It's a beautiful soft rainy morning. Spring is sprung, the grass is green and I had to turn the heat on this morning in the house. I am against turning the heat on mid-June. The solstice is almost upon us and man-generated heat should not be necessary.
As if I can control the weather.
There's something else I can't control either. Other people.
Yesterday, while leaving the homeless shelter where I work, I noticed a big black unfurled umbrella propped up on the lawn. For a moment I wondered why it didn't fly away, but as I drove by, I realized there was someone lying beneath it. The handle of the umbrella was tucked around her foot, keeping the umbrella in place.
Beneath the umbrella's hood, a woman in a bright purple velour track suit lay curled up on a blanket on the grass. Her body was wedged beneath the umbrella, her knees tucked up to her chin in the fetal position.
I know this woman. She's been living at the shelter for several months. She's friendly, vivacious. A quick smile. Always willing to help. When she's not stoned.
She willingly tells you when you meet that she's a crack addict. "But I'm not like those crack-heads," she quickly adds. "You know, the one's over at crack corner. That's not me. I'm nice."
And she is. I've chatted with her occasionally. She reminds me of a little sparrow. Flitting from here to there. Seldom staying still. She's tiny, with that peculiar frailty crack addiction begets. There's no fat on her petite frame. She can't weigh more than 90 lbs. Her hair is mid-brown and often pulled back in a pony tail that bops along behind her wherever she goes. She never moves slowly. From her eyes that are constantly darting from corner to corner of the room, to her hands that continually flutter in the air around her head when she speaks, Jen is never still.
When sober, she's always volunteering at the shelter. Helping out here. Assisting someone there. When sober, she tries to pretend there's nothing wrong in her life, nothing amiss. Everything is just fine. She just happens to live at the shelter because, well because her life is a mess and her boyfriend walked out and left her and she lost her job because someone didn't like her and then her mother died and she was so depressed and then she .... eventually she pauses for a breath and repeats. "I'm addicted to crack. But I'm not like those crackheads over at crack corner. That's not me. I'm nice."
And that's her story. She's sticking to it.
For "Jen" (not her real name), her story is all she has. It's all she can hold onto during those periods when she is not actively engaged in her addiction. "I'm an addict but I'm not like them."
Jen is no different than you and me -- other than the circumstances of her life today.
We all have our stories. We all hold onto them during those periods when we are 'acting out', denying our beauty, or running away from our pain.
Our stories are all we have to convince the rest of the world we're not really who they think we are, we're actually much different.
I listen to Jen's story about who she is and know, she's lying to herself. She believes she has to. How else can she cope with the utter devastation of her life? How else can she convince herself that her addiction isn't killing her?
When I was mired in a relationship that was killing me, I too was lying to myself. Every day. I needed to keep the lie alive because I could not face the truth, I was dying and doing nothing about it.
In my walking, breathing death, I was denying the truth of who I am for fear I was less than, other than, different than who I am meant to be. By playing small, belittling myself, I was running from the beauty of me into the fear of me.
For Jen, it isn't the addiction that's killing her. It's the lies she tells herself to keep from facing her truth. She is a wounded human being, lost on the road of life. Her story is not who she is. Her story is keeping her stuck in playing who she believes she is.
Ever day we have the opportunity to face ourselves in the mirror and love ourselves, exactly the way we are. Every day we have the opportunity to turn up for ourselves, and fly free of the fear that keeps us from accepting our truth -- that we are beautiful, warts and all. And every day, many of us deny the truth for fear it is the lie.
The truth will set you free.
When I look in the mirror and love myself, exactly the way I am, I give myself the grace to be all of me. When I turn my back on myself and turn into the self-defeating games that keep me stuck in playing less than all I'm meant to be, I give into my fear of who I am.
For today, I shall look in the mirror and love the woman I see.
For today, I shall embrace my beauty, warts and all, and fly free of the fear that I am less than I am meant to be as I accept that I am all that I am meant to be when I step fearlessly into the truth of who I am. A wondrous, miraculous creation of love.
Yesterday I saw a woman curled up under an umbrella and saw her beauty lying naked on the grass. She is wounded. Hurting. Abused by the life she is living.
I cannot change her life. I can change how I look at her so that I let go of my eyes of judgement and embrace her with my eyes of love.
I cannot change her life. I can accept her as she is, and not buy into the lie that this is who she is meant to be. In my acceptance I pray she learns to accept there is somewhere else she can be, someone else she can claim when she let's go of the story that is keeping her stuck in a place she never dreamt she would be.
May you turn up for yourself today, in all your beauty, warts and all, and accept the miracle of you. You are are child of God, freely living your dream, being all that you are meant to be.