Friday, February 20, 2015

Authenticity Is A Form Of Love

"It seems to me that being authentic is being brave enough or just candid enough to be honest about what you are experiencing or who you are, whether it is popular or not. A person gives a gift to other people when they say, 'This is what happened to me or this is how I truly feel, no matter what the popular belief is about what I should feel.' Whenever you are honest, you are speaking for a thousand silent people who don't have the voice to say what they really feel or are really experiencing. So, if you ever talk about [the thing you went through], you will touch a million hearts. Because you are speaking for more than just yourself. You are never alone in what you are feeling."

 - from Joanna Goddard's mom

I finally received my lab results from my doctor today. She said that the cells which were "highly abnormal" turned out to be just mildly abnormal. She said that she is very confident that they will clear up on their own and I can come back in six months to make sure.

I felt so relieved at the good news! My heart felt infinitely lighter. I am not sure whether the first diagnosis was a mix up or whether all the good will I received changed things, but it doesn't really matter. I am grateful to be doing better emotionally and physically.

 I am still questioning whether I should have shared anything publicly, but I keep remembering that "the only censorship we apply to ourselves is the kind that will censor other people's genuine right to be whole." That's the opposite of what I want to do. To share a moment of weakness is to make yourself vulnerable, but to make yourself vulnerable is to show your true strength.

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be authentic, or to be true. I hate the phrase "be your best self." It sounds exhausting and like you might have to hide stuff that isn't "best" quality. I prefer the simple phrase "be yourself." Or sometimes I tell my friends "let your freak flag fly."

This summer I had the great privilege to spend five days in Paris by myself. Those were probably my most favorite days of the entire year. I soaked up the opportunity for peace and quiet in such a romantically beautiful city. One evening I took a long walk along the Seine. There is a bridge where lovers can lock up their love and throw away the key. I stood there for a long time. Its funny, but I almost never feel lonely when I am alone. I promised myself that I would take good care of myself always. I promised myself that I would be there for me and I wouldn't do anything to intentionally harm myself. It probably sounds cheesy or maybe even self-absorbed, but I needed it. I needed to know that I am not alone in my own company. I needed to know that I wouldn't compromise on my own happiness.  I needed to break down the barriers between who I think I am and who I actually am.

Last week I wrote about learning to receive love and support from outside.  But it is equally important to receive it from within.  Authenticity is a way of supporting ourselves.  I realized recently that love means accepting someone or something exactly as it is.  Anything else is conditional.  Authenticity is one form of love.  It is allowing ourselves to say what we feel, be who we are, and change as we go.

I still wish I had not made a private thing so public, but I decided to own it.  It is part of my life experience and I'm working on welcoming my experiences instead of hiding them.  I may have earned a new wrinkle this past week and I want it to have its place in the map of my face and life.

I loved finding this haiku in my Instagram feed this week.  Wishing you the courage to be authentic,  We can do all things. :) 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Thoughts on the Difficulty of Receiving

Love cures people- both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.
-Karl A. Menninger

I intended to write about teaching school today, but (as usual) life had other plans for me.  This was a rough week.  My job is almost never easy.   I am multi-tasking all day and dealing with dysfunction on a level that is hard to explain.  The onslaught feels relentless.  I try not only to not complain, but to celebrate the good moments.  I try to show up for my students as best as I can and then go home where I can be alone because deep down I believe people are exhausting and its up to me to take care of myself.

This week was especially hard because we had parent-teacher conferences which means 12 hour days and dealing with even more people than usual.  It was also Valentine's Day which means the kids are hyperactive.  I was at my wit's end by Thursday at lunch when I checked my phone and saw a call from my doctor's office.  After some phone tag, I was finally able to get through to the nurse with my only free time in the entire day.  I've had abnormal paps in the past so I was trying to quickly tell her that I knew my results were abnormal.  The nurse interrupted me.  Her voice sounded serious.  "Your pap is normal.  Your cells are highly abnormal.  On a scale from low to severe, we are seeing some very severe changes with you.  You need to come in so we can rule out cancer."

I immediately felt anxious.  My heart rate increased, my appetite disappeared, and I wanted to crawl out of my skin.  I stayed at work to finish conferences and then came home where I lay awake for much of the night.  By Friday morning I was an exhausted wreck.  I decided to post something on Facebook because I sincerely needed some help.  My hope was that a couple of people might say a prayer for me.

What happened instead was that many, many friends reached out to me with kindness, prayers, well-wishes, and offers of support.  I felt so embarrassed.  I only wanted a little bit of support so that I could keep taking care of everything myself.  I didn't feel like I deserved that much good will.  I didn't want to intrude on people's lives or take up more attention than I deserved.  I couldn't even read the comments.  I just wanted to make sure that I "liked" them so my friends would know I appreciated them.

It wasn't until I went hiking with a good friend today that I actually stopped and let in the love.  I started telling her the story and about how I had received so many calls and messages.  I told her how embarrassed I was for using up more than my share of love.  And then the tears came as I actually allowed myself to take stock of the great community around me.  I felt overwhelmed with gratitude and humility.  It actually turns out that I am not on my own.  

I find it very fitting that this came about on valentines weekend.  I consider myself to be very independent.  I am single and proud of it.  I can do hard things.  On Valentine's Day I usually buy flowers for friends and make dinner for other people.  I celebrate the opportunity to let my loved ones know they matter.  This year I have been too stressed out to do that.  Instead I am the one receiving the love.  I am the one receiving the flowers and the dinner.  It is really hard for me to do.  But I am reminded of something my friend said on our hike: "how great that you could give people the opportunity to share their love."  Woah.  What?!  When I let go of my need to be the "strong one," I actually allow my friends and family to step up and give what they have to offer.  And when they are in the seat of feeling vulnerable or weak I get to give back to them.  That is how we all remain alive.  

It is through the giving and receiving of love that we get through this crazy, messy, and heart-breaking thing called life.  I still feel embarrassed, but I am trying to let go of my ego and allow myself to be supported by the love.  I am broken open by the outpouring of support I have received this week.  Happy Valentines Day to the beautiful souls I get to share this experience with.  Celeste loves you.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Choosing Ease as My Reference Point

Hard work is not the path to well-being. Feeling good is the path to well-being.You don't create through action; you create through vibration.And then, your vibration calls action from you.-Abraham Hicks

I love this photo I took on a camping trip to Notch Peak.  This grove of aspen trees was powerful.  There was not a soul around except for myself and my two friends.  We each took some time to sit still and listen.  That moment is still living inside of me.

I've been experimenting this week with what happens when I use my sense of ease as a reference point.  I want to share what I've learned.  I started with this inquiry:  "what is worth losing my sense of ease?  My inner experience of well-being?" Here is the answer that came to me:  "nothing is worth losing my inner sense of stability and calm, my experience of ease."  This is just a different way of saying "don't sweat the small stuff" and "its all small stuff."

Throughout my day there are multiple invitations towards dis-ease.  Challenging people and situations tempt me to go chasing down some black hole of anger, or complaining, or shame, or blame, or confusion.  But the truth is, these invitations are simply not worth it.  As Annie Dillard reminds us, "how we spend our days is how we spend our lives."  I love this.  From my experience, the means we use to achieve an end are inextricably woven through the end we experience.  They are the material we use to create our lives.  I want my means to be ease-ful, peaceful, and bright.

My life is just like yours- complicated, frustrating, and challenging.  I watch myself become impatient with my students, annoyed with family members, critical of myself.  And then I notice the long-standing, open invitation to return to wholeness.  Why not be happy?  Why not relax?

I've just finished a very long week of work, household chores, exercise, social engagements, obligations, difficult relationships.  I have not had enough sleep, or time.  But I can sense within and around me a feeling of abiding ease.  I know this ease is available to me always, but I also know that I have to consciously chose it.  I am choosing to keep this sense of ease as a reference point,  I can notice when I leave, and I can choose to come back quickly.

I can remember the untroubled aspen.  I can inhabit that space also.  Even in a busy life.  And, as the quote above states, my outer world will begin to reflect my inner state.

Wishing you ease, lightness, and abundant joy this coming week.  Thank you for reading.