Thursday, 30 May 2013

I Am [Enough]

Asteya is yoga's principle of "not stealing". It applies well beyond not swiping cash from a found wallet: Asteya addresses a deep fear you might hold that tells you that who you are is not enough. When you look at the world as something you have to take from rather than something you can give to, you're living without the benefits of asteya.

Life, if we are honest about it, is made up of many failings and fallings, amidst all of our hopeful growing and achieving. Those failings and fallings must be there for a purpose... Most of us find all failure bewildering, but it does not have to be.
~ Rohr, Richard (2011), Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life.

I had a realization yesterday. I have a Master's degree.

I mean I knew that already. I spent over $25,000 in 2 years on tuition, books and related expenses; I moved to a new city for practical experience; and I put in the long, difficult, frustrating, almost-quit-a-few-times hours on the final paper. I better have something to show for that! And according to the e-mail I received last week, the official paperwork is in the mail.

But sitting in my comfy chair, drinking my tea, reading various blogs I've started following and articles posted by friends on Facebook, it actually dawned on me. I have a Master's degree.

And maybe that's not as big of an accomplishment today as it would have been 10, 20, 50 years ago...

But maybe it's that last statement that has me feeling frozen with fear for actually doing something with it. So I have a Master's degree, big deal! So do a lot of people...

Is it enough?

Amongst the blog reading I was doing yesterday, one sentence literally jumped off the page at me:
You don't have to be enough...”
You don’t have to be enough
You don’t have to bring something for everyone...
You are exactly who [you need] to be
For the tasks that are yours...”
~ Mary Martin Wiens, Everyday Human
I feel like that question of “enough?” has plagued me off and on my whole life. Am I old enough; young enough; pretty enough; smart enough; talented enough; interesting enough; strong enough; I good enough?
How relieving is it to be told you don't have to be enough. You just have to be you!

Words from a previous read blog flashed in my mind then:
Honestly, more than making an impact or changing the world, what I most want to be is a gentle, healing presence.”
I was humbled by these words. Because yes, I want to be a gentle, healing presence, but...

I really want to make an impact and change the world.

Yet it is this desire to truly make an impact and change the world that has me frozen in place. What if I am not good enough to make an impact? What if my efforts do little or nothing to change the world? What if I am unable to even just be a gentle, healing presence? ...What if I am not enough?

What if I am trying to take recognition and success from the world; instead of focusing on what I can give to those around me?
What if I could look at the possibility of failing and falling as purposeful learning opportunities for growth, instead of evidence that I am not enough?

I think I want to remove that word from my vocabulary – enough.

Without that word, there is no longer pressure to be enough; I just have to be.

You are exactly who [you need] to be
For the tasks that are yours...”
For the tasks that are mine, and nothing more. And I have a Master's degree! That task is over because I worked hard and completed it. It has helped to shape me; prepare me for who I need to be for the next task that is mine. And with it I will likely struggle. I may take a little while trying to give, I may fall and even fail en route to growth and achievement. But none of that can take away that I am...

Monday, 27 May 2013

The Month of “Meh”

“Loving something isn't about coveting it:
it is about appreciating it.
The best way we can show this love is by trying to nurture growth,
not inhibit it.”
~ unknown

I've been struggling this month with thinking of things to write about. Personal growth typically goes in phases, and after the past few months I feel like I may be in a bit of a rest phase... which is welcome!

Still it's been a rough month, this month of “meh”.

I have read that there is something happening in the cosmos right now, the alignment of the planets or energy fields in the universe affecting our relationships. Regardless of whether you have an interest or belief in spiritual or astrological theories; I do agree that something has been going on this month. Because it seems there have been too many people I know who have or are continuing to experience struggles in their respective relationships for it to be merely coincidence.

Maybe it's because I have experienced my own relationship struggles. Maybe it's a hazard of my piscean nature. But I hurt every time I hear that someone I care about is hurting because of their relationships. It is part of what is driving me in my career path – not that I claim to be an expert on working to minimize the hurt. Not even a little bit. But I do want to walk along side others in finding, creating, and implementing ways of doing so. I'm sure I have as much if not more to learn from, as to contribute to these conversations.

It is true that each relationship is unique; each relationship's struggles are unique. Thus unique approaches to working through them are likely necessary. But one common contributing underlying factor I often suspect is the danger of “meh”.

In my last relationship, I remember being surprised how quickly it seemed to become “domesticated” - comfortable, almost complacent. It can be all too easy to begin to take for granted this person that you love; the relationship you have built. But the funny thing about love and relationships is that they are not stagnant things. In many ways they are living organisms in need of attention in order to survive. In order to flourish and grow. This seems to be something that most people know on some level and agree about. Yet remembering to follow through and act it out becomes the challenge.

It is inevitable that as individuals we will experience hardships and successes in our life that will lead to change and growth. What is not inevitable is that our partner and/or relationship will change and grow at the same time or in complimentary ways. Sometimes these differences may mean the demise of the relationship. Other times a deeper love and stronger relationship emerges over time from the challenges, from the growth. But this is unlikely without deliberate action and attention.

So let me offer this today to the conversation about nurturing relationships: Step up!
Let's break free from this month of “meh”, and act – before the struggles, challenges, or complacency arise; or in response to them. Do something to let your partner (or friends/family) know that you appreciate them; that you appreciate your relationship. Do it today! Do it tomorrow. Do it next week; next month. Step up and ensure that your relationship is doing more than just surviving. Help it to flourish. It is spring, after all! 

Saturday, 18 May 2013

In Another time...

I have wondered occasionally, where my desire to help people and thus choosing a career as a counsellor came from – ancestrally speaking. It's not hard to find clues: I have aunts and other distant relatives who work in the mental health/social services fields; and the Mennonite faith and culture I was raised in is all about building community by lending a helping hand to those in need. But the other week I had the wonderful privilege of working on a 2-day project with my Grandma that gave us an opportunity to talk and connect in a way we hadn't before, and I learned a few things about her:

In another time I think my Grandma would have been a social-psychology major at university, offering insights to conversations about the ways and reasons people interact and engage in life – insights that are not so different from my own.
In another time I think my Grandma would have followed the voice she hears telling her that someone is in need of support, and chosen a career based on this calling.
In another time I think my Grandma would have surrounded herself with people from all walks of life, offering herself to them as a support, a confidant, a friend.

The thing is, she does all those things less formally now by sharing her own story of strength, perseverance, and connection; by listening, caring, and brewing a cup of tea.

In another time I think my Grandma would have followed a career path not so different from my own.
In another time I think my Grandma would have been an amazing counsellor.
In this time, she already is!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

The Lonely Business of Finding Myself

“Once there was a boy and one day he found a penguin at his door...
The penguin looked sad and the boy thought it must be lost. So the boy decided to help the penguin find its way home...
The boy said goodbye... But as he looked back, the penguin looked sadder than ever. It felt strange to be on his own and the more he thought the more he realized he was making a big mistake. The penguin wasn't lost. He was just lonely...”

I wasn't even reading this children's book to my niece when it's message hit home. I had picked it up myself after she was already in bed. At first I thought it was a great message for children who move to a new city - that they can find “home” in a new place with new friends if they take the time to share stories along the journey. But the boy's sudden realization that the penguin was not lost looking for his way home, rather lost looking for a friend... struck me deep.

You see, in my mid-20s I did what many others have done in one way or another – I set out on a journey to find myself. I literally flew as far as I could go to the other side of the world, until I would have started coming back again... and stayed there for a year. In that year I laughed, I cried, I loved, I hurt, I grew... and in some ways I did indeed begin to find myself. But when I came home I still felt somewhat lost and confused... even now that feeling sometimes pokes at me.

What if this life-stage or gap year our western culture has characterized isn't really about satiating a feeling of being lost by finding oneself... What if it's about a lack of feeling like we belong somewhere; a sense of not truly connecting with the people around us; and therefore a deep loneliness that we either can't identify or don't want to because it acknowledges an inter-dependence that was once survival-based and may be innately ours as relational beings, yet goes against our current individualistic society?

What if we aren't really “lost” in the sense of needing to find ourselves – but “lost” in the sense of needing to find each other?

Part of why I ran away to the other side of the world when I did was because I didn't feel like I belonged here. I sometimes felt like the odd-one out in my family as the only girl with 3 brothers; and struggled to feel connected with extended family as my life's path has in some ways taken a slightly different direction than many of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. At the time I didn't know what I wanted to do; and many of my friends were starting careers, starting families. Many of my friends were turning out to not be -at least not in the way I was wanting or needing- for the longer term, and I didn't want to sit here and watch them drift away. So I left instead. And when new connections seemed to be wearing thin, I left again. And again. And again.

I have said before that I sometimes struggle with finding and accepting a sense of belonging - in allowing myself to be deeply and vulnerably seen. Maybe I'm alone in this. Maybe I'm thinking about it too hard; waiting for something that doesn't exist in the way I am expecting it to.

But I am not alone in fearing that our texting, tweeting and facebooking are preventing us from learning how to truly, vulnerably connect with one another. Instead they allow us to fake connectedness and temporarily gratify the loneliness. I wonder, if we made an effort to spend more time sharing stories, laughing and crying together face to face, would we learn to distinguish between the faces (in the mirror or in front of us) that are lost looking for home, and the faces that are lost looking for a friend? If there is even a difference...

Months ago I heard and fell in love with Phillip Phillips song Home. In a spiritual sense, I wondered if something greater than or deep inside myself was offering an explanation for the seemingly fluke occurrences that brought me to this place:

“Settle down, it'll all be clear
Don't pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found
Just know you're not alone
Cause I'm gonna make this place your home”

This is the place where I have begun to face my demons and emotional pain. This is the place where I have named a desire to be vulnerable and deepen connections with family and friends; where I am telling my story and wanting to listen to others' stories. This is the place where I am learning to identify and accept a sense of belonging... at least for now.

Perhaps this is the place where I have begun to develop and strengthen the connections that are helping me discover my home deep within.