Inside: I felt a call to come home to myself. An invitation to stop running, trying to belong or find my place in the world, permission to remember and own the full, messy, glorious truth of who I am. Not who I used to be or how I wished I could be.
I choose to walk free, and to reach out my hand and heart to lift others up as I journey. I want to pour out freedom, to drip joy, to see with hope, exude compassion, offer safety. I want to use my voice and resources to help build a world that is even a tiny bit safer, kinder for all people.
It’s not that I feel qualified for a task this big and important or particularly skilled or knowledgeable about how to truly make an impact, only that I myself have felt desperately weary, battered, hungry, and in need of a resting place. My body has been scarred, my chest has been broken open, hands calloused, knees bloodied, heart raw, soul-weary, and I know what it is to need help, community care, sisterhood.
I have known the sting of loneliness and what it feels like as you’re drowning in fear. I know how it is to wish you could quietly opt-out of life. I know what it’s like to search desperately for freedom but keep picking up another set of chains. And I know the beauty of being heard and seen and loved as I am.
Daily, I practice taking imperfect action to build a life that feels like home. When I stumble I pick myself up with compassion and when I tip into trying to measure up or keep up to arbitrary standards, I come back home to my vision and reorient myself.
MY WHOLE LIFE HAS BEEN A JOURNEY TO FREEDOM. freedom feels like coming home to myself.
My whole life has been a journey to freedom and as I inched my way toward 50, I felt a call to come home to myself. An invitation to stop running, trying to belong or find my place in the world, permission to remember and own the full, messy, glorious truth of who I am. Not who I used to be or how I wished I could be.
But the real me – underneath all my learned coping patterns, how I tried to feel loved and get my needs met. Beneath my hard work and efforts to order my world to try and feel safe. How I hid from fear, and I hid from rejection, and I hid from the belief that I didn’t have what it takes to survive this world.
I need rest and exhale. I want to shake off any remnants of oppression that cling to me before I step into the next season of my life.
Coming home to myself requires truth-telling. Without truth-telling we cannot walk free. Without freedom we won’t find home. Truth telling breaks chains. It breaks the power of shame and comparison. It dissolves perfectionism, uproots fear, quiets the voice of our mean inner critic.
Coming home means a return to essence. Coming home is hard work and often looks like being stripped bare, raw, peeling away pretense and exposing the lies we’ve believed about ourselves. It means pointing our finger and naming trauma. Just naming it can bring freedom. Opening our mouth to let truth live outside our body brings freedom (reference to a Della Hicks-Wilson poem).
It is uncomfortable and requires learning to sit with pain and joy and not turning away. Witnessing our strength and our struggle with acceptance. We are simply human. There is no shame in being human.
About 17 years ago I had a vision. I have visions periodically (there may be a better descriptor for this, they are not mystical experiences) and I used to hide this out of concern that people would write me off as a weirdo. But since I no longer think being weird is shameful, here I am. My “visions” are like seeing a vivid movie play out in my mind and hearing a resounding message or voice deep within me. Sometimes I argue with what I hear – but over my lifetime I’ve learned to trust it. I’ve experienced the truth of these messages over and over.
They are always about what is to come. Sometimes what is to come in the next 20 minutes or hour, most often the next year or season, and sometimes, as with the vision I’m about to share, it takes decades to fully come to fruition. They often feel like gentle warnings – not fearful at all – but a call to attention. A knowing that urges me to live awake and on purpose.
In this particular vision I saw myself in Doc Martens and flowy dress, linked arm in arm with a long line of women as we marched together across the landscape. We were journeying to freedom, together, and if anyone stumbled or fell, one of us would break rank and reach out to lift her up. No one was left behind.
There were safe houses along the way. Sometimes I paused and became the safe house for another. A safe place to lay her head down and be nourished and equipped to continue the journey. We did this for each other. We put a light in the window for each other. But this was not our forever home, only a resting place for a season.
In Be Here Now, spiritual teacher and author Ram Das observes, “we’re all just walking each other home.” I walked my son home. I journeyed with him as he lost all hope. I watched it drain from his eyes. I held space for him as he poured out rage and longing and pain and desire and so much fear. I shoved down my own terror and despair so that I could fight with and for him. I walked alongside on a parallel journey, but not the same path. This was his story to write, not mine.
This was not something I’d wish on anyone else, yet it was a gift to be his mom. A privilege to walk with him, to love him, to see his beauty and gifting when he could not. Life is messy like this – so full of experiences that we’d never, ever choose for ourselves or wish upon another but also, somehow, tangled up with beauty. Life is full of paradox.
we can reorient and reenvision our life as often as we need to
At the end of 2018, two months before my son wrote out his will, three months before he tried to die for the first time, I had another vision. I saw in my mind’s eye that I was barefoot, walking up a grassy path carrying a bucket in each hand. The buckets were full to the brim and splashing water over onto my feet and the path. I recognized that these were “sloppy buckets of joy.” Then I saw a big, gaping wound being stitched up and heard, “This is no longer your story. You will write a new story.”
I argued against this idea in my mind: “No! I will write a new chapter.” But the voice insisted, “This story has come to an end. You will write a new story.” I didn’t know what this experience meant but I suspected it meant first, that my old wounds were healed. And second, that the year ahead was going to be bright and joyful. I was wrong. Or partially correct.
The next year I would walk my son home. I’d walk through a nightmare. But not once, as I walked through this or the aftermath, after he was gone, did I feel depressed or hopeless. That wound had been stitched up. I felt despair and an intensity of pain I did not think I could survive. There were moments that I wanted to close my eyes and be with him. Moments I drowned my grief with whiskey or sleeping the pain away until it felt navigable again. But every day I chose life. I got out of bed willingly, eagerly even. I was committed to living and thriving.
I was powerless to choose for my child but every day or every moment I chose for myself.
I have come home to myself these past months like never before. It hasn’t felt neat and tidy but it has felt like freedom.
building home in oneself first
In Braving the Wilderness, Brené Brown writes that “true belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness. True belonging doesn’t require you to change who you are; it requires you to be who you are.”
Over the past decade I’ve come home to myself as I learned to belong to myself first. I became my own best friend, decided to approve of myself – to like and love all of me – I found my voice and put down deep, strong roots of self-compassion.
As much work as I had already done, it was only when my son died that I finally had no energy left for pretense or hiding. No will left for trying to fit in or caring more what others think of me than what I think of me. No emotional energy or capacity left to hide parts of myself to prioritize your comfort over my own mind-body-spirit wholeness.
His death was the catalyst for new courage in my life. His death birthed a new outcropping of freedom in me.
I celebrate my birthday each year by listening in and selecting a new mantra that inevitably serves as a guiding light for the year ahead. I gift myself time to look back and reflect on how far I’ve come before setting new goals or intentions, identifying what I want to release, and turning my gaze toward what’s next.
My mantras from the past decade tell a short story about my journey home: Choose a full, awakened life. Come aside and rest awhile. I am enough. Live imperfectly with great delight. Just offer your small gifts. Choose joy. Don’t try so hard; just enjoy yourself. Listen to your life speak. Say yes to life; dive in heart-first. Tell the truth. Come home.
But also, every time I give my body the nourishment or rest I need, I come home to myself.
Every time I listen and respond to the voice of my inner wisdom,
Every time I witness myself being triggered and pause so I can choose my response,
or I release pressure and expectation that isn’t mine to carry,
when I speak to myself with kindness, or forgive myself for being imperfect, when I ask for touch or love or support,
every choice to reveal myself and make myself vulnerable and also,
when I guard my boundaries and stand my ground,
I return home to myself over and over again. I remember myself. I choose myself.
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come home: a journey of deeper not wider and over and over
At times I envision the process of coming home as a journey through rivers and valleys, over mountain tops and through forest. We begin at birth and end when we take our last breath. I want to believe that the moment we take our last breath on this side of the veil, we wake up on the other side. I want this to be true. And if this is true, maybe I’ll meet my son again.
Sometimes I feel it more as a spiral, deeper not wider, we journey inward, closer, and closer to the heart of things. In Why the World Doesn’t End: Tales of Renewal in Times of Loss, author, mythologist, and storyteller Michael Meade writes, “There is a shift to the vertical down that re-turns us to root memories, root metaphors, and timeless things that shape our lives from within. Slowing downwards creates opportunities to dwell more deeply in one’s life, for the home we are looking for in this world is within us all along. The lost home that we are seeking is ourselves; it is the story we carry within our soul.”
Or I think about a slice of a tree trunk, every ring mapping out my story: here was a year of tremendous growth, a rainy season, a dry season, a scar from a fire.
Perhaps it’s more like a fictional tale, complete with characters, point of view, setting, and story arc slowly building through conflict and resolution, opening and closing loops to keep us hooked, until the big climactic peak and a gentle goodnight.
However we imagine the human story playing out, what is true is that we come home over and over. We find ourselves and forget our way, life transitions and seasonal shifts invite us to begin again. We get to pick up our pen and keep writing our story instead of allowing others to dictate who and how we ought to be or abdicating authorship to the bad things that have happened to us.
Before we can write a new story or a new chapter, though, we must tell the truth about where we’ve been, not glossing over or bypassing (lest history repeat itself), but revealing, dismantling, exposing, examining, to bring light to all the broken or barren places that need attention or restoration. We can only change what we first acknowledge.
Looking back is equally important as it makes space for us to witness our bravery and strength, our triumphs and hard work too. Only then can we write a new, beautiful, hopeful story forward.
I’ll leave you with a blessing from Irish poet and philosopher John O‘Donohue and his poem To Come Home to Yourself, from To Bless the Space Between Us:
May all that is unforgiven in you,
May your fears yield
Their deepest tranquilities.
May all that is unlived in you,
Blossom into a future,
Graced with love.
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