I am genuinely happy. I have some good friends who really get my soul. I have a family that loves me. I care less about what other humans think about me.
My life is not perfect. I still have really bad days, sometimes. I still deal with physical pain, and the emotional baggage that comes with it, in particular the inability to do, which I think is the thing that turned my pain to hell. That was mostly because my sense of self worth was unequivocally linked to what I could accomplish, and by extension, what other humans thought of what I accomplished.
As my ability to accomplish lessened, the less others praised my accomplishments, and thus, the less I thought of myself. And this created agony. “I can’t do!” the madwoman inside screamed. Really what she was screaming was, “I can’t be! My sense of self does not exist outside of my ability to do. Therefore I am more than miserable. I am in agony.” I could hear her calling, wailing. I couldn’t hear her clarity, I could only hear, “I can’t do.” And I could feel her pain. So to appease her, I tried and tried to do more, even as I grew weaker in body, weaker in spirit, higher in pain. I tried and tried, because the tricky, woven in, pain in my heart was unbearable.
But as I am learning to unweave, I feel relief. As I care less about what others think about me, the madwoman’s pain is eased. As I hear her completely, and can pick apart the strands of her cries, she feels relief. And I feel relief.
And I know this sounds weird, especially after 8+ years of being miserable in physical pain, but presently, I am happy. I’m not happy in the middle of a pain spike. I’m crying then. But when the pain is at a manageable level, my heart feels really light. And I’m getting better at noticing when what I’m doing physically, or emotionally, is leading me towards a pain spike, or a bed day the next day, so I can ease off, honor my body and what it needs. Because the wailing woman inside me needs to wail less often now. I listened. I heard her. I honored her wisdom, and she is more at peace. Less mad, from being honored. And I’m just happy.
The the other weird part is that I can create, and be really productive, from a place of joy, instead of this driven place. “They run as if the whips of their masters are behind them,” says Legolas in Lord of the Rings (love!). That was me. Before. Before the pain. During most of the pain. But now-- it’s just different somehow. I was working so hard to prove that I wasn’t lazy, worthless. The harder it became to do anything, the harder I tried to prove that I wasn’t lazy by over extending almost every moment. So desperately trying to prove my worth to everyone. To myself. To the madwoman.
But now it’s just ok somehow. And I can create beautiful things, at an agreeable pace. Without the whip. Without making it so darn hard.
I have been thinking about this idea, in growing depth and intensity, for years. And I wonder now how I am changing. How the idea went from head to heart. I think the key, somehow, is caring less about what others think. And I’m not sure how that happened for me. Part of it was I just didn’t have the capability to run the hard race anymore. People kept asking me to do more, and when I couldn’t they stopped telling me that I was awesome. That was painful enough to crack me open and make me start examining what I really thought and felt, and I began to see that my worth was not based on what they thought about what I do. Later, I read in the book The Four Agreements (so worth reading!) that what other people think about you is all about them, not about you, and a big shift happened for me with that one. More recently, a friend said to me, “You just care so much about what people think,” pointing out that it was really running me. I knew she was right, was grateful that she said it, and was surprised it was so obvious. And I prayed that God would change my heart into a heart that loved, and didn’t care what people thought.
I’m not saying I’ve arrived, because I haven’t. But I am progressing. It feels different. It feels amazing, frankly.