Love is listening or trying to listen Love is trusting or trying to trust Love is present or trying to be present Love is understanding or trying to understand Love is accepting or trying to accept Love is feeling or trying to feel Love is knowing or trying to know You.
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I discovered this cover of Fred Rogers’ It’s You I Like while making a playlist for a loved one. I was searching for a song which expressed how I feel towards them. And this song captured that to me in a deep way. In a vulnerable way. It expresses something my heart knows and feels, but I struggle to express and live in life. Expressing this feeling to someone else is important to me, and true to me, but very difficult for me (even if simply doing it through someone else’s song like this). It is an emotion that is hard for me to grasp and express at all. And I suspect, in real life situations, hard for me to grasp and accept from another when expressed towards me. But that is the magic of this song, it reaches me. It brings tears to my eyes. I accept it, I feel it for a moment. And I remember that moment.
When I reflect on my experience of this song it is complex. Is the song being sung to me? Or am I the one singing the song? Is the song a parent singing to their child? Or a child singing to their parent? I hear it as first being sung to me, but somehow it has a magic that frees me to be more fully myself for a moment, and what I find is I am somehow the voice who was singing the song in the first place. Singing that song to myself, everyone else, and everything. Somehow I have lost and forgotten part of who I am.
My heart finds so much comfort and peace in the unconditional love expressed in this song. And I believe through hearing it, my heart builds up a sense of trust and safety. Which allows my heart to feel increasingly empowered and free to sing it.
The Experience of Healing
I think my rational mind is in a confused place, but my feeling self has some understanding of where I am and where I am going. I am healing, which feels like a stirred up mix of pain, love, anger, confusion, compassion, peace, insight, learning, grief, hope, and hopelessness all at once. Healing/returning to my true self is not easy for me, but it is becoming easier. There is more often a peace and acceptance, an understanding, that this is what healing feels like. I’ve been here before, I live here more now. And I am so grateful for that. Much of my life before this I feel I was stuck suffering. Maybe a more positive way to see it is – I was learning how to return back to my real self/heal myself by testing out and putting aside the many ways which would not bring me real healing.
In the last month or so I have picked up a few new/old hobbies and naturally that means I have been putting other hobbies aside for now. The hobbies I have been picking up and enjoying have been art (painting and drawing alongside my kids), learning to play the keyboard and studying how music works, and poetry. The hobbies I haven’t been spending as much time on are reading books and writing.
I used to read books almost daily. I spent most of my free time reading. But my pull to it has lessened. It makes me wonder was my reading often in search of some sort of emotional relief. I did often read self-help books of some form or another. Though I did occasionally read fiction, and oddly enough I do feel quite a pull to that now. Fiction feel different to my mind, an adventure, a story to follow, fun. Often my non-fiction reading was heavy. I highly doubt my days of reading non-fiction are over. I do love to learn, and books are a major source of information for me. But recently my energy seems to be pulling elsewhere, and though I observe how odd it is for me to be suddenly reading so little, I feel content following my energy where it leads.
And a hobby my energy has been leading me towards is playing the keyboard. I have been finding such a flow as I practice learning songs I love and learning to make songs of my own. I tried to learn to play the keyboard about 10 years ago, but never got far. It is the same story with drawing and painting, I have been quite into art before.
Seeing My Old Sketchbook From a New Perspective
A few weeks ago I got my old art sketchbook, from 5 or so years ago, out to get some paper from it. In the process of getting the paper I flipped through and saw my old drawings. It was an interesting experience as I felt such strong emotions. I saw my unfinished sketch of my cat, my brother as a little boy with our pet bird on his shoulder, a blue jay, etc. with such different eyes. I used to be so full of judgement towards everything, and very deeply towards my own creative expressions. But I didn’t feel that as I looked through my sketchbook, I saw my art with the eyes I look at my children’s art. A heart’s representation of the world as seen from its perspective, often the beauty it sees and the joy it feels. I felt a sense of “These are very sweet. I can see your love in these. They look wonderful.” I felt joy as I received these kind words said internally to myself. I felt my own love.
But then it arrived, the regret and sadness, for how I used to treat myself/judge myself and the consequences that judgement had. The sadness and regret of the sketchbook being largely empty. How much beauty could have been on these pages and how much joy of expression and creating I missed out on. Also, how much growth it would have brought to my art skills all those hours of practice.
Next arrived the feelings of confusion, the wondering why I had ever treated myself so harshly. Confusion often brings a sense of urgency to my mind, I feel a pressuring “I need to figure this riddle out now!”. And still mixed in was the simple remembering of how it used to feel to hear the endlessly same and repeating verdict of “It’s not good enough. This is bad. No one likes this. Everyone thinks you are embarrassing yourself.” What if I said that to my son when I set eyes on his art. My mind often becomes so lost in my own confusion, I wonder how could I have ever been so unconsciously and blindly cruel to myself? And quickly I then fearfully wonder, looking back, how cruel have I blindly been to others?
I feel my fearful mind can really run full sprint into its own confusion and drag all of me along with it and I feel a sort of undefined panic. I feel disorientedly confused, but also like I must act or figure out some answer immediately. I am starting to recognize my confusion and fears can pull me to rush into such a dark inner state. A state where I judge myself as being dangerous to others, as being bad, as being someone I hate and who is “worthy of hate” (though I don’t believe anyone is “worthy of hate”, yet somehow emotionally I seem to believe I am the exception). The fact that I do fall into such a dark place frustrates me. But I am trying to practice acceptance and patience. I am living, learning, and healing, one day at a time, one feeling at a time, one confusion at a time, right here in the present.
(I wrote this in early December)
Something interesting happened to me a week or 2 ago. I was folding my kids clothes, and as I put them away a baby blanket in the closet made me think back to when I had my first baby. That first year or 2 after his birth was so difficult for me. My mind thought back to all the work I did to take care of my baby. How exhausted I often felt physically, mentally, and emotionally. How it felt like the floor fell out from beneath my feet and I had called out for help, reached out for help, but had been left alone to keep falling. It felt as if I received only words of blame from my mother “IF I’m not there for you, it’s because you didn’t let me see the baby soon enough at the hospital. Showed me how involved you wanted me to be.” and utterly confusing declarations of “I know your pain, no one helped me either.”
In that first year or two after the birth of my first child, there was a feeling of being at a low with a lot of fear and shame mixed in. Shame I didn’t feel like what I imagined being a new mother should feel like. Fear that I was a bad mother, or that maybe my baby was a “bad baby”. These thoughts broke my heart, where was the love? So much fear, and shame, and guilt in me – and so much need from my tiny baby. He needed me, he wanted me, his mom, I could never escape that. Everyday was largely the same, was I about to break? Or was I breaking over and over again to deeper levels? Would I ultimately break or worse break the spirt of my child with my own brokenness?
That was the mood back then. But the mood as I reflected on that time briefly this week – brought me to tears. Soft tears for myself. I could see that time in a way I’ve never seen before. I saw how hard I had worked even though I felt so low and alone. I did get up day and night to feed my baby, I bathed him, played with him, strolled and rocked, kissed and hugged, signed up for social activities as he grew, I read the books to him and the parenting books for myself. I had fears and dark thoughts yes, but I expressed and lived my love in a time so hard for me.
I felt relief and proud. I felt compassion for me. I realized the person who was neglected, who had been for years and was just realizing it in a searing way, was me, not my baby. I felt a sense of “You did well, it was hard, but look you did so well. You were alone then, but I am here now. It will never be that hard again because you will always have me. I see how much you struggled towards love even as you ran out of your own energy. When those who you thought loved you left you alone, you picked yourself up and said “No” I will parent different. You fought for what you have never seen, but for what you dreamed for your child. You became someone new. You stepped out of your comfort zone. But not for you, for your child. And in doing so you revealed who you really are. I am proud of you.”
I have never felt such compassion for myself. It does seem as I practice being more compassionate to my self each day and others my compassion is growing more natural. So when that difficult time came up in my mind, a time I am so used to judging myself for or feeling dark about, a new compassion replaced those old feelings. It was a beautiful moment for me, a healing moment. I saw myself as someone worthy of a big hug, a warm shower, a day off, and a quick word of praise and encouragement that one sweet mom said to me one day as I struggled to get my tantruming kids from the library to the car “You got this Momma” with a look of understanding, encouragement, pride, and love.
These are the words from the video above:
“The truth is inside of us, and it’s wonderful when we have the courage to tell it.
Singing: What if I were very, very sad
And all I did was smile?
I wonder after a while
What might become of my sadness?
What if I were very, very angry,
And all I did was sit
And never think about it?
What might become of my anger?
Where would they go, and what would they do
If I couldn’t let them out?
Maybe I’d fall, maybe get sick
But what if I could know the truth
And say just how I feel?
I think I’d learn a lot that’s real
I’m learning to sing a sad song when I’m sad.
I’m learning to say I’m angry when I’m very mad.
I’m learning to shout,
I’m getting it out,
I’m happy, learning
Exactly how I feel inside of me
I’m learning to know the truth
I’m learning to tell the truth
Discovering truth will make me free.
Are you discovering the truth about you? Well I’m still discovering the truth about me. That’s what we do as we keep on growing in life.”
Fred Rogers television show Mister Rogers Neighborhood was intended for children. And he spoke so beautifully to the child’s heart, he was often able to awaken the inner child that still lives within adults. His gentle, compassionate, and understanding presence along with his wisdom has been/is incredibly inspiring and comforting to me in this journey.
Simon & Garfunkel’s song Homeward Bound played on my shuffle radio. The lyrics “home where my love lies waiting silently for me” spoke straight to my heart. It feels like I am learning a new home. My emotional “home” for so long has been with my parents, I feel I have been obsessively seeking their approval and love my whole life. They were where I thought I needed to be.
But as I tune into my heart and listen I can hear my heart’s love longs elsewhere now. I am not merely searching for someone else’s love anymore, but striving to share my love with my husband and children. Where they are is where “my love lies” and I feel they are “waiting silently for me”. I do not feel I need to be with them, I feel I want to be present and live life with them. They are the chosen home of my heart, my new home.
As I reflected on this song and all the thoughts and feelings it brought up in me, I had a beautiful daydream about my parents. This was my daydream…..
“I see my parents pure.
I hug them.
They hug me
“Focus on your children now,
I wish I had”
And all at once I’m healed and free
A life of living love lies before me.”
I waited so impatiently for you
I couldn’t wait to see you
to hold you
To meet you.
When you arrived
You were so warm, and moving,
But I was not
You were the first light revealing
How far away I was
But the twinkle of your light
Was a guide back
To where you were, and I was
Where we could live
What to me seemed a dream
But they shine a light too
The ones who held me
The ones who met me
They tell me
You are too sensitive
That is why I left you.
You heartlessly push me away
That is why I left you.
You never ask for help
That is why I left you.
No one ever helped me
That is why I left you.
I had it 10 times worse than you
That is why I left you.
You are strong enough to overcome
That is why I left you.
You ask for me to be impossibly perfect
That is why I left you.
I chased after her
I chased after him
That is why I left you.
I chased in terror
I sped up
until I fell
My face hitting the rocks first
Cut but still beautiful
On my side
My breathing fast at first
My eyes seeing the empty road before me
As the dust of my struggle falls all around me
Is it me?
Is it because of me?
Is it for me?
A tiny dream of light
In my peripheral
I turn to it
I reach for it
I stand for it
I walk towards it
I chase in awe until I fall for it
This living life with you
Through joy, through fear, through pain,
My eyes see our eternal path together
I loved you, but feared love
So I left you
To pursue the love I knew
The love I trusted
To kill me
The real me
Because I knew, I had found you
Who would save me
After I was cut
To see what I love
To be by my love
To love what I love
A Difficult Week
This past week was difficult. It felt as if another floor had fallen out from under me, and many painful feelings arose. I am coming to understand this falling into difficult emotions is part of the process of healing/returning back to my true self. But still the emotions, though freeing me and healing me, are painful. Exactly what floor fell out from under me this week? I’m not sure. But these were some of the thoughts and feelings I observed within me this week.
A realization that what I believe saved me/woke me up to live life (which was my love for my children and more generally other people) does not seem to have saved my mother. And not only did it not save her in my childhood, but to this day I feel shut off from her. I feel deeply unwanted for who I am. Something about this relationship pulls me away from the present, pulls me away from my husband and children. I do not want this to happen anymore, I want to live.
As I reflected on this all, this numbed out but I suspect deep hurt I carry around my mother, a metaphor came to my mind. I imagined a heaven, a life after this one where we are all healed. All living our dreams. I saw my father there, my brother, it brought tears to my eyes. The togetherness, the joy.
But I realized I do not see her there. Why not? My heart seems to believe she does not want to be there with us. If I try to include her in this heaven with us the closest I can bring her is to the other side of our heaven’s gate. She stands behind the gate yelling over to us how she “can’t join us”, but the gate door to our side is large and wide open. I try to get her to see the gate is wide open, she needs only to walk in if she wants to join us. But she gets angry and dismissive of me. I am left feeling concerned for her, which morphs into anger within me, and also an uneasy feeling at her bizarre claims. I am confused, and afraid. Do my eyes deceive me? Heaven is ruined.
The World of My Dreams or The World of My Fears
The day after reflecting on this heaven metaphor and letting the hurt of feeling like my mother doesn’t want to be around the real me sink in, another thought arose. This was the realization that I suspect I have lived most of my life behind a haze of my own projections. I was not aware that what I was seeing, what felt so real, was being put there by me. I feel as if I sometimes now catch glimpses of the real world, the world with less projections, the world I assume I was born into and saw briefly as a child.
So what world have I been seeing most of my life? I suspect it was a version of the world I feared to be the case. But to me it looked like “the truth”/”reality”. I feel heartbroken to reflect I have played a part in helping bring more to life and perpetuate that world that is not the world from my dream but the world from my fears. I see how I have so often preemptively pushed others away because I feel they do not want to be around me, they do not care for me. When the truth is the person (my mother) who probably created this belief in me, does care, but fears me. But how many other people have feared me? Yet, it seems clear to me I have been so quick to fear others. It seems the distorted image of my mother (I was not even aware of) was the lens through which I saw and responded to many people. My heart fell into moments of hopelessness and pain as these realizations sunk in and were accepted this week.
I was left feeling like I do not understand anything anymore. So much regret and lack of faith in myself and my vision of reality. Many moments of hopelessness and a general sense of deep confusion. But in this disoriented and hopeless state, there was one thing I realized I remained confident in – and that was my dream. The image of my dream seems to keep me tied tight to this life, keeps me happily striving even through pain, regret, and uncertain odds. I will share what I dream of and what I am beginning to believe I will strive to bring about or maybe just recognize already exists and start to actually feel. I believe my peace rests in knowing that I have done what I can do for the creation of my dream. But it all becomes so complex because others are involved. What are their dreams? But I will share what I dream of.
“I Love You. I Would Rather Die Than To Hate You”
As I found and shared these images, Martin Luther King Jr.’s words came to my mind “I love you. I would rather die than to hate you”. It is a beautiful motto of life to me. To a life, far from easy, but a life approaching my truth. I am love. Where I step outside of love, I step outside of myself, a part of me dies/loses contact with living life. I want to live as whole, I want to live in harmony. I can try to live as my heart wants to live, I can live as if my dream is already true, and maybe in time I will start to feel it is and experience it.
What I am beginning to see is that I can not live in peace with these feelings of fear and resentment in me, they destroy even the hope of the dream I love. I have so often lived some warped and fearful motto of “I love you. BUT I would rather hate you than to die”. This fearful state told me I must flee others and push others away. It morphed the world before my eyes into the very world I fear, a world where I must be cut off from others and alone. A scary, unsafe world, empty of being lovable and loving. And it did all this in the name of “protecting me”.
No, this warped motto destroys my beautiful dream. I will not willingly play a part in harming this dream of unity and love with others any longer. I fear some people in my life look at my actions and words and feel I do not want the real them around me. But that is the opposite of my dream. There is another side to this too which is I fear others do not want the real me around them. There is a part of me that feels the truth is that I should be left alone to protect others from me. That my real self is a danger to everyone I love and my dream. I seem to fear myself. But I say “Look, look, at my dream. If it is not a dream you want, that is fine. But if you fear it, why? What is the danger in my dream?”
But there is a part of me I am trying to nurture. A peaceful, happy part of me. A hopeful part of me, seeking to harmonize. A dreamer. What that part of me cares about most, longs for, is the dream I shared in those images. If I can have faith, I believe I can be a part of creating/waking up to that beautiful dream. Without faith I have seen fear will reign in me, and I will likely play a part in continuing to create/wake up to the very world I fear.
These quotes are from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov written in 1880. I first read The Brothers Karamazov for a school assignment. I absolutely loved the book. Though I could not clearly see the book’s message, I knew I found it beautiful. It always remained close to my heart; and I believe it was a large part of the light which helped me start this journey back to myself. I will be forever grateful Dostoevsky helped spread and keep alive these beautiful ideas.
“Strive to love your neighbor actively and indefatigably. In as far as you advance in love you will grow surer of the reality of God and of the immortality of your soul. If you attain to perfect self-forgetfulness in the love of your neighbor, then you will believe without doubt, and no doubt can possibly enter your soul. This has been tried. This is certain.”
“Active love is a harsh and fearful thing compared with the love in dreams. Love in dreams thirsts for immediate action, quickly performed, and with everyone watching. Indeed, it will go as far as the giving even of one’s life, provided it does not take long but is soon over, as on stage, and everyone is looking on and praising. Whereas active love is labor and persistence, and for some people, perhaps, a whole science.”
“I believe that you are sincere and good at heart. If you do not attain happiness, always remember that you are on the right road, and try not to leave it. Above all, avoid falsehood, every kind of falsehood, especially falseness to yourself. Watch over your own deceitfulness and look into it every hour, every minute. Avoid being scornful, both to others and to yourself. What seems to you bad within you will grow purer from the very fact of your observing it in yourself. Avoid fear, too, though fear is only the consequence of every sort of falsehood. Never be frightened at your own faint-heartedness in attaining love…..But I predict that just when you see with horror that in spite of all your efforts you are getting farther from your goal instead of nearer to it – at that very moment I predict that you will reach it and behold clearly the miraculous power of the Lord who has been all the time loving and mysteriously guiding you.”
“At some thoughts one stands perplexed – especially at the sight of men’s sin – and wonders whether one should use force or humble love. Always decide to use humble love. If you resolve on that once and for all, you may subdue the whole world. Loving humility is marvelously strong, the strongest of all things, and there is nothing else like it.”
“What is hell? I maintain that it is the suffering of being unable to love.”
“Life is paradise, and we are all in paradise, but we won’t see it, if we would, we should have heaven on earth the next day”
“Love all God’s creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything, you will perceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all-embracing love.”
Learning Without Guilt
This week I visited and had a good conversation with my brother. On the drive home I observed my mind was replaying parts of the visit I was unhappy with. The way I cut him off to ask pointless questions before he had even gotten his full thoughts out. My quick dismissive “Oh yeah I know that feeling! You gotta do this instead….” which interrupted him when he was probably still searching for words to share something close to his heart in a moment of vulnerability. There were many little moments where instead of patiently listening to him, learning about him, and letting him express himself, I seemed to interrupt with my impatient assumptions. What was the rush?
My brain was noting these areas where I want to practice and grow: my listening skills, my patience in general and specifically in gathering information before I jump to a conclusion, and my ability to sit with the uncomfortableness of other people’s vulnerability and uncertainty and my own.
As my brain was running through the visit with my brother and what I wish I had done differently, I noticed there was a tension in me – an expectation of guilt. But to my surprise the pain of punishing guilt never came. It felt like my mind was instead saying “Yes, I want to do different next time. I’m going to take note of what happened and why, make intentions for how I’ll handle a situation like this next time, and move forward with my day. There is no need for guilt. I am learning, this is what learning looks like.”
After my mind was done running through areas where it noted a desire for growth and practice, my mind responded in kindness to this fear of guilt in me by shifting to praise. It noted that my brother seemed to really feel seen at points in our conversation, and maybe that is why he was opening up more than usual. I have been feeling a newer sense of calm, and freedom in my words and interactions with others. Maybe I was putting off a different energy than I normally do. How wonderful I thought, signs of positive change in how my presence feels to others.*
Observing this process play out in my mind was fascinating. It felt wonderful to both be honest about the ways in which I want to grow, but also to recognize and celebrate the ways in which I have grown! This balance seemed to free my mind from my normal long, painful, anxious, and largely unproductive turnings after a social interaction. By the time I got back to my house I was able to smoothly pick up the task at hand, living in and receptive to the present moment.
* Random Connected Thought: So often there seems, at least to me, to be an interconnectedness of others and myself. They seem to have the power to designate aspects of myself as “real” or “unreal” to me and I imagine I often have that power towards them too. I think there is some unhealthiness in this dynamic for me, but I do think there is some innate beautiful truth mixed in there somewhere. Maybe one day I will be able to see it more clearly.