Sometimes spiritual work just happens. You are going about your life doing what you do, and then wham you hit a wall, and so many pieces of you shake loose. As you start to pick up the pieces, you realize some don’t fit anymore. There are some pieces you have to reshape to get them to fit back into you again. There are notions and words and beliefs written into the pieces that fell out that don’t serve you anymore.
You aren’t sure how this happened. As you reshape and fit the pieces back together, you don’t suddenly feel different, but as you start to go about your life again, you notice the shifts in how you are doing things. You catch glimpses of a new and improved version of yourself.
My shift started with an online course that included a great deal of introspection and journaling. One of the first things that the instructor discussed was “facing hard truths.” Facing our hard truths is how we truly change. We see the hard truth and then decide to shift our behavior. One of the first things I noticed when we had to start focusing on what we wanted out of our lives and what was standing in the way; was that I was the problem.
I think we all do this. We want to blame everyone else for what is wrong. Like your spouse is always on their phone, and they bring it to the dinner table, and you get upset. You think here we go again; I can’t believe this! Why is he so focused on the kids’ devices when he has an issue holding onto his own?! But when I started looking at things, it was the resentment that I was letting fill my heart that was causing me to retreat. I am a runner and not in the sense of hitting the pavement for a good work out. I have been known to do that, but more often than not, I hide inside my head and move away from the things that make me feel uncomfortable. If I want to be present and in the moment, I can’t run from things that make me feel uncomfortable. And that is where I am the problem. Instead of facing things, I retreat.
My hard truth was:
I am escaping my life instead of living it. I am avoiding my hard truths.
In facing this truth, I understood that when I run, I am running from the things that matter most. If I run, I miss:
My children growing up.
The beauty of each day.
Relationships with the people who matter most to me.
Learning and growth.
And even the simple things, like home-cooked meals. Yes, if I rush too much, I am not even enjoying the food I eat.
I started to examine how I was the problem. When life gets complicated, or there is a result that I can’t cope with, I just retreat one step further inside myself. It is way easier than facing it.
But because I didn’t want to escape my life anymore, and I am sure those of you like me don’t want to either, I had to start paying attention again.
I cannot even tell you the difference it made. I said yes to showing up for friends. I made eye contact with any member of my family the entire time they spoke to me. I set whatever I was doing down when one of my children entered the room. It was slightly annoying for the first few months of quarantine because I worked at the dining room table, and there were so many interruptions, but the beauty was they were no longer interruptions, but the best part of my day.
And something started to shift in my family members, too. My husband saught me out more often. He hugged me, held my hand, reached for me. My kids came to find me on every break from online school to tell me about what was going on. What they read, what the teacher was doing. Maybe not my sixteen-year-old, but I am not giving up on that yet!
I took walks. We took bike rides. I read books. We watched movies cuddled up together. We cooked together, played games, did crafts, and sat at the table having discussions as a family.
One thing was still hanging over me. If you read along, you will know on April 16th, I wrote a post called Unhinged, which described my battle with unconditional love when it comes to someone who causes others harm. I had pulled so far away from all of my family. I couldn’t talk about things without getting upset. And feeling like an outsider had me retreating even further inside myself. But what was worse was I hiding what I felt on the inside.
Okay, so let’s take a step back fora second and recap. I took an online course called Soul Shift, which caused me to face some hard truths. I learned the hard truth that I am escaping my life, and I am the problem. When I started showing back up, fully present, everyone was there, ready and waiting for me. Thank you, Lord. Unfortunately, I was still hiding in some complicated areas and thought this was still the best way to handle things and delivering unconditional love in certain instances still seemed to be escaping me.
So move forward a few months into the future. A friend of mine asked me to host her book club for her. I had chosen the month of October to host because they were going to read Love Does by Bob Goff, and it had been on my to read list for some time (you can check it out here). Reading this book lit a fire under me regarding what love means and how to exemplify it. What is even more interesting is that Bob reminded me a lot of my dad. My dad is willing to try anything new, he is friendly with everyone, he is always willing to do something fun, he says things purposefully to get to find the answers for yourself, and he has the most amazing advice. Sometimes advice needs to remind you of home for you to be ready to accept it.
As I read and read about love and what it means to go out and live life, something in me started to unravel. Now, I was also letting go of my anger for a narcissist in my life. I had decided he wasn’t directly affecting me, and if the person it was affecting wanted help, she would ask for it. I just had to butt out and let whatever happened happen. Not my life, not my rules, not my place to do anything about it. One of the Soul Shift lessons was to listen rather than fix.
The next month the book club book was Everybody Always, also by Bob Goff (you can check it out here and then maybe order it from your local bookseller to support small business). And this one most certainly had my name on it. It is about loving everybody, always. Literally everyone, even the ones hard for you to love. Bob gives excellent advice about how you can love anyone for thirty seconds, so he just tries to love the person in front of him for thirty seconds at a time. Now, this doesn’t mean boundaries don’t apply, but you can love someone unconditionally for thirty seconds at a time. Something we are all capable of doing. And Bob isn’t talking about just your run of the mill irritating human, but he learns to love a witchdoctor who does unspeakable things.
Bob writes, “God makes people, and people make issues, but people aren’t issues. They’re not projects either. People are people.” He uses several chapters to illustrate people need to be listened to and seen rather than fixed. He says the best thing to say to someone who makes a mistake is, “That happens to me, too.” I literally finished this chapter and then read a chapter from another book, Only Love Today, and I kid you not, the author, Rachel, tells a story about her daughter. While Rachel’s family is out to dinner the waiter spills a soda. And her daughter tells the waiter, “That happens to me” and it softens everything about the interaction between the waiter and their family through the rest of the meal. I believe when we hear things repeated in our lives in this way, when they shake and rattle your soul, so your bones shake, these are Universal Truths. And this Universal Truth is compassion starts in the place where we meet people where they are and say, “me, too.”
So, have I ever loved someone who hurt me. Yep. Where they a monster? No. They felt like one at the time, and they weren’t especially great, but they weren’t an issue or someone to fix. He was just a person. And this person that I have been so angry at is just a person, too. And he isn’t an issue or mine to fix. He is God’s to heal. And we aren’t meant to do that kind of work. We were built to love others and be love in the world. As Bob says, “[l]ove isn’t something we fall into; love is something we become.” Bob demonstrates chapter after chapter that people don’t need shame or guilt; they need someone to love them, someone to catch them, and maybe just someone to listen to them. We can be love, and if we are all love, then we get to be a glimpse of what heaven is like.
I know I want to be a glimpse of heaven for the people I meet. Will it be easy? No. Am I going to make mistakes? Yep, I already have, and I am sure I will make more. But I no longer believe I am incapable of unconditional love. I think I can show anyone love and respect. It is the least I can do. I can’t fix someone; I didn’t make the rules of life, so it isn’t my job to enforce them. I just need to show up. Say a whole lot of, “that’s happened to me, too,” and just be present for my life. And if it hasn’t happened to me, and I am furious, I need to hand over my angst to God and pray that God can help the person get the love they need in the world. And remember that it is okay to have boundaries. There is love in boundaries, too.
Do I have a long way to go? Absolutely. Bob throws parades to meet his neighbors, goes skydiving because he wants to be with his son, learns how to fly planes, helps free children who are wrongfully incarcerated, and creates schools to help educate them. I am far from that kind of love in the world, but it doesn’t mean I should just throw my arms up and say, too late, I am what I am.
We can do a lot in our lives in only the way we can. We just have to show up and do the next right thing. It isn’t about BIG plans; those make themselves known on their own as you are simply living your life. It’s about making all the moments count and being the best version of love you can be in that moment, even if you have to count to thirty to love the person in front of you who might be making you crazy.
So, compassion starts with me. Love begins with me. I am the problem, but I am also the solution. And so are you. This holiday season, my wish for you is love, love, and more love. Love will help us be the best version of ourselves. Love will connect us and keep us—no more running for me, at least the psychological kind. And on the off chance I start to run; I will remember to plant my feet in the present. I will remember to show up. I will remember to be present, and I will be counting to 30 every chance I get.