As I just wrote, things have been a bit on the down side for me over the past couple of the weeks. On Friday, I went to the library, something I do weekly, and I saw this book “Loveable: Embracing What is Truest About You, So You Can Truly Embrace Your Life”, by Kelly Flanagan. It immediately caught my eye, because well, something I have been thinking about a lot is “not being enough” and how lonely I am, and I guess really questioning my being loveable. I debated a bit about taking it out – is it going to be super cheesy? Does it mean that I am really sad or desperate that I need to read such a book? But I decided that I would take it out, and see what happens.
The truth is, this book, although at times a bit cheesy – was exactly what I was feeling. At times that was scary to read a page that I so completely identify with. There were things that I noticed in the book that we were speaking about in CPE – both in process group and in supervision. Maybe I am in a different head space so I am understanding it better or maybe it was just explained in a way that I connected with more. Although it doesn’t make it any easy to trust and change.
For the most part I do agree with the author. The one thing I do have an issue with, is that he talks a lot about finding it within one’s self how loveable they are. I want to say back to him (and maybe I will actually write an email) is that is all well and good, but if you don’t at times feel like you are loveable to others, it is really hard to keep up.
But I would say all in all, it was a really beautiful and meaningful book (yes, he does talk about Jesus and Grace – and I just took it as part of his theology, and wondered how this would read as a Jewish book). Here are some quotes that I really related to, spoke to me or just liked.
pg. 58 [Talking about anger and what anger has to do with our being – something my supervisor likes to talk about a lot. I know for myself, most of the time I just push away my mad, I wonder what would happen if I actually used it. I do find that when I am mad or angry, people have less patience to listen to me, and so I am less comfortable being angry, if I want people I can’t also be angry…]
Whether we tend to suppress anger or give it free rein, it has devastating consequences. Yet the worst consequence is not what we do ourselves when we bury it, or what we do to others when we don’t; it’s what we don’t allow it to do for us. When we deny or indulge our anger, we don’t give it a chance to be a breadcrumb. We don’t let it lead us back home through the wilderness of our shame and to the warm hearth of our worthiness. So the real question is not “Do you get mad?” The real question, in the words of the beloved Mister Rogers, is this: “What do you do with the mad that you feel?”
Pg. 68 [Breath and just be – that is all you need to do. Oh if only it felt that easy…]
…We don’t need a ladder to construct who we are supposed to be; we need an oxygen mask to resuscitate who we’ve always been. We don’t need to build; we simply need to breathe.
Our breath, it turns out, is one of the best tools we have.
When you breathe, you are not building a breathtaking life; you are simply taking the breath that gives you life. You are not moving up; you are settling down. You are not trying to win a trophy; you are simply being you.
Can you sense what a great act of faith this is? To stop all, of your doing and to simply breathe, even for ten minutes, when you still believe your doing is what makes you worthy? To quit performing while you’re still wondering if your performance has been acceptable? There’s no to-do list for this kind of moment, because there is literally nothing to do. In fact, the task is to slowly settle into doing nothing so you can experience being something, even while that something remains a mystery to you. And it requires only one thing: you have to dare to believe the something you are is alight with worthiness.
pg. 83 [Love vs. Shame…how can I not listen to the voice of shame….]
Maybe, just maybe, the spark of God at the center of you doesn’t just glow; it also speaks. Unceasingly. Of your worthiness. Maybe the spark of the God-who-is-love is always telling you about the lovely soul you are. To hear this voice of grace is to be loved and to know the name of the character you are in the story you are living. It’s the name you were given before all other names.
You are Loveable.
The problem is, somewhere along the way, we stopped listening to this voice of grace. Or rather, we began listening, instead, to the voice of shame. It’s the choice we made before we knew there was a choice to make. We chose to quit listening to the voice telling us we’re lovely and started listening instead to the voice telling us we’re a loser. That;s how we forget who we are. But it is also how we remember who we are – we don’t have to try more strenuously; we simply need to listen more closely…
pg. 86-87 [Hearing the “voice of the spark” is not easy at all…]
When you first hear the voice of the spark within you, you probably won’t unwrap it and receive it like a gift you’ve given yourself. Instead, you may pull back a piece of wrapping paper, glimpse the gift inside, and drop the love-package in shock because it is too surprising. Too much. Too good to be true. When you choose to listen to the whisper of worthiness, your first impulse may not be accept it. A vast ocean of love will open up inside of you, and it might seem like a mirage.
You may cling, at first, to the desert of your shame.
You may look at your darkness and decide it’s too black for there to be any light underneath it. You may look at your mes and believe you are too broken to be beloved. Or on the other hand, it’s possible it will feel so good that you will feel guilty – it might feel wrong to feel so worthy. You might think yourself cocky and arrogant.
…Just receive. The great theologian Paul Tillich described this experience as well as anyone when he wrote: “A wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying, ‘You are accepted. You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you do not know. Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later. Do not try to do anything; perhaps later you will do much. Do not seek for anything, do not perform anything, do not intend anything. Simply accept the fact that you are accepted.’ If that happens to us, we experience grace.”
pg. 105 [In order to connect with others we need to find that place that is common – many times that is the brokenness – but that place can also be holy]
As our incident unfolds and grace becomes the eye with which we see the world, as well as ourselves, comparison gives way to communion. Our minds give way to our hearts. The mind is complicated, but the heart is not. When our minds crack, they fall apart, but when our hearts break, they break open. And when our hearts break open, they get flooded by commonality.
When we allow our inner voice to become our inner eye, we begin to trust-fall from a psychology of competition into a spirituality of commonality. It is a spirituality of fallibility, of broken ground, which is always common good and, thus, holy ground. Our mutual fallibility and fragility become the bread and wine of our communion. We trust-fall into our common ground and, when we land, we discover we’ve fallen right into the arms of our worthiness, and the worthiness of everyone around us.
All I ever wanted was to belong, to wear that hat of belonging – Anne Lamott
Pg. 119 [Finding a place to belong to is the scariest thing. There is the risk of rejection. Not trying can hurt less then being rejected out right – at least I can then blame myself. But connecting is so important. Oh how this is the thing I am missing…]
…Now that we can hear the voice of grace and have a steady, sneaking suspicion we might actually we worthy, a part of us will want to remain there, to simply enjoy our enough-ness, and set up camp in act one. It’s safe. Secure. There is no risk.
Except there is.
It’s the risk of not finding the people to whom you belong.
You’re wired to belong, to enter into community, to join and be joined, to be one with something bigger than yourself. You’re wired for relationship. The second act of life is when you find your people and begin to truly enjoy them. But like the good second act of any story, it won’t be easy – you face danger, the action rises, the stakes get higher, the subplots get complicated, and the tension ratchets up.
In act two, you find true belonging by learning how to hold on to your worthiness while venturing out into a world that seems to be doing its best to take it from you.
Pg. 122-123 [I’m learning slowly that the ways that I have protected myself from bad, is also what has kept me from good. But it is hard to not trust that it might not be so horrible.]
The ego is like a castle with three parts: walls, cannons, and thrones.
Walls. When our tender hearts first experience rejection and shame, we build walls around our souls to keep people out and to keep ourselves safe – walls that look like silence and avoidance, or pretending and people-pleasing and public personas, or giving in and fitting in instead of standing up and standing out. Typically our ego walls develop sometimes in elementary school, right around the time we become aware other people can judge us and critique us and belittle us with a single word, or even a simple look.
Cannons. The walls of our ego are a good defense, but the best defense is a good offense, so we eventually add ego cannons to our ego walls. For some of us, ego cannons are violent – lots of fists and fury. But for most of us, ego cannons take on more socially acceptable guises: blame, condemnation, resentment, retaliation, and gossip to name a few…
Thrones. When our ego cannons inevitably backfire, leaving us lonelier than ever, we try a different tactic. We build ego thrones on which to sit, and we fancy ourselves royalty. We construct our thrones out of power, possession, and prestige. We find something to win or someone to dominate…
And it is also among the most common causes of suffering in the world. The self-protective ego keeps us isolated and alone, deprived of the authentic belonging we all desperately want and need. It creates division and leads to violence of one kind or another…It keeps us from knowing who we are who our people are, and what we’re here to do.
pg. 125 [YES! I’m learning this one too. It is up to me to allow people in…it’s just working out the rusty chains to let the drawbridge down…]
In a castle, the drawbridge is a point of vulnerability, a passageway through which the castle inhabitants have contact with the outside world, and one that permits the outside world to enter the castle. However, a drawbridge is always controlled from the inside. No one can force us to lower our defense and step out of our ego. It’s up to us to let down our drawbridge so our soul can roam freely.
pg. 165 [I miss the people who make me feel like way, and I hope that I can find others who do the same.]
… because home is the place of belonging where someone loves you enough to fan the flames of the spark that has always been alight at the center of you.
Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart. – Rumi
Pg. 180-181 [I remember having a conversation in college about how does one choose what good to do in the world. It makes me think about the things that I am looking into for next year. I do like being in the hospital, I feel mostly light. People tell me that when I talk about old people it’s when I light up, and it is most definitely something that has been sticking to me for as long as I can remember. Maybe this is what I should be pursuing…but that idea really scares me, because it might mean building something from nothing alone or moving to somewhere that I don’t really want to be living… and it is definitely not being in the spot light of communal change…]
The voice of shame says our passions, if they are going to matter, must be earth-shattering or world-changing. It subtly substitutes performance for passion and then pawns it of as the real deal…
This is what passion is not…
Passion is not about saving the world. In the words of author Anne Lamott, “Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” Passion is about simply letting the light within you shine in the things you do. Our passions are not necessarily epic. They are not always big world-changing things. They’re just things that won’t go away, things that won’t leave us alone…
Passion is not about inspiring anyone else…our passions don’t have to inspire anyone else; they just need to breathe new life into us.
Passion is not necessarily a career. …Fundamentally, your passion is not about making a living; it’s about living with the eyes of your soul wide open.
Passion is not the sole possession of privileged people. …
Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. – Howard Thurman
pg. 198 [I feel like when I was younger I had the courage to just do. I saw something and created. I did things that my heart lead me to. But then, I don’t know, maybe I felt like it was too much, or I was too alone, or it just became too hard, but I do it less. I haven’t started something from nothing in over two years. I haven’t created any theatre or art in that time either. Maybe doing all this processing will give me the courage to try again… or maybe (hopefully) I will learn what my passion is, and be able to go in that direction]
To have courage is simply to be who you are at your core and to follow your passion. It’s not a character trait; it’s a direction. People aren’t born with courage; people are born with passions – things we’re here to do. Courage is simply the decision to move toward them. So, true courage, to the observer, might look quite mundane, because it’s ordinary people doing the ordinary things they are here to do.
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal body love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things. – Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”