Eat, Pray, Kalamazoo.

I drive a lot for work. I wander between podcasts, audio books, and music. I pick my poison when I start on my way. This week I’ve been listening to excerpts from one of my all-time favorite memoirs, Eat, Pray, Love. Call me cliche, say what you will about this book but the first time I read that book, I found parts of myself that were hiding. It was one big permission slip.

The first time I read the book, I was at a job and a university I hated. I knew in my bones that I needed to leave but I did not have the courage to quit this thing I dedicated my young life to. It’s weird to think how rigid my thinking was then. I laugh when I think that anything will ever go as planned. The first time I read the book, this quote brought me to my knees:

“I just wanted to slip quietly out the back door, without causing any fuss or consequences, and then not stop running until I reached Greenland.”

Today, on the road, I burst out into gasping sobs when I heard this piece:

“My thoughts turn to something I read once, something the Zen Buddhists believe. They say that an oak tree is brought into creation by two forces at the same time. Obviously, there is the acorn from which it all begins, the seed which holds all the promise and potential, which grows into the tree.

Everybody can see that. But only a few can recognize that there is another force operating here as well—the future tree itself, which wants so badly to exist that it pulls the acorn into being, drawing the seedling forth with longing out of the void, guiding the evolution from nothingness to maturity. In this respect, say the Zens, it is the oak tree that creates the very acorn from which it was born.

I think about the woman I have become lately, about the life that I am now living, and about how much I always wanted to be this person and live this life, liberated from the farce of pretending to be anyone other than myself. I think of everything I endured before getting here and wonder if it was me—I mean, this happy and balanced me, who is now dozing on the deck of this small Indonesian fishing boat—who pulled the other, younger, more confused and more struggling me forward during all those hard years.

The younger me was the acorn full of potential, but it was the older me, the already-existent oak, who was saying the whole time: “Yes—grow! Change! Evolve! Come and meet me here, where I already exist in wholeness and maturity! I need you to grow into me!”

And maybe it was this present and fully actualized me who was hovering four years ago over that young married sobbing girl on the bathroom floor, and maybe it was this me who whispered lovingly into that desperate girl’s ear, “Go back to bed, Liz…” Knowing already that everything would be OK, that everything would eventually bring us together here.

Right here, right to this moment. Where I was always waiting in peace and contentment, always waiting for her to arrive and join me.”

It took the air from my lungs because it is my truth. The truth is we believe that there is a finite amount of love, joy, and happiness in the world. We believe that your happiness steals from my happiness, It is ludicrous. There is enough of all these things for all of us. We each have our own paths, My happiness was never for you and your happiness was never for me. But, it is hard for people to celebrate one another without reflecting on their own deficits.

I wonder what your future self is pulling you towards? I wonder what you are growing into? I wonder where this world will take me. I wonder and trust and hope and fear. Trust yourself, trust the wise inner voice, trust the divinity inside of you. Don’t let other people quiet that divine voice pulling you into a beautiful future. It’s not their path. It’s mine.

Love.

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But, Can You Love This Much?

I think a lot about spirituality, physics, and religion. I have wonderings (a new word I picked up) about divinity and love. When asked to distill my faith down into a simple sentence it goes like this: But, can you love this much?

When I’m faced with a person living counter to my values in such a way I feel enraged, I challenge myself and say but can I love this much?

When I’m faced with a horrific story and feel compelled to run away or shut down, I challenge myself and say but can I love this much?

When I look a homeless man in the eyes and feel a sadness that could fill the universe, I challenge myself and say but can I love this much?

Love, like Mister Rogers puts it, “Is a verb.” Love is the unconditional acceptance of common humanity. It is the thread that ties us all together. It is my prayer, my challenge, and my purpose.

Some days with some people, I literally have to say out loud to myself: But, can you love this much? I wish I could say it always works and I always find the best in what I believe to be the worst places but I don’t.

That’s when I ask myself: Sissy, even with your faults, even with your mistakes and scars and losses and fears: Can you love yourself this much?

Love.

This Goes Out To My Enemies.

In trying to please all, he had pleased none.”
Aesop, Aesop’s Fables

You can travel the world
But you can’t run away
From the person you are in your heart
You can be who you want to be
Make us believe in you
Keep all your light in the dark
If you’re searching for truth
You must look in the mirror
And make sense of what you can see
Just be
Just be – DJ Tiesto

I believe if you are living your life honestly, you will inevitably piss a few folks off in the process. It’s just the way it works. We are all built differently. However, I’ve always thought the idea of enemies was a bit narcissistic. I can’t believe that anyone would think of me enough to consider me an enemy. If they do, I suppose I’m better off not knowing.

I know that I have thoughts, opinions, and values that some people don’t agree with or even feeling strongly the other way. If I went out of my way to hide or pretend I didn’t feel the way I do, parts of me would shrivel and fester I would end up not liking certain parts of me because other people didn’t. I would feel bad about myself all in service of getting another person to like me. I would do this without considering the real question: Do I like them? 

I believe denying your own thoughts, feelings, and beliefs is an act of self harm. 

For much of my twenties. I ran around trying to make everyone else “happy” without consideration for how I felt. And, it was a miserable mess. It’s confusing because you end up sharing time with people you’re supposed to like or you want approval from and you end up feeling bad about yourself (of course I did!). This should have been a clue to consider what I want and need.

Like I’ve said a million times before, humans are wired for social connection. It’s normal to feel bad if someone doesn’t like me. But, just because I feel bad (or guilty) does not mean I need to change who I am to get their approval. I can take a deep breath and remind myself that life is long (hopefully) and liking myself is much more important than another person liking me.

Some people argue that this is a selfish way to live. I strongly disagree. When we are happy and whole we are much healthier, kinder, compassionate, giving, patient, and loving. If we are not living our lives honestly, we are resentful, cruel, jealous, hateful, and angry. Living life honestly makes you happier and this has a ripple effect on the world around you.

Happy people make other people happy. And people that are hurting, hurt other people. 

The magical thing that happens when you recognize this, is that you start to surround yourself with people who like you for you. And, you are able to establish healthier boundaries with people that don’t like/approve/agree with the way you live your life. This does not give you permission to be cruel to people that live their lives differently. In fact, denying love, care, affection, compassion, and connection in an effort to get people to agree with you never works. We covered this in post Conditional Love.

Each  of us are constructed beautifully and uniquely and some of us fit together nicely and some of us do not. It’s like when you’re putting together a puzzle and you try to shove two pieces together that don’t fit: it doesn’t work, it looks awful, and it messes up the rest of the picture. So, live honestly, find your tribe, trust yourself, and know that sometimes you’ll try to shove the wrong pieces of the puzzle together.

“She had blue skin,
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by-
And never knew.”

Shel Silverstein, Every Thing on It