I recently had my furnace ducts cleaned. For some reason, this motivated me to clean the shelf in my kitchen where I dump everything I don’t know what to do with. Then, I began to clean out a drawer here and closet there.
When I started cleaning my oven, I began to worry. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d done this and wondered what in the world had come over me?
Was there something deeper, more vital, that I was really trying to clean?
Wouldn’t it be nice to just vacuum up self-doubt or scrub away fear? How about cleaning out the drawer where I stash all my anger and frustration to pretend they’re gone?
A perfectly clean home or a perfectly clean attitude need not—and I believe should not—be expected of any of us. Life is messy. Emotions are messy. We are going to spill coffee on the rug. We are going to have those little dribbles of toothpaste in the bathroom sink. Sometimes our fear is going to spill onto our faith, and sometimes our doubt is going to dribble all over our confidence.
Most of us clean our house on a regular basis, or at least once in a while! It’s wise of us to do the same with our emotions. What feelings need to be acknowledged and understood? How can we be kinder, gentler and more compassionate with ourselves?
What emotions can we learn from and recycle into wisdom and growth?
My hope for us all is that this work will deepen our relationship with ourselves and allow us to become more at ease in our own lives.
Image copyright: 123rf/Songquan Deng
Recently, I spent a morning with my family in the national park that protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America,
Walking through rugged terrain under a clear blue New Mexico sky, we could see designs and symbols that had been carved onto volcanic rocks 400 to 700 years ago by Native Americans and by Spanish settlers. They were voices from the past etched into giant black boulders, remaining unchanged for centuries. It was a powerful experience.
Later I wondered which of my stories I had etched in stone. Stories about my self-worth, my history and my place in this world. Do these stories still serve me? Are they true? Are they even mine or are they the stories of others that I have taken as my own?
In my personal library, I have the classic trilogy: “I Have No Value,” “My Voice Does Not Matter,” “I Cannot Possibly Follow My Dreams.”
The section of “poor me” stories holds some of my favorites. I take them out whenever I need a good cry or want to feel self-righteous.
Then there is the popular series of “Lack”. “There is Not Enough Love to Go Around” is the first in the series and can cause tremendous grief to those of us dealing with divorce, because if we believe there is only so much love to go around, we force our children to choose between a mother and a father.
Some unhealthy stories are so deeply etched into us, that even if we wanted to, we could not remove them. Instead, we can gently acknowledge they are with us and put them back on the shelf without opening them.
The most important story is the one that informs all the others. It is about living our lives from a place of love, compassion and faith. Out of all the stories, this is the one we must etch onto the rugged terrain our lives.
I believed I had good self esteem. If not good, it was adequate. It got me by and I believed making it through my divorce proved I could handle anything.
But it turns out that when there is a new challenge and life expects me to be something more than who I think I am, I freeze. I hope that if I ignore the situation, it will go away. I remind myself of my cats, who think if they don’t look at something, it’s not there.
When I finally look at this new “challenge,” I begin to rationalize. “I don’t have enough self esteem to handle this, so I have to stay right where I am. I’ll sit with a cup of tea, get stressed, get acid reflux and watch Judge Judy so I can feel superior to a few random people.” Eventually, I get angry (thank goodness)!
When I rode horses, I didn’t have the self esteem to compete, but I did have the love of riding and the passion and drive to do it. So, I did. At first, I competed embarrassingly badly. But there were people who picked me up and dusted me off, often literally. My self confidence grew as I became a better rider, but more importantly, so did my self esteem. I learned I would survive mistakes and embarrassment. I learned that those things don’t define me any more than winning a blue ribbon defined me.
I believe self esteem doesn’t come from reading self-help books, though they can help.
I believe self esteem doesn’t come from meditating, though it helps.
I believe self esteem comes from walking out the door and living your life.
Each step and each misstep will feed your self esteem and it will grow. You will learn more about who you are and be amazed. You will be more compassionate to others, understanding that, like each us, they are doing the best they can. Your life will be filled with confusion and joy, messes and celebrations, mistakes and miracles. What could be better?
Lately I’ve been quite confused. It’s not the usual confusion of wondering why I walked into a room, or where I put my car keys when I’m holding them, or which direction to go when my GPS has recalculated one too many times.
What’s confusing is that I’ve not been myself lately. I’ve been feeling out of sorts. It’s like I’m not able to get traction in my life.
When I shared my feelings with a friend, she clapped her hands together and said, “Hooray! That’s wonderful!” I responded, “What? Why would you say that?”
“It’s simple!” she said. “You’ve been working hard to discard your limiting beliefs. Now you no longer fit the image you’ve had of yourself and that can be tremendously confusing. But as a result, you’re growing into something new and expanded. That’s wonderful—and truly a reason to celebrate.”
The more I thought about her words, the more comforted I became. Aren’t we all doing our best to learn and grow? Wouldn’t it make sense that the more we discover, the more we will reevaluate our beliefs and discard those that no longer serve us? Wouldn’t it make sense that our insights and understanding expand?
As we embrace more and more of who we truly are, our sense of self and of the possibilities life offers broadens and deepens. And as we begin to redefine ourselves in a more compassionate way, we clarify our purpose and how we choose to journey through life.
May we each continue to learn and grow, and when we experience times of confusion, let’s celebrate!