Words to Live and Write by

I am willing to fall Because I have learned how to rise.

I craft Love from heartbreak, Compassion from shame, Grace from disappointment, Courage from failure.

I am among the brave and brokenhearted, and I am rising strong.

(credit to Brene Brown)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Shaped into Something Different

  Well, now I really feel like a loner. I mean, I did before - I always have - but tonight really brought it out. (If any of the sweet ladies in my book group read this, please forgive me. I mean no offense. This is nothing about any of you personally. It's just another case of me feeling too much.)
   I chose to share Glennon's book "Carry On, Warrior" with my book club. If you are a Monkee, I think you will understand why I keep this book next to my bedside with my Bible. It is where I go when I need to feel understood or when I need encouragement. G gets me. She speaks my language. She speaks my truth. She is the woman who taught me that it is okay to be imperfect. I'd been TOLD that before, but she made me believe it because she SHOWED me. And not just that it's okay, but it's actually kind of beautiful. And despite all my flaws, I am still loved and worthy and good. As long as I "keep showing up and trying my best to be brave and kind" (her words) I am doing okay.
  So you can imagine how excited I was to share this marvelous creation with the only group of adult women I meet with. We discussed the book. I tried. Maybe I did it wrong. But my heart sank farther and farther as the comments went round and round the circle criticizing and ultimately invalidating Glennon's words. The words she somehow wrote straight out of my own heart. And no one agreed with them. Not one. These women, with the best of intentions, untknowingly invalidated my deepest, truest feelings.
  They don't understand the language of my heart. They don't understand me. I just watched a dozen women walk out my door and not a one of them knows me well enough to see my expression sink, my eyes well with tears, my smile become faker, my body curl tighter into the fetal position. They called Glennon inward-focused and self-centered, but which one of them looked outward tonight and really SAW me?
  This sounds meaner than I want. Please, please don't think I'm trying to be mean or accusatory. It's just that my heart is bruised and I feel more alone than ever. It was my own fault for choosing to share a book so personal to me. Of course everyone will see it differently. Of course some people won't like it. Of course some people will express opinions that oppose my own. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. That's the point of book clubs, is it not? Had it been "just a book" to me, I would have easily appreciated all the different opinions. The difference was, my first experience with a book club, I made the mistake of choosing not just a book but, in Glennon's own words I chose to "expose yourself, open yourself to the world, hold your fragile, bruised, bloody, beating heart in front of another person and say, 'do you see anything worth keeping here?'"
  What I came away with was the understanding that my language is not their language. My experiences have been different from theirs. My mind, sight, and heart are somehow different.
This looks like a sturdy, useful type of vessel.
So what the heck is this?
  God shapes people through experiences. We are clay in the hands of the Master potter. Each vessel is special and unique. But I look at my peers and can't help seeing, perhaps blindly, that they all resemble a similar mold. And I do not. The Potter is shaping me differently. I don't know what I will become yet, what my purpose is, but I am becoming more and more certain that I am being shaped into something ELSE.

 Let me share with you what is perhaps my MOST FAVORITE piece of Glennon's book. (I have many more favorites on her blog.) And, perhaps more importantly, let me add that these very words are the ones that re-center me and help me see the women who don't understand me as just as important and beautiful as me. Even though I am different, I can learn from them. And if I am brave enough, and they have open hearts, they can learn from me.

Glennon's words (pages 174-176):

"Spilling myself out like this, is it an act of humility or confidence? I share my faults and flaws, which seems humble - but doesn't the fact that I assume that others will care enough to read and maybe even find my flaws charming betray the confidence behind my humility? Writing, painting, acting, creating, living out loud: Are they acts of humility or confidence?
"Yes. They're both. That's what I've decided. Confidence and humility are two sides of the same coin. They are the character traits that stem from the two beliefs I hold most dear. I think most of our character traits are simply manifestations of what we believe to be true.
"I am confident because I believe that I am a child of God. I am humble because I believe that everyone else is too.
"They go hand in hand. They've got to.
"If I am humble but lack confidence, it is because I haven't yet accepted that there is a divine spark inside me. It means that I don't believe in the miracle that I was made by God for a purpose all my own, and so I am worthy of the space that I occupy on this earth. And that as a child of God, no one deserves more respect, joy, or peace than I. As a child of God, I have the right to speak, to feel, to think, and to believe what I believe. Those dreams in my heart, those ideas in my head, they are real and they have a divine origin, and so they are worth exploring. Just because I am a child of God. And thankfully, there is nothing I can add to that title to make it more impressive. There is also nothing I can do to lose that title. I am confident not because I am pretty or smart or athletic or talented or kind. Those things change and can be given and taken. I am confident simply because I am a child of God.
"That is why I am confident enough to write honestly. Not because I am a good writer. There will always be somebody better. I rely on the belief that I am a child of God, and as such, I have the right to speak my mind with love. This writing thing, it's one of my dreams. And I act on my dreams because I believe that God is not just with me but in me. I believe that he is the creator of my dreams. So if follows that when I act on them, magical things will happen. How could they not? Being a child of God is a free pass to be brave and bold and take great risks and spin around in circles with joy. If and when I fall, who cares? He will always be there to pick me up. That's his job. He's my Father. So if I seem noncompetitive, if I seem as if I don't care if I'm the "best" parent or housekeeper or dresser or whathaveyou, it's not because I don't care about being important. It's because I believe I am the most important thing on earth. Why would I care about competing in any other category when I am already a child of God? Why would I argue over a penny when I have already won the lottery?
"If I am confident but not humble, it is because I have not fully accepted that everyone has won the lottery. Because everyone has the same amount of God in her. If I am in the habit of turning my back on others, it is because I haven't learned that God approaches us in the disguise of other people. If I am confident but not humble, my mind is closed. if my mind is closed, my heart is closed. A closed heart is so sad. It is the end. A heart cannot grow any larger if it decides to let no more God in. There is always room for more. A heart expands exactly as much as her owner allows.
"Humility is how I survive praise and criticism of my writing, ideas, and beliefs. Because I remember that neither praise nor criticism is really about me. We are all just trying to find the truth. So I try to see different points of view not as reasons to step back further into my corner, but as opportunities to take baby steps toward the middle of the ring - if for no other reason than to see my opponent a little closer. That perspective change is usually all it takes to remember that I have no opponents other than my pride.
"I am a child of God, and so is everyone else. We are all on the same side. And so in each new person, I see an invitation to know a new side of God. There are as many sides of him as there are people walking the earth. I think that's why he keeps making people. he's not done telling us about himself yet. So I remember that each person I meet or hear from, even if she's not yet treating me the way I'd like to be treated, is the most important thing on earth. There is no hierarchy of importance, of brilliance. We are each infinity important. More brilliant than the sun. Because each of us is a child of God. So we better recognize.
"Those are the two sides of the golden coin I'd like each of my children to keep in her pocket forever:
"Be confident because you are child of God. Be humble because everyone else is too."

**Oh, and DO please leave a comment if you read this!**