I’m currently among a group of people who are working the online program called “Daring Greatly” offered by Brene Brown. This first week we’re focusing on our values (among other things). In the process, I’ve discovered something about my interactions with a particularly toxic person who has since died but left fossilized tentacles of poison behind.
A bit of backstory. Most all of the interactions we had with each other ended in disagreements. He was a particular type of brutal: one who kept things changing and so shaken up that those who dared to disagree with or disobey him always found themselves on shifting sands and coming away with the sense they somehow “lost’ the fight. In reality, those of us who disagreed and disobeyed didn’t actually lose the fight; we lost his approval and acceptance largely because he couldn’t own any portion of the role he played in pushing away his family. And it took me, in particular, a long time to realize I never would get his approval.
For so many years, I carried this sense of never being good enough for him and the extended family he belonged to. I so often felt frustrated he couldn’t “see” what he was doing. (He could; he just didn’t admit it, as I discovered later.) And he never gave me credit for anything good unless it was about cooking and even then, only provided a very back-handed compliment.
“I don’t care what anyone says about Anne, she can really bake.”
That’s as close as he ever came to validating any portion of me. In fact, he accused me of f’ing up a member of his family.
I don’t intend this backstory to vent or marginalize him as a person. Only to use it as a backdrop for a few lessons I learned very recently, lessons I’d like to share in the hope of easing someone else’s way. It’s only now, this week, that I’ve come to a very different viewpoint about my worth and how to handle the lessons provided me through this man.
I’ve come to realize that every time I spoke my truth to him, I displayed vulnerability and great moral courage. I stood up for people over money, gratitude over scarcity, giving over taking, loving over hating. The problem, though, was that both my inner sense of insecurity and my deep desire to fit in led me to the conclusion something was “wrong” with me. That I wasn’t good enough, wealthy enough, whatever-enough to earn passage into his sanctum and permission to sit at the table.
It was again this week, when I shared this realization of my moral courage along with the sense of never being enough that I received this gem of insight from a coworker many years my junior.
“Mama,” she said, using her nickname for me, “you did exactly what you had to do at the time in order to learn what you had to learn and to teach the people affected by him what they needed to learn at that time, too.”
This triggered some really deep digging for me, so much so I wrote the following in my journal:
“…Intellectually, I knew I was enough but I never took it to the next level of ‘Where, in my life, am I allowing others’ opinions affect my view of myself?’ And then to an even deeper level of looking at specific instances, breaking them down to separate components and addressing each component. Then, taking it [still deeper] to the deepest part that required the greatest amount of work: taking the learning and applying it to every day life, as a practice. …”
So I learned a second lesson this week: it’s not enough to intellectualize something. I have to take things down to the deepest level possible, squeeze every bit of learning from them, and then practice what I’ve learned in every day life. I’m realizing, again, that making spiritual work - from writing to reading to doodling in my art journal - a daily practice is my equivalent of daily prayer. Centering. Focusing. Caring. Listening. All with a sense of gratitude and self-worthiness. From my spirituality flows the courage and honesty, the integrity and sense that we are all important and have so much to offer.
And as a daily evening practice, I go to “church” - night time walks under the glow of Moon, lifting my face to the Wind and smiling as I watch my dogs enjoy the night as much as I do - as a way of unwinding, smoothing the ragged edges of the day, and relaxing into Spirit.
My wish for you is that you come to realize your incredible worth, find ways to your truest self, and live from that part of you as a daily practice.
Be of good spirits.