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*Parts of this writing has sat in my website drafts for 3 years and 26 days. Sometimes writing needs time to find its full circle.
There has been a question that has changed my life over the last season. It is a very simple thought, with huge implications. Five words, that create clarity in a moment.
If you studied all the personality types, Gallup strength finder results and hung around me for a little while, you would quickly see my personality. I like things to end and I am pretty terrible at the in-between.
Finishing a project, ticking off my task list and closing my computer with satisfaction is the greatest part of my day. Yet we live in a time throughout the world when we all seem to be stuck in the corridor.
That’s not your fault, you are not a bad person, it’s the difficult part of the in-between. When I have found hope sliding and the option of giving up is so close, I stop and ask myself a simple question…
And it has brought so much relief.
One day sitting in a professional development class a facilitator asked the attendees to imagine a place where we feel most inspired. In my mind, I leapt across foreign places, remembering travel overseas. The cedars of Lebanon, the jungles of Northern Thailand, Libraries in London and the cafes on street corners in Paris.
These were memories that took my breath away and recalibrated my season in a moment. When I travel, I am always inspired. Then I softly smiled when my mind landed somewhere else. An unexpected place. Somewhere I spent many years running away from. Escaping, hustling, working harder and harder, just so I could run away again.
I began to imagine myself lying in my loungeroom on the floor. Tears dripped down my face as I realised the place that I now feel most inspired, is my own home. Surrounded by the simple things, I felt safe, that all the hard work I had been doing writing to heal, had changed things. It has taken years for me to come home to myself.
I spent many years searching out inspiration from far off places, hustling for a sense of inspiration and success.
Coming home to ourselves, means that we listen to the small still voice. That we are not graded by our Instagram feed or our external appearance. Coming home, means we are capable of rest and recovery. It means we don’t have to keep doing more and being more, to feel a sense of inspiration and grace.
You see I would keep doing more because I lived my life from a place of wanting to please others. I wanted people to like me. I wanted to do all the things, be in all the places and achieve beyond. Each achievement though, couldn’t escape this feeling though that I was not enough.
The question that has radically changed my life this year is this one;
When I hustle for worthiness to finish a project that is overdue, with notifications shouting. I simply ask myself, do I have the grace for this today?
The definition of grace is the smoothness and elegance of movement. It also is defined through scripture as unwarranted mercy or favour. When I think of the season we have walked corporately there is a universal trauma, that has held us all captive in our homes.
In times when difficulty faces us all, many people would just push through to finish the task at hand but I am learning to look for the grace.
I come home to myself, by asking do I have the inspiration for this?
This question is not a cop-out, where I don’t face the hard stuff. It’s not about the everyday chores that help life tick over smoothly. It’s not about shrinking responsibility or not finishing what I have started.
It is about the passion projects, my writing, creativity, those things that require inspiration to be drawn out from the depths of who I am.
I’ve realised that for many years I have chased the approval of others, to finish work in a way that makes people proud of me. I have realised that I thought I could pray a little harder and if I could follow all the rules, then I would be enough.
Seek out inspiration from far off places.
Asking myself the question about grace is a moment where I honour the little person inside that is just longing to be enough.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.– 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
This is a place where we lay our burdens down and remember that imperfection sometimes is the greatest freedom, in living a life that is fully uncontained.
Growth in this season looks like letting go of things, letting people down, not answering text messages, recording radio scripts a month late and not being available to everyone that I have in previous seasons. For no other reason, then I am just not graced for it in this season.
I am unpacking the deep questions that have surfaced from watching my father pass away. I am learning and growing in a new role that has so many challenges and I am focusing on being present to my family in those moments in between.
Tell me below in the questions…
Looking forward to hearing the stories of coming home to yourself.
We live in a washing machine of change. Transition fatigue, overwhelm and stress. Fear and worry, ask us daily whether we will make it through this pandemic? It makes sense that when the world feels out of control, then maybe if we hold tighter, things will feel less out of control.
Keep Everything Contained.
I’ve gone back to therapy in the last couple of months for the first time in a long time. I believe that the greatest gift we can give our future selves is the beauty of insight and growth. With the passing of my Dad, the pandemic, the constant change in all spheres of my life, the pressure of parenting children through this season, I knew I needed some strategy.
Anxiety would rise when I couldn’t hold all the things in my hands. The same stories were looping my mind, asking for attention. Early morning wake ups without a reason to rise. I found myself trying to make my world smaller and smaller, through control and worry. If only I could clean the whole house and keep it clean longer, then I would be okay. I would plan out conversations and try to keep things contained.
Sitting in the chair across from a stranger was actually so liberating. Someone with no context, who’s role is to hold space without judgement, like a car service for my soul. The capacity to field out the unspeakable and face difficulty with courage.
I am three sessions in and I know I have many more to go. I am learning so much about this constant state of tension and control that I am trying to plan out all the different scenarios of the future, in a season that is completely out of control.
I am learning about releasing the seeds of faith and letting wildflowers grow, in places of the future, that are completely outside of my capacity. This is the walk of faith to release what we think is our role and surrender to a walk of beauty and grace.
“Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you.”Luke 12: 27-28
An interesting reflection on control is although it makes me feel safe in the moment, it creates unnecessary tension for circumstances that may never happen. As we have been unpacking a few stories, I have realised that I have learnt to create strategy upon strategy in the land of What if! I have learnt to hold responsibility for the wildflowers to grow. Holding onto the places, the colours and the environment.
When as I even write that I know is impossible, but when we learn these strategies from a young age, they are not sensible, they have become copy mechanisms, holding defence to those vulnerable places. You see the energy we give to control is expansive. The tension, requires energy, as if we are holding a tightrope for others to walk across. Our arms get heavy, our breath labours and we tire.
Maybe you are thinking, why does my stress matter? There is a world who is writhing in pain, people who have lost their whole family? But pain is not a tool of comparison. We all have seasons of loss, no matter the breadth and width of its impact.
The what if scenarios, are sneaky, they seem like they are only little thoughts hovering in the background, but they require energy, effort and focus. That which is often taken away from the people who are in my everyday. They rob us of the capacity to stay calm in our today, not worrying about what is to come tomorrow.
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”Matthew 6: 34
Control asks me to hold space for something in the future, that I don’t have the full understanding of what can actually happen. It seems like a helpful defence mechanism but in fact we are locked in a holding pattern, waiting for the circumstances to come into reality.
The problem is, what if it doesn’t happen. We gave all this energy to something that was but a breath of wind, nothing, tumbleweeds of our mind. The answer is presence and fluidity.
“The reason many people in our society are miserable, sick, and highly stressed is because of an unhealthy attachment to things they have no control over.”Steve Maraboli
Just like the way we grip a pencil, to write beautiful calligraphy or write. If we hold the utensil too tightly the writing is messy and illegible. There is a fluidity required of the paintbrush and the pencil , these tools of expression require a loose hold to create straight and legible lines.
The moment when we hold the pencil too tight and our writing becomes a mess.
Our life needs that same loose grip of fluidity and response. When we hold onto the possibility and responsibility of the future through control, we miss out on the beauty of the spontaneous, the present and peace that is available in that moment.
As you are waiting in this season- can you release control?
As things change constantly in this season- can you release control?
As we step towards an unknown future- can you release control?
These are the complex learnings in this season of transition and change. I know you feel tired, I do also. I know you feel unsure, I do also. I know it seems easier to make things smaller and more contained, I also have tried this coping mechanism.
What if the answer of presence was available where we allow the end result of our tomorrow to be held in the hands of the One, who knows the very hairs on our heads. He knows the colours of the wildflowers, destined for our tomorrow. He is capable and compassionate towards our story and it’s conclusion.
His name is written across the stars and held captive in chorus by the trees in the forrest. He is able. He is fighting for us. He is bringing together goodness, in the midst of the world that is aching.
He is able.
Can you take a moment right now and place it back in His hands? Release with praying and journaling below in the comments, to give back to Him the responsibility of the outcomes. Taking deep breaths in this moment and write yourself a reminder for this coming month, the ways that you can release control and stay present in this very moment.
If you asked me “what makes you angry?” a few years ago, I would have replied with “not much!”
It was a subtle, warm afternoon in Bali. I was sitting in a room in a writing retreat and an earthquake of emotion unravelled, quietly through my veins. The topic of the retreat was re-writing your story and learning about your defence mechanisms. I was a speaker for the event, but I had so much to learn and rewriting of my own story.
It has taken me a year and a half to truly own that moment in that room, overseas on a humid October afternoon. I needed to be honest with myself. It was a learning of owning my own story and truly allowing myself to say: I actually feel angry all the time.
The frustration I feel bubbling just below the surface, is a deep sense of resentment for always wanting to do the right thing and bitterness that tastes stark, when my boundaries are crossed constantly.
I do feel angry.
I hate it when…
Being able to say those words out loud has taken months of journaling, reading, talking and honesty. The word hatred had been completely repressed in my life, to the point I could honestly say I don’t hate anyone. I allowed people to cross boundaries, I let people off, not wanting to cause a fuss and I felt frustrated all the time.
The thing is about anger or insert whatever big emotion that you try to suppress or dissolve, unless we are honest enough to ourselves to actually let that emotion surface, it will grow and fester, like a wound uncared for, creating an infection of sorts.
Feeling anger is not bad, it’s what we learn to do with it, that is the place where we cause harm. Suppressing anger, may not harm others, but it indeed harms .
I was recently flying for the first time in over a year and contextually with a global pandemic, it felt even more privileged than it usually does. There is something about flying that opens my heart up to reflection and the power of pressing reset. It is very rare when I am flying on a plane, that I don’t write and this last trip was no different.
There is something about being far away from my everyday circumstances that opens up perspective like nothing else. After a year like 2020 when so much changed and there were emotions bubbling under the surface, I pulled out a pencil and wrote ferociously.
And suddenly then my old hide and seek friend, appeared on my page. Anger, hatred, frustration and fear danced across the page extravagantly. Something happened, that is hard to explain, but a waterfall of anger fell out onto the page. I found myself writing over and over and over and over, so that the page became a scribble of words, that no one could read. A place of deep healing and therapy their in that cocoon in the sky.
A piece of paper that became a bunch of scribbles that allowed my fury to flow, ended in a pile of tears and the knowledge in clear application in front of me, that writing truly does heal. As we take the time to empty ourselves of the big emotions, that we are trained to hold quiet within, there was a realisation that being angry is not a sin. Truly its the way that we use that emotion to bring colour, honesty and life, processing that emotion we are told that is bad.
We don’t need to be in an airplane seat to do this exercise for insight and healing, all we need is a piece of paper, some quiet and privacy, then write to allow all of your emotions to have the space they require. In this season of Autumn, here in Australia, I am learning to allow myself to feel those big emotions and to process them in ways that release their control and bring change.
Reminding myself that the stories from my childhood that tell me “Stop crying, you are too loud or children should be seen and not heard” create narratives that hold emotions trapped beneath the surface. Relearning the narratives of not being enough and allowing people to overstep boundaries, to please people and keep the peace, in the end will always bring pain.
A quick list of ways that you can allow your anger to be seen, felt and listened to, without shouting:
As you take the time to acknowledge, remind yourself it is okay and identify why you are feeling this emotion, insight will be present and change will begin to occur.
Anger is not bad. Holding space for that feeling and allowing it to teach you may be the greatest lesson you give yourself this year. Learning why this emotion is holding us captive and freedom awaits us on the other side.
We live in a world that is communicating more than ever before, yet we have more isolation and anxiety caused by disconnection.
Everybody communicates, yet few connect.
Empathy is one of the ways that we understand the language that we are communicating with one another. Yet we spend so much time with our heads looking down into our phones, seeking out the connection, we so deeply desire.
This month, our city went into lockdown for the second time across the last year. It was the first time however, that we were required to wear masks. Something stark happened to me as I encountered many people wearing masks each day. I was confounded by the beauty of humanity’s eyes.
We were created as human beings to connect with one another, and our ability to make meaning from these connections is what sets us apart from other animals. Humans synchronise with one another when we are in proximity to one another, especially when we look into one another’s eyes.
We were created to transmit emotions with one another on a physiological level; this is the immersive experience of humanity. We are hardwired to connect; through the transmission of electrochemical information that we get from one another when we engage in each other’s personal space.
When the brain couples together with another brain, we connect with each other and empathy is enacted. Communication is not just the art of speaking, writing or feeling; it is the capacity to be able to transfer ideas and emotions to another human being through connection.
One of the most effective ways that a human being can connect is through eye-to-eye contact. When we meet face-to-face, the change that happens within our capacity too not only understands but to move towards the person who is speaking with empathy. This is the capacity to communicate and connect.
3.4 Billion people currently use Social Media platforms daily to communicate with each other. That is more than half of the world’s population. Social Media is any online space or technology that creates social power through communication. Culturally as we have increased our online connectivity exponentially and studies have proven over the last 50 years that the rate of disconnection socially has been significant.
Studies have also shown an increase in interpersonal distrust, a decrease in unified public opinion and a drastic impact on levels of family connectedness. Social Media is a powerful tool for communication, but it is impacting the way that we as a society, connect.
Language requires social connection so that one can be understood. We cannot just communicate and think that the people who are reading, listening or observing our behaviour are connecting with empathy so that they can interact with us. Communication is more about the interaction than it is just the expression of words.
Verbal communication and non-verbal communication are essential elements of the connection process. Written communication on Social Media platforms removes the emotional connection to the expression and therefore compromises the level of connection for the consumer.
The empathetic connection needs to be a two-way engagement rather than a one way broadcast. This is the capacity to be able to be understood and to understand.
As I reflect on the month of February here in my little seaside town of Rockingham, I am reminded of the importance of listening to those closest to me and looking directly in their eyes. Laying down my phone, asking questions and allowing connection to be the importance of my presence.
Will you join me, in the endeavour to look up and intentionally listen with every part of my being to those who are in my company. This may just be the greatest legacy we will ever live.