Root Cause

I had a chance to work on the second lesson in Marianne Williamson’s book A Course in Weight Loss. It was very enlightening. The lesson talks about the only way to change a situation is through kindness and acceptance, not criticism and negativity. Marianne writes about how each person has various elements of their personality, just like there are various shades of the same color. We have hunter green and lime green, but we can trace those shades back to the root…back to green.

People also have different shades and our overweight or “fat” self is a part of us. Until we embrace that fat self, it will continue to get bigger in an effort to get our attention and be acknowledged. She has you write a letter from your skinny self to your fat self and then let your fat self respond with a reply.

It felt silly at first and I couldn’t imagine what I would gain from writing these letters. How very wrong I was!

I said a prayer before I began and asked that all the important stuff that needed to be acknowledged be brought to the light in these letters. I was amazed at what my different shades had to communicate. The letters are funny, sad, and gut-wrenching. They are honest and gritty, but filled with heart.

I learned that my skinny self is ready to have a life of first’s, passion and confidence. To feel at home in her skin, not at war with her body. She is strong and sassy and is ready to take the reins. She is willing to get hurt and takes full responsibility for her dreams coming true. My fat self is wise and skilled at protecting us from heartbreak. She eats the feelings that we are unwilling to express and takes the brunt of the world’s injustice because she hates to see us in pain. She knows things need to change, but she was only acting on what she thought was best for us.

These letters are a bridge between where I have been stuck and a new future on the horizon.

I have many shades. I am many selves all wrapped up in one vessel. I am strong. I am learning. I am changing.

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Trying to Find My Way Home

This is my first official picture. It was taken a couple of hours after I was born. I have been looking at it a lot lately and wondering to myself how I can get back to that pure innocence and trust that I would always be cared for.

I don’t usually post until Wednesday, but seeing that it is almost 11:30 pm on Tuesday, I am figuring that it’s close enough. I finally finished the first lesson in A Course in Weight Loss by Marianne Williamson. I have been working on it essentially since the beginning of 2011 and tonight I was able to write out the last of my feelings and fears that have been holding me back from living in truth and authenticity. Marianne asks you to write out all of your thoughts and feelings on twenty-five words that represent the bricks in the wall you have built around your heart as pounds of excess on your body. These words include shame, embarrassment, inferiority, greed, selfishness, disdain, burden and heartbreak. She asks you to not go unconscious and to write it all out.

I did write it all out. It took many months, but I did write it all out. Seventeen pages to be exact. It is freeing and liberating to finish all of that work. It was work. Hard work. I would spend hours working through a couple of words and then not touch it for weeks or months. It was too much to work through. However, now it is done. It is out of my body and my mind and I can move onto the next lesson.

I had an epiphany today during a conversation with one of my best friends. We sat outside in the shade on her parents deck and discussed our lives and their complications and wonders. Later on in the afternoon, we discussed someone from our past. He had hurt both of us in different ways and in varying degrees. The kindest words I can use to describe our tumultuous relationship would be to say that he destroyed something in me. Do me a favor and scroll up to my first official picture. He destroyed my sense of innocence and turned my heart into a battle field for many years. After our demise, I learned how to build walls and deny trust. I learned how to avoid vulnerability at any cost, because it just wasn’t safe.

I also learned from the actions of others around me who continued to allow this person to remain in their lives that I didn’t matter. My life and my pain wasn’t worth enough for them to stop spending time with him. I didn’t matter at all. As I verbalized this today to my friend, I was struck with how profoundly sad it was. I gave all of these people the power to shrink me. I gave everyone else the power to harden me with lies and shame.

I have been trying to find my way home again with this project. I have been attempting to break through the bricks I have stacked around me in an effort to protect myself from any more harm. I know it is impossible to get back to the little person pictured above. I know that even the people who love me the most aren’t always good at taking care of me and my best interest. However, I am learning or trying to learn how to take better care of myself.

I long for the chance to lay all my baggage at someone’s feet, shrug my shoulders and say, “This is me. Warts and all. I am scarred inside and out, but I am capable of great love. What do you say?”

They will look me up and down with eyes that drip with kindness and compassion. They will open their arms and their heart and say, “Welcome home, baby.”

This journey will not end anytime soon. Em, thank you for being honest with me, even if I get defensive and start to push away. Thank you for being quick to apologize and embracing of my whole self. You are helping me to dismantle all this hurt and find my way home again. Thank you for pushing me to be brave.

Love’s Liberation and Bright Blue Toes

This is Lilly. She is a rescue black lab that we adopted three years ago. She is the funniest dog I have ever known. She had a horrible life of abuse before we saved her from a shelter. She’s a bit rough around the edges when she’s scared, but once she lets you into her heart she will love you with unwavering intensity and devotion. Every day Lilly greets me with such love. I wonder if anyone else in my life loves me so deeply.

When she first came to live with my family she was described as a savage. You couldn’t even look her in the eyes. Well, I could. She trusted me within the first five minutes. She has come to be a different dog. Love, family and belonging gave her a second chance to blossom and thrive.

I caught the last ten minutes of a new program called Master Class on the OWN network yesterday. This show featured the incomparable Maya Angelou. I wish I could have seen the whole show.  She spoke in those last few minutes about the power of love and liberation. I thought of Lilly. I thought of myself. As I sat there, listening to her harmonious voice, I started to cry. Even through the t.v. screen her eyes bore into mine and her wisdom shook me.

Her words of love and liberation echoed what I have been reading/learning about in the lessons in A Course in Weight Loss. How can I expect my body to change by hating it. Only the power of love can liberate and release. It seems so simple…

I wasn’t taught to love myself unconditionally. There are always strings. I was only truly worthy of love if I looked or acted a certain way. Even when I’ve tried to conform, there is still some aspect of myself that just isn’t up to snuff. This is one of the major reasons I want to change this year. I want to be a mother someday and I don’t want to pass this on to my children. I don’t blame my mother anymore…she taught me the lessons she was taught by her mother. I was instructed to hide my unique magnitude. I had to refrain from bragging about my talents or bright light. It is any wonder I have rebelled and found another way to be large.

I want to stop this cycle. I want the hereditary skill of self-hate to end with me.

In an effort to connect my mind, body and spirit – I wanted to include a meditation practice in this experiment. I wanted to use the visualization techniques in A Course in Weight Loss but since I’m still working through the first lesson, it’s too soon to start these meditations. Luckily, I remembered about a technique I read about in Prevention magazine some time ago.

The technique is mentioned in an essay called, “Happiness Is a Choice” by Ann Patchett. She recalls attending a meditation workshop and learning a technique for seeing the goodness in others. Ann sat for 11 minutes every day, her hands in front of her heart, palms spread apart by a few inches, and visualized her husband as his best self inside that space between her hands. She was to do this for forty days. If she missed a day she would have to start over again.

Ann realized that as the days increased, she was responding to him in a different way. She was grateful to have him. She says, “The more goodness I saw in him, the more goodness he showed me. I didn’t change my husband, I changed myself, and in doing that I opened my eyes to what had been there all along.”

I decided today that this would be a good meditation to start with. If I could see my own goodness for 11 minutes every day, maybe I could have my eyes opened as well.

I have tried meditation in the past and have failed miserably. My mind wanders. The incessant chatter in my brain drowns all my good intentions and I give up. This morning, I tried this meditation. I set my alarm for 11 minutes. Every time my mind wandered to other thoughts, I would bring my focus back to my breath. I would breath in the thought I am. I would breath out love. In – I am. Out – love. In – I am. Out – love. I am love. I am love. Soon I had my focus back and I could think about my goodness again.

My goodness seemed a bit of a stretch this morning so instead I visualized all the things I wanted to be good at. I saw myself teaching a class full of engaged children. I saw myself writing books, singing in front of a captive audience, laughing with friends, enjoying a date…

When the alarm sounded, I jumped. I couldn’t believe that 11 minutes had passed so fast. I also couldn’t believe that I was able to do it and keep my focus. It was the first time I have ever felt successful at meditation. I’m actually looking forward to doing it again.

Afterward I felt more focused and centered in my own skin. I generally rush through getting ready, but today I took my time. I used a face mask and almond body butter. I painted my toe nails bright electric blue.

Since the meditation is meant to be at least forty days, I will be adjusting my grid accordingly. I’m excited to heed Maya Angelou’s call to love and liberation. I showed Lilly how to love and watched how it transformed her. I want to love myself with the same adoration that she shows me every minute of the day. I have spent many years wallowing in self-hate, and was crazy enough to expect things to change. This year I’m learning to be present. I looking forward to liberation.

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