More than mere existence

mere: being nothing more or better than

During my quiet time this morning, I found myself writing something I frequently say, “I don’t believe in coincidence.” And this is true. I don’t believe in coincidence. I believe that everything happens for a reason, though it may be a while before the reason is apparent, if ever. Then out of the blue, a question appeared.

“If you don’t believe in coincidence, why do you still question your own existence?”

Growing up, I was frequently told that I was an accident. Not maliciously mind you, but nevertheless the message stuck. I grew up the quintessential people-pleaser. I lived my life as directed as others saw fit. I was desperately trying to prove my existence, my worth. I didn’t believe my own thoughts and feelings were valid or credible. Every time I failed to do something “right,” no matter how well everything else in my life was going, that message would ring through loud and clear: I was an accident.

It is amazing to me how blind we can be to our own negative beliefs and habits all the while dispensing grace and great advice to others. We are truly our own worst enemies.

On my own journey to wellness, the negative tapes from long ago have by far been the biggest hurdle I’ve faced. Cutting gluten and dairy out of my diet was way easier. But I’ve found if I look back over my life from a place of love instead of punishment, I see undeniable proof that I was indeed meant to be here, that I am not a coincidence. One such incident happened when I was very young, probably about five or so. It was the 70s, so we didn’t have the onslaught of media and information that is  prevalent today. We had three TV channels and went to the library for more information on anything. Instead of scrolling through the Twitter feed, we learned by watching the world around us. For a young kid, that meant watching our families. I lived on a dairy farm in Tennessee, the youngest of four and the only girl and I was frequently left alone.

Daily I watched my parents pull pills of some sort or another out of the medicine cabinet and take them. I couldn’t tell you what the pills were, only that they did this almost every day. One day I got the notion in my head that I would take pills too. This wasn’t to do harm to myself, but instead to be like everyone else, to do the right thing. You see the little people pleaser I was growing into, right? So anyway, I pulled out every bottle from the cabinet and I took one pill out of each bottle. I lined them up on the counter and proceeded to take them one by one. There are very few memories from that time that I see vividly, but this is one of them: pills of all sizes and colors lined up in a row. And…nothing happened. I didn’t get sick. I didn’t have any sort of adverse reaction at all. And no one knew that I had done it. I didn’t even tell my parents about this until after I was well into my adult years. It just didn’t seem important. It wasn’t until I was in my late 30s when I started questioning my beliefs that this memory surfaced again. Being a parent myself, I am amazed and grateful that I survived that.

This is just one of many such memories that have surfaced in the last few years. I can no longer look at my life, at the events and circumstances I have survived, and believe I am an accident. I cannot continue holding onto this belief that doesn’t serve me, that only hinders me. My life is not a coincidence. Neither is yours. We are each born with our own unique set of gifts, quirks and points of view. There may be similarities, but never sameness among any two people. We each have our own voice. We each have something to contribute. So today I choose to embrace this. We only get one ride in this life and I no longer want to live mine as a mere existence. How about you?

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Three Things I’ve Learned from Falling Down

We all do it. At some time or other despite our best intentions, we eat food we know will make us miserable, drink more than we intended, lash out at those we love most or succumb to our own negative self-talk. We know exactly what is good for us, yet we struggle to consistently incorporate healthy habits into our lives. It is a part of being human, albeit a frustrating part. In my own journey to wellness and healing, patterns have emerged. Anytime I began to move toward success, I would self-sabotage. I have taken the very tools that were meant to bring healing and wholeness and whack myself over the head with them. Despite the frustration of these seemingly backward steps, I have learned a few things.

There is always a lesson to learn. Every time I stumble, I take a close look at what’s going on in my life. Am I facing something outside of my comfort zone? Am I neglecting my own self care? Am I deviating from my own path to please others? In every instance, I gain a little more clarity and learn more about loving myself. My self-compassion grows and it becomes easier to see the beauty of my scars.

My empathy for others increases. When I face myself in the mirror after a stumble, I become less judgmental of others who struggle. We each have our own battles and demons, and what is easy for one may be a challenge for another. None of us gets it right every time. Learning grace for myself in the face of failure encourages my compassion for others.

Sharing my failure makes me stronger. Vulnerability has never come easy for me. For most of my life I felt I had to keep up a façade, a false sense of perfection, to hide behind a mask. It was a shield that served me for a time, but became crippling to my personal growth later on. Having learned this behavior in childhood, I was in my late 30s before I began to understand the benefits of allowing others to see behind the mask when I struggle. I have learned I am not alone. Instead, I make this journey with fellow travelers. As we share our stories, we allow light in. We allow healing. I’ve also learned that allowing others to help me when I’m down gives them the opportunity to use their gifts, to shine their own light.

Growth is gradual. As much as I want to rush this process, I know healing will come in its own time. I am learning patience with myself as I explore the parts within me that have been hidden for so long. I have begun to realize that the most painful parts of my past have given me compassion, understanding and growth I wouldn’t have gained otherwise. In doing so, I learn a bit more about finding grateful in every part of this life.