“I celebrate myself, And what I assume you shall assume, For every atom belonging to me as good as belongs to you…
The atmosphere is not a perfume… it has no taste of the distillation… it is odorless, It is in my mouth forever… I am in love with it…
The smoke of my own breath, Echoes, ripples and buzzed whispers… My respiration and inspiration… the beating of my heart.”
-Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass [Song of Myself]
This month I’ve been thinking a lot about why I don’t do things, thinking about the underlying reasons for my tendency toward opting out. I’ve struggled with my own adequacy; i’ve grappled with my need to be “enough”, and my striving to reach the standard of success i’ve set for myself. Weighing the parts of life that really bring me both fear and joy has caused me to try to discern the reasons behind those things.
With so many opportunities in my life, very rarely do I take advantage of them. I don’t know how to do away with my schedules, my to-do’s, and my “priorities” in order to simply “be” in the present. Nor do I know how to let go or my stiff perfectionism in order to be spontaneous, to take advantage of right now. I have a hard time feeling secure in most situations outside of my comfort zone because I don’t view myself as adequate or successful. But slowly i’m learning how.
“I celebrate myself…”
Rarely do I stop to listen. I don’t often listen to myself, to the pain in my body or in my heart, or to the things I’ve been carrying far too long. Even less do I listen to God, and to his Holy Spirit. I tell myself I know His will, but I don’t stop to ask Him if this is His will or just my desires.
My lack of listening to myself caused injury to my body, my head, and my heart. This deafness caused me to ignore my internal issues with disordered eating and body image because I silencedmy mind and closed my ears. I refused to hear the urge of the Holy Spirit reminding me that my value didn’t lie in my weight or my figure, but that my value was solely dependent on His love. I hushed up His voice of comfort and listened instead to the lies I had taught myself so diligently.
Lately, as I have walked through a lot of healing, Jesus has reminded me of the importance of rest. I have started to realize how to let go of my presupposed ideas of success, and i’ve begun to grasp how to be. I’m learning to exist right now, to embrace it for all it’s worth, and to listen to Jesus, instead of my tumbling mind.
“For every atom belonging to me as good as belongs to you…”
As I have been learning to rest i’ve uncovered a lot of burdens that I have continued to carry, and pain that hasn’t been shared. Isolation has caused those burdens to become heavier and heavier, and i’ve been too weak too carry them, yet not strong enough to lay them down. Numbness has crept into those areas, as i’ve tried, hopelessly, to find a resolution to the heaviness. This numbness kept me from feeling the weight of those burdens, but also kept me from learning to lay them down.
Resting caused a realization of my perceived self sufficiency because, momentarily, I rested my burdens as well as my body. As i’ve rested i’ve realized that despite my openness, I haven’t practiced vulnerability. Throughout this past year i’ve discovered a lot in the area of vulnerability, and if i’ve learned anything it’s that i’m not very good at it. But i’m learning.
Vulnerability is more than telling other people your darkest secrets. Vulnerability is being willing to share your heart with people, being willing to allow others to carry your burdens with you. Self-disclosure is only one aspect of being vulnerable, simply the gateway to openness.
“My respiration and inspiration… the beating of my heart.”
Both what emanates from us and what resonates within us are the things that keep us alive. We need inflow and outflow to be healthy and nourished. Too often we forget the importance of this though, and we neglect one or both of these parts of life. We get caught up in “to-do” and forget “to live”.
Being poured into, finding ways to feed your soul, is vital to a healthy mental and spiritual life. Just like nourishing your body, your mind and spirit can only strive for a little while without being fed before they burn out. Humans need spiritual nourishment in their relationship with God, they need prayer and communion with the Holy Spirit to bring life to work out their salvation. But spiritual nourishment doesn’t come just from personal time with the father, but from community. Authentic, relational community is vital to living an un-starved life.
Community is built in vulnerability. People connect with people, not with a pretense of perfection. There is no room for authenticity in a church that promotes the image of a “put-together” life. This idea causes comparison, which leads to insecurity. Isolation feeds insecurity, and only through real, raw relationships can healing come to that isolated place.
After inflow, having a source of nourishment and life, you also need to pour yourself out. (I’m sure you’ve heard the Dead Sea analogy before: what is only poured into and doesn’t pour out will become stagnant and dead). (and salty).
Community is not just about being poured into by others, but by pouring yourself out into them also. Vulnerability breeds vulnerability. When you are vulnerable with other people about the burdens and struggles in your heart the door opens for them to return your vulnerability. This place of openness is where relationship is born. These relationships are the life blood of the Christian life, “the beating of [our] heart[s]”.
So celebrate yourself. Learn to love where you are, and not just where you wish to be, and allow yourself to rest. Let yourself heal. Your identity lies in nothing but unconditional Love, so you are unconditionally valuable.
Share yourself; allow yourself to live bigger than you. Remember that relationships are born in a place of openness, and that openness comes from humility. Let people carry your burdens with you.
Finally, allow inflow and create outflow. Receive, but don’t contain; inflow without outflow causes stagnation. Pour out of your overflow and abundance, not out of emptiness. (Open hands to receive, open hands to give).