On Coming Back to Myself
“The thing that is really hard and really amazing is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” – Anna Quindlen
“You are enough. You are so enough. It’s unbelievable how enough you are.” –-Sierra Boggess
The demons had been sneakily making themselves at home for a long time before I finally caught onto their game last winter. I was tired. I was overwhelmed. I was anxious. I was in desperate need of sunlight and fresh produce and laughter. I felt small and stuck and scared.
There was the Demon of Imposter Syndrome. The nagging voice that kept insisting, “You don’t actually belong here.” “Your call isn’t valid.” “You’re not brave enough, outgoing enough, funny enough, smart enough, old enough, wise enough to be in this place with these people. You’re a fake, and everyone knows it.”
There was the Demon of Perfectionism. My old bestie. The demon that immobilizes out of fear of making a mistake. The demon that keeps me from showing up out of fear of judgment, fear of losing, fear of being anything less than the best, fear of not meeting my own unattainable standards, fear of confronting my own humanness. The demon that runs me to the ground as I try to package all of life into a neat little box because heaven forbid if this isn’t the best paper I’ve ever written or someone drops by for a visit and my dishes aren’t done.
There was the Demon of Smallness. The demon whose best friends are Invisibility and Silence. The demon that has me second guessing every word before I speak, the demon that tells me that my experiences are less than someone else’s so I probably don’t have anything to add anyway, the demon whose worst enemy is being seen—and who tries to convince me that that is my worst enemy too. The demon that fears my own strength and will do everything it can to convince me that I am weak and small and only capable of what I know.
There was the Demon of Scarcity. The demon that steals gratitude and contentment and joy and instead tricks me into thinking that I can never have enough money or time or energy or courage for the people and causes and experiences I love. The demon that turns my focus inward, prevents me from seeing the people right in front of me, keeps me from the countless adventures that beckon. The demon that automatically turns my attention toward the things or people or experiences I don’t have, as opposed to the overflowing abundance of family, friends, and experiences that have been and continue to be the source of so much joy.
The demons are a sneaky bunch, and before I even knew their names, they had tried to lay claim over my identity. Before I knew it, I had submitted myself to the soul-sucking fate of perfection and silence and smallness and trying to fit myself and my vocation into some elusive framework that I assumed was expected of me. And it was exhausting and disheartening and totally and completely unattainable.
But, thankfully, I did learn the demons’ names. And when I discovered their names and began to learn their tricks, they became weaker and weaker as Love grew stronger, as the Holy Spirit filled the places the demons once occupied with the breath of new life. And the demons stood no chance against the Spirit’s whispers which gently led me to the people and experiences that had the power to call me back to myself and to the only identity that actually holds any claim: Child of God.
The Spirit embraced me through the late night laughter over glasses of wine and coffee dates in hipster coffee shops and post-confirmation happy hours and shared home-cooked meals and nerdy theological conversations and 140-character inside jokes shared over Twitter and phone calls with friends far away. Each moment of connection drawing me back slowly, reminding me that I am loved and that I am enough and that sometimes all I have to do is show up.
The Spirit soothed my soul through the wisdom and encouragement of professors and mentors who saw me, even when I tried so desperately to be invisible.
The Spirit nudged me in my yoga practice, as I learned to trust my body and appreciate its strength and elegance and wisdom. (Yes. Elegance. I said it.)
The Spirit guided me into the arms of a community whose rhythms of grace and love and messy chaos invited me to breathe deeply, share of myself fully, and laugh unabashedly as we sang and danced and canoed and made friendship bracelets and tried to share the love of Christ with kids and with each other in a million imperfectly beautiful ways. (Shout-out to you, SLM 2017!)
The Spirit called me into holy discomfort as I sat in a circle with a bunch of strangers turned colleagues in Clinical Pastoral Education and we took turns revealing our most vulnerable places and stories to each other—an experience that at the time I was convinced was my own personal introvert hell but was actually the start of some pretty profound healing.
The Spirt brought me back to myself in time spent with family, in conversations around the kitchen table, in lazy summer afternoons on the farm, in summertime picnics with cousins and grandparents and friends who are family even if they’re not related by blood.
And the Spirit stirred two weeks ago as I sat in an office with three female deacons and an incredible faculty mentor for my endorsement interview and tried to hide my shaking legs and sweaty palms as I was seen and heard, and my gifts and imperfections and vulnerabilities felt painfully exposed and I was told “You have a very clear and powerful sense of call. We’re excited for you to be a Deacon in this church.”
And then I tried not to turn into a bumbling mess right then and there because suddenly I knew I was back. And quite frankly, it has been a really, really long ride, but I am beyond grateful for this crazy, beautiful journey that continues to take me by surprise.
A truly heartfelt thanks to each of you for being a part of it. ❤