Tuesday, July 31, 2012

In Which I Try Not to be Afraid of Myself


"And if all I can think about is people yawning at my vulnerable dreams with their big eye-glazed stares, and my natural response is to kick, kick, kick at myself because I don’t want to be yawned at or glazed over, or be different than what is normal and convenient and that for which people have the patience for, then what, oh what, am I missing of my one true self?

What would it look like to be untamed, vulnerable, running wild, brazen, free?"

What would it look like to not be ashamed of my needs, of my gifts, of my untamed parts, of the whole self that God has made and is making?  What would it look like if I didn't apologize so often for things that I shouldn't be apologizing for?

The words of this quote really spoke to me today.  

Because when you grow up reading the unspoken directive that screams from between the lines that you are a problem and you're only loved when you're perfect (as if perfection actually possible), it's hard to learn the truth, later, that it's normal to have needs.  That it's normal to have expectations, that relationship is not a one way street of you hiding and wincing and trying-to-measure-up.  That there is give and take.

That it's okay to need to feel loved by the one(s) you love.

Since Eve died, I have been learning a lot about myself.  Of where I came from and just how deeply that has affected me, from big decisions to the small nuances of everyday behavior.  I already knew a part of it, learned painfully in the grip of an eating disorder and its treatment, but grief is teaching me more.

More about God.  More about what's important in life, about priorities.  More about the kind of woman I am, and was, and want to be.  More about how I should treat others and how I should be treated, and not treated.  More about human dignity.  More about needs.

And today I realize that even though God is growing my soul through my sweet girl's death, I still hide.  I still long to just fit in to appease the voices speaking in my ear from years ago that play and replay in my head even though I pray for Him to stop them, please, instead of daring to try to be the woman that He had in mind and stick out in the process.

I second-guess God, and myself, and my loved ones.  I apologize too often for things that need no apology -- like having a scarred and wrinkled forehead, and needing to be touched, held, sometimes.  I apologize too often for speaking my mind with respect and love.  For honoring my body's needs, and my heart's.  For being honest about how much I miss my daughter, and how hard this pregnancy has been.  I feel guilty with every decision made that honors what I need, and what my family needs.

And that's on top of the guilt I feel for the selfish decisions.  For the fear-inspired actions or non-actions.  For the mistakes, the willful and the accidental.  Guilt that makes more sense.

This guilt for the things that warrant no guilt, it makes me afraid.  Afraid of myself.  And I'm tired of being afraid of myself.  Of not being confident enough in God and the way He made me.

What if I didn't apologize so often?  What if I courageously believed in my right to make nourishing decisions and to stick to those decisions?  What if I even more courageously fled to the only One that's really in charge of this mess for the decisions that end up being not-so-nourishing without the flagellation from myself and others?  What if I didn't live only to please and appease people I am not meant to to live for?  What if I didn't live only inside these certain lines as I was trained to do, but lived first for Him?

I wonder.

The possibility, it excites me.

And it scares me, because I don't know how I'm supposed to find out. It seems like I'd have to chew through the bars around my heart first to set about discovering the woman that I might be in Him alone.  And even though those bars cut deeper into my flesh with every blood beat and infection has set in more than once, something about them feels safe.

Who would I be, unmoored from hurt and fear?

I don't even know if these words have value, if they can be described as anything but egotistical, delusional.  I can't trust my own questions.  Are they blasphemy or the beginning of something lovely?  Am I running forward, toward Him, or merely agitating my hamster wheel?  I have no idea.

But it's something.  I'm trying to pay attention.

* * *

Don't forget to enter my art shop's first birthday giveaway!  It's open until August 2.


  1. Your words are honest and make so much sense. I look forward to getting to know you better because you are a real girl.

  2. Wow that's a lot of deep stuff there to take in. Maybe that's because I can understand and even sympathize with some of it. "Flagellation" still working on that one LOL. I see this as honest and heart-felt and feelings I suspect most women deal with though maybe on different levels. I say go with it! Go with HER that is a creation of Him and don't say your sorry for it, just do it! AMEN GIRL!

  3. Oh Beth--you couldn't be farther from egotistical. I have spent so much of my life apologizing for myself. Only recently have I seen that if what I am is an expression of God (and why is that hard to type, still? Are we not made in God's image and likeness?), doing anything to downplay that or turn away from that light--well, it's downplaying God. If our light comes from God...well, why do anything but shine it? Thank you for sharing here so openly, so vulnerably (and I love Mandy, by the way). I hope you sink deeply into grace today--knowing that "something lovely" indeed is coming...is here. xo

    1. YES! I felt like I was dancing around what you said so simply and eloquently. But you hit it exactly -- that who are we to downplay the light of God within us? We are a city on a hill, after all... Love this! Thanks, Amanda.

  4. Love it Beth! Honest and vulnerable and real. No answers necessary at the moment, simply allowing yourself to do the asking and saying the fears out loud. Bravo for your openness. In being real you invite others to be real as well and in this place of being heard right where we are at, I believe healing and self discovery truly begin.

  5. …I would like to beg you dear [woman], as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
    ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903

    This is the first thing that came to mind as I read your post. That beginning to ask these questions is the way to the questions, and for me, it's living them, testing the waters. Catching myself when I want to apologize, noticing when I do and what prompted it. It is hard work, all this noticing. And I don't think there's a single roadmap for us to follow to get there. Rather, it's learning to trust.

    I think we are called to live exactly as you are describing; and yet, it's easier to shut down back into our old patterns and habits. As the quote I posted on your wall says, vulnerability is not for wimps. But, dear Beth, it's what we need in this world. We need lives with truth and honesty. We need stories of rawness and brokenness and beauty. We need the stories of the ashes, of the growth, of the moments we DON'T understand.

    All that said, I recognize pieces of my own raw questioning heart in your words. Sitting with this stuff, sharing it? It's freaking hard, and sometimes, I just don't wanna. But, as Sarah likes to remind me, we have to get through the field of yuck sometimes, to see what's on the other side, where that lovely space it. Creativity needs that space. I keep trying to remind myself of that.

    Thank you for bringing your whole self to this world, to your blog, and to your art, Beth. Thank you.

    1. The noticing is SUCH hard work! Not to mention the alterations that (hopefully, eventually) are inspired by the noticing. You wouldn't think noticing is so hard (at least I didn't), but it is. Love these words, Steph, and the quote.

    2. I remember asking my therapist in Madison if I would ever be able to stop being aware. She said, No, but it becomes more a part of your every day way of being. Still not entirely sure if I'm comforted by that, or not. :)

      Sending hugs and love.

  6. Beth you are so inspiring! I love how your honest introspection and reflections on God help me to ask myself hard questions. I to have been a people pleaser only to find it is exasperating and unfruitful. God is so good that he takes our brokenness and helps us grow. I think God has a future in using your writing to really speak to women. I love when authors write from their personal experiences and the breakthrough they have found. You have a gift my friend and are on a good path of healing that will help others heal! Praying for you and baby brother :)

  7. wonderful beyond words. there is nothing i can say to add to what you have expressed. i am so glad we are on this journey of wholeness together. <3

  8. This is actually really encouraging to me. <3

  9. "And it scares me, because I don't know how I'm supposed to find out. It seems like I'd have to chew through the bars around my heart first to set about discovering the woman that I might be in Him alone."

    I love this. Such an apt description. I think, unfortunately, our society creates these internal prisons for women from the moment we're born. We can only ever feel guilt, it seems. As a female, I sometimes feel like guilt is the only ever appropriate response to everything. And that's sad, and it's wrong.

    Eve and Sunrise can't be here with us, but I know if they were we'd be doing our darnedest to try and break this prison-cycle to allow them to grow up living in the freedom of God's Love. Perhaps their gift to us is that *we* can learn to do it for ourselves.

    Also, that is a beautiful picture of you!

  10. "Eve and Sunrise can't be here with us, but I know if they were we'd be doing our darnedest to try and break this prison-cycle to allow them to grow up living in the freedom of God's Love. Perhaps their gift to us is that *we* can learn to do it for ourselves."

    Oh wow, Dejah. This, it brings tears to my eyes, because it's so true. We wouldn't let our daughters just mindlessly succumb to the prison-cycle but would fight for their free hearts, just like God fights for ours. So what if I fought a bit for myself, too? I think you've just blown my mind. Going to have to think on this for a while. Thank you.

  11. i somehow have stumbled upon your blog. i love it. i love your heart and i love how you write. i am a writer, too searching just like you. we share alot in common. i love this post. i am asking these same questions in my own life.

    nice to meet you, sister.

    Angela Riesterer from Vancouver, Wa.

  12. continuing to learn about yourself and God...learning that Christ lives in and through you. this means you ARE perfect Beth. Christ came to show us that. God doesn't see the "imperfect" part that clutters what He originally put in us, Himself. because Christ came and erased all that clutter. we still deal with it, but that is our challenge. to see THROUGH it. or not even to see. to just have faith through it.

    "trying-to-measure-up" we can stop trying because nothing we can do will change the way God already sees us. as perfect and whole. all our trying is for our own clutter.

    it doesnt make the clutter less, but sometimes remembering that helps me step back and go "ah, stop trying to clean up so much."

    as my mom always said, a clean kitchen is a happy kitchen, but a clutter shows one lived in. ha!

    1. love this, Clare. it gave me some deep thinking... <3

  13. Just today the challenging thought came to mind, that what if - what if guilt and shame are the bad things, and not my life? I have to ponder this.

  14. Faith is the opposite of fear. They are the same hourglass, turned the other way, and one pulls from the other. Living in fear is just not what God has for us, and if it ever feels like it is, you've got to break out, get free, get wild if you have to. Loving your journey, Beth!

  15. "here" really resonates with me in the season of my life. i have been embracing and allowing and accepting my 'here.' the song " you are here " by the wailing jennys has been my anthem.

    plus the sweet girl is rockin that dress and has short hair like me :)

    love your art. and your heart. xo

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"I am glad you are here with me."
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King