Rarely does my therapist let me go into existential crisis mode. And rightfully so- I could theorize and deflect all day.
But last session was different. She let me go there, probably realizing it was intertwined with my pain. The physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pain, all wrapped up into one.
I gave my “fuck you” to god. “I feel so much pain, why can’t you just give me this one thing that lets me feel free?” My dance. My connection. My flight. My stride.
Of course I know God/Spirit/The Universe has given me many things, such as Pacer, a twin sister, friends and family, etc.- but any time I travel down that rabbit hole I’m led to feeling guilty for not feeling grateful enough, and that’s a whole different part of myself I need to work on. My higher self reminds me not to conflate gratitude with guilt, that I can feel many things at once: pain, anger, sadness, and gratitude.
The funny thing is that trying to stop the physical pain has led me to unraveling my emotional pain.
After running on and off in pain for years, I finally decided to call it. Annoyed because I had already worked on this and accepted I may never run fast again. But not run at all? I felt all the stages of grief, often multiple stages at once: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
I try no to let my negative voices belittle myself. “It’s just running, after all.” Truly, I (choose to) identify more as an explorer than a runner anyway. But I can’t deny that running has always been my best and favorite way to feel free, the feeling I most crave in life. Each stride, grounding and flying in a single second.
I’m not quitting. I’m just surrendering. Accepting. Realizing I can still try to heal my pain while accepting the pain my never go away. But I’m not going to force myself to run in it anymore. Which is a whole other type of healing.
I thank Mother Earth and Father Sky for this beautiful spring snow. Moisture that will help protect us from fires, nourish our plants and soon-to-be-birthed summer wildflowers. I offer my gratitude for the snowflakes who will lose their singleness to the life-giving waters of the streams and lakes that surround us. I give thanks to the trees, providing shelter and warmth to the birds and animals. I dance with joy and thanks for the beauty of the Earth.
This one is made from glass, not plastic. Beautiful in its own right, but will be majestical when the birds come to visit. A gift that will provide me with happiness for months to come (provided that I make the sugar water, put it outside, and remember to clean it out).
For most of my life, buying gifts for myself felt selfish. Actually, as a kid, when it came to anything besides basketball shoes, I even had a hard time allowing my parents to buy things for me. Even when I knew my mom really wanted to buy me that shirt, I just couldn’t say yes. Even now, gifts that don’t come on birthdays or holidays feel like too much.
I know I need to just accept the gift and say “thank you.” I know giving gifts makes the other person happy. But it’s challenging to accept them when my underlying story has always been that I don’t deserve it. I’m not worth it.
While I know logically and spiritually that the story is not true, I need to continue to unravel it so the story dismantles from my heart.
And so I buy myself, and the hummingbirds, a feeder. I also buy myself a new running shirt with birds on it, a shirt that I will probably wear several times a week, while still remaining grateful for all the hand-me-down clothes from my sister. Still sensible. A step outside of my practical*. But for me.
*The previous year I contemplated getting a hummingbird feeder, but rationalized that all my neighbors had them. Plus, I felt guilty about the plastic one that had been gifted to me that I had to throw out because I forgot/didn’t know I had to clean it. And planting flowers would be better anyway…but I’ve never been able to grow anything in my life.
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.