How to prepare for a Month-of-No without guilt

I had plans for writing today. I even have a mental script and a written framework. However, when you can’t drive for four days, the next day will fill quickly with all the things you couldn’t do the previous days.  It’s been a bit hectic. Since Saturday, I’ve worked on a list of things to be done before the ‘Month-of-No’ which begins tomorrow (or tonight at sundown if you’re speaking sabbath). I’m just about ready now, but my words are few. So instead:

How I prepare for the Month-of-No
  1. Decide now what and who gets my yes. Make sure the list is short.
    My family, Craig and the girls, are my first line of yes.  I will pick Olivia up from her friend’s birthday party and handle most work transportation for Bailey.  I’ll also make sure we have groceries each week. But no, I’m not dropping everything for last minute plans, or ill-planning. The last two months were packed, packed, packed and I have juggled, juggled, juggled. I want us all to enjoy ourselves. Since no one likes being home as much as I do, I will occasionally have to venture out. But only with fair warning.
  2. Don’t apologize for self-care. Yes, it is nice to be able to take this time. Yes, I understand this option won’t work for everyone. I do realize how lucky I am.  This is the way life goes sometimes. I have margin at the exact time my soul really needs it. Only a fool looks at that gift and ignores it.
  3.  Make a plan to accommodate my limits. Probably one-third of my running around is due to lack of planning on my part. Over the last few days I wrote out a menu plan and a master grocery list. Honestly, I’m over making dinner. But I also am one of two people in the house who isn’t employed, so dinner is on me. Fortunately this month has girls and husband gone for weeks at a time, and I’m simple. A few groceries go a long way. Beyond that, there is not one thing I need that won’t wait until later.
  4. Have a ridiculous number of books on hand. I currently have 18 books out from the library with another 9 on hold. (The library is on the yes list for the month of no.) I’ve actually set myself up with several projects and plans -with tools already on hand – for the entire month. I don’t want to spend it watching seasons of netflix or scrolling through social media. Even though I enjoy those things, more often, I use them as numbing tools. I want to spend this month aware and engaged.

My family has observed a weekly Sabbath for many years. That observance has taught me rest doesn’t come without preparing for it. There is a front load of responsibility to handle before I step out of sync for a bit. Fortunately for me this year I have a rare window. Many of my responsibilities are winding down for the summer. No children are taking classes or doing activities, and as I already mentioned, parts of my family will be gone at least a week this month. So, I made a choice to do what I need to do, which is rest, relax and restore.

When I went to therapy a few years ago, my therapist gave me a great gift. She told me to take an entire year off of everything. She recognized what my traumatized soul most needed. Quiet. Margin. Room to breathe. Room to dream. She was right. But it’s been couple years since I did that, and the last season was packed. Even good things- so many good things- wear you down over time.

One last thing to remember for the month-of-no is this:

5. Practice Gratitude. Every day, friends. Even the ones filled with yes in the months to come.

What if I didn’t? Permission to say no to expectations

This post originally appeared on the Middle Places blog in March, 2015.

Lately I’ve been shedding expectations faster than most people are shedding winter clothes in the watery March sunshine.  A week or so ago, my therapist tossed the word “sabbatical” into the room the same way someone might throw a bouquet of roses at a dancer after a grand performance or a life preserver at a drowning person. Maybe I’m a drowning performer who needs a flowery rescue.  Either way, I snatched it out of the air and tucked it greedily into the pocket of my mind, turning it over and over, rubbing it, worrying it, smoothing it away with thought fingers.

I thought to myself, “All these expectations are swirling around me: some real, some imagined, some belong to other people and I don’t even know if I am failing or exceeding all around town without so much as a second thought.  But what if…well, what if I just didn’t? What if instead of failing, meeting or exceeding, I just started being? What’s the worst thing that could happen?

I envisioned 3 scenarios:
1.) Some people would be very disappointed, and maybe even a little upset.
2.) Some people would be a little jealous of my new-found freedom.
But mostly
3.) Many would not even notice because the reality is most people don’t think of me often enough to have expectations.

We do ourselves more than a disservice when we allow what other people may think of us to weigh too heavily in our lives. In fact, I think we’re making ourselves a little crazy with all the measuring up, comparing, worrying and wondering. We’re robbing ourselves of both sleep and peace.  What if we gave ourselves permission to drop out of the rat race, to meander by the side of the road and collect daisies?

I’m not so naive to think we can spend the rest of our days in a hermitage on a tropical island (oh, don’t I wish that I could?), or that we can binge watch Netflix while eating cheetos until we become one with the sofa, but most of us have been caught in the same patterns of worrying and beating ourselves up for so long we’ve ceased living out our purpose all the same. What if we tried living differently?

I’m calling “Ally Ally in Free” which literally translates from the German phrase “alle alle auch sind frei” or “everyone is  also free.”  We are all free – me and you- free from the expectations, mostly unstated,  we have for other people, but most of all,  free from the weight of all the expectations I believe are placed upon me. For the next ten months, I’m only letting a few, wise, genuinely-invested-in-my-best-interest people have a voice in my life. I’m saying no, backing down. I need to relearn who I am when I’m not putting on a performance for anyone else.

Meanwhile, I’ll read books, and growing succulents, and write, and think, and serve within my calling, not because I feel compelled to fill a spot.  The real me will say her real thoughts, and feel her real feelings. Some people aren’t going to like it, but unfortunately I  left my concern in my other pants.

It’s time for Ally Ally in free, friends. Return safely home. We’ll lay in the grass and count clouds for awhile, but only if you want to. No expectations.

New spiritual pathways: Breaking free from dogmatism part 2

Yesterday I shared about giving myself permission to explore new ways of exploring and understanding the world and my place in it. As I wrote, I felt both excitement and trepidation. This spiritual path I’m traveling is exciting. I’ve anxiously peered down the way for so long, afraid to move forward lest I get lost. I’m finally walking, making my way forward, slowly. I’ve found surprising and pleasing companions along the way. It’s an adventure for sure, but I also still feel rather fragile and vulnerable about this journey, so I’ve been keeping it close and safe.

One of the hardest things about traveling a new way is the condemnation received from those who aren’t traveling with you. I’ve traveled long in religious circles, and, let’s be honest, religious circles can be more condemning than most. I’ve felt the hard edge of condemnation. It hurts every time, maybe the effect is cumulative. Or maybe my co-dependency plays a part. Probably both. Either way, in giving myself permission to freely share the spiritual part of my journey, I open myself to criticism and condemnation yet again. After all, it’s only ok to think heretical thoughts if you keep them to yourself.

In almost sixty days of writing, I’ve managed to avoid writing almost anything spiritual. I’ve touched on it, circled around it’s edges. Mostly, I keep those observations and wonderings to myself, though. Two decades in ministry have taught me well that Jesus forgives, but systems seldom do.

I’m afraid. That’s the long and short of this post. I’m afraid to be honest, afraid of the repercussions, of rejection, of condemnation. But I know I can’t continue to dance around the edges of something which is so deeply part of who I am. I’m a spiritual being. Although I’ve asked at least ten thousand questions these last few years, not one of them has been whether God loves me still. When no one else makes room for all my wonderings and wanderings, she does. In fact, the farther down this path I travel, the bigger and more beautiful God becomes.

The evolution of my faith looks something like a set of Russian nesting dolls. I began in the smallest possible construct, and every few years, my spiritual understanding emerges into a new and larger form. The thing about Russian dolls is that although each gets a little bigger, on the outside they look identical. Imagine my surprise when I emerged from my last evolution and found an entirely new image looking back at me. The God I knew turned out to be a graven image, looking more like my own heart than the actual heart of God. In fact, this new revelation is far more beautiful, broad and all-embracing than anything I’d dared imagined. She’s far less equation and far more mystery than I’d been taught to be comfortable with.

But oh, it’s exciting, awakening in this wide open space. Every way I turn, new images of a living God unfold before me, each one exposing more and still more of the wild and furious heart of God. I can no longer continue sharing about this journey without sharing this part of myself as well.

So yes, I’m afraid, afraid and excited and uncertain and joyful. I’m learning a new way of living which is an entirely different sort of new than simply changing geographic location. The restlessness I cannot shake is my soul longing to sing, if not without fear, at least without disguise.

Here’s my soul exposed, open, vulnerable, happy, anticipating what’s next. This beautiful spiritual pathway unwinds before me, cleared and made welcoming by those who have traveled before.

Giving myself permission: How to break free from dogmatism

Did you know that perfectionists love dogmatic thinking? We do. Well, I do; it might be dogma to say that about every single one of us. When we work within a system, it’s very important for us to know the rules and abide by them – perfectly. We need rule which are constant and true. If we cannot measure or lives by a set of infallible, incontrovertible truths, we do not have a plumb line set our perfection against. Certainty matters when we don’t have permission to make mistakes or, even worse, fail and fall apart.

Growing up, I was exposed to many forms of dogma: religious, relationship, and educational. Most of my learning, formal and experiential, reflected the following equation: X+Y=Z, always.
Education + work ethic = financial success
Believe the right things + baptism = eternal success
Constant availability + self-sacrifice = relational success
Conform to norms + firm us/them boundaries = cultural success
Go to church + Serve selflessly = religious success

In every new experience and social setting, I searched for the rules to follow so I could be the best at everything. I sought acceptance, approval and popularity by making myself the best fit in any given situation. Failure was not an option. Intelligent, hard working people can do anything they set their minds too. Throw in a little Philippians 4:13 and no one has an excuse for coming up short in any expectations, our own or someone else’s.

These concepts made the framework for my world view for a long time. Until one day, they buckled, broke and collapsed. Reconstructing my world view has been an extended effort in erasing all the equations that made sense of my world and making room for new ones.

Perhaps, this sounds simple; for others maybe it is. I have only my own experience to draw on. Rewriting the mental narratives, the ones which help me be always right and never wrong, is difficult at best. Some days it’s outright terrifying. Finally, I’ve found a key that opens most doors when my mind locks up.

I give myself permission.

Ridiculous, right? How does a person in their mid-forties not know how to give themselves permission to disagree, to refuse, to fail or fall or make a big, sprawling mess? How do I not know it’s fun to explore, deviate and even completely diverge from a common practice or belief set? If  you know the answer to this question, will you share it with me, please?

Granting self-permission opens doors for me I never imagined opening before. Many weeks, I attend an episcopal service on Saturday night. I love the repetition of liturgy and the open-ended questions posed in the homily. Every day, I meditate. I use words like ‘zen’ and ‘mystic’. Sometimes I speak to the universe at large and I don’t end with the word “amen.”

I have permission, now, to quit something in the middle if it isn’t working for me. At last, I can acknowledge the end of a season instead of trying to beat life back into it, regardless of how badly it limps. I listen to my gut, write letters from my intuition in my journal, use colors to describe the state of my soul. When I’m tired, I take naps, even if the to-do list doesn’t get finished.

The crazy thing about giving myself permission, is the ability to write my own equations:

Doodle + silly music = calm. Except occasionally, it doesn’t. Then try something else. Keep trying, or read a book. Whatever you feel like.

Open-minded questions + experience = healing. Sometimes, I still get hurt. It’s hard to know when that might happen. Remember to be brave.

Self-care + saying no = peace of mind. But say yes too, when you know what you want. Yes is good. Until it crowds out your soul. Then say no. Listen to your intuition to tell you when. There’s no scale.

What I’m unlearning most is that rules aren’t always safe and freedom isn’t always scary.  Rules may guide me, but they may also stunt me. Freedom may result in disaster, but it may also teach me to fly. The only way to know any of this is to try and fail and fall and try again.

If you fall down seven times, get up eight times, or eight, or seven times seventy. There’s really no limit.

 

Bailey Bash: Something fun Sunday, Episode 7

Yesterday was all about this girl, my Bailey. Normally, I try not to tell my girls’ stories here. Their stories belong to them, to share or not as they see fit. But it is also true that my story and their stories are entirely intertwined. Sometimes, I can’t tell my own story without their part in it.

BaileyMuch like any parent, I’ve second guessed a million decisions. I’ve desperately hoped that I’m not making a complete mess of the entire parenting business. Hopefully, they won’t spend too much on therapy on my account in the future. But yesterday was one of those affirming days. This whole parenting thing happens completely imperfectly, but even so, it’s pretty damn good.
Baile
We’re so lucky to have so many people who love us and who took time from their day to be present with us celebrating my amazing girl.  The weather even greeted us with darn near perfection for the end of May.

We made the most of our photo booth (Craig may have enjoyed the raspberry beret a little too much!). We held cut throat games of cornhole where my brother earned the right to hold Olivia’s stuffed monkey, William, for one entire hour. This life long feud between Matt and Olivia stretches across states and decades. Perhaps they have finally come to some sort of agreement as they both begin to mature into adulthood…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bailey and her friends, and sisters and sister’s friends (when you are this close in age, you drift in and out of each other’s lives easily, the relationship lines are blurry) moved from front to back, food table to carport to hammock as people came and went. Some moments are kind enough to kiss you softly and whisper, Hang on to this, it’s the only thing that matters in this life anyway.  And so it is.


Looking for a quiet space to read: 100 story summer

This weekend is the culmination of a month of planning and pushing through. As in all busy weeks, reading didn’t make it to the priority list. I read in the gaps, in the moments before succumbing to sleep, or while waiting in the car. But I can see the June, the month of no, shining on the horizon. Today we celebrate our wonderful middle girl Bailey for working hard and completing high school as well as her first year of college. Next week can be about reading again. This week the story is all about our girl.

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter

I am a firm believer that sometimes, we have to try a book on more than one occasion to determine if it’s really not a good fit. Sometimes the book is fine, it’s us who isn’t ready or open or a good fit yet. Beautiful Ruins is a book which proves this point, at least for me. It’s been about five years since I tried to read this.  I was lured in the first time by the gorgeous cover. Although, I don’t remember why specifically I finally put it down; I was a good way into the book when I did. I do remember feeling unable to connect with the characters and that the story was disjointed.

Fortunately, this book came around again thanks to my postal book club. Because I was accountable to read it, I was determined to try it again. And whoa nelly! am I ever glad I did. I absolutely LOVED this story the second time around. The setting is lush and isolated, the characters quirky, broken, searching, flawed and beautiful (well, mostly beautiful, some characters are simple distasteful no matter what.). Making brilliant use of shifting time lines and POVs, a mystery, of sorts, unfolds. All along the way, each narrator searches for love and belonging in their own way.

I am delighted to have the chance to change my opinion on this amazing book. I highly recommend it to all.

My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve picked this book up only to return it to the library unread, through no fault of the book itself. The hype surrounding the story kept bringing me back, and finally, I picked it up and finished it all in one sitting. I’m not sure what I expected, but what I got was a quiet rumination on family, relationships and ghosts from our past. The story is different than I imagined, very understated and vague. It hints and peeks around corners rather than blatantly revealing harsh details. It quietly forgives even when we aren’t sure what is being forgiven.

This book is a perfect quiet afternoon read. It doesn’t hurry or make you turn pages quickly to see what’s next. It is thoughtful and complex and deserves undivided attention so no layers get missed. I’m looking forward to the companion book, Anything is Possible which releases this summer (and may already be available).

 

The gift of Here and Now: learning to be in the present

This window of time right here is the calm before the storm. As I type grandparents are flying and driving, brides are having their hair and nails done, wheels are turning for the wedding we will attend and which Hunky officiates this evening and for Bailey’s graduation party tomorrow. But right now, right in this moment, I’m not part of any of that. I’m simply here.

This week I’ve written about perfectionism and slow, often invisible change. In a culture addicted to the quick fix, we constantly look ahead. While true change, soul deep change takes time. Often more time than we are willing to give before moving on to the next shiny quick-fix. I know I’m guilty. I’ll probably be guilty again in the future, but in this moment, I can actually trace long winding ribbons of behavior evolving over time, bringing me to this point right here.

I keep mentioning this moment because here, now I feel calm, content and hopeful, despite all that is happening around me. My inner voice isn’t leaping about telling me all the things I must do to prepare for this evening and tomorrow. My perfectionist isn’t nagging me about things forgotten or left out. Instead, just over the top of my computer screen I see tiny, new arms growing on my cactus. Squirrels are racing around the tree outside my window while one of the cats waits hopefully on the ground. My candle burns. And I am right where I am meant to be, doing the only thing that matters in this moment.

Learning to be in the moment has not been something that comes easily. My mind prefers to be busy planning, analyzing, perfecting. Like so many people, pausing often means staring at a screen waiting for the next ‘ping’ of dopamine when I see a piece of news drop or a comment from someone who normally sits at the cool-kids table. I’m as susceptible as anyone to zone in and tune out. For years, I’ve been altering behaviors in an attempt to focus my awareness on what’s happening here and now.

Most days I don’t think I’ve made any progress at all.  But today tells me change, although slow, is happening. It tells me there’s plenty of time for good enough.  It’s put on it’s last lovely show of spring just so I will sit and simply be. Be here. Now.

Occasionally, I make the mistake of hanging on to this feeling too tightly. As soon as I do, judgement and justification step in and take over. This moment is a gift. I can’t make it stay, nor can I control the next moment coming up. It might not be as beautiful or calm. It might, actually, be the worst moment of my life. To date, I’ve never seen one of those moments coming or been able to avoid them. I can tell you already, I won’t be able to maintain this sense of calm through the entire weekend.

But I can be in this one. Now. Breathing in and out. Listening to the bluebird who sits right outside my open window. I can accept that imperfection and frustration are as likely to make an appearance later as joy and laughter, though I’d rather have only the latter.  I can feel grateful for the creative space to sit right here and share these shining minutes, which are only now, not a promise for all time.

Here.
Now.
Exactly where and who I’m meant to be.

 

Fifty days later: Thoughts from the middle of everything.

Fifty days ago, I decided I would write and publish a blog for one hundred days in a row. Today is day fifty-one which means it’s all closer to the end than the beginning from here. I’ve reached the middle at last. When I started this project, I hated everything (perhaps a bit of an exaggeration, but not much), and I could tell I was circling the drain of depression. The question I ask myself today is whether or not writing and sharing daily is really makes any difference.

The answer is yes. It is making a difference. I am different than I was fifty days ago. I’m emotionally healthier than I was fifty days ago.

Is it all due to the writing? Probably not. However, the writing has been a catalyst, a foundational habit on which other positive changes are laid.  I write daily. Since beginning to write, I also run and meditate daily. My reading is more focused; I finish what I started. After completing a journaling class, I write in my journal before blogging each day. I wrote the curriculum for and co-taught a community care class which opened the door for many brilliant conversations on self-care/ self-awareness, compassion and healing. I’m reworking step 4 (Inventory), and shared my own story of recovery with my recovery community.

Yes, these fifty days have been full with all of the pieces playing a vital part of my journey back to health. The spark, however, comes from this practice taking place on-screen every day.

The discipline of writing so many days in a row, forces me to plan intentional writing time. On the days when I have not, I’ve regretted the cobbled together silliness that gets published. The same response happens on the days I procrastinate too long and am trying to make coherent thoughts with my afternoon brain. Afternoon brain can do many things, but writing isn’t one of them.

I continue to learn more about myself every day. How toxic relationships have stolen my joy for far too long. How I can live within healthy boundaries instead of exposing myself to further harm. I’m inspired to be bold again, and honest, and kind. I often feel afraid, still, but I don’t let fear be the loudest voice in my head.

More than anything, writing opens up my desire to be creative again. I don’t know how long my creativity laid dormant. I only know I’d forgotten how good it feels to create something new in the world, even if no one but me knows of its existence. Writing ignited the spark and all the other creative endeavors are blowing life into it, convincing it to stay, to grow.

Even though our life circumstances haven’t changed, and the waiting continues to feel like drowning in molasses, I wait differently now. I am not without hope, not the powerless victim of whatever circumstance tries to throw my way. I can generate change, within and without. Writing has taught me this. Showing up, following through, embracing imperfection, muscles I’d forgotten to flex. Using them makes me feel strong again. Even on sad days, I don’t have the despair that was so heavy before.

And here you are, fifty days later. Patiently returning to read each day. You provide inspiration too. You remind me we aren’t alone in this big, old, chaotic world. I remember now that we are far more alike than different most of the time.

What will I do after the next fifty days? I’m not sure yet, but that doesn’t bother me. In time, all things will be revealed. Until then, I continue to do the work I know is good and healing. I don’t have to be afraid to stop doing things which aren’t beneficial, or to try something new, or recognize when a season changes. All things change. Even me.

Thank goodness.

Good enough: How to embrace the inner perfectionist

As a recovering perfectionist, I often need to remind myself not to get too caught up in details. Perfectionists can tweak and tweak and tweak….and tweak a thing until we end up doing far more harm than good. I’ve used a simple mantra over the past few years which has helped me immensely: “good enough can be good enough.” It’s a gentle reminder that usually the most critical eye in the room is my own. This week is one when many people will be in my living space. The perfectionist is yammering loud and proud in my head. Criticizing this, critiquing that, generally expressing discontent for the decidedly non-magazine spread style in which I live.

She’s dreadful.

The difficulty in living with perfectionism is that she can never be satisfied. She oozes discontent everywhere she goes, and her appetite is insatiable. She gnaws and bellows and judges. You can see why it’s exhausting to live with her in my head. Over time I have learned to quiet her, but there are some weeks when her strident insistence is ever present.

Lately I practice meditation which is teaching me to observe things about myself without judging them. This is especially helpful in quieting hyper-critical self talk that stems from perfectionism. When she’s reminding me of all the things I’m doing wrong, doing imperfectly, or not doing at all, I am able to say, “Well hello perfectionism. I see you there.” While I don’t reject or resist her, I am not obligated to react to her. I don’t have to force my critical inner voice into silence and submission. Instead, I can simply let them be what they are without agreeing or aligning with their message.

This awareness takes practice, and I am often caught in the spiral of self-critical thought before I catch myself. When I  do, I take a few deep breaths and emotionally disengage. But I do catch myself, before the anxiety settles in, before I plant another layer of deprecating critique on the soil of my soul. I stop where I am, mid-thought and gently acknowledge, “Perfection, I see you there but I don’t have to play your game today.” Resistance merely feeds judgmental thoughts of worthlessness and imperfection, but acceptance frees me from having to play destructive mind games.

It’s possible I will never be free of perfectionism. She’s been with me for most of my life. Un-writing her part of my story would be a long and fruitless endeavor, possibly even unraveling parts of my personality that I am unwilling to give up. Sometimes my focus on detail and fine points serves me well. Sometimes the flip side of criticism is discernment. Often a trait, even one as harsh as perfectionism, isn’t entirely bad if only you can accept it’s darker side along with its better one, and choose wisely who you allow the louder voice.

This non-judgmental acceptance of the flawed and broken parts of my personality is still in its infancy. I nurture it, feed it, and practice it every day. I’m not adept at it or as comfortable with it as I hope to one day be. But every time I stop to breathe, every time I welcome perfectionism to the table without allowing her to dominate the conversation, I experience grace. I am grateful for all the pieces that make up this complex creature I call me. It’s a form of compassion to self to welcome my vices as warmly as I welcome my virtues. This is self-love, accepting every part of my soul as she is. It’s just another step towards wholeness on a long and winding journey.

Speaking of imperfection, I am imperfectly inviting anyone who is interested to a monthly-ish email. These emails will have content that isn’t on the blog and hopefully will grow to include some cool freebies. I’m working on an imperfect plan and experiencing grace in the growing.

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Monsters in the closet: Scary things I’m doing right now.

It was a dark and stormy day. No, really, it actually is a dark and rainy day, but that’s not scary. I love this sort of weather, quiet, meditative, peaceful. It’s the perfect day to think about plans and dreams, for puttering around, reorganizing the dresser and cabinets. The perfect sort of day for examining the monsters hiding in my closet, and maybe chase them away for good.

Scary monster #1: Writing every day

When I decided to do this one hundred day writing thing, it scared me. I stink at follow-through. I’m constantly distracted by shiny, new, exciting!!! Not to mention being terribly out of practice with writing. Also not to mention when I go public with my thoughts and feelings, it tends to come back and bite me in the…well, you know.  It hasn’t been a good experience. While I can’t control how people react to my online conversations, I can control whether or not I let those people scare me. I can control whose voice I listen to or whether I want to listen at all. If I show up and you show up, we can face scary things together. Monsters, and mean people, aren’t nearly so frightening in the light, I’m finding.

Scary Monster #2: Speaking up in public

As an introvert, I’d much rather handle all my communication in writing, after thinking about it for a a few days. But over the last year, I’ve been in a teaching/leading situation where more and more often, I find myself telling personal, vulnerable stories to an audience. The first time, I thought I might hyperventilate or throw up, or both. Even though I’d written a manuscript and practiced, practiced, practiced, it was scary. Yesterday I shared that acceptance is my drug of choice, but when you share the messy parts of yourself, rejection is always a risk. Fortunately my audience was grace-filled and understanding. They even laughed at my jokes. Some of the monsters in our closets are boggarts, they disappear when we laugh at them.

Scary Monster #3: Saying no to toxic people

Fortunately for me, I’m co-teaching a class right now which uses the book Boundaries as part of the curriculum. It’s my second time reading it, and it’s possible I’m learning even more this time. (Seriously there isn’t a single person who can’t benefit from this book. It’s amazing.) I’m learning to make peace with the fact that some people are simply bad for me, whether intentionally or unintentional. I’m stepping away from guilt, manipulation, control, and boundary tramplers. People may be upset or angry. They may react badly. My big, bad fear is a level of rejection like we faced years ago when we were excommunicated. I realize it isn’t likely, but it’s what I know. It’s all I know. Stepping away from that fear to do what is necessary for my own well-being is facing one huge closet monster.

Scary Monster #4: Being Myself

Listen, I love Jesus, but I struggle with church. That’s not news. However, church is my husband’s occupation, so this struggle is in my face daily. I’ve carried hurts and collected scars for a decade now. I’ve absorbed the message that I’m dangerous, subversive, not good enough, and that I need to sit down and be quiet all the way into my bones.

But no more. Just no more. Measuring every thought, word and opinion in case it makes someone uncomfortable is an activity I’m quitting. I’m done accepting I need to change, conform or contort my position in order to fit into a cultural construct I’m not even sure I like anymore. My deconstruction has been leading me back to the me I used to be before I got so bound up in all the rules and false constructs of who a “church person/pastor’s wife/ proverbs 31 woman” should be.  I am myself, and the flaws or changes I make are between me and the Spirit who dwells within me. I like the me I’d forgotten how to be. It’s nice being in her skin again.