This is a difficult question to answer, although most people will have their answer at the ready. They will begin to give a litany of their identifications; I am a human, a male, a son, a father, a white man, a Christian, a student, etc… Yet, does their identifications explicitly define the question of “Who I am?” It does up to a certain narrow perspective. If we include only the material aspects of our perspective, it does deliver a relative truth of who we are, all in terms of our material interpretation. But it seems we always identify ourselves with what we see, with what we touch, with what we smell, with what we hear, with what we possess, all exclusively with the objective world.
There is a poem written by, Edwin Arlington Robinson, called “Richard Cory.” Richard Cory was, “empirically slim, always human when he talked, admirably schooled in every grace, richer than a king, he even glittered when he walked;” simple people wished they were in his place. Yet, one calm, summer night, went home and put a bullet through his head.
Of all of his accomplishments, and material possessions, none brought Richard true, lasting satisfaction or joy. What was missing in Richard Cory’s life that made him take his life? There is a song that asks a question, “Is that all there is?” and the answer resounds, “If that is all there is, what’s the use of living.” As human beings we have a cosmic, interior urge to expand. If we live in a 6′ by 8′ room, we will aspire to live in a 12′ by 12′ room, and if that room feels enclosed we will look for a larger room.
We are caught by our locked-in social patterns, and by our cultural and religious norms. We are proud to exhibit these behaviors because it puts us on record, that we follow these cultural norms, and that we identify with them, and thus, we are entitled to belong.
Lesson to William Wordsworth’s, (1770-1850), lament:
The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in Nature that is ours; We have given ours hearts away, a sordid boon! The Sea that bares her bosom to the moon ; The winds that will be howling at all hours, And are up-gathered now like the sleeping flowers; For this, for everything, we are out of tune; It moves us not.—Great God! I’d rather be A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; So might I, standing on the pleasant lea, Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea; Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
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My dad once wrote, inside my Shel Silverstein’s book, A Light in the Attic:
Poems are the purest expression of ourselves. Always be true to yourself and make your life a great, living poem.
This has been a challenging few weeks for me. There have been many shifts and changes. As I find myself in the space between here and there, when one way of being has ended and before a new way begins, I resist the urge to create from a space of urgency and distract from discomfort. Instead I remind myself to be curious, open, and to listen and lean in to what is before me, even if it only feels like empty space and nothing new is here for me.
This morning, I did not stew in my bed with my unhealthy thoughts. Instead I did two things: I yelled at my Higher Self (something I have never done) and said: WHERE ARE YOU? YOU SEE ME STRUGGLING! WHY AREN’T YOU HELPING ME? DON’T JUST SIT THERE AND WATCH ME SQUIRM! and then I went on a walk. As I made my way on the path, my Higher Self said: Listen. And I did. What I heard is below. The opening to my Higher Self begins with this trickle of water:
This week I’d like to start by sharing a poem I wrote while in the midst of some buried trauma and pain around validation seeking.
I wonder if this is how children feel…
Who is listening? And who is there to talk to?
Who is there that isn’t too drunk? Too high? Too distracted? Too wounded? Too insane? Too selfish?
This deprivation turns to desperation. And then to rage.
Who is listening? Who is there to talk to? Who has space for me?
We are all in the same boat. Violently rocking. Or barely hanging on. Or with a stiff drink in our own hand thinking: this is the life.
But is it?
Do I need you to see me to know I exist? To know my experience matters? Do I need you to hold my space?
Where am I in this? Can I do it without you?
Is it too much to ask a wounded mother and father to do this?
Is it appropriate for that same wounded mother or father to ask their child to do this?
Who is listening? Who is there to talk to?
This poem could go further. I thought it might. But, turns out I had to live it through a little deeper in my own life in order to finish this piece on validation.
What I now understand is that poem is from the old story. Old does not make in now invalid. Instead this story is valuable, essential and leads me to where I am now where it is old enough to gain perspective and understanding in order to let it go and make room for a new story.
I cannot proclaim to know all the pieces of the new story yet. The new story is unfolding. But here are some pieces that I have gathered so far….
Piece One, The Repair Journey: On my walk this afternoon, I listened to a Super Soul podcast of Elizabeth Lesser. She spoke about her book, Marrow: A Love Story and the work she and her sister did together to repair their relationship. She posed the question: Who do we need to clean up space with so we can truly connect? Who have we hurt? And, then ask and listen.
We hurt people in many ways, often stemming from our wounds of neglect and trauma. One of the ways we hurt people is by expecting them to meet our needs and to validate us.
Piece Two, The Spirit & Soul Journey: Maya Angelou said, beware of the naked man who gives you his shirt. She also said she doesn’t trust anyone that says I love you when they don’t love themselves. I remember my mother telling me to look in the mirror and say: I love myself. And, my mother didn’t, and doesn’t love herself. It has been a strained relationship, but in many ways I took her words to heart. It framed a life, my life. I have been on the self-love journey this entire time.
To begin Repair: As we step into our reflective practice on seeking validation, let’s be curious about which relationships in our lives need some tidying up. Who can we do some repair work with? Who have we hurt, and then ask and listen, defenses down. Also, consider is this person safe, willing and ready to begin the process. There are some people who, at this time, are far too wounded and therefore will be too defensive to clear space with.
To begin the Conscious Spirit & Soul Journey: Consider that you are on a self-love journey, no matter how low or how badly you feel about yourself. Do you believe this to be true? Then, where do you think you are on this journey? Are you the kind of person who is naked, but giving your shirt away? Or do you have so many shirts and won’t consider sharing one? Either behavior shows there is an imbalance within the relationship with yourself. What if you looked in the mirror and said: I love myself? Notice what you feel. What you think. Do you believe it?
Which brings me to the next piece…..
The New Story
This weekend, while journaling, I understood that a new rhythm unfolds inside of me. The Voice Inside says to me gently: let it happen. No need to figure it out, alter it, halt it. Let it occur.
This new rhythm is of my own making. I no longer beat to the drum of my old childhood wounds and buried trauma. There is a new sound coming forth.
Here is the poem of this new sound:
There is a new rhythm coming forth.
It is of my own making.
Why would I do anything to disrupt and disturb it.
It is coming together to create a new dance in all of my relationships. In the relationship with myself.
It comes with a trust toward my eternal and steadfast vision of the person I want to be, the person I know I am.
It is not a head path or the old wounded way.
It is a soul path, a heart path.
And it is unfolding, and I am watching, noticing and gratefully looking forward to what is transpiring.
In this new rhythm I begin to understand I am fully nourished by Spirit, by my Soul’s Journey. My my very own Self.
As always, I am here to help you investigate this topic because sometimes it’s a lot to do this on our own. If you have questions about this week’s practice or have insights to share, please contact me. For deeper, more concentrated work, I am available for tele-therapy.
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Outside the lake home window I watch the water meet the rock. The water swirls around it. It sweeps on top of it. At times, it crashes right into it and whatever the water does, the rock remains strong, still, stable, unmoved. There’s a lesson here, I think. Can I be like that rock when the waves come crashing in? Can I be like the water, swirling around the rock? Can I ebb and flow and also remain steady and secure? Can I be both the rock and the water?
What if the water resisted the rock? Would the water flow? What if the rock resisted the water? Would the rock be shaped? Resistance of any kind would halt the movement and freedom of the water and would cease to shape and mold the rock. How stagnant do I become in my resistance? How do I miss the caress of the water? If the water does not crash upon me how will I be changed? How will I grow?
As I watch the dance between rock and water, non-resistance becomes the goal.
Last night I cried myself to sleep. I’m tired of certain things and I feel strongly about making some shifts. I won’t go into what I am tired of. But, I will say last night I asked for a companion, … Continue reading →
A Short Spiritual Memoir: Gradual Growth & Awakening ~
I feel stiff like winter.
I long to thaw like spring—and
See what transpired in darkness and struggle.
My life has felt harsh and ugly for so long, like those last days of winter when the snow is gray and the sky matches, and you have had enough of those bitter winds biting your bones. I don’t want this anymore. I want kind and beautiful. I find it again on a short walk. The day is as my daughter describes it: she will not sweat and and she will not freeze. It is a day of transition from winter to spring—a glimpse of what is to come.
As I walk I ask for more of myself to be revealed. I stop and look through the bare tree to the sun peeking through the gray. The song of birds remind me I am back. I needed to come back—home to Minnesota where I experience these transitions from winter to spring and later, summer to fall.
I know I have been through something awesome and difficult, and feel like everything will be alright now—at least for awhile. The end of an era, and it makes me cry. The tears thaw my stiffness and shed my heaviness, and prepare me for the warmth which is to come.
Thank God for this transition of tears. Sudden joy and elation might startle me otherwise. It is these days of transition: 32 degrees. Sun shining hazily through the gray, which make life of deeper meaning and connection possible and compatible with our ever-evolving soul.
As I end my walk, a woman approaches me and asks, “How’s the path?”
*They aren’t the same cries of my adolescence where I’d sit in bed listening to slow music, feeling sorry for myself. No, these cries do not spawn from that space of pity. They come from some place else.
I want more. I have more. I seek relief. I have relief. I ponder destiny. I realize destiny. Nothing makes sense any longer. What I had is no longer good enough. I’m lost. Then found. I cry these deep cries. When I take breaths, I remind myself of a baby who keeps gasping after a painful outburst.
Where is this place I have come? Does anyone know it? Who am I now after losing so much, and feeling as though I’ve gained so little? Where do I begin to let the river flow again? My heart is bleeding out. I miss everything. And, there is that cry again.*
*random words in the moment of one of those deep cries. Don’t even know if it makes sense, but there it is. Maybe someone can relate. Maybe not, but it’s out now.