“Tonight I can write the saddest lines…”
Neruda’s sentiments echo through me this evening as I recall my 10 year old daughter’s words:
“I don’t think it’s smart to keep being myself. It makes things worse. People say I’m weird, crazy, psycho, strange. I think I have to change and just be the same. The same — like how they are all the same.”
She went stiff when I tried to pull her towards me. Her upper body tight, arms down like a straight jacket. Eyes diverted, jaw clenched. I knew then not to touch her.
“…my heart looks for her, and she is not with me.” – Neruda
I breathed deeply, tried to center myself, and not immediately react, even though I could feel my throat close in, my heart beat fast.
“Sweetheart, those kids are jealous. They see that you are free … that you’re free to be who you truly are.”
She didn’t buy it.
Her response was probably accurate: The kids don’t even know they conform, fit the mold, follow the crowd, do the ‘typical, acceptable’ things so they don’t stand out (or stand out for the ‘right’ and ‘popular’ reasons). Most of them probably don’t realize they aren’t raised to have their unique, quirky personalities celebrated, encouraged, and never dimmed.
After all, quiet, smiling, unassuming, and accommodating are better than opinionated, expressive, and self-assured, right?
Most of us were raised to fit in.
Taught that different was bad.
…if not at home, then at least through societal constructs.
“I don’t belong…” She began to cry.
I, too, want to cry.
“We, of that time, are no longer the same.” – Neruda
I want to cry for her.
For all of us — collectively — who carry this wound of feeling we don’t belong, that we are not part of something (our family, our community, our school, our church, our sisterhood, ourselves!).
I want to cry for the primordial hurt most of us have felt — at least once — that we are utterly disconnected from one another, from Source, from our hearts, from our inner-knowing.
This slicing separation is what causes us to believe we are not worthy, that we are alone, and that we simply don’t belong.
This is THE collective wound that from the core of our bellies rings out in red ache.
Is there anything more crushing?
It is the part of us that clings to whatever feels solid/stable, tells us we’re OK, lets us slip in and out — cloaked — without causing too much attention (at least in any perceived ‘negative’ way).
It’s where we compromise our truth and constantly ask others their opinions, beliefs, thoughts, ideas on what we should do instead of getting quiet and listening to our heart.
It’s where we give ourselves away.
The spiral of forgetting our truth, our Essence begins.
We begin to feel untethered.
As I listened to my daughter, I was aware of how intimately I know this wound.
It’s this very scar that I consciously … mindfully, trace my fingers over and over and over … with love.
It’s this very scar that kept me feeling separate, not-so-worthy, hidden, fairly unsafe, and much more guarded than I wanted to admit — for most of my life.
I’m 43 and only figuring it out now.
I don’t want her to feel this one.
So, I tell her how magnificent she is. How our greatest gift to the world is our uniqueness. That there is nothing, nothing, nothing she needs to change.
And it’s a tough one because my daughter is NOT a typical kid.
She’s on the Autism spectrum and she’s a girl on the spectrum. That makes a difference.
She’s intelligent, quirky, rigid, imaginative, adventurous, deeply — intensely — empathetic towards nature and animals … so much so that she cries when trees have been destroyed in a forest fire, when I cut chicken breasts, or at the thought of an animal being hunted and killed. And that’s REAL for her. Not dramatics.
(For the record, I love her wide-open heart.)
So, her pull to dull her energetic self-expression — to numb down and become chameleon-like — would create enormous distress and pressure on her (as it would anyone) … and even more so in her case since it would take incredible measures on her part to even attempt doing so.
I feel tired just thinking about it!
And that’s exactly what we have done to ourselves, by the way: Exhausted ourselves by dimming our light.
It takes a lot of work to appear the same as everyone else…
I’m going to “out” us ALL, right now.
None of us are the same.
Neither are your kids.
We’ve been playing the biggest game of make-believe — ever.
How does this affect us?
- Choose and stay in careers that don’t bring us joy
- Marry the wrong person
- Desperately hold onto unhealthy relationships
- Say yes when we mean no
- Blame outside circumstances (and others) for our not-so-happy lives
- Disconnect from our purpose, our passions, our Essence
- Feel afraid, overwhelmed, or numbed-out — regularly
- Sell ourselves out over, and over, and over…
…so that we feel we “belong.”
Even if it hurts.
This is what I have to say:
Fuck that shit.
Enough is enough.
It’s time to come out of the shadows.
It’s time to parent our children in a way that allows their audacious, wild, primal, gypsy, freedom-seeking, truth-speaking, flagrant, unapologetic selves LIVE.
It’s time to for us to love those same parts of ourselves back into liberation, too … because I know I’m not the only one who was raised to be a Nice Girl … the girl who keeps a polite smile on her face and swallows her words: That girl isn’t around here much anymore.
It’s time for our men to feel allowed to experience and express rapture under their skin, streaming hot tears, and expansive, explosive, heart-warming tenderness and Love.
It’s time to lick the salt off our tongues, arrive with full-bodied, overflowing heart-presence, and be whoever the hell we were created to be.
Stop rolling eyes.
Stop with the: tone it down; no crying; pull-it-together nonsense.
Stop telling your child to be quiet when they’re laughing so hard, they pee their pants.
Laugh WITH them.
Pee your own goddamned pants.
And let’s remember, remember, remember that we have this particular life only once.
Shall we fill it with a sense of belonging?
Shall we embrace it with Love?
Shall we adore the hell out of every quirk we see in one another — and ourselves?
Especially in these precious children?
(Even if your son wants a Barbie and your daughter wants to wrestle.)
Shall we try?
…I do NOT want to feel this line from Neruda:
“Because through nights like this I one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.”
I’m not willing to lose my daughter to the so-called dulled-out ‘normalcy’ of life.
…It takes too long to get the spirit back.
And that’s not OK.
We all belong.
(And in case you didn’t catch it: You, too, are magnificent — just the way you TRULY are.)
Dearest You,It’s been awhile since we’ve talked. Really talked.
I wish we could sit in that café where we shared a loveseat; I rested my head upon your wide shoulders and you slowly inhaled the scent of my hair, kissing the top of my head.
Or we could meet in my car where I’d feel your strong hands wrapped in mine, your lips pressed against them.
If we were in your bed, I’d savor one last time the weight of your thick legs curled around mine, nose buried in my neck, chills cascading down my back.
Mostly, I wish we were on my sofa – where you said you loved me – so we could breathe in this moment of truth.
I’d look into your unsteady eyes, hoping you’d see my heart.
But you are in another state.
On a business trip.
Picking out furniture with your new girlfriend.
Planting seeds to harvest with other women.
In a bar at 2 a.m., asking to come over.
You know I write to process, to navigate the unknown and become clear.
It’s how I face myself.
It’s how I face the truth.
It’s how I’m facing you.
My words are all I have to give you.
It seems only fair to let you know that the stories I’ve written in my life are changing.
Stepping back, I see the similarities.
In each of you, I see the intricate ways you intersect in my heart with common themes of inconsistency, unavailability, and dishonesty all woven together with patches of vibrant beauty and moments of tender sincerity. None of it black and white.
It’s an artful, literary display of lessons spread across faces, across years.
Each of you etched upon my skin a powerful, repetitive myth.
One I am done with.
My whole being aches for a new story.
It is time to feel the steady pulse of my worth.
I am ready to consciously dream new patterns into creation.
I will weave words of golden flowers along my spine.
I will spin all your patchwork lessons into a delicate crown and place it upon my head.
In this story, I choose nothing less than love.
In this story, I choose me.
If you’re brave, come sit with me.
Feel my warm palms against your cheeks.
Hear me say that I love your wild, red flamed spirit; your blue throated wisdom; your radiant sun of a soul. This is how I saw you: the real you, your true essence.
Now, too, I see the tempered version of this you choose to be … and the dulled version I chose to be with you.
Feel my hands slowly leave your face.
Be well. Be happy. I wish for you all that you need.
…It’s time for me to go.
I have a new story to write.
In a month, the reign of my marriage will take its final bow. All will be legally dissolved, despite having been divorced
in every other way for well over two years.
I’ve written a lot about it.
And you’d think that any emotions or wounds connected to ending a 12+ year relationship would’ve been mended by now.
But divorce makes you see patterns in your life, the interweaving of similar choices made in slightly different ways, in somewhat different relationships; but pretty much the same story. Just a new version each time.
I’ve been given the opportunity in this process to come face-to-face with the roles I’ve repeatedly played over the years: the effusive caregiver; the lenient, understanding lover; the tolerant, forgiving wife; the “nice girl”; the empathetic friend.
There’s nothing wrong with these … except when used to avoid painful emotions, a violation of some sort … a sting to your heart.
Since childhood, these roles have been my golden shield, protecting me, ricocheting the penetration of betrayal, manipulation, judgment, and not feeling entirely loved, accepted, or cared for.
They’ve kept me safe from truly experiencing the full range of my feelings. It has been a way to numb out in some respects … without even noticing.
When a hint of anger would enter my throat, I’d swallow it down, place that nice girl shield in front of me and absorb my tears, letting them swim quietly inside.
Lovers have seemed confused by the calm veneer when they might’ve been a bit shady and exclaimed, “It’s OK to be upset! Aren’t you upset? You’re not mad at me?” Friends have nearly yelled, “Why aren’t you ANGRY!?”
The shield has been so intricately integrated inside of my veins, in my marrow, that I didn’t even think I was covering rage. I truly had no clue. And I’m only now beginning to see this truth.
That’s because the shield is not effective; it just allows me to not take the full hit of hurt.
Part of this comes from an intertwined and rooted inner story that demands perfection.
This story says: If I stay true to these roles, maybe then I’ll be accepted. Good enough to be loved on the raw days when dullness comes over me, when my bones are tired and an inner-ache softly cries, yearning to be gently held, then told – genuinely – that I’m beautiful.
Maybe then, all my flaws – my size, this body – will be overlooked and I won’t hear that old diatribe that slithers through self-love and hisses: “See … there’s a reason you weren’t chosen. You won’t ever be enough. Look at you! You were warned about this your whole life. Maybe this time, if you lose the weight you’ve gained it will be better. Someone might see past your size. What makes you think being exactly who you are right NOW is enough?”
This gets triggered when a scab, nearly healed, gets picked … an event that loops you back, reminding you of the web of patterns you’ve created and played a role in.
As challenging as it is to write this (even embarrassing), I know I am not alone.
So many of us feel similarly from time to time.
Most of us, probably.
Our culture, society, familial structures, churches, and even school systems teach us to compare ourselves to others, to measure our worth against something or someone outside of ourselves.
Rarely are we taught that our imperfections are just as sacred and holy as the magnificent light within us. Rarely are we taught that it’s OK or safe to fully own and express all of our feelings, like a musical scale, singing each note – whether sharp or flat – accepting the range of them in any moment as a way to honor and nurture ourselves while recognizing that we are truly beautiful – scabs, tired bones, and all.
These patterns and roles that I’ve clung to throughout my life are reaching their hands out, asking to be dissolved along with the marriage.
And that’s hard. Scary. Change would be required.
It means truly feeling and acknowledging painful emotions. It means creating firmer boundaries.
It means ripping off the masks of being nice all the time: because I am not always nice, forgiving, lenient, understanding, free of judgment, or compassionate! I absolutely can be selfish, self-centered, and wrapped up in my teensy little world.
… But most of all, it means letting go and trusting that I AM really enough. Just as I am right now.
I have choices to make.
Will I allow myself to be imperfect, to feel rage along with ecstasy, and be true to myself, knowing my real worth?
Will I release, with love, relationships that no longer nourish?
Because this is life, right?
We are imperfect.
There will always be scabby little scars.
And that is OK. In fact, that’s more than OK. It’s the place where we can pour our love the most.
So as I begin to dissolve these patterns and roles and very slowly lay down my golden shield – and as you join me to do the same – it feels that there will be a place of inner warmth and embrace, holding us, loving us, and cherishing us.
There, we will hear the whisper: “You are enough.”
I have something to tell you.
Are you listening?
I hope you’re listening.
Because this is important.
This is about life.
This is about love.
This is about how you cut yourself short.
This is about how you think you’re undeserving.
See, most of us go around acting like there’s a limited supply of love.
You think that if you capture the essence of love, if you love someone – and especially if you think they love you back – you must CLAIM them. OWN them. Wrap them – this love – around you so tightly that there’s no chance of it ever being freed.
Because you might not get the chance again.
Because it might be the only loving meal that with sustain you.
THIS love … once it’s gone, it’s gone.
No second chances.
It’s the law of supply and demand.
Low love supply + high demand = an outrageous, treacherous, risky, high price.
Love becomes dangerous.
The belief goes like this: Since there’s not enough love around and since we have to be perfect to be lovable, chances are, we aren’t going to “get” it … as though Love is a commodity.
So we hold out. Hang back. Withhold our hearts.
Not out of wisdom, not when we know we should let go, but out of fear of being undeserving.
We think we have to be perfect to be loved.
Have a good job.
Follow the rules.
We feel isolated from others. Cut off. Separate. Alone … and don’t admit it.
Yet we refuse to see our part in this. How we refuse to lay our vulnerabilities down and instead create distance and build walls. We’re unwilling to expose ourselves – our humanity and our bright light – to become emotionally intimate.
I’m here to tell you there is no love shortage.
Love never runs out. It’s not a fossil fuel.
(We’re all acting like it is … but it isn’t.)
Instead, we scavenge around on the rotten beliefs that have been thrown at us. Beliefs of what Love is supposed to look like. Ideas that love means complete attachment. That you must cling, hold on tightly, beg, and grasp onto one another.
Love doesn’t bind to anything. It’s the light weight of an ethereal feather kissing your soft cheek.
It’s a lover looking deeply into your eyes, seeing past your detachment, the ways you shut down and hide away, but loving you still.
It’s a mother recognizing her child’s worth and loving them – without condition – even when they make mistakes. Especially when they make mistakes.
It’s the ability to know that in our humanity, we’re sometimes cracked, wounded AND also divinely luminescent, shining, and capable to be the conduit of all love.
We’re afraid to rip off every mask. We’re afraid to cut open our vulnerable heart and let the very rawness of our humanity be seen in its total mess.
Because let’s face it: We all have stories. We all carry deep hurts. And there’s NOTHING WRONG with this. There’s nothing wrong with your imperfections. There’s nothing wrong with YOU.
Can you accept this? Can you take this into your heart and truly feel it?
Oh, it’s hard for me to do.
It’s hard for most of us to do.
Look at our planet.
Look at the children screaming for attention.
Look at our relationships barely surviving the push and the pull game.
Look at the ways we think we’re different from eachother … so different that we need bombs, guns, rape, knives that cut off heads … because we pray to a different god. Because we have different colors of skin. Because we live in different neighborhoods.
Can you not see how our world is screaming out, aching for love?
Our world trills and tremors with this idea that there is not enough love to go around.
THIS is the tragedy … only because the love we seek is here always. It is within us. It surrounds us. We are it.
Love is not complicated.
Love is not a painful scream.
Love is not dangerous.
Love is not a risk.
Love just IS. It’s around us, always, ready for us to access. Ready for us to pull it inside of our hearts and simply see one another, our world, and ourselves through it.
Love doesn’t demand attention (even when we do). It doesn’t have to.
Love lives on the tip of your tongue. Love is in the curl of your ear. Love is in the way you throw your head back when you laugh. Love is in the way you look at your beloved pet.
It embraces – but does not bind.
It just kisses you and loves you and lets all be.
It’s not about the outcome.
It’s not afraid. It doesn’t shut down.
And it doesn’t take giant steps away.
It just is.
I stood naked today.
In front of a tall, full length mirror.
No preliminary glance, no quick retreat.
Shame wasn’t allowed.
While I see myself nude daily, it’s in a half mirror that sits above the bathroom sink. It allows me to focus on the parts of my body I’m most comfortable with and admire; like my heart-shaped lips that turn into a quirky smile, plump cheeks that lend themselves to youthful innocence (this helps when you’re 41), and stormy green eyes.
It’s not difficult for me to see those pieces of myself. And even despite my plentiful voluptuousness – with the right clothes – I create hints of succulent curves that I’m proud of. I wear my size quite well, thank you.
But today, it was time to take all of me in. To really look. And not just at my perfectly curled hair or ample breasts. So up went the new full length mirror.
And there, staring at me, as if waiting for my attention, were body parts I don’t easily accept: the dimpled thighs; the scars on my abdomen; the thick upper arms; and the marks that stretch widely across my stomach.
I clicked the camera and turned sideways.
There was nothing to hide. Standing straight, sucking in, or having clothes that press and smooth the sticky out bits couldn’t cover me up.
This was about telling the truth and really seeing my body in its completeness without shutting down, without looking away. Facing her. Accepting her. Loving her the best I could.
I took more shots. All angles. Front. Side. Back. And started over again. Though I’m the most accepting of my body that I’ve ever been – ever – I still felt the cringe up my spine. I heard the voices of old humiliation echo in my belly. “Look at THAT. I’m so embarrassed. If just THAT part could be cut off of me … if it would be smaller, better. I mean, your calves are looking pretty good and those feet are cute, but…ugh. THAT.”
And then something changed.
It felt mean. It felt mean and dishonest to stand in front of myself and feel love for some parts of me, but total rejection of others. It felt like a sick, slicing cruelty.
“Do you love your body?” The question shook me earlier in the morning.
Look, my body is a far cry from what our society deems beautiful. A far cry from what our mothers, our sisters, our grandmothers, our friends say is good enough. And I’m not alone. As women, we honor our shame instead of stepping into being the beautiful goddesses that we are.
We are not defined by our bodies alone. Yet in effort to portray our inner beauty, we do not have to admonish, ridicule, or diminish our physical presence.
This act of being naked before myself granted me permission to see the truth of who I am right now, without excuses, without self-degradation, without loathing over one or two particular parts of my body; but instead, to see this as a holy act of self-love. And celebrate it.
To stand with every imperfect lump, bump, fold, and awkward piece of me – alongside the smooth, curvaceous softness – became an opening to radical acceptance in a way I haven’t experienced. And I’m not done yet.
As the camera kept clicking, my stance changed. I stood taller, crossed my legs, put my hands on my hips. Smiled. I smiled in all my nakedness. A sense of unconditional confidence rose within. It was healing.
I am my body just as much as I am not. Either way…I own it. It is mine. It belongs to me. And I am beautiful.
So, my dear ones…
Do you love your body?
Stand in front of the mirror.
And love yourself.
Sometimes, we get down on ourselves and think – for whatever reasons – others may not find us attractive.
Attractiveness isn’t about your clothing size or your hair. It’s how you carry yourself. A sense of believing in who you are, knowing that you are special and important. That you have beauty within. And you do. We all do. It’s a matter of taking the time to remember what makes you unique. What you have to offer to this world. Getting in touch with who you really are.
After painful relationships and encounters, we’re often afraid of being rejected and disappointed again. That fear can be so powerful and so loud that it stops us in our tracks, preventing us from trusting our intuition and taking a chance. Instead, we shield parts of our hearts in the false belief that no one will ever truly accept us exactly as we are.
The more we’ve been broken-hearted, the more we protect ourselves. Eventually, it would take an extraordinarily talented ninja to penetrate our personal Great Wall of China: We’ve created our very own self-fulfilling prophesy.
Though I’m a big advocate for dating (it’s a wonderful way to learn about what you want and don’t want out of a relationship), it’s not for sissies. It’s scary. It’s hard. And if your walls are already quite high and thick, doing a bit of training before stepping into the dating scene is worthwhile.
What do I mean by training? Just like you’d train for a marathon, you can train for dating. Without this preparation, you can further injure an already strained or broken heart. While you’re single, see it as an opportunity to get to know yourself. Woo yourself. Discover and uncover who you are just in the same way you yearn for another to.
Many of us deeply wish for someone study us, to feel enthralled and entranced when they’re with us. Until we’re clear about our inner magnificence, how can we really expect another to see it? Yes, I absolutely believe that partners can hold a mirror up to us and help us accept, profoundly, our beauty.
Yet, if you feel damaged or unlovable, the first step is to gently deconstruct those self-loathing beliefs by bravely removing your heart-shield brick-by-brick to let love’s light in. And trust me, beautiful one, that light is already there. You are it.
So, take yourself on a date. Do something you like. Go to an art museum. A movie. Cook yourself a fabulous meal. Drive to the beach or up in the hills. Get a manicure. If those aren’t feasible, take a bubble bath, light candles and read a book. Or a juicy magazine. Buy some erotica if you want. Splurge on an outfit that makes YOU feel sexy. Spend time in front of the mirror, looking yourself right in the eyes, and seeing how gorgeous you are.
When we focus on ourselves and truly get to know our own bodies and our own hearts, we become centered; then, if you want someone in your life, you’ll attract the kind of person who is attracted to the real you, how you sparkle. And you’re meant to sparkle. If you don’t believe me, then believe Ms. Lauryn Hill when she sings “Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem.” (Doo Wop/That Thing) You are a gem.
If we believe no one will be attracted to us, they may not be … but not because we’re NOT attractive … but because we’ve put that vibe out. (Or worse, we’ll attract the type of person who senses that we’re not feeling 100% and take advantage of that. That won’t feel good … and we’ve all probably had that happen before. Let’s not do a repeat.)
It comes down to this: What you want from another, give to yourself. You want someone to be kind to you? Be kind to yourself. To respect you? Respect yourself. Show up for yourself.
Each time you do this, you’re taking a piece of your wall away, and allowing room for you to peek inside your fabulous heart and see just how stunning you are. And when you know, everyone else will, too.
So, go shine.
P.S. If this is an area that’s difficult for you (I know it is for many of us), then perhaps you’re interested in more exercises that could help which I offer through coaching sessions.