Eeek! There I was. Seriously contemplating quitting.
After all the hard work. Even though that brave and courageous part of me applied to the program. Now that the time had arrived I was wishing I had stayed home.
For a while, I hid out in the bathroom. But eventually, I pushed myself out there to go make the rounds and introduce myself.
We spent some time that first morning going around the circle, getting to know each other. We shared our ‘why’. Why were we here?
As my turn came around, I wondered which truth to share. The comfortable one or the uncomfortable one?
(I actually call it The Horrible Truth because it doesn’t often see the light of day)
A lump had lodged itself in my throat. Time to embrace my fear.
I have a history with things turning sour when it comes to speaking publicly (I’ll get to that in a minute).
My turn arrived. Stomach churning, tears forming, face reddening, I stammered along at first with my comfortable truth while The Horrible Truth kept slamming me in the gut.
And because going the safe route made me feel like a fraud, (which was by far, worse than risking looking like a weirdo) I took a deep breath and threw out the original script.
I said: “My number one reason for being here is to find my confidence in stepping out in the world and shining my light in an even bigger way.”
And then I said (this was the part that was really excruciating to say out loud in a circle of new peeps and this is also when the ugly cry started happening), “I want to stand on the stageand share my message of healing. Some days it feels like I’m gonna die if I don’t do this.”
OMG. Woooosh. It was out there. I won’t lie to you. I felt kind of small and stupid and exposed and awkward. But also very alive.
I dared myself to look out at the other brave and courageous souls who had thrown their hearts in the ring.
They seemed moved. Nobody was laughing. Not even a little snigger. I could see that sharing my uncomfortable truth created a container for others to go deeper. Later, a woman with kind (and welled up) eyes, came up to me and shoved a piece of paper in my hand.
Flashback to Junior High
I was a deep and serious kid. I was soulful. I was also the newish one, having just transferred in after my parents’ divorce. And in junior high, well, let’s just say the newish, deep, serious and soulful kids don’t always fit in. I found a group of friends. Joining them was kind of treacherous from the start. This was a constantly morphing click—two bullies at the helm, each vying for number one, while the rest of us lived with the uncertainty of being in one day, and out the next.
Then came the student council elections. I was pretty psyched to run for class treasurer. My friends seemed supportive. So, we set about making posters, and buttons, and cookies. I couldn’t wait to get to school on Election Day. Those of us running for office would give our ‘vote for me’ speech to the student body during 4th period.
I had the butterflies. My heart was pounding. Part of me was excited and the other part scared.
As we filed into the auditorium, I noticed my friends were being distant. They seemed no longer as cheerful and supportive as they’d been while helping me with my campaign the weeks prior.
The pit in my stomach told me something was wrong here.
In we filed. My friends and I sat in the front row. Eventually, my name was called and I took the stage, speech in hand. Standing at the podium, I looked out at the crowd. Just then, the microphone squealed. Laughter. I started to speak, and my friends in the front row started to snigger. It was only a little at first, but then somebody threw a crumpled piece of paper onto the stage. And then the laughter came more loudly.
I did my best to ignore them. I did my best to hold back my tears as I spoke. It felt more like swallowing my words rather than speaking them. My heart was pounding so hard like it wanted out of a too-tight space.
My fear wasn’t just a thought, it was a complete physical experience.
I brought my heart onto that stage and walked off later, heartbroken. Not wanting to draw any more attention, I held my head high and found my seat in that front row with the girls who’d betrayed me. As I got to my seat, I saw that someone had placed a note on my chair that said, “You suck!”
Here I was, again bringing my heart to the stage. This time, I was embracing my fear and going forward. And then the woman with the kind eyes handed me the slip of paper.
It said, “Claim your belovedness.”
In that moment, the healing happened. Between my allowing that hard-to-speak-about truth to come out and looking into my new friend’s kind eyes, seeing her tears and feeling her heart, it had happened. We were both seeing me with believing eyes. We both wanted me to feel whole and have the ability to step out and share my heart bravely, courageously, without apology.
I call those holy instants. It’s like, kapow!
Just like that, something that’s pained you for years and years is healed because you embraced your fear and let someone else see you in that vulnerable place.
It does take a willingness on our part though…
If you shut down because of your fear, nothing can move. So how can you let a little speck of light into that dark scary place?
The truth is, stuff went down in all of our lives. Yes indeed. There are stories like this in each of us. Some of us learned to hold our heads high and never look back. For some of us though, the scars were the kind that couldn’t be ignored. They messed with our wiring.
We let these scars define who we are. And because of this, they limit what we are capable of.
When enough scar tissue builds up, a life filled with possibility seems impossible and we end up holding ourselves back without meaning to. But our dream doesn’t die. It’s still there, patiently waiting for us under the layers of bad experiences, shame, and fear.
It’s time to embrace your fear, with love
It’s time to open a window in that dark and scary place. Just a crack, so the light gets in.
I am going to make you a promise: You have a message and a light to share with the world which only you can bring. And, not everyone is going to like it. That’s right, not everyone is going to get you or like you. Some will even be jealous. SO WHAT! Time to embrace your fear and move forward anyway.
I hereby invite you to claim your belovedness.
It is time, my friend. You’ve waited long enough. You can set the old story down.
Better yet, add it to the bonfire that is your life… let it be extraordinary kindling which fuels the brightest light which can even be seen from outer space.
About the art: this drawing is the first one I ever made for this website. At the time, I was embracing some big fears about stepping out into the world with this website! HA! – it seems it’s a never-ending process! I am enjoying the ride!
P.S. I will keep you posted on the Madison Square Garden front 🙂
About the term Claim Your Belovedness: “There is in each of us an inner voice of Love that says: ‘You are the Beloved of God!’ I want you to claim your Belovedness. You don’t have to get caught in searches that lead nowhere. Neither do you have to become the victim of a manipulative world or get trapped in any kind of addiction. You can choose to reach out now for true inner freedom and find it ever more fully….From the moment we claim the truth of being the Beloved, we are faced with the call to become who we are.” Spiritual Direction by Henri Nouwen