Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Marshmallow Centre

I feel like walls are coming down within me that I didn't even know I had. I think they have been there since childhood, which is why they are constructed so high and so well, and why I'm so afraid to reach out my hand and touch them. I have made the common mistake of equating God with the father I had as a child, and they are not at all one in the same, but this basic assumption ties me up in the most horrendous knots from time to time.

My dad often pushed me away and let me down, with a "come close-get away" acceptance and rejection pattern, and I am slowly coming to understand that God doesn't function in the same way. I feared any kind of disconnect with my dad, and always took it to mean that I was in some way unacceptable to him, and therefore rejected. I didn't understand as a child that it was okay to make mistakes. I thought it was lethal to my relationships, and I felt connected to people as long as my behaviour was perfect.

Perfection doesn't get us very far. Eventually we fail, and I am realizing now, at the ripe old age of almost 38, that mistakes are how we learn. They don't brand us as failures, but actually open up whole new ways of being in the world, offering a beautiful chance to improve ourselves. I don't deserve to be punished when I make a mistake, but I see now that I have been punishing myself for as long as I can remember. I didn't need anyone to do that for me; I was more than willing to do it to myself.

As a result of these childhood fears, rejection tends to hit me with the force of a Mack truck. It makes me feel helpless and vulnerable, alone and twisting in the wind with the intense fear of a child who has been abandoned and must forge her own way. I'm slowly learning that I have the capacity to hide deep down inside of myself, performing a magician's sleight of hand out in the world to distract from what is churning far below the surface where no one can see.

Like most people, my insecurities and fears are guarded behind a locked and very thick door, and I would prefer for these qualities to remain unseen by anyone else. But sometimes my fortress is breached, and when the person can be trusted it is likely the best thing for me, because it opens up that dark and mildewy place, just a crack, but enough to let a little light in.

It hurts like hell, and it's terrifying because I'm certain that the entire house of cards will come crumbling down if a little light hits that pitch black place. I used to be that flimsy, but now there is enough substance underneath to withstand that kind of onslaught. I have a stronger foundation this time around, built with bricks and mortar, and it takes more than a puff of air to knock it over.

The hard times make the structure of my soul stronger. The pain and the fear add bricks, not to protect the inner chamber, but to stabilize me so my core can see the light once in awhile, and still be supported. The goal is to remain vulnerable, but to build a moat around my heart so the rest of me can function while this work is going on.

Pain is okay. It keeps us humble, and aware, and invested in the process. I don't want to check out emotionally, because my feelings are what keep me connected to other people, and even to myself. Fear is the enemy of growth. It wants us to keep our marshmallow centres locked away from everyone, telling us that we won't be accepted if our friends and family really knew what made us tick. But it's not true. Sometimes the best course of action is vulnerability, because that's where the new growth becomes visible.

When it hurts really badly, I'm slowly learning to pay attention. To recognize that there are huge lessons to be learned, if I will be brave enough to accept the consequences that come with walking through the process. In the middle it's hard to see what is actually happening, but that's what faith is for, and this time around, I know that something big is going on inside of me, and I want to see it through.

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