Revelation and Fragility

Lately I’ve been immersed in a process of revelation.  I just completed writing a book that details the journey I took with my best friend, Annette, over the years as she eventually lost her battle with brain cancer.  It has been an intense and emotional process and one that has put in me yet another position of vulnerability and revelation.  Doing anything creative opens us up for all kinds of judgments (and even ridicule).  When we reveal the truth of our journeys, and the truth of what we experience and feel, the risks are so great that we often shrink back behind the veil of what we think we should look like to the world around us.

Throughout the process of writing and editing the book, I was taken to new places of reflection and realization.  At times it was a painful process as I stripped away the final layers of my protective covering, but it reminded me of how beautiful life truly is when we are wiling to risk judgment for revelation.  Annette and I trusted each other and refused to let society dictate to us how we would treat each other or express our love and care for each other.  As a result, we risked all kinds of ridicule and misperceptions but we didn’t care because we found something that far surpassed the fear of rejection and ridicule:  the strength of being understood and loved without condition. 

Love maskThe revealing of ourselves is often a painful experience.  Whether it is due to the revelation of traits we are not proud of or simply the revelation of our emotions in their most raw state, the result often brings us pain.  We don’t like to be vulnerable, and we don’t like our relationships to get out of balance between give and take…or revelation and reticence.  Even in our most difficult emotional moments, it is often hard to let down our guard or know that we need to reach out to someone who we know loves and cares about us.  We would rather curl up into a corner by ourselves and bear our burdens alone instead of “troubling” someone else with our struggles or let them see us in our fragile state.  Not only that, we don’t want to BE fragile with someone else because it opens us up to more hurt if we are not embraced in our fragility, or worse, judged for it. 

Recently I had the amazing blessing of being able to help someone I love get through a difficult time.  Interestingly, it happened at a time when I was struggling with my own internal issues, but the moment she became vulnerable, nothing could have stopped me from being there to support her.  All the things I was struggling with suddenly paled in comparison to the love and care I felt for another person.  It was an honor to have someone lay their heart in my hands for a short while and to be trusted to not injure it.  It was humbling to be allowed to care for someone who needed to be cared for in that moment.  lost and aloneAnd it was beautiful to see the openness and vulnerability of another’s spirit – even if it was something they would have fought to hide under normal circumstances.  It strengthened and comforted me far more than any strength or comfort I provided for her.  It was as a result of this experience that I remembered why honesty matters so much in our relationships and in our lives.   It reminded me why I had been willing to pour intimate details of my life into a book for all to read.  It whispered to me, “Without revelation and fragility you will never experience true acceptance and strength.”

Helping HandsIt was that experience that gave me courage to keep moving forward in the midst of my own struggles.  It strengthened me to know life is full of relationships that help us grow and it made me proud of my own revelations I shared within the book I just finished.  It reduced my fears of being judged or rejected for the exposure of my own heart.  Revealing ourselves, or becoming openly fragile for a while, allows us the opportunity to see love manifested in the ways someone else cares for us.  But beyond that, it also allows us the opportunity to strengthen those same people in ways we can’t even understand.  We need to stop being so worried about those who will reject us if we reveal our true selves and focus on those who embrace us more purely and love us because we reveal our true selves.  And as I say that, I can’t help but think, “Annette would be so proud.”

 Blessings!

I Am Not Presentable

shutterstock_57395806Image can be a powerful thing.  We would like to say that we don’t judge people by their appearances but the truth is that our society has a way of doing so anyway.  It says a lot about us when we duck and hide from people we might actually want to see just because we think we don’t look presentable.  And how do we even define what “presentable” means anyway?

Yesterday I went against what I believe in my heart and it bothered me enough that I felt compelled to share it with all of you.  I was out with my husband and since it was the weekend, I didn’t think twice about going out in my old shorts, t-shirt and baseball cap.  I didn’t take time to do my makeup because I was spending the day relaxing and taking care of some things around the house.  I know I’m not the only one who does this but we all know there is that proverbial risk of being out and running into someone you know.  As my husband and I were leaving the parking lot of where we had just eaten lunch, I saw an old friend of mine walking into one of the other restaurants in the same complex.  We have wanted to see each other in person for quite some time but we just haven’t really had the opportunity to do so.  It would have taken nothing more than stopping the car to be able to see her for a few moments.  I told my husband who she was and he said, “Let’s stop!”  I panicked and told him no, to keep driving.  I knew she hadn’t seen me so I was still in the “safe” zone.  When he started to stop anyway I told him I had far too much to do and didn’t have time to talk so we just needed to go home.  The truth is I was too embarrassed with the way I looked to stop and say hello.  As a result, I missed a great opportunity to connect with someone I care about very much.

If you’ve read any of my blog posts, you know I am a huge proponent of being who you are and embracing the people in your life.  It doesn’t matter what you look like or what you are wearing; what matters is how you clothe your spirit.  I believe these things with all my heart and here I was going against those very beliefs.  I must admit, I was shocked at myself.  What is it that would cause me to so quickly and strongly avoid making a connection for which I had been longing?  It was fear, embarrassment and a feeling of not measuring up.  shutterstock_137315255You see, this friend of mine is beautiful.  I mean really beautiful.  When we were in high school, she was pretty, funny and popular.  She was always friendly to others, even those who may not have been as popular as she.  I always liked her and considered her a friend but we were never close.  It wasn’t until much later in life that we found a beautiful connection of our hearts which has become a great treasure for me.  My friend would have been thrilled to see me yesterday, even in my “grubby” clothes and no makeup but I instinctively recoiled at the thought because she is even more beautiful today than she was all those years ago…and not just physically.  She has a beautiful spirit and I have been blessed to know her and yet I reacted before I could stop myself.  So what happened?!

Society tries to engrain in us an image of what beauty is and if we fail to attain it, then it means we are somehow less worthwhile.  Even though most of us would agree that image is warped, we still have moments where it pops up and causes us to react before we think. Even those of us who are usually strong, confident and know our worth is not in our appearances sometimes fall prey to the images that society tries to dictate to us.  We see someone who we think is more attractive than we are and – without even thinking – we start reacting as if we are in different classes of people.  We think someone is more beautiful so we avoid being near them when we don’t look our best.  We think someone is smarter so we avoid talking with them.  We think someone is more athletic so we refuse to play sports we love because we don’t want to look stupid.  We don’t dance because we think we have two left feet.  We don’t sing because we don’t want to be made fun of.  We develop a life that is fragmented and stressful because we spend all our time measuring ourselves by those around us instead of embracing OUR beauty and our gifts.  We spend our lives looking at the gifts of others and wondering why we weren’t blessed with them instead of looking at the ones we have been given and finding value in what we have to offer.

d river islandWe all have unique abilities, gifts and physical traits.  We are all beautiful in our own ways and the sooner we embrace that truth, the more amazing our lives will become.  We are all so hard on ourselves and we need to start focusing on the fact that we all feel “unpresentable” in one way or another.  We are all imperfect but what a shame it is when we allow our imperfections to keep us from connecting to those we love.  If we are willing to be seen as we are, even when we are not at our best, we begin to free others to let down their guard as well.  And when that happens, we may be surprised to find out that they are just as fearful to be seen without “makeup” as we are.

So today I apologize.  I apologize to myself for letting the madness of this world override the sanity of my spirit and for missing a wonderful opportunity to see the true beauty in life.  And I forgive myself for it all and choose to embrace the beautiful lesson I have learned.

Blessings!

“Out Of the Closet” Isn’t Always What You Think

I recently shared some personal information about myself with my family and, subsequently, with the rest of my friends. It was something that up until now just wasn’t openly discussed. There have been a few people in my family with whom I talked about it in the past and I have had some amazing friends who have known and supported me for many years. Unfortunately because the stigma attached to mental health and brain chemistry issues is so great, it is a subject that required careful silence. My revelation: I have lived with bipolar disorder my entire life and was officially diagnosed in April 1994.

shutterstock_93702475We all have things in our respective “closets” that we are afraid of revealing. We are afraid it will so drastically change our world that we would rather live in hiding than risk upsetting what we already have. We are worried our families will struggle with the corners of our reality. We worry we will lose respect of the people in our professional lives. We fear that society will suddenly frame us in a different light and begin to judge us solely within that frame. WHY then would we ever want to come out into the light and fully show ourselves? Why would we want to open the door to areas within us that may cause people to walk away?

I have a faithful friend who, when I shared the news of my revealing with her, responded with a note filled with beautiful words. In it, she said something that resonated deeply within me. “Being open does not give other people power over you. It gives you power over you.” There exists such a wonderful truth in that statement. Coming out into the light of your truth will liberate and empower you. It will give you the ability to breathe more deeply because you aren’t constantly wasting your energy trying to shove things further into the dark. It will also allow you to more clearly recognize those beautiful people in your life who truly accept and love you as you are. It is not easy to come out of the closets in our lives, no matter what those particular closets might be. There is an endless list of things you might be hiding but there is one solution to it all. Turn on the light and throw open the door. Walk bravely out into the open and look around. You just may find there are many of your friends and family who embrace you in all your uniqueness. You already have the key. The question is whether or not you will use it.

shutterstock_110895386“Coming out” is a term that applies to much more than simply the one thing with which we commonly hear it associated. Revealing our true selves is a process of steps. We first show our truth to one or two people (or maybe even a few) that we know we can trust completely. We lean on them and use their support and acceptance to help us grow stronger. Then we begin to carefully unravel the layers of our selves to others in our world. We may come out to friends but not to our coworkers. We may come out to coworkers but not our families. We may come out to our families but not to others. It just depends on the situations in which we find ourselves. You see, there IS risk in revealing the things in our lives that we (or we assume others) consider to be unattractive, embarrassing or negative and it is not always appropriate to run wildly into the open shouting our truths. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we cannot help but do so but we must remember there are also consequences we may face as a result. If I had revealed the truth of my bipolar brain chemistry in my professional world years ago, it would have become an albatross from which I might not have been able to escape. My position (and my particular division) was one that was not conducive to such revelations. My successes would have been eclipsed by the glaring judgments of many of my colleagues which would have undermined my ability to continue to be viewed as productive and successful. It is sometimes a difficult dance to maintain and the sad thing is it is a dance you will dance alone. The same holds true for any other realm (family, friends, etc). Depending on what your closet holds, you may find yourself dancing alone in the midst, trying to find a balance between revealing and surviving.

I have been overwhelmed by the positive and encouraging responses of the people in my life and am grateful beyond belief but there are still areas that have not been fully breached. It is a process but I will take it as it comes. For now, it is an unspeakable feeling of liberation and I am excited to see what God is doing and what path He is clearing before me.

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Often times, we THINK we are ready to walk the path before us but we continue to be faced with obstacle after obstacle. They are not here by chance. They are here to help us come to the place where we begin to see that the only requirement to being all we are created to be is to let go of who everyone else thinks we are. When we relinquish our need to always be in control, we will find there is a much greater power than ourselves clearing the path at exactly the right time, in exactly the right way. Honesty, truth, kindness and love…these are the great purifiers in our lives and refiners of our paths. Trust yourself. Embrace the truth and let the rest fall where it may. It is the only way to truly live.

Blessings!

To help fight the stigma of brain disorders, please visit any of the following links:

Living Through the Wounds

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of living where you are, in spite of the wounds you have caused or how you may have been wounded by others.  I’ve talked before about how important it is for us not to hide.  It is so important that we show ourselves.  It is the only way to combat the isolation that drives most of us to the brink of insanity.  Don’t be afraid of your wounds.  We are all wounded in some way and anyone who says otherwise is lying to you.

I keep coming back to a bible story in Mark 5:1-19 that really touched me a few years ago.  There was a possessed man who was living among the tombs.  The people of the town he called “home” had rejected, ostracized and thrown him out to fend for himself.  He had become violent, crazy and frightening to the “normal” people of the town.  They had even put him in cuffs and chained him but he was so out of his head that he had broken them.  shutterstock_71090605They didn’t want him, so here he was living out in the tombs…naked and totally out of his mind.  He cried out and even cut himself trying to get relief.  Nothing helped.  Nothing worked.  So Jesus comes through and heals him by casting out his demons into a bunch of pigs that ended up killing themselves.  When the people saw this man sitting there dressed and in his right mind, it actually scared them!  They were not convinced the change in him was real.  The man‘s reaction to this amazing event is totally understandable.  He was SO incredibly thankful for his restoration that all he wanted to do was to go with Jesus, to follow Him wherever He went and to serve Him.  His motives were pure!  We would applaud His desire to go with Jesus but the story tells us Jesus told him No and to instead go home and tell others what had happened to him.  For most, the story ends there but I see so much more.

You see, it’s easier for us to be different or become a better version of ourselves if we go somewhere that people don’t know us or our history.  We can choose what to share with them from our past and paint a prettier picture of who we are.  shutterstock_76320961It’s easier to start over somewhere else not only because we are with people we haven’t wounded, but also with people who haven’t wounded us.  Restoration of our selves is easy because it is between us and God.  Restoration of our relationships or influence is much more difficult because it involves others.  When Jesus told this man to go home, it was to a much different situation than comes to mind for most of us.  If it was me, I might not be happy about having to stay where I am but I have a good life, friends and family here.  Going home for this man, to HIS situation, would have been much more difficult.  He was going to have to be with people who had wounded him and thrown him away.   He was going to have to face people he had wounded or scared.  He would have to face things HE had done and said – some he might remember and some he might not.  Why would anyone even listen to him when he proclaimed what God had done for him and how his life had changed?  Why would they believe him?  The truth is they probably wouldn’t!  It might take years to overcome his past because these people KNEW him!!

It’s much easier for us to go to people we don’t know than to those who know us and have seen our faults.  BUT to live where we are – through the difficulties – is where we have the most influence in the long run.  When people who know us or have seen us at our worst finally see the change in our lives and understand that we have truly changed, then it is different.  It has a much deeper impact than if they simply heard stories of where or how we used to be and how we came out of it.  Just like this man, it may take a long time, yes – even years, for people to finally see us as we are instead of how we used to be.  shutterstock_93000241Some may never be able to let go of their old visions of us but it doesn’t matter.  We cannot force them to open their eyes but it is still up to us to live where we are planted.  It isn’t always easy, especially when there are wounds involved (ours or the ones we may have inflicted on others) but if you really want to change the world, start with yourself.  And then be willing to humbly stand strong even if it takes a while for the world around you to finally see things differently too.  Be humble.  Be honest.  Be open.  Be forgiving.  Be you…and trust that sometimes perspectives can only be changed with time.  

Blessings! 

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(Here is the text of the story from the book of Mark:  “They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes.[a] 2 When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. 3 This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. 4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.  6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” 8 For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!” 9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”  “My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.” 10 And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.  11 A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. 12 The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” 13 He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.  14 Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. 15 When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. 17 Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.  18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. 19 Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”)

God Chooses the Vulnerable

shutterstock_86702158If you are breathing, then you know very well that life is not without struggles. They are certainly going to happen and usually the most control we have is simply how we react and respond to them. If you choose to hide your struggles, God will most certainly give you the grace you need to get through it. What you LOSE is the positive influence you might have had on those around you. The reality is that you are going to be “in it” no matter what. You are going to have to live through it no matter how you react to it. The problem is that if you hide yourself and your struggles or weaknesses and God does something great in your life, you’re the only one who truly sees it.  You don’t know how God is going to choose to bless you and you don’t know who may be watching. He’s capable of healing everything. He’s capable of making you completely whole on every level.

Not hiding your struggles, ailments or disabilities means you are vulnerable. You can be vulnerable in two ways: 1) you can do it by choice or 2) you can be forced into it. Forced vulnerability is never comfortable and it certainly doesn’t feel good. For example: Let’s say you are a physically strong and independent person but suddenly become paralyzed and can’t walk anymore. You no longer have the choice of whether or not you are going to be vulnerable. You ARE going to be vulnerable but you do have a choice in whether or not you leave your house again.  This same principle applies to mental health struggles as it does to physical struggles or ailments.  shutterstock_102250687If you choose to never leave your house, there are people who have known you that may not even realize to what extent you are now struggling.  This is so important (and may even be labeled controversial) but because you’re not willing to let people see you as you are in your weaknesses, you may miss out on being healed. If God is going to choose somebody with which to do something great and to be a great example of what He can do, He’s not going to choose someone who hides. He’s going to choose someone who’s visible…and sometimes being visible is painful. It can be painful for the one who is struggling and sometimes painful for the people who care about them. But being visible allows for help to be given. Being visible brings experiences that cause you to “expect” and it’s not always negative expectations. We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t have to be great. Sometimes our greatness is our infirmity. Our greatness is in our willingness to not hide. Our greatness is in living with our infirmities, our failings and faults, our quirks and imperfect bodies, our rejections and our wounds. Our greatness truly lies in our smallness.

God chose a lame man who sat at a city gate and begged. He chose a man who had nothing and no way to help himself. As a matter of fact, he had an infirmity that everyone could see but no one could resolve. God chose him and then did something no one else could do so that everybody who knew it or witnessed it had no doubt that it was God who did it. That’s why this man was chosen; because his infirmities were not hidden. So for us, we need to remember God is going to take care of us day to day no matter what because He has promised that He would and He cannot lie. But He’s not going to choose someone or something that’s hidden to show His power to others because He can’t. If you hide your weaknesses then it is impossible for others to see the amazing way they are resolved. If you’re not willing to be vulnerable and open, you may miss out on a life‑changing blessing! The best thing we can do is to live day to day being open and expecting God to take care of us for today. Expect God to take care of you in THIS moment. Expect God to take care of THIS situation or need, no matter if it is physical, mental or emotional.  shutterstock_59477860You can have peace by knowing, expecting and believing that God will take care of you right now in this moment. You can live openly and vulnerably by knowing He has you in the palm of His hand and will take care of you no matter what risk is involved in the exposure of your weaknesses. If you live this way, you are in a position where God can use you for something amazing, something great, something that shows HIS power whether it’s physical, mental or emotional healing. And when He does it, there will be no doubt it was Him because the ones who witness the change are the same ones who have seen your infirmities first-hand and understand that what was “wrong” was genuine and valid. So then what went right was miraculous.

So the next time you think your struggles are without purpose, think again.  It may not only be something to help you grow personally but it may just be that God is getting ready to do something AMAZING in your life so that the lives of others are changed. You never know who is watching and you should NEVER underestimate the power of your God!  Nothing is without purpose and nothing is beyond repair!

Blessings!