Healing only happens in the absense of judgement.
So I want to talk about mess today. Not a messy house or a car full of leftover fast-food bags and crumbs from your kids or your hair when you wake up in the morning. I want to talk about the mess we have inside of us. We all have it, because we all have lives that, no matter what the hell we try, don’t cooperate with how we think the plan should go.
We all have pain. We all have fear. We all have anger. We all have sadness. And just like we rush around cleaning our house before company, or apologize profusely for the Fruit Loops smashed in the backseat, or spend hours making ourselves presentable, we rush around painting a pretty picture of how great we are doing inside. We rush around trying to show we’ve got our shit together. This is about how none of us totally has our shit together. This is about how that is totally ok.
I was listening to a podcast recently that talked about the importance of not being afraid of our more difficult feelings. And that feeling those suckers and not running from them is the path to the most human and beautiful life possible. After all, no one, no matter what they show on the outside, feels fab all the time. And a lot of people don’t feel fab very often.
The real problem with this is that our “not joyful” feelings become a judgement about our fundamental worthiness. If I was “doing better” I would “be better”. When in reality we are better when we embrace that fact that we aren’t always rocking it. We aren’t meant to hide from or deny our problems, insecurities, or our mess. Our mess is a part of us. And it’s not a bad part. It’s just a part. The problem is that we judge it as bad, and then we feel like shit.
Pema Chodron, a Buddhist monk (and an amazing teacher and individual), often speaks about the fact that spiritual practice isn’t about changing who we are, it is about accepting who we are– all of who we are. Often people think that if they can just have enough faith, just be rational enough, just say enough affirmations, just (fill in the blank) that we can outrun the mess. But it doesn’t work like that. Nothing exempts us from life. And yes, life includes incredible joy, but also incredible sorrow and pain and confusion. And sorrow and pain and confusion don’t mean you are doing life wrong. It just means you are alive.
I always wanted to outrun my pain and my sadness and I have judged that part of myself– the part that couldn’t just “fix” it– very harshly. Hell! I’m a freaking therapist!! Of all the people out there, aren’t I obligated to have it all together and to have healed all my wounds??
I thought that by acknowledging the fact that my life and my feelings can be messy, it should somehow automatically make me OK with it. But it hasn’t worked that way. And it hasn’t worked that way because while I was saying I was owning my mess, I wasn’t. I just wanted it to go away.
I have said I’m not ashamed of the fact that I have struggled with anxiety and depression, that it’s just like any other issue with the body that needs and deserves treatment. And I have fully believed that for everyone else. But I have kept myself exempt from that compassion. I have allowed myself to feel like there has been something fundamentally wrong with me.
I liked to come off like I was an open book– like I’m totally OK with my life being on the far side of perfect, but I have done it behind an armor that hides my core vulnerability. “See? I can be honest about the fact that my life is hard! See how I embrace my mess and how I am so ok with it?”
But I haven’t really been ok with it. Underneath I have judged myself as inadequate. As an inadequate mom, an inadequate friend, an inadequate therapist, an inadequate person.
But here is what I have learned, and continue to learn: owning your mess isn’t about making it go away. It’s about seeing all the parts of you, good, bothersome, and everything in between, and accepting yourself anyway– messy shit and all.
Because here is the bottom line no one really talks about. Healing can only happen, not by eradicating the parts of ourselves we don’t like, but by ceasing to judge those parts. Healing comes when we see and accept ourselves for all of who we are– messy shit and all.
Where do you judge yourself as inadequate? What parts of you are you trying to cut away? Where can you practice a little less judgement and a little more acceptance? Where do you need healing…?