I used to think I was writing to help others.
Now I know I’m writing to free myself.
So I must keep writing. I cannot become discouraged. There’s more at stake than I ever imagined before.
I used to think I was writing to help others.
Now I know I’m writing to free myself.
So I must keep writing. I cannot become discouraged. There’s more at stake than I ever imagined before.
Waiting for it to happen again
For them to see me
As you have seen me
You had to choose
Someone always has to choose
But when the choice is me
Well, let’s just say
It’s never me
You want to pretend
Pretend we’re still friends
Make small talk
And pretend to care
But you made your choice
You chose her
You chose them
You think you chose
But really you chose
A line drawn in the sand
A perfect white fence
Built to keep people like me
So now I wait
It always happens again
I make a new friend
We walk hand in hand
But at some point we always
Make it back to the line
And then they must choose
As you had to do
And everyone makes the same choice
If the choice is between me
Well, let’s just say
It’s never been me
Triggered. That’s the phrase. Seeing someone from my past, triggered all sorts of thoughts and feelings and emotions.
Rejection and remembering rejection is so destabilizing. It knocks you on your ass. It activates that fight or flight instinct. I guess my instinct is flight because all I’ve wanted to do since I saw them is shrink back and hide. Because the truth is I’m just waiting for it to happen all over again. It feels inevitable.
Over the long haul of my life, it has been very rare for people to choose me when they were forced to make the choice. And it feels like the only way to be safe is to just shut everyone out.
I don’t know when I’ll feel safe again. I’ve spent most of my life feeling disposable and invisible. And just when I think I’ve met someone who won’t throw me away like the rest, it comes time for them to choose.
Well, let’s just say it’s never been me.
Bill Gates comes to you one day and says, “Hey.”
And you say, “Oh wow! One of the richest men in the whole world, Bill Gates, is talking to me! Amaze.”
And he says, “Ha ha, yes, that is me. I am Bill Gates. But, hey, I wanted to tell you, you see that restaurant over there?”
He points. You look. There is, in fact, a restaurant over there. In fact, it’s a really nice one. Michelin stars and everything. You could never afford to eat there. You’ve always wanted to but you couldn’t even afford an appetizer, let alone a whole meal. You know the maitre’ d wouldn’t even let you past the front door.
“Yes?” you say, somewhat confused.
Bill smiles as he says, “Well, I own that restaurant and I just want you to know that you can go in and eat there for free, anytime you want. Order anything you want off the menu. It’s all free.”
“Wait? Seriously?” you ask doubtfully. There’s absolutely no way this is for real. Bill Gates doesn’t even know you! What could you have possibly done to deserve this? Nothing. That’s what. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s too good to be true.
“Yes,” he says chuckling, “Whatever you want, just go in and sit down and order.”
“What’s the catch?” you say, doing the squinty eye suspicious thing you’ve seen on TV.
Bill’s eyes crinkle from smiling and laughing. He’s even wearing a Mr. Roger’s style cardi. “No catch,” he says, “You don’t have to do anything. It’s all free.”
“Why,” you say, eyes squinting so tight they’re practically shut, “What did I do to deserve this?”
“This is just something I want to do,” he says, “There’s no catch. You don’t have to earn it. I just want to do this.”
Bill nods, “For real. Pinky promise.”
He gets up from the picnic table at the park that I never mentioned and starts to walk toward a really cool, expensive car that is also, like, so eco-friendly. After a few steps, he turns around to say, “And tell your friends. They can come too.” He gives a very friendly and reassuring wave, gets into his car, and flies away.
What. Just. Happened. You don’t know. It’s a mystery. But yet…….. I mean, you gotta try it out right? Just to see if it’s real. I mean, you’re probably being punk’d but if not…
So you go in. The maitre’ d knows you on sight and looks really happy to see you. You’re seated immediately in a private room with your own personal army of wait staff waiting on you hand and foot.
You order. You order everything. Everything on the menu. You take at least one bite of each thing. To your absolute delight, you are having the time of your life. AND THE FOOD! It’s so good! It’s the best food you’ve ever eaten. Ever. You finally finish. You can’t eat another bite. You leave with 12 doggie bags. And as you leave, you ask the maitre’ d if you can come back again someday.
“Oui,” he says in the snooty, French accent you were already imagining, “You may come back whenever you like and as often as you like.” He smiles and does a fancy clap so that the wait staff come and follow you out to your car, carrying the 12 doggie bags.
You go home and unbutton your pants and watch Firefly and smile because you feel so good all over. What an amazing experience! What did you do to deserve this, you keep asking yourself. You don’t know. But you do know that you definitely want to do that again.
And you do. Not right away. But when you do go back, you don’t order everything on the menu this time. Don’t get me wrong, you still order wayyyy too much, only 8 doggie bags this time, you don’t want to seem too greedy.
Home, pants, Firefly.
After a few more times, you start to feel kinda weird about all this free food. I mean, WHAT DID YOU DO TO DESERVE THIS? You still don’t know. You order less food every time. Something just feels… off… about this arrangement. It can’t be real, can it? You wonder when the producers of the hidden camera show are gonna pop out and scare the crap out of you. There has to be a reason for Bill Gates to be giving you all this free food. THERE HAS TO BE A REASON.
So you switch to Windows only and Microsoft everything. It’s the only thing you can think of. Surely, this is the reason for the free food. This has to be Bill’s end game, amirite? More customers for his products, that’s the real reason for the free food, right?
Not only do you make the switch but you start telling all your friends that they need to make the switch too. “Why?” they all want to know, “Why should we make the switch?”
“Well,” you tell them, “If you switch to Windows and Microsoft, you can eat at this restaurant for free, anytime you want. You can order whatever you want off the menu and it’s all free.”
“Wait, so what you’re saying is, if I switch, I can eat at this Michelin rated restaurant for free, anytime, forever?”
“Welllllllllll,” you hem, “Not forever. You can only eat there as long as you keep using Windows and Microsoft. But as long as you never stray from the Gates Way, you can eat there forever. For FREE.”
Some of your friends make the switch and start eating at the restaurant. Some switch when they feel like eating there but they usually switch back to Apple. Some just really don’t care about eating at some fancy restaurant if it means giving up their iPhone.
Then there are those that make the switch, go to the restaurant, order to go and then SELL THE FREE FOOD THEY GOT TO HUNGRY PEOPLE. #douches
And then you’ve got those who take their doggie bags to the homeless but won’t give them the food unless they make the switch, which they can’t do because THEY DON’T OWN A COMPUTER. #nonsense
How much further do I need to take this analogy?
Surely, by now, you’re picking up what I’ve been laying down.
One thing I know, when I feel God’s presence, I feel overwhelming love and acceptance. I’m not worried about God’s end game. I’m not worrying about how I can earn the FREE love. I’m just enjoying it.
This idea that we have to change, to “make the switch”, to modify ourselves in order to be worthy of God’s free love… we came up with that idea. Whether because of guilt, shame, fear or whatever, doesn’t matter. We have to let that all go and just be confident of God’s love and acceptance.
Nothing feels better than being totally accepted from stem to stern, to feel the warmth of love washing over you and knowing, KNOWING, YOU ARE LOVED. Without a catch, without having to modify yourself or change, without complications, you’re just loved.
I started thinking about all this because I felt really shitty today. I was reminded recently of the existence of a few people who think rather ill of me or at least they think ill of my social media presence judging by their past comments. These are people who used to say nice things about me to others (at least I think they did).
But I’ve been “trying new foods on the menu”, to go along with the analogy. I’ve been finding freedom and love in God in new ways. I’ve been losing my fear and shame and allowing myself to just be myself, exactly as I was made. It’s been a wonderful journey.
But my “freedom” or whatever you may call it seems to make others upset. They don’t like my posts anymore (which let me tell you are really, very mild compared to what they could be). My behavior and dress and language and ideas bother them, anger them, frighten them and threaten them? I guess?
So they comment. And their comments hurt. And just thinking about their past comments to me (and even recent comments, as recent as Jan 1st, 2020) can make me feel less than. I doubt my journey. I doubt myself.
But when I think about the frightened bunny I once was, the one who “made the switch”, I just feel pain and loneliness and suffering. And when I think about the love I feel in God’s presence now, that drips over me and fills me and erases my fear and doubt, I know I’m headed in the right direction.
And I realized that when I can feel God all around me, I’m not thinking about an end game or my behavior or any of that. I’m just basking.
I hope, dear God do I hope, that I can carry these thoughts with me. That the next time I feel shitty because someone said something mean to me, the next time I doubt my journey and myself, I hope I can remember the free love I didn’t have to earn. I hope I can remember that “making the switch” is their baggage, not mine, and I can just go bask in the glow and order everything off the menu.
Because that’s what I want: all of God’s love. Give it all to me so I can take it all in until I’m full to bursting.
People may think ill of my journey, but God’s love is so much sweeter and stronger than their opinions. And it’s that strength and sweetness that I want, not their approval. Come and judge me and find me wanting. It’s ok. I’m taking doggie bags home.
I challenge you and I challenge myself to boldly go into the restaurant with an iPhone in your pocket, order everything off the menu, unbutton your pants and watch Firely.
Picture Eden in your mind.
What are some adjectives that immediately come up? Paradise, perhaps? Perfection?
What are some things we’ve been taught about Eden? That it was God’s original plan? That after his plan of perfection and paradise was ruined by Satan, with the help of Adam and Eve (emphasis on Eve if we’re to believe the rhetoric of the patriarchy), that God has been working on nothing but trying to return everything to that state of paradise and perfection?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Garden of Eden mythology this morning. And I want to deconstruct a few ideas. (These are my own thoughts, not something I learned in a college course since I’m an uneducated swine.)
(For those of you offended by the term “mythology”, please read this dictionary definition of myth: a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining some natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.)
If God wanted perfection and he/she is as omnipotent as we all believe them to be, then perfection could have been achieved and sustained indefinitely from the very beginning. If perfect people were the goal, God had and has the power to create beings that never sin, never do evil, are never unhappy or sad or angry. There would be no greed, narcissism, hatred, lust, jealousy, arrogance, war, violence, hunger, need of any kind, etc.
Ah, you say, but Adam and Eve had that state of perfection until Satan, disguised as a serpent, tempted and tricked them into eating the forbidden fruit.
No, he didn’t.
You can’t tempt and trick someone into something they don’t already desire. On some level, they were already curious about the fruit and wanted to try it. Then, when presented with the idea that they could be like God in knowledge, the desire to taste that fruit became unbearable. They had to have it. Satan didn’t put desire into them. It was already there.
The idea that Adam and Eve were perfect and innocent before the serpent came along is false. They were already entertaining the idea of eating the fruit before he showed up. I mean, they were hanging out by the damned tree when he came along. He didn’t have to lead them to it or drag them over there. They were ALREADY THERE.
So, no, the Garden wasn’t perfect before Satan came into the picture. Adam and Eve weren’t naive innocents who fell prey to a flim-flam man. They didn’t give their retirement to a Nigerian prince. They weren’t scammed or tricked. What really happened? Satan gave them verbal permission to do something they already wanted to do.
I think it’s important to stop thinking of Eden as a spoilt paradise and dream of creation that God is always trying to get us back to. Because the idea that if Satan hadn’t come along and persuaded A and E to sin, we’d all be living happy, prosperous, perfect lives with no pain is completely and utterly false. Can we all just admit that it was only a matter of time before A and E effed things up on their own without outside help?
They were not perfect and Eden was not perfection.
Let’s stay with this idea that perfection and paradise are God’s ultimate goals for creation and humanity for a bit.
The idea is that perfection and paradise have always been the end game for all of creation and especially humanity but back in Eden, Satan messed everything up. Ok, so where did Satan come from? If perfection and paradise are the goal, why would a good God allow a being like Satan to exist at all?
Ah, you say, but Satan was originally good and fell from heaven because he desired God’s throne.
That’s just more mythology. If you’re someone who believes in the inerrancy of the Bible and holds the Bible up to be more fact and history than poetry and story, then please point out to me the clear scripture verses that explain who Satan is and where he came from. I’ll save you the time and trouble, there are none. There are no verses that clearly state who and what Satan is or how and why he exists. There are some very evocative metaphors about this being that possibly point to metaphorical origins, but nothing straightforward or clear.
Who and what Satan is, remains a mystery. And one of the real mysteries to me is why this being of pure evil exists at all. Because a creature like this does not fit into the idea of perfection and paradise. A being of pure evil can only cause destruction and pain.
Why would a God who desires this state of ultimate perfection allow a being like this to exist at all? If you want perfection, just destroy the little bugger or better yet, don’t allow him to come into existence at all.
But evil does exist. Whether evil comes only from the heart of man or there is a being of evil in the world influencing us, it still exists nonetheless. And evil only begets one thing: pain.
So why would God allow this evil to come and ruin his garden paradise and thwart his plans for perfection? I think it’s because perfection and paradise were never the end goal. God wasn’t creating a paradise that was then ruined by creation’s first douche. If you ask me, Eden was simply meant to be a starting place, a loading screen, chapter one.
I don’t pretend to know why evil or pain exist but I do know that their very existence negates the idea that God is only interested in paradise and perfection. If that’s what they wanted, evil and pain would never have come into the picture.
Before we move on to my third and final idea, let’s go back and retell the story of creation as quickly as possible.
I really want to focus on that middle bullet point for my third idea: God makes humans. Because all this talking about and deconstructing the mythology of Eden has been leading me to this idea. If God wasn’t aiming for perfection and wasn’t trying to make perfect humans, what was he/she up to?
“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.””
I hope you actually took the time to read the verses above because I want you to notice the suspicious absence of the word “perfect”.
God said “let us make humans in our image” not “let us make perfect little mini-me’s”. We assume humans were meant to be perfect because that is the main attribute we ascribe to God.
Let me say that again for those in the back: WE ASSUME HUMANS WERE MEANT TO BE PERFECT BECAUSE THAT IS THE MAIN ATTRIBUTE WE ASCRIBE TO GOD.
If humans are supposed to be made in God’s image and God is perfect then, ergo, transitive property, humans are made to be perfect.
But perfection is not the only attribute of God and not even the most important one.
If Adam and Eve were meant to be the standard that we fell away from, can you please list for me all the ways they are like God? I don’t see God’s kindness, compassion or love in them. I don’t see God’s power or authority. In fact, I don’t see much of God’s likeness in them at all. God said “let us make them in our image” and we immediately believe the fullness of God’s image is born out in Adam and Eve. How?!? I don’t see it! I can’t believe when God said “in our image” that these two were the standard by which we must measure ourselves. If they were so great, why isn’t there more written about them?!? You know, the only attribute in Adam and Eve that I see as godly is that they were “unashamed”. That’s it!
Made in God’s image.
God is many things. Loving, kind, gentle, compassionate, fierce, jealous, a still small voice, a whirlwind, a creator, a vine dresser, a gardener, a king, a queen, a baby in a manger, a spirit or rather THE spirit of all. And so, so much more than I could ever think of on my own.
Perfect? Yes. Holy? Yes. But with so many wonderful things to say about God, why do we stop with these two? Is it because the one attribute of God’s that A and E actually had, being “unashamed”, was lost and we inherited that shame like it’s written into our DNA. We’re ashamed of ourselves. And all we can see is how unalike God we are.
Can we address the fact that one of God’s most agreed upon attributes is “creator”? When we were made in God’s image, we were given that same attribute. We have creation and creativity in our blood. It’s an essential part of our being. Whether you create through art or cooking or building or children or whatever, you are a creative being. You can’t help but create all day long, every day. But creation of any kind is messy. It’s always messy. Creating anything of any kind causes a mess. If God was not ok with our mess, why would he/she allow us to be these magnificent creative beings going around making our messes?
For me, the “G” in God stands for “growth”. Just one look out your window is all it takes to see what a huge fan of growth God is. We weren’t meant to stay trapped by shame all our lives, punishing ourselves mentally for being imperfect and unholy.
The order of creation goes: light, water, land THEN seeds! God created all the things those seeds would need to grow before he/she even created the seeds. Everything was put in place to foster the growth of those seeds. And once the seeds were created, they were buried in dirt and darkness. They had to push their way free of that dirt and darkness in order to reach the light and air. But they didn’t do it alone. You see God created water. The water reached down into the dirt and darkness and held that seed and helped the little plant break free of its seed cocoon. The water softened the dirt for the little plant so it could push through and reach the light.
Adam and Eve were just the beginning. They weren’t the gold standard. They weren’t something God lost that they’re trying to get back to. They were the seed of humanity. And we’ve been pushing through the dirt and the darkness ever since. Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, they are the living fucking water that have reached down to help us navigate our way out of the shit! Yes, humanity is mired by dirt and darkness but we are being held by the watery God of growth and light!
If there’s anything I want to leave you with today, it’s the idea that Eden was not our lost perfection. It was the start of centuries of growth. It was the endowment of creativity upon the little seedlings of God. It’s not the end goal of God’s heart. Restoration is absolutely God’s heart. But not resetting. God does not want to reset humanity back to Eden. God wants growth! Growth is always forward. A plant doesn’t grow back into a seed. A plant can certainly wither and need restoration but once it’s restored it continues to grow! That’s the restoration God is bringing us. Not shrinking back into the earth. Not starting from the beginning again.
Eden was the start. Not the end. Let’s keep growing!
Don’t invalidate other people’s feelings.
You may not agree with them. They may have a completely different memory or perspective on a shared experience than you. You may even KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt, with irrefutable proof that they are remembering things wrong. That’s ok.
Don’t invalidate their feelings.
Don’t tell them how to feel. And when they voice their feelings out loud, don’t correct them saying, “That’s not how you feel. You actually feel this way.”
If they tell you that they’re hurt by you or because of something you did, regardless of whether or not you actually did it, you can be kind and say, “I’m sorry you’re hurting and that I played a part in that.”
Some people will blame you for everything and consistently tell you you’ve hurt them or that you’re an asshole. If that’s the case, look deep inside, really self-evaluate, ask someone who will be honest with you if you’re really a jerk. If you’re not a jerk and you’re tired of apologizing for things that never happened, you don’t have to have a relationship with that person.
Don’t invalidate their feelings. Because if you do, then you really will be an asshole.
Why am I writing this on Thanksgiving?
Because a meme I saw on Instagram reminded me why I choose not to spend time with my parents anymore. Do I miss them? Of course I do. But I can’t be around them. Because I can’t share myself with them. There are a lot of reasons for that but a big one is that I’ve spent much of my life having my feelings invalidated, belittled, and gaslighted. I learned to become two different people. The one my parents knew and the one everyone else knew.
I know I’m not alone in this. This is a common tale. That doesn’t stop it from hurting.
So don’t be an asshole. Don’t invalidate people’s feelings. That’s my Thanksgiving PSA.
And have a Happy Thanksgiving. 🦃 Or don’t.
Someone said something that hurt me. My immediate reaction was to move them from one category in my mind, the “You May Be Extremely Conservative But You’re Still Really Sweet” category, to the “Wow! You’re Really Judgmental and Kind of a B” category. I wanted to take them from “good” to “bad”. I wanted to label this person as “bad” in my mind. Why? Because in addition to hurting my feelings, their comment let me know that they label me as “bad”. And they may not know this but I’m rubber and they are glue. #science
But I’ve been obsessively thinking about it all morning and I have come to some conclusions. The first of which is, they are not “bad”.
It should come as no surprise to anyone that it is human nature to think of most things in a dualistic, good vs bad, no gray area kind of way. One of our favorite pastimes is gossiping about celebrities and sorting them into good vs bad categories. Bill Cosby used to be good but now he is bad. The discovery of his unforgivable actions erased the good things we liked about him. He is no longer good. He is now bad. During the height of the #MeToo movement, I was shocked and saddened by the news that many of the actors and celebrities I once liked were capable of such ugly and horrifying behavior. They were moved from the “good” category to the “bad” category overnight.
But is it really true that people fit into only one of two categories? Is it true that people can either only be good or only be bad? I really don’t think so.
I try very hard to be objective about myself and to see both the good and the bad in my actions. I know I have done wrong at times and I know I have done right. I do not delude myself into believing I am always right and my actions are always righteous. It may seem that way to others, I don’t know. We don’t really know how others perceive us. So maybe there are people out there who think I am self-righteous and that I do not see my wrongs. I can actually see how conversations I’ve had with others might come off that way. But, dear reader, please be assured, I know I have been wrong many times.
So knowing that I do not fit into either the “good” or “bad” categories, why should I assume that everyone else does? If I am neither all good or all bad, why would anyone else be?
We are all capable of tremendous acts of kindness or horrendous acts of evil. We can all be inclined to be judgmental of others, especially if they have done something to hurt us. And we can all be overcome with compassion for others as well.
The person who hurt me, who said something nasty about me, I know a few things about them. And what I know is that they can be very kind, compassionate, loving and giving. They have a desire to help others, especially the vulnerable. They have been a good friend, not to me, but to others.
Can they also be judgmental? Apparently. Selfish? I’ve heard a few things. Does that make them bad? Does it erase all the good? I don’t think so.
Jesus said, “Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone.” (Luke 18:19)
I always thought this meant we were all bad. And I have to laugh as I type that. Because that is the old dualistic mindset, putting everything into binary categories again. If it’s not good, it’s bad, right?
Maybe what he really meant is “stopping labeling everything”. Stop sorting people into “good” and “bad”. Can we please get over our need to categorize and label and just focus on God, who actually is good?
Does it still hurt me to know people are still chucking me into the “bad” bin? Of course it does! People I know have warned other people I know to stay away from my husband and me. And I was so distraught earlier, I actually made a list of what they were warning people about.
Stay Away From Nick and Bonnie Because:
That’s all I could think of. People were actually told not to associate with us because of those things. That list represents what makes my husband and me worthy of the “bad” category. Some of the things on this list are absolutely true. I DO have a nose ring. I DO listen to non-Christian music and associate with people who smoke. I DO support the LGBTQ community. I HAVE been to more than one church. We haven’t always been so good at “submitting to authority”. LOL. And I’m sure I’ve told a lie or two. (Or three or four.) But I can say with absolute certainty that I’ve never intentionally tried to turn teens away from their parents or only been friends with someone so I could get the hot goss. I’ve never intentionally been a trouble maker or made a habit of lying. (I really do try to be honest.)
It hurts to think that these are the things that landed me in the “bad” bin and that this is what people are saying about us. But I know I’m no different. I know I have said unkind things about others. I know I have painted others as “all bad” when in truth they are not.
And I guess that’s really the point of this post. No one is “all bad” or “all good”. Everyone has a list like the one above of things others have said about them. Many people are both kind AND judgmental. Many people are both generous AND dishonest. We are all a mix. That doesn’t mean people don’t have to be held accountable for their actions, or that their negative behavior should be excused or overlooked. It doesn’t even mean that we should weigh every person’s actions in a “pros and cons” type list to see if the good outweighs the bad. For me it just means, I shouldn’t be so quick to judge. Because the people out there who have hurt me and said negative things about me, they’ve done good things too, they’re both good and bad. Just like me.
So that’s it. That’s where all my pondering, obsessive thinking and anxiety led me today. It led me to the conclusion that we’re all a mix of good and bad. Just because someone hurt me doesn’t make them bad. And I need to keep working on leaving behind that dualistic, binary way of thinking that categorizes people, dehumanizing them in the process. Also, it’s ok if some people think I’m bad. I can live with that.
I leave you with this video. Before you click play, I should warn you, it’s non-Christian. *wink*
I started doing something yesterday. No one told me to do it. It just popped into my head and it seemed like a good idea so I went with it.
I started calling my body, “this vessel”.
I am not my body and my body is not me. I’m not my thoughts and I am not my feelings. I am not even my actions.* I am a spirit, energy, a soul. I am something my mind does not comprehend because our minds exist within a specific framework and “I” exist outside that framework. I use my mind, my mind does not use me. I exist outside of it. I use my body, my body does not use me. I don’t really know who the “I” or “me” or “my” are in those sentences. “I” doesn’t seem to accurately describe it. But here we are. I am me.
So saying “my body” is accurate because it is the body I have control over, it is the one I use. But there are certain connotations with the phrase “my body”, at least for me, that keep me from really understanding what my body is.
One, there’s the idea that this vessel, my body, IS the embodiment of “me”. That this flesh represents who I am. But as I’ve already said, I am not my body.
A lot of emphasis is put on physique, weight, appearance, health. But these are all flesh issues, not soul issues. And it makes sense, in a way, because our flesh is the most visible part of us. It’s the part of us most frequently judged by others. Our appearance sends messages to others, some we intend and others we do not. My weight, tattoos, skin color, hair style, nose ring, height, clothing – they all send a message. A message I can’t even know because it is only known to the one receiving the message. I can try to send out a message with the choices I make regarding my appearance and a lot of times those messages can be received as I intend them.
But I am not my body. I live inside this flesh, it is not me. It will one day die but I will live on. How can something that I outlive be me?
Two, there’s the idea that this vessel, my body, is all I have. Once this flesh dies, I am no more. My spirit, energy, soul lives on somewhere else. But to the living world, I am gone. So we must work to keep our flesh in top running condition for as long as possible because it is all we have. It is our only connection to the living world.
I don’t believe this either. I believe we impart a piece of ourselves in everything we create and when others enjoy our creation, they are enjoying a tiny piece of us. This blog, for example, contains dozens of tiny snapshots of my soul that I wrote down and sent into the world for others to enjoy. When I go back and reread some of the things I’ve written, I see a younger version of myself that I’d forgotten existed and I feel her feelings and see through her eyes. They are tiny horcruxes** that allow my spirit and soul to live on, long after my flesh is gone.
The Mona Lisa is arguably the most famous painting ever created. It was created in 1503 and Leonardo da Vinci, the artist who painted her, has been dead since 1519. It has literally been 500 years since he died and we are still utterly fascinated by this painting and by him. People still analyze it, study it, try to copy it, and flock to see it. Why? It is because it is a horcrux that contains both the soul of da Vinci and the soul of Lisa, herself. A horcrux, if you remember from Harry Potter, is an object used to store part of a person’s soul, protecting him or her from death.** When we look at this painting, feelings rise up within us, whether we want them to or not, something of the artists’ soul was left on that canvas.
Visit any art gallery, go to any concert, read any book, look at a beautiful garden or enjoy a delicious piece of pie. You’ll find a part of the creator’s soul.
So my body, this flesh that I occupy, it’s only one vessel for my spirit, energy, soul. There are so many others: the stories and songs I’ve written, the recipes I’ve poured a part of myself into, the moments I’ve shared with my loved ones. I left a tiny piece of myself in all these, a piece I wanted to share with the world. Some day, when my flesh is gone, part of me will still live on in the things I’ve created. Perhaps this is why so many people feel the call to create and why everyone should practice a little creativity from time to time. To remind ourselves that we are more than these vessels we occupy.
This is one reason I started calling my body, “this vessel”, because it’s only one vessel that I occupy. And not even the most important one.
It’s also the one vessel that I know of that connects me to the living world but I really can’t say that for sure because, to my knowledge, I haven’t died yet. But since I DO know that here and now, it connects me to the living world, I need to take care of it as long as I’m interested in staying here. This vessel is a vehicle to travel the land of the living and just like I take care of my car, I should take care of this vessel.
Thinking of it this way helps me see that my health doesn’t define me and there are some things about my health I have no control over. Maybe your car doesn’t have power windows, that’s ok, you’ll just have to use the hand crank. The vessel I’m living in doesn’t handle gluten well. That’s ok! It’s not ideal but it’s manageable. It doesn’t say anything about ME, the being living in the vessel. But it tells me that if I want the vessel to function well, I should avoid gluten. If I want my car to run well I have to put in the correct fuel and oil, why should my body be any different?
I have not always been kind to this vessel, both mentally and physically, and I would wager that every single person reading this without exception can say the exact same thing. But if I view my body as just one vessel to live in, I separate my worth from it, I am not defined by it. And if I view my body as just the vessel I occupy, I can take care of its needs and issues without wrapping up my sense of self and value in it.
This flesh is just one vessel that I live in. It needs maintenance and care but it is not all that I am. Just like water leaves the banks of the river to join the mighty ocean, one day I will not occupy this vessel but that doesn’t mean I won’t live on.
So it’s weird and a lot of people will probably think I’m completely nuts but that’s ok. I’m going to keep thinking of my body as “this vessel”. Because there is so much more to me than my flesh and because my spirit, energy, soul is already out there in tiny horcruxes, keeping me alive long after my flesh dies. This is just one of my vessels.
Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
* I am not even my actions seems like a problematic statement. Some would argue that our actions are the only true way to define us. But that doesn’t take into account people who are drugged, people with mental illness, those forced to do things beyond their control, people with OCD or Tourettes, this list goes on and on. It also doesn’t take into account people who made mistakes and have since changed their lives and behaviors. While some people would probably love to be defined by their actions, others hope they will not be and some hope their actions will be left in the past or forgotten. I personally do not want to be defined by past actions as I have changed and grown since then.