it has to work, right?” (It wan’t even 8am Saturday morning).
He reaffirmed that I was not the ugly duckling, that I did belong, but I misread the rest and somehow came up with the message I needed to hear: You’re right, you don’t fit in.
And that felt good. Right. Comforting.
I don’t fit in, so there is no point into putting my energy into trying.
I don’t have a community like a friend said he finds in the ultra-running world. If I do have a community, its simply of all the other misfits.
Thinking about it more, I don’t know if there’s any other group I would want to fit in with. Fitting in with the misfits. The others who are just themselves.
We might be widespread. Or you might be reading my words. (I’m guessing most people have felt like a misfit at least a few times in their life). Know that I am grateful for you. You help me feel less alone.
In the meantime, I’ve got a wonderful small group of friends and family who love and accept me for exactly who I am. I have a friend who gets my empathic and spiritual side who I can explore big questions with. A friend who has had the patience to learn and understand how my mind works so I don’t have to apologize or explain myself when I’m off on another tangent.* A friend who is gay and non-binary who probably know what I feels like to be an outsider more than I ever will, and has shown me some of the most beautiful, free love I’ve known in this life. A twin sister who is way cooler than I am, but has and always will make sure I don’t feel too left out. Plus a dog who is just an extension of myself (well, maybe she’s my alter ego), who’s shown me unconditional love from day one.
*How many tangents have you counted in this post so far?!
I’m hopeful I’ll get there one day too. A place of more than enough. Or perhaps simply enough for me. Acceptance. Self-love.
On a deep level, when I can access and step into my Higher Self, I know I’m exactly where I am supposed to be and who I am supposed to be. While I may be “me”, the notion that I am separate is a falsity, and one that I’ve seen cause dis-ease in a lot of people, maybe the world. Stepping back into connection with Nature has been the easy part for me. I’ve never felt anything accepted in Her arms and don’t take it personally when I get rained on. Stepping back into connection with myself is an active journey, but I’m on my way. As long as I’m not comparing myself to others (comparison: a fear that tells me “I’m not good enough”) I genuinely like myself…most of the time. Re-connecting with others has been harder, I think because of that fear. Realizing that other humans are an extension of the Whole, the Whole that I am also an extension of, offers me and them a little more grace and compassion.
…And here is the introvert part of me that hates small talk and prefers to ponder and dwell in big ideas. 😉
“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.” ― Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone
There is enough food for every mouth. Enough wealth for every wallet. Enough room for every woman at the top. Enough love for every child. Adult. Dog. And living creatures on this Earth. And you, my darling, have always been enough.
Scarcity is the child of fear and misguided power. It holds us back. Sets up traps. A perceived lack.
Hope is infinite. Kindness is infinite. Beauty is infinite. Love is infinite.
On December 21st, we celebrated the first day of winter with the Winter Solstice. Unlike the Fall Equinox, where we shed our layers and leave old parts of us behind as we step into the darkness, winter is about the rebirth of the sun, or our inner light. Yes, it’s still ghastly dark for long periods each day and we often feel lost, like we’re aimlessly wandering around in a dark forest at night without a headlamp or compass, but slowly, minute by minute, the light is growing. Even before the promise of sunrise, if we can find our North Star, we have a flame to guide us.
We’ll get to the light, we always do. For now I’ll ask for patience as we accept the invitation of winter and immerse ourselves in the dark.
Did you ever wonder what would happen if we all just skipped winter? Well sure, we could all just go migrate to Florida for a few months. (The beach does sound nice right about now, doesn’t it?) Still, even Florida experiences darker days. The weather changes, as do the plants and habits of the wildlife. In Estes Park, we’re blessed to experience the full depth of winter. The harsh winds, cold nights, and bare trees. To the naked eye, not much is happening outside in the plant world. Everything looks dead. Yet healing is happening in this restful state, deep at the roots, under the soft blanket of snow provided by Mother Nature. Sadly, I actually don’t have to tell any Estes Park resident what happens when winter is skipped or only partially experienced. We’ve already seen the fires burn through. We need winter, just as spring needs winter, and all the other seasons.
Honoring and giving ourselves the space for our own Inner Winter is equally important. It includes several components, with rest, space for deep thinking and creativity more obvious pieces. In therapy, this is the time to do the underground work, the trauma work and the shadow work, when we start working at the root of deep wounds and begin the healing process. I won’t lie here either, this process can feel scary. It’s courageous work. What is important to remember is that we are never alone. Just as spring needs winter and each season needs the others, we all need each other too. Asking for help from friends, family, or a psychotherapist, is not only okay, it’s part of the healing process. Again, remember that healing deep wounds often happens slowly, much of it under the surface, wrapped under a blanket, and invisible to the naked eye.
In short, we’re shining a light to the dark corners of ourselves and our lives so they too can become part of the light. Shadow work, in short, is about acknowledging and accepting the parts of us that have been rejected or deemed unacceptable in the past. Truly, those are important parts of us. I’ll give you a few examples. I’ve met a lot of people who grew up in homes where it was not okay to express emotions. They were sent to their rooms when they were angry, or told to “stop crying” (or worse, to “toughen up”) when tears escaped their eyes. The issue is that we are all emotional beings, some of us even more tuned in to emotions than others. Often, when we are taught our emotions are not okay, we lose a part of ourselves. The only choice we have is to shut them down, go numb, or become depressed. Another common example is when I see adults who, as kids, weren’t allowed to reveal the masculine or feminine parts of themselves in order to fit societal standards. While I am thinking about the LGBTQ+ community, I’m really talking about all of us. We all have masculine and feminine parts to us, regardless of our gender identity. A few issues that I see when these parts of us are rejected include toxic masculinity and eating disorders, as well as anxiety and depression. The only way to heal is to acknowledge these shadow parts and accept them as essential to our beings.
And finally, the light. The rebirth of our own inner suns, slowly rising in us a little more each day.
What is the light? I hate to box it by defining it, but I would give it a few names: hope, love, meaning, purpose. Paradoxically, the more willingly we step into the darkness, the brighter our lights shine, even sparking the lights of others. This winter, we can utilize the light by setting an intention. What do we want to explore during winter? What changes/growth might we want to start preparing for in the spring? In less metaphorical terms, intentions are about how we want to feel and who we want to be in the world (which I would argue is already our true, authentic selves). If you get stuck there, examine your values and narrow them down to about five or so. Values are at the core of who we are as humans and help us make choices to keep us on our path. With values in our pocket, intentions as our map, and our personal North Stars to guide the way, I think we all might just be okay in whatever adventures 2022 brings. May your light, and the light of others, guide you through the dark. Know that the light is always there, even if you can’t see it at the moment.
I have no need to escape. I’ve faced my demons and made friends. I’ve walked directly into my darkness, run into the moonless nights. And found the sunrise. I’ve dived into my past, spent time with the ghosts, came back on with love I’ve cried a million tears, only to unearth a treasure of joy.
My shadows walk with me, spirits of the Underworld, right besides my angles, loved ones passed.
So no, I can’t run away. But I will run with you. Along shores. Up mountains. Through forests. Over hills. Even on city streets. Whatever calls to us, asking to be explored.
The darkness, I know, it will come again. We can face it together. Carrying our own light.
I asked, “Will you run towards this wild adventure with me?”
Why is the darkness so enticing? Like the slow curl of an index finger, calling us in. Temporarily, the darkness offers us respite. A cocoon of security. The illusion is of its permanence, but truth in its ease. Perpetual safety that is not living, but a type of death.
It’s trick? Making us deny the wisdom of light. Light takes energy. It is energy. It gives energy. We are all sunshines and solar panels (or plant 🌱). Light has no limits beyond what the mind perceives. The light calls us to grow. It asks us to shine.
I only believe you’re real when you’re sitting next to me. When you’re not here, I feel certain my brain made you up. So even when, You send me texts of security, a voice inside me is screaming, “Don’t be foolish, this is all just make-believe.”