Years ago, as I was managing my emotional pain caring for my terminally ill daughter, my belief systems were spotty at best with ideals and images taught to me by a broken-down system. I was taught about heaven and hell, the devil and angels. I was taught to believe in a punishing higher power. I was taught I had to earn love. I had to pray right. I was taught to judge rather than be judged. I was a sinner just by being born.
As I began to erect my own belief system based on my values and my beliefs, no one stepped forward to undermine my ideas. No one came to me with proof what I believed was ridiculous and false. All I heard were opinions and warnings with the what ifs, the shoulds and better nots.
As a woman, rules have confined me and reprimanded me if I did not conform. I was not smart because I was a woman. I had to be a secretary because a woman is not an archaeologist. Crying is for weak people. Gray hair is bad. Aging is to be ashamed of. I also don’t look as feminine as other women. Which has led to all the times women remind me I’m mistakenly entering a women’s restroom. Comments from cashiers who say “have a good day sir.” I used to get so angry, but anger did not serve me. Anger keeps me in the grip of judgment and fear. In time, I grew beyond my anger and started building my own rules.
I have pieced together belief systems, credos, tenets to represent who I am, what I believe, how I live in, where I’m going and what’s beyond what is in the here and now. A big example is what happens to someone after they die. No one can give me proof of their opinion. No one can define my pain. No one can define my experience.
I believe my daughter lives in another place where she is happy, learning and growing. She experiences life’s lessons and love in ways that are beyond my brain’s understanding but I can feel it in my heart. I can feel her in my heart.
My late daughter Lisa (not her real name) was a gregarious, loud presence in a room. She had a boisterous belly laugh. We uploaded a clip of her laughter back in the 90’s on the internet and it was downloaded over 600 times within a day. Her laugh was contagious. She was opinionated and loud. She was demanding and emotional. She ignited a room with energy and pushed the limits with people. She was a force to be reckoned with.
My living daughter had a visitation dream years ago. It confused her but made perfect sense to me. In the dream, my living daughter was sitting at a table in an outside courtyard, waiting for Lisa to meet her. She could see her walking towards the courtyard and felt excited to meet up and visit. Once together, my living daughter was surprised at Lisa’s demeanor. Lisa was happy, calm, lovingly present with a quietness about her. It felt like she had matured and changed in a good solid way. As my daughter recounted this dream, my heart was singing.
No thought police will come to arrest me for believing what I want to believe. No one has a right to tell me what I know in my heart is true. I choose supporting beliefs that help my pain, my loss, my trauma so I can continue to heal and grow, feel love and included in my life.
Lisa experienced this life to learn lessons that helped her be more whole. I can’t define all the lessons but I feel the truth of my statement.
Self-advocacy takes all forms and there are layers and layers of self-care actions for all our needs, physically, emotionally, spiritually.
I have rules I follow to define my beliefs:
Love is the only power in play
No regret – Only forgiveness for I did the best I could
Learning is an omni-directional gift – we learn from every situation
Comfort is the key
My goal is to feel loving support and acceptance. My goal is to keep moving. My goal is to treat myself with kindness, nurture my heart and enjoy relationships and community while taking care of the vessel I was born in, my body, until it’s time for me to travel onward.
We all deserve comfort and love. We all deserve to believe our truths. We all suffer and it’s a personal choice what we learn from our suffering. Birth and death, love and loss, joy and pain are the paradoxes of our lives. The key is to live life to the best of our ability, head held high and trust.
I was struck by the phrase that learning is omni-directional. I think it’s very true. I was reading an interview with Bruce Springsteen and he was talking about where the songs come from. The gist of his answer was that, as an artist or creative person, you walk around with your antennae up and you pick up phrases and emotions and images. The other thing that struck me was what shapes our learning is what our framework of reference is, what our belief system is, and how we integrate that new learning. Do we open ourselves or do we close that learning down? I think it’s complicated but it is omni-directional as you said.
I surely resonated with how you grew up, hearing you would go to hell if you didn’t do this and that. A friend of mine wrote a paper on self-love. She said is it any wonder that we have so many mental disorders in our families and our society when many of us were taught that we were born in sin, that we were sinful creatures from the beginning. Her partner, who just became a new grandmother said, the other day when we looked at that newborn, there’s no way that baby was born in sin. I thought, if any of us think of a newborn and to think they are born in sin, that’s the antithesis of what we feel when we see a newborn. I received a lot of religious abuse. Christians don’t like to hear that. It’s hard to overcome that, it’s taken me years. I’ve created my own belief system, as have so many others. It seems so natural and the other seems so unnatural to me.
Thank you. I loved the line it’s a personal choice what we learn from our suffering. It is true. We can be stuck in the story of our suffering and live there for years, or we can learn from it and move on from it. It’s all about belief. I grew up believing I wasn’t good enough. I felt like an imposter most of my life, all the rejections I’ve gotten, on and on. I can live in that space. It’s about belief. I once made a little globe, on one side it said ‘fear’ and the other side it said ‘faith’. All you had to do is turn it around. Am I in my fear or in my faith? It’s how I look at it. It’s a decision, to look at life one way or the other. I choose a positive outlook no matter what is happening. Even if I am suffering and it’s hard to move on, I choose to be in peace.
I was thinking about the dream you talked about. In it, Lisa seemed whole and calm and mature. The word healing means to make whole. That’s the process, to become whole. That’s all of a person, it’s all the shadow side, all the things we are proud of, the things we aren’t so proud of—that’s what it takes to be whole. I love that she is whole, and I believe that is true. That seemed to resonate with you as well. Through our whole life we attempt to get to that place, and maybe after we die, we get there. It’s comforting to think about.
Thank you for the reading and thank you everyone for being here. I like the concept about the baby coming into the world. My grandchild is having a birthday tomorrow and I decided to go see her. I’m struggling wondering why I am doing this. What is true is that I know there are moments in my life that I regret. This is one I don’t want to regret. It’s important for me to celebrate this milestone with her. She’s got a personality, and it’s teaching me how to be, to be unfiltered. I wanted to share that.
With a calming breath, thank you for joining us today, thank you for sharing your time and your space and your hearts. I hope you all have a gentle day, and enjoy the weather whatever it is, because it’s the environment around us and we exist within it.