|Photo by Del Rapier|
I can feel the stress in my shoulders, neck and jaw. My head pounds from the tension in those places squeezing off the blood flow to my brain.
Stress is something I’ve dealt with a lot in my life. For 7 years I was a single parent who found it more then hard to ask for help from anyone. Not even the state in which I lived. My son’s other parent never paid the support I asked for when I divorced him so making a living and supporting my son was all on me. It was a heavy load to carry and I constantly tried to figure out what to do with my life so I could make more money to pay for what was needed and still have time with my son. It was a struggle and it was filled with daily stress but I did it. I worked full time while going to school part-time and raised my son during those years. I did what I had to do to make it work.
One of the lessons I learned from those days is that stress and worry didn’t help me to get through those times. They made things much more difficult to get through. Yet, today, as I sit here on the couch typing this, I’m doing the same thing. Stressing myself out over things I don’t have much control over. Worrying about work and finances. Putting a ton of pressure on myself to be someone I’m not.
Hey Wendi, guess what. You’re not perfect and you know what? That’s okay.
It’s okay that I’m not the completely put together person with the huge credit score, no debt, financially well off, muscle popping, big bodied, Zen master who can love unconditionally without worry of getting hurt. Who I am is the tall butch lesbian who is stronger mentally and emotionally then I ever have been in my life, doing my best everyday and giving my love freely and as unconditionally as I can and that’s okay. It’s not perfect but it’s perfectly me right now.
Despite knowing this, I still struggle with being okay with myself. Accepting and loving myself as I am is a daily process. Loving someone without attaching myself to and losing myself in them is also something I’m working on. Enjoying, being fully present in and treasuring the moments I get with someone I love instead of worrying about whether opening my heart to them completely will eventually bring me pain is part of this work. Putting up the defenses and building a wall around my heart only allows me to miss out on those precious few moments we get in life that are completely surrounded in love. I don’t want to miss those anymore. As a matter of fact, I want more of them!
Pema Chodron describes this idea really well in her book When Things Fall Apart: "We think that by protecting ourselves from suffering we are being kind to ourselves. The truth is, we only become more fearful, more hardened, and more alienated. We experience ourselves as being separate from the whole." She goes on to say, " When we protect ourselves so we won't feel pain, that protection becomes like armor, like armor that imprisons the softness of the heart."
Reprogramming my highly trained brain is not easy. I have to constantly be aware of my thoughts and feelings in order to stop and redirect them towards something healthier. I really believe that loving myself is the key to all of this work. It’s the foundation for everything else. And if it isn't, it's a damn good place to start.