on becoming self-aware

I don’t like coming face to face with myself.

I don’t like confronting demons.

But I have learned to appreciate those moments of clarity because they become moments of self-discovery—while they often knock me flat on my backside and turn my world upside down, they also cut through the lies I’ve been allowing myself to believe.

I think the catalyst happened at the end of November. I self-harmed in a way I never had. I don’t know what triggered it (although I have some ideas) but I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and called it a day.

That was the absolute low-point; but it didn’t really get better. When I get too overwhelmed, I retreat. I don’t know how to reach out and ask for help, so I self-medicate. And my medication of choice is alcohol—so, I started drinking. It allowed me to numb out when I was alone; and it was something to take the edge off when I encountered social situations I didn’t feel equipped to handle.

There were moments when I thought, “this isn’t good for you, slow down,” but I couldn’t shake that desire to not feel anything. 2015/early 2016 was a year of loss. Relationships that had become part of my foundation fractured. I moved through it as graciously and with as much dignity as I could, and I grieved when it grabbed me and forced me to my knees. But another loss. Another hit.

And so the drinking became a pattern and then a habit.

And the landslide only stopped because I had to make a decision and it should have been an easy one. But it wasn’t. I waffled back and forth in ways I haven’t before when it comes to this. I started begging for answers and clarity.

I finally clicked over to my Enneagram App* after enough stray thoughts that I should explore what happens to my type (nine) when it’s disintegrating.

…When 9 goes to 6, reactivity and worry replaces passivity…

…Goes to self doubt; feels a sense of frozenness…

…Result of…handling change/loss…

…Becomes suspicious; anxiety intensifies; is more pessimistic

I felt breath fill me in a way that had been absent. It was the ah-ha moment—clarity. I knew I was unhealthy, but understanding why and naming it allowed me to understand and be gracious with myself. It gave me the freedom to set some boundaries, but more importantly, I was able to be kind to myself. It wasn’t my fault that I had experienced so much change and loss; I was grieving and it was OK to fall short.

It’s OK to fall.

//

Through the lens of the Enneagram I have learned to be kind to myself as I live and grow. I am on a journey, not yet finished. Through this language I have found a way to reconcile the who I want to become with the who I am right now. One is not better or worse.

I couldn’t become the one without the other.

As I’m moving through a place of disintegration to a place of (hopefully) integration, I’ve learned some things.

Doug told me I get mean when I’ve been drinking. Another friend recently brought it up because I have hurt her. Both these instances invited me to self-examine—an examination I wanted to avoid. Doug, that kind man that he is, knows I have a hard time “just being,” so decided a long time ago to not worry about it (the meanness) because he loves me. He knows it’s not the real me. She hasn’t made the same commitment so it was fair of her to say something.

I didn’t like being called mean so I had some hard conversations with Doug. I wanted to understand more about what I was experiencing and why. In my pursuit, I read more about nines.

I’m a gut type in the Enneagram, one of the “hostile” types. To quote Richard Rohr,** “Gut people react instinctively…Life is for them a sort of battleground…They are concerned, often unconsciously, with power and justice…Gut people are…ruled by aggression…” So flattering, I know. My pastor once said the other two types (heart and mind types) have a hard time understanding the gut type. We rub them the wrong way.

But here’s the thing—I’m a nine, too. So I am gentle (most of the time) but my wings are high-tension and energy laden (so says Richard Rhor). The clarity I found is not that I’m mean when I’m drinking; it’s that my nine-ish gentleness gives way to my other two wings, who become more dominant, so I say what I mean, but the gentleness (that usually lets me get away with it) is missing.

Now I’m not saying it’s OK. It’s not better or beneficial to drink so much that I throw powerful words around—my power comes from being a gentle prophet. When I lose that, I lose part of myself and my unique gifting.

I am saying it makes sense. I am a hostile person. What Doug calls mean, is mean through his lens. What my friend called to account is true—but knowing that it’s an innate part of me that I get to work through gives me the freedom and the power to make the choices I want to make.

In other words, I’m not just being mean—I’m just being more than what people are used to getting from me.

//

Even before she confronted me I started Whole 30. Because of the drinking. Because while I want the freedom to chose, I am also a creature of habit and comfort, so I needed the drastic disruption to create new, healthier-for-me rhythms.

It’s only been eleven days.

IT’S BEEN ELEVEN DAYS!!

I’m not sure which is true. But I feel myself moving towards a healthier space. I feel myself accepting myself as I am and working to become the person I want to be. I find myself confronting my weaknesses, but not striving against them. Instead, I am lovingly examining and coming to terms with the mistakes and the selfishness.

I am learning to carry the weight of being a nine with the glory of being a nine.

*http://www.enneaapp.com/

**The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective by Richard Rohr

on uncertainty

The black cursor blinks at me…waiting for the words. Just like me. There’s a silence, a void. A whispering that I’m straining to hear but I just can’t make it out.

The end of a breath before the next one begins. That moment when maybe it won’t come…panic? Fear? Resigned? Hope?

What’s waiting beyond the next that I can’t see?

For the first time in my life there are no clear next steps. Things are good and permissible. And the choices are overwhelming.

It’s a forced waiting…not one of my choosing.

I remember feeling life moving inside me, waiting for the moment when he would take his first breath outside of me. I chose that waiting.

I remember waiting for her breath. Another choice.

The third…the waiting was different but no less intense. Every morning just before the sun broke across the sky searching for the email that would have come in the dead of night while I lay sleeping…

I feel those same pangs. That longing and waiting—but what exactly I’m giving birth to now, I have no idea.

I’ve turned inward. The prayer of examen, breath prayer and meditation have been a way to connect with the true self.

The invitation whispers—go deeper, get smaller.

How come no one ever told me you never figure out life? There are no answers.

It’s a placing one foot in front of the other.

Sometimes it’s a trudge.

Sometimes it’s a dance, a frolic, a skip.

But it’s always surprising movement and interruption. It’s always learning and growing, adapting and changing.

There is no arrival.

There is an end.

on pattern mixing

My favorite thing to do besides play Barbies was to play dress-up. My mom had saved all her old fancy gowns and I spent hours in the basement or my bedroom putting outfits on and strutting around. I played house; I pretended I was a model, or an actress.

I also loved putting outfits together—I think I must have changed my clothes four times a day because each new activity demanded its very own outfit. And the patterns…flowers with polka-dots; frills and pink lace with denim shorts, lime green and yellow flowers.

It’s been fun watching my daughters play with clothes to express themselves. Kyler recently wore her favorite twirly dress and then another twirly dress with her arms through the sleeves as a cape. I knew what she had in mind but the execution is about what you could imagine.

shoesOne day I was sitting outside with this little girl, my legs propped up on the table reading. Her legs were on top of mine and I saw our shoes side-by-side. I had opted for the practical gray converse while she chose the sparkly mulit-colored pink and glittery shoes. Little girl me would have fallen in love with the impractical shoes that don’t go with everything because they were fun and playful.

When people talk to me about the patterns I mix and match, I tell them I just pretend I’m five years old. They laugh and assure me it doesn’t look like a five-year old dressed me, but they’re missing the heartbeat of what I’m communicating. I started choosing grey practical shoes when I listened to what the world said to wear—or rather, I chose the jeans and t-shirts because I was scared I would choose wrong and people would laugh at me.

I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t want to be the fairy tale, princess pattern-loving mixed up girl. That felt unsafe in this world that can be so cruel and judgmental. So I played it safe and chose simple solid, color palettes. I knew what I was drawn to, but it wasn’t accepted.

But I never stopped eye-balling all the things that were flowy and long and full of patterns. I never stopped wanting to mix things that didn’t look like they went together.

I have loved my late twenties and thirties because I’ve re-learned to play. I’ve learned to love what I love and not apologize for it. I’m no longer interested in if it’s the most flattering cut, or if other people would wear it, or if it’s currently “in.” I have gone back to what I’ve loved as a child. I spent most of my teen and early twenties learning to suppress my individuality…and now I’m finally listening to my sassy five-year old self who unapologetically loved what she loved—princesses, fairy-tales, and all the patterns all the time.

So if this is new to you, but like me, you’re eyeballing all the things and want to start playing, I invite you to start.

What colors and patterns are you drawn too? What makes you feel like your most true self? And it’s OK if you’re copying someone else. We forget that that’s how we learn and then we fine tune and make it our own. We learned to talk by mimicking our care-givers. We learned to walk while holding onto someone’s hand, or the random piece of furniture. The more you play, the more you’ll figure out what you like. My former roommate has an edgy, rocker almost gothic style—I copied some of her pieces, but now pair them with other things so they have more of a fairytale vibe. I liked what she did, but I made it my own.

shoes2
jewelry from Noonday Collection, tunic from Goodie Two Shoes, shoes from Tom’s

Start small…I was at a trunk show the other day and a woman was trying on patterns for the first time. I suggested she start with a pair of leggings instead of the tunic she was holding because she could wear a solid top and wouldn’t feel overwhelmed every time she saw herself in the mirror. Confidence and feeling comfortable are so important. Starting small gives you the ability to add-on and build confidence. Scarves, shoes, belts, and necklaces are all easy ways to add pattern and/or color. Then you can practice mixing and matching those pieces with other things in your closet.

Ignore the mirrors. We lived in Uganda for two months during our adoption process and there weren’t any mirrors around. I wasn’t able to check myself out, or examine an outfit from every angle and it was so freeing. If you love what you’re wearing and feel comfortable in it, the mirror shouldn’t be the final judge. It’s a tool, like a curling iron. You don’t ask your curling iron how your hair looks. Do ask friends, especially as you’re learning. I have two that I will text when I’m trying something that feels risky to me. I trust them to help me fine-tune.

Be brave…or at least tired. Sometimes I’ve done the weirdest stuff because I’m just too tired to care and it ends up looking great. Sometimes I’m feeling brave and so I’ll try something new. I may never wear it again, but I learned that a) people loved it or b) no one even noticed/cared. And honestly, most of the time it’s the latter. I wear clothes every day and most of the time no one cares to comment one way or the other. And so I learn to dress in what I like because the world isn’t really paying attention to me. I’m not Taylor Swift—and there’s tons of freedom in that.

on jealousy

This morning I asked for something different. I asked God to show me how God lavishly loves the women around me.

I’ll back up.

I’m at a conference for work and the woman sitting beside me won a book. Jealousy sparked. I love books. Why her? She had already gotten to participate in some pretty amazing things this weekend. Some were kick-ass. She got to model, she won some awards, got to sit with all the right people and got to get up on the stage. Wasn’t it my turn to get something good?

Apparently not.

Later that evening there was a bigger giveaway. I knew how much I had been effected by the book thing so I just started praying/begging God to give it to someone who really needed it, and for the ability to celebrate with them. That felt better; but it still felt empty. I didn’t know what else I could do. I couldn’t force the jealousy out of my heart. It wouldn’t cave to my sheer force of will.

But…

But God…

But God sometime in the next 12 hours reminded me of the season when I couldn’t turn around without running into God’s lavish love. Specific acts that only I would see that were for me—culminating in $42 thrifted cowboy boots nine hours after mentioning to Doug I wanted a pair. No one else knew. God lavishly loved me in a time when I needed that direct connection.

I don’t know why that story popped into my head. Maybe because I was wearing the boots. But I meditated on the memory.

So I woke up today and the prayer slipped out.

Jesus, help me observe how you are lavishing love on people today.

Somehow, the jealousy dissipated—melted away like the dew from the grass when the sun hits it. Jealousy pales in comparison to a God who is lavishly, actively and specifically loving God’s people. And I was invited to sit back and see.

Deeper still—I was invited to see that it doesn’t matter if the gift, or love, is needed or not because it is supposed to be lavish. It goes beyond need. If I give my children only what they need, but not one thing more, is that lavish love? Maybe. But God is more and God gives more. And deeper still—there is jealousy I have battled for years. They have the audience I want; they have written the words I want; people quote them and make others cry…But for a moment, I get to live in freedom from that jealousy. God turned it upside down and inside out and it feels glorious. It feels glorious to truly celebrate the lavish love God is giving the other writers, speakers and teachers.

Jealousy will most likely creep back in. There will be moments where I am under it’s spell and act out of fear and scarcity. There will be times when the world feels infinitely small.

But God.

My lavish God showed me how to combat it.

Look and see my lavish love for the world I have made.

And you’re in it!

You get to see how I love.

It feels glorious.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: