On pain and forgiveness

pain_scale_graphic_499_202It’s cool and raining now. I woke up this morning to the sound of the rain on my house and the maple tree behind my house. There is always a moment when I wake up and don’t judge myself or the day. I just hover in my renewed consciousness, my new awareness of my body, its breath and skin, bones and sinews. Then I ask, not in words but a kind of probing: What kind of day was it yesterday? What did I do, and what happened to me? Am I waking up proud and grateful, or disappointed and frustrated? Do I need to talk myself through things? Do I need to tread lightly because I exacerbated my foot or back injuries? Did I have a migraine yesterday and is it still there? Did I stay up too late? Did I overeat? Did I fight with a friend?

Yesterday morning I woke up after a really bad migraine, probably a nine out of ten on the pain scale for parts of it. I didn’t have to have such a bad one. Unlike some of my migraines, which ebb and flow into each other, this one had a clear beginning Friday evening, and I have meds that might have kept it from getting full blown like that. But the neurologist told me to try to take breaks from the meds when I can, so as not to develop medication-overuse migraines. She said if it’s a day I don’t have much to do to consider just riding it out. Sure, I thought Friday night. I can do that. Saturday’s free and I’m used to the pain. But this one got really bad, and by Saturday evening I was having trouble coping.

When it was at its worst I craved ice cream — and specifically Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia — so badly I cried. I’ve been eating pretty well lately, so there were no sweets of any kind in the house. I ended up pouring milk and honey over some of Mark’s oatmeal, and that sort of worked. While I was eating, and for half an hour afterwards, the pain went down to an eight. And I thought, as I have many times in the past few years, of how hard it had been when the migraines were this bad almost daily. I thought, as I have many times, that I forgive myself for things I did trying to cope with the pain, for overeating so much that I gained fifty pounds, for leaning too heavily on Mark which was really hard for him, for not being able to gently and gracefully navigate all the community stuff which was going on at the time, for being panicky and self-focused sometimes in ways that hurt other people.

I’ve been through this process already, and have been able to forgive myself, but this weekend I felt like that forgiveness settled even deeper. The mind has mechanisms to make us forget how bad pain really is, so as much as I feel I remember it, when it returns that intensely it brings back the memory of exactly what that particular pain means. When I was in it on Saturday I forgave myself again, and felt a settling deep inside me. I know I hurt people, and I don’t minimize that. But I think it’s miraculous that I did as well as I did, and that I’m doing as well as I am now. I did my best. I really did.

Yesterday morning I woke up and took stock. The worst of the pain was over, but the other migraine symptoms were still there: fatigue, vertigo, difficulty thinking, and sensitivity to light and noise. It was the perfect spring day for a hike or bike ride, but I took it easy and drove the mile to the soccer field instead of walking. The eleven year old who I’ve known since he was two months old played a fierce game, running around out there like a miniature MLS player with his blond fauxhawk. I was having trouble concentrating, but I happened to be paying attention at just the right moment, when he scored an amazing goal from almost midfield. It was awesome to be a part of his pure joy and pride, and awesome that my presence there meant a lot to him, that he came over to me after the game and basked in my praise.

I thought about yesterday’s pain and self-forgiveness, and I found, as I have before, again and again, that forgiving myself had freed me up to forgive others. Just as my self-forgiveness settled in deeper, I found myself able to let go even more of wrongs that others had done to me. Coincidentally, I had happened to watch a short video of Nadia Bolz-Weber talking about forgiveness earlier that day. “I really believe when someone else does us harm, we’re connected to that mistreatment like a chain.” She said that forgiving someone breaks your connection to that hurt. Forgiving someone, she said, means saying, “What you did was so not okay that I refuse to be connected to it anymore.”

I was thinking about the video throughout the day, and suddenly I realized I was able to cut a few more of the strands connecting me to not only my own shame from that time, but the pain that others caused me as well. I don’t minimize what they did, either, but just as I was doing my best through a lot of pain, I feel like they probably were as well. I’d believed that before, and forgiven them before, but yesterday felt like it settled in a little bit more. Like when you’re lying still on your back at the end of a yoga class, and without even realizing it you suddenly relax a muscle you didn’t know you were tensing, and your back cracks with relief.

After the soccer game I drove home, but then walked the quarter mile to the store to get something for dinner. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was on sale, two for $7, so I bought myself some Cherry Garcia and some Half-Baked as well. This morning when I woke up, after a moment of pure joy at the sound of the rain, I had that movement of coming into awareness. And I remembered that I’d eaten more of the two pints than I’d intended to. But I also remembered the pain of the weekend, and the new, deeper forgiveness. So I took a deep breath and let that shame go, stretched my stiff body, made myself some coffee and peanut butter toast, and began my week.

To all of you who may be struggling with shame, or with a tie to wrong that has been done to you — I know it’s so hard. Keep at it. Keep recklessly forgiving yourself, and very carefully forgiving others, recognizing that part of forgiveness is learning what boundaries you need to set to be safe.

Love to all of you, and happy Pride!! “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love. Cannot be killed or swept aside. Now fill the world with music, love, and pride.” ~Lin-Manuel Miranda

Jessica

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Devils and angels

migrainedepression

from Deviant Art — I’m looking for the artists name, hang on…

“If you take away my devils, my angels may flee as well.”
~Rainer Marie Rilke, my paraphrase

 

There was news of a medical breakthrough this morning, and it was relevant to me. There’s a medication that prevents migraines. I don’t say there’s a new medication to prevent migraines, because there really weren’t any old ones: Everything doctors use is off label, which means it was developed for another purpose but was found to improve migraines in some people. In other words, if it works it’s kind of a fluke. For my migraines right now I’m on an antispasticity medication developed for cerebral palsy, and an anti-psychotic developed for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. I don’t have cerebral palsy, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. But those meds help enough for me to work 32 hours a week, so long as I rest most of the other 136 hours. It used to be worse. But it could be a lot better.

When I woke up this morning — with a really bad migraine — I opened Facebook and saw that two of my aunts had sent me the article about this new medication called Aimovig, I read the headline and then ignored it for the rest of the day. I had just been to see my neurologist a couple of weeks ago, and she hadn’t mentioned anything about it. In fact, she’d had me start another off label medication, this one for high blood pressure. (I don’t have high blood pressure.)

I don’t have a lot of hope, and I don’t need much right now. I’m doing a lot better than I was, though it was hard to explain that to the doctor after she’d asked how many times a month I had a migraine and my answer was almost every day. See, I have two kinds of migraines, sort of: An underlying daily mixture of fatigue, nausea, dizziness, light sensitivity, pain, and other symptoms that almost never goes away but that I can function under, and more painful breakout migraines, that are much harder to soldier through. I have the latter about 10 days a month. But I used to have the breakout migraines almost daily. There were a couple of years that I could barely get out of bed, much less hold down a job, exercise a little, and find joy in life. It could be a lot worse.

My dad commented on the link my aunt shared, leaving such a lovely compliment to me and my writing, and said, “I have often thought and prayed about how much more she could do if only she could be freed from these awful migraines.” He and my aunt discussed whether insurance would cover it. But I didn’t think about it much. I didn’t even read the article until later in the day when another person shared it and said if it was true it would change her life. Then I thought: It would change my life, too. But how would it?

I let my thoughts wander to fantasy, where I’m more comfortable sometimes than reality. I can’t really think about getting better — I have to concentrate on getting through each day. But I can fantasize about it, like I fantasize about winning the lottery sometimes, or getting my dream house. What would I do? With all that extra energy, extra time I didn’t need to spend taking care of my high-maintenance head? The answer, in part, came easily: First, I’d exercise. I’d have such a go at that elliptical machine, ride my bike miles and miles, swim till even under the water I could feel my body sweat. I love exercise so much, during and after. I love how I feel when my body is in shape, the muscles under my skin, the strength. But now I get a migraine every time I have a cardiovascular workout. I have to limit myself to 20-30 minutes, and even then I have to walk carefully afterwards to avoid head rushes, eat within half an hour of the workout, make sure I don’t have anything important to do in case I need to lie down. Without the migraines — I’d get in shape, that’s what I’d do. And then?

I think I’d do what I’m already doing. Nannying. Writing. Cultivating friendships. I’d just nanny a few more hours a week so I can start putting money into savings. I’d write more, not just when the migraines allow me an hour or two of reprieve. I’d make plans with friends without worrying about whether I’ll be able to go out for lunch AND go to work the next day. Oh, and I’d actually do some social activism, instead of just thinking and writing about it. Basically, I’d show up more.

Some things I’d hope to keep, like the space that the migraines create to rest my body, mind, and spirit. It might actually be harder without them. I rest now because I have no choice. Maybe I’d fill up my time too much, get captivated by the money I can make by working more and more, spend so much time with wonderful people that I lose the centeredness that being along brings. Maybe I’d lose the drive that having something to fight against gives me. Or the depth of insight that pain offers. Maybe my angels would leave with my demons.

I don’t think so, though. I’ve made friends with both the angels and the demons now. I’ll be okay if this new medication doesn’t work, and I’ll be okay if it does. But I know there are so many people who suffer more than I do, whose lives would be vastly improved. It really could be a miracle cure for millions.

I hope so.

Peace and health to all of you. I hope whatever pain is in your life teaches you what it’s there to teach you, and then leaves gracefully.

Love,
Jessica

 

Activism needs introverts

img_2397The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
~1 Corinthians 12:21-26

Hi friends, how have you been? There’s so much going on in the world right now, and I’ve been wanting to — needing to — write, but my health hasn’t been great. Migraines, then a shoulder injury, then a cold, plus probably some depression, though the symptoms could be migraine symptoms, too.

My body’s limitations have been a frustration to me for most of my life, in how they limit my own well being and how they limit the volunteering and activism I so much want to be a part of. I am only working 30hrs a week right now, but that is enough to sap my resources and make it hard to do much else. I made it to a book discussion about Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me, but the other things I wanted to do in January — go to a SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) meeting, go to the Boston Women’s March, go to Logan airport to protest the Muslim ban, go to the protest of the Muslim Ban at Copley Square on Sunday, get back to volunteering at Horizons for Homeless Children, volunteer as a baby cuddler at MGH — were beyond my grasp. Even making donations isn’t feasible for me as I struggle to not only pay the monthly bills but to pay off debt from when I was really sick eight years ago, though I did manage (very) small gifts to TogetherRising for refugee aid, and Black Girl in Maine (paying WOC writers for their work is important) and to contribute to having a sandwich named after a friend of mine who died from suicide ten years ago.

I spend a lot of time and energy wishing I had more energy, that my personality was stronger, that leaving the house didn’t make me nervous, that talking to people didn’t exhaust me. But I am trying to do less of that, and focus more on what I *can* do. I can think deeply about things, and I can write (albeit slowly) about them. I can listen well, and hold contrasting ideas in my head without trying to find a facile resolution. I can write (again, slowly) poetry and stories. I can support and cheer for others whose have more energy and extroverted personalities. I can babysit for friends while they go to protests.

I watched a wonderful TED talk the other day by Sarah Corbett of the Craftivist Collective entitled Activism Needs Introverts. She had me hooked when she started out the talk by confessing that she used to hide in toilets (British for bathrooms). Here was someone who had dedicated her life to activism, to making the world a better place, and she was an introvert like me! I have hidden in toilets, on stairwells, on sidewalks, and many other nooks and crannies — and that’s when I could bring myself to leave the house. Sarah said that introverts are important to activism because they are good at slow activism, intimate activism, and intriguing activism. Do give it a listen — she speaks to extroverts, too, and she has the most adorable accent.

I know not everyone who reads my blog is an introvert, but many of you may have also been wondering what your part is in this strange new world we find ourselves in. In the bible passage I quoted up top, Paul is addressing a controversy in the early church about spiritual gifts. Some of the early Christians were doing extroverted, strong personality kind of things like preaching, prophesying and speaking in tongues, and looking down on other who didn’t have those powerful, charismatic gifts. But, Paul said, there are other kinds of gifts — wisdom, discernment, healing — that are not a flashy but just as important. Paul compares the church to a body, and says that even though different parts of the body have vastly different functions, they all depend on each other for survival. The arms, legs, and head may seem to be the most active and important, but without the quiet beating of the heart, the rhythmic breathing of the lungs, and the kidney and liver working to process toxins, the arms, legs, and head would be lost. We all have a part to play, and no one’s part is less or more important.

Frederick Buechner said that, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” What is  that place for you? What are you good at? Are you our lungs, breathing oxygen and peace in and the bad air out? Are you our liver and kidneys, processing the toxins of the world to keep us healthy? Are you our brain’s left lobe, thinking clearly and logically, solving problems and cutting through misinformation and sloppy thinking? Or our brain’s right lobe, seeing colors and patterns missed by others, creating metaphors, art, music, and fantasy that speak deeply to reality? Are you our legs, pulling on your boots and getting out there leading us into battle? Or our mouth, speaking truth to power, speaking with courage and kindness? Whatever you are, we need you. We can’t do it without you.

I love this Twitter thread by thirst trap thexology, who calls herself a “scholartivist”:

We’re gonna need folks to do a /whole bunch/ of different things in the coming years, so now is a good time to take stock of your skills

Do you have money? Support folks who don’t. Give to individuals doing work you can’t, give to bail funds, give to marginalized folks

The streets aren’t for you but you’re good at child care, cooking? Set up a daycare for activists during protests, make food etc

Lawyer? Defend protesters. Policy wonk? Find and exploit flaws in proposed and existing legislation, maybe come up with alt proposals

Artist? Writer? Creative? Dreamer? Give us space to escape to, help us imagine more beautiful futures. You’re so important right now.

Whatever you are good at, it can be of use. Put your skills towards a more beautiful future.

Every single one of you has a skill set that we will need. Every single one of you. Find your lane and work it. We need all of us.

I need you, You need me, We’re all a part of God’s body. You are important to me, I need you to survive.

I’m sitting on my couch writing this, shivering and coughing, covered up in several sweaters and a blanket. I wish I was sitting with the lawyers at the airport. (Those lawyers, man — they are giving me hope.) But I do not have that skill, or that ability. What I do have is my computer. I have my network of friends. I have my blog. And I have prayer, which I still believe in, even now, even more now, even more. Pray for me, and I’ll pray for you. March for me, and I’ll write for you. And one of these days, daggummit, I’ll make it to a protest, too. Maybe a sit in, because standing is tiring. But for now, I write.

Love you all. Thank you so much for reading.
Jessica

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January thaw

img_2122Good morning, friends. How are you doing this winter? Is anyone else having a hard time making it through? I’ve been fine, really, but even when the winter is relatively mild it feels like everything is just a little bit harder. Getting out of bed has been harder. I’m hyper-responsible (which comes from a deep fear that I’m irresponsible) so I hardly ever wake up late, much less get to work late, but there have been a couple of mornings lately that it was really, really hard to gather the energy to crawl out from under the covers. Life in general feels hard, but then there’s this upcoming inauguration and fears — which are already being realized — that some hard days are ahead for our country. I have an undercurrent of stress and anxiety that I think many Americans share, and I’m worried about us as a nation. This kind of constant stress isn’t good for us. I’d like to buy us all a coke, except not a coke because it’s full of high fructose corn syrup and chemicals. I’d like to buy us all a smoothie. Or a massage. Or a yoga class. Or, you know, affordable health care.

My own faith, and deep inner peace, comes from the belief that even though everything is not going to be okay, I am going to be okay, deep down in the core of me, where the one who created me and loves me breathes with me. Every breath reminds me of the presence of the Spirit. All I have to do to return to that presence is to breathe. That I am deeply known and loved and held is true, just as it is true that terrible things are happening in the world, and terrible things are going to happen. Holding these two truths together in my heart, in my body, in my breath is the challenge and the hope of this winter.

A friend of mine has chosen the word resistance as her word for 2017, and I wish I could join her. I want to be strong, I want to feel like I can do something to fight for justice and fairness in this scary new world. Or, you know, affordable health care. But I honestly can often barely get out of bed these days. I go to my nanny job, I run my errands, go to physical therapy for this foot problem I have and to the chiropractor for this back problem, come home and cook dinner, take my migraine meds, and then collapse into bed again. Just getting through the day is about all I can manage. I think my word of 2017 might be something like basic survival. Yet that is resistance, too. George MacDonald wrote:

Let us in all the troubles of life remember – that our one lack is life – that what we need is more life – more of the life-making presence in us making us more, and more largely live. Let us rouse ourselves to live. Of all things let us avoid the false refuge of a weary collapse, a hopeless yielding to things as they are…he has the victory who, in the midst of pain and weakness, cries out…for strength to fight; for more power, more conscious-ness of being, more God in him.

I woke up this morning sore from the chiropractor’s appointment, tired from work, and feeling a migraine coming on. But I woke up. I roused myself to live. And I sat on my couch and opened my computer to write to you. I greatly admire my friends, and those like her, who are gathering and organizing and doing something to resist, to fight. And I also greatly admire my friends who are fighting just to get out of bed in the morning. I am trying to admire myself for that, too. Weariness draws us into despair, but instead of giving into that despair, we rouse ourselves to live. We wake up each day and get out of bed. We take deep breaths and remember that God is with us. In the midst of our pain and weakness we cry out for strength and life. And while we wait for the winter to be over we keep moving through it, doing our best each day. That is resistance. That is courage. That is enough.

Love,
Jessica

P.S. If you do have a little extra energy and want to be involved, your local chapter of Showing Up For Racial Justice is a great place to start. Among many other things they send a monthly list of action points, including a commitment worksheet and follow up encouragement. http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org/about

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Journey through anguish to freedom

the-sower

The Sower, by Vincent VanGogh

Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
~Psalm 126

I’ve been reading Sabbatical Journey by Henri Nouwen, his journal from the last year of his life. Of course Henri doesn’t know it is his last year of life as he is writing, and many of his thoughts are for his future plans. He was only sixty-five, my parents’ age. It’s hard sometimes to read his thoughts about the future, his plans for ministry and writing. The journal goes through August, 1996, and he died of a heart attack in September that same year.

Eight years before he wrote this journal Nouwen suffered a period of intense depression and spiritual struggle which he wrote about in another book, The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom. Mark gave me this book about eight years ago when I was going through my own period of depression and struggle, and reading about Nouwen’s experience, and the wisdom he gleaned, helped carry me through my own anguished journey. It feels significant to me to be reading Sabbatical Journey (also given to me by Mark) eight years after The Inner Voice of Love, just as Nouwen wrote it eight years later.

img_2037Last night I came to this paragraph in the journal, about a visit from Nouwen’s dear friend Nathan. It was written in July, 1996, two months before Nouwen’s death:

In the early evening Nathan and I had a nice dinner. At one point we talked about the anxiety that had been plaguing me during the last few months. I felt somewhat embarrassed and ashamed to put my inner burden on my best friend, but, in the end, I am glad I did. Nathan told me that he found it hard, not so much to listen to my pain, but to realize that I had walked with it so long without sharing it. I explained that it had not been possible for me to talk about such things on the telephone, and he understood. That was a comfort for me. I sometimes wonder how I am going to survive emotionally.

I read this, curled up on my quiet couch on a winter evening, hands wrapped around a hot cup of tea. Nouwen’s time of depression eight years prior to writing that lasted for about six months. My own, eight years ago, lasted longer — two years, perhaps, with another three or four before I was well out of it, and another year or two before I left the community that had been such a mix of security and trauma, comfort and conflict.

Nouwen wrote his journal with the intention of publishing it. He was going to do the editing himself, but after he died his friend Susan took on the task. After I read that paragraph last night, I set down the book and picked up my own journal. I feel I share so much with Nouwen — the inner struggle, a long-time experience living in community, good friends to walk through my life with me, and the desire and calling to write down my experience to give to others. Nouwen wrote around forty books in his life, books full of such wisdom and healing, such intimacy with God and striving to live a life of love and service. His writing helped me and so many others move through anguish to freedom. Yet even at the end, two months before his death, he wrote that stark, honest sentence: “I sometimes wonder how I am going to survive emotionally.”

I imagine him, curled up on his own couch, journal in hand. He had so much insight, so much wisdom to give to us. But in the end, his greatest gift was his honesty and vulnerability. We all desire healing and strength, but when the apostle Paul begged God for his own thorn in the flesh to be taken away, God did not heal him, but said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 

Here, let us be willing to be weak in front of each other. Let us teach each other out of what we do not know as well as what we do. Let us learn to value each others’ weakness as well as strength. Let us say to each other that we find it hard, not to listen to each others’ pain, but to realize that we had walked with it so long without sharing it.

Love,
Jessica

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The opposite of envy

img_1999My family had our Christmas celebration a week early this year to accommodate everyone’s schedule, so Mark invited me to his family’s Christmas dinner. It was a lovely time, with delicious food and fascinating people. I met people I’d heard Mark talking about for years, and found them every bit as interesting as he’d described. When we sat down for dinner I joined a table with Mark’s three sisters, a niece, and two wives of Randa’s husband’s brothers. I loved our conversations about work, introversion, and social media, and the fun of opening our Christmas crackers, sharing the jokes, and trying on the crowns.

A few days later, Mark’s sister Randa posted the picture above of our table on Facebook. It’s funny — when I sat down at the end of the table there was an empty seat next to me, but I figured someone would sit there. Karen, Mark’s sister (in the red crown) noticed I was all alone at the end of the table and tried to draw me in, which I appreciated. But I didn’t feel alone or left out, I just felt happy, surrounded by all those lovely, interesting people. I wasn’t expecting anything, wasn’t needing anything. But what I received was so amazing — great conversation, great food, the warmth of the fire, and even a gold crown. And after the picture was taken Mark’s other sister, Suzy, sat down next to me, filling out the table and completing the circle. It wasn’t until I saw this picture that I saw what Karen had seen — me looking alone and apart. It made me think.

I hadn’t felt alone at the gathering, partly because Mark’s whole family was so loving and welcoming, but partly also because being alone wasn’t the story I was telling myself. But to be in that place, where I could be sitting slightly apart and not feel sad and lonely, really feels like a miracle. I think it is a miracle. Because that was my internal narrative for nearly 40 years, that I was left out, different, doomed to be alone. I felt such pain for so long, when I was alone and when I was with others. Even in my family small things would make me feel slighted and unloved. There was a deep pit of pain at my center, and I spent so much of my life trying to find a community where I would fit in and finally feel at home. I caught glimpses of that community over the years, but could never quite make myself a part of it. In my college fellowship, in seminary, in Maine with friends who had a farmhouse and a band, at Park Street Church, in ministry with InterVarsity, and finally in an actual intentional community in Boston where I lived for seven years. There would be moments of warmth, sitting around a fire singing, or reading from a prayer book, eating a hearty meal, talking about God or literature. But then my inner narrative would kick in and I would feel outside, apart, misunderstood, left out. So as I sat at the table and broke bread with Mark’s family, it felt miraculous to feel whole, to be able to be present and happy without that deep inner pain.

It is a miracle, but it has also taken so much work. The Enneagram helped so much, as did Henri Nouwen, Frederick Buechner, Thomas Merton, and Esther Ekhart. It took years, but I rewrote my story. Instead of a story of someone alone and on the outside I started to tell of someone deeply loved and whole. I told the story of someone who was quirky and a little awkward, but also smart and witty and warm. I told the story of someone who loved being alone and creative, but could bring that solitude and imagination to her relationships. And then I told the story of a woman who could be a home for others, with a crackling fire and prayer books within herself, who could welcome in those who felt alone and outside. And when I learned to stop grasping and to let go of things and people I couldn’t have I found myself surrounded by love and friendships I couldn’t have imagined before.

It is an ongoing lesson, of course, and envy is still my besetting sin. When Randa posted this picture on Facebook I did feel a twinge of loneliness and envy. I wished I had leaned in to the picture and smiled better, wished I had photographic evidence of my inner feeling of inclusion. I wished I could prove to the world that I was “in”, that I was loved. But then I did what I have learned to do, from Henri, from Esther, from the Enneagram: I sat with the feeling without either running from it or letting it define me. I observed it, and asked what it had to teach me. I remembered that I am loved, that I am whole. And then I wrote about it, turned it into prose, transformed it into an essay that can hopefully be a warm, inviting home to my readers: Welcome to your community, welcome to the party. You are loved and whole and part of the family. You are quirky and maybe a little awkward, but we love that about you. Come sit at our table, take the seat by the fire. There is room for you here. We’ve been waiting for you.

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If you need help imagining the coziness, here’s some audio from the Gryffindor common room.

If you relate to what I’ve written, you might want to check out Henri Nouwen’s book, The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom or the practice of contemplative prayer as written about by Thomas Merton. You may also want to check out the Enneagram: Richard Rohr‘s book is a good place to start. (If you relate to envy as your besetting sin you might be a four like me!)

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