On Beauty and Wholeness

6:30 PM

"What's Left of Us" by Rachael Ibanez

Some folks from my church here in Ft. Collins regularly serve meals together at the Rescue Mission, and since I facilitate and schedule the teams, I also try to show up and serve most of the time myself. I enjoy it, and the service helps to keep me grounded. Last night at the Mission, a concerned and supportive friend of mine looked at me and said, "Are you tired? You look really tired."

I was. But for some reason, at first, I felt like I needed to defend myself. Then, a little rush of shame, or embarrassment.

For some weird reason, I feel forced to justify the need to rest. Ever since I can remember, I have ignored physical and emotional urges, messages from the body to sleep, eat, or just to pause, choosing instead to fixate on my terribly-important worry list, or on the very-real needs of those around me. I have a tendency to avoid or even ignore self-care, and this pattern oddly doesn't always actually serve the needs of others, and it leaves me flattened like a pancake.

One part wonky childhood dysfunction, and three parts trauma from all of the little earthquakes within my first marriage, I lived for decades in a state of watchful waiting, anticipating another painful blowout at home...and there were plenty. Negotiating life within this unpredictable environment produced the hyper-vigilance familiar to people who have survived addiction, trauma or loss. Becoming adapted to an unhealthy habitat gives way to an underlying sense that there just isn't time for the basics like rest, food, or showers. A helpful coping strategy during certain types of crisis, the instinct to do whatever it takes to avoid more trauma would eventually become a habit of mind, leaving me stuck in the trenches and foxholes long after the war was over.

Years ago, I attended a workshop, a group counseling experience, that ferreted out some of my most basic defects of character. It was really eye opening. I was gifted with the opportunity to listen to complete strangers offering their initial impressions of me. "You probably think you're too good for me," and, "you seem obsessed with your appearance," were favorites. Truthfully, I was riddled with insecurity, most of the time, feeling "less than," not "better than" the others in the room, so the workshop gave me a lot to consider about what my internal messages were portraying to others.

After enduring a challenging barrage of simulated situations that typically coerce attendees to run headlong into typical emotional reactive ruts, or triggers, we were ultimately encouraged to know and accept ourselves completely: darkness and light, strength and weakness, beauty and scar tissue. The whole package. During a meaningful moment at the very end of all of these workshops, having lied down on the floor under dimmed lighting, I listened to my own heart as it spoke to me the following statement of purpose to guide me moving forward.

Through beauty, healing and openness, I use my energy and my voice to empower and inspire to create a world that's tender and safe.

These are my values. This is what mattered to me then, and it's what matters to me still.

Yes, I am greatly in need of restoration this week. Sitting outside this morning, I have carved out a few moments for meditation, not in my usual spot, but on the back patio overlooking the open space behind my house. The spring rains have been generous, offering up twenty different shades of green, including pale, sweet smelling Russian Olive trees and pungent, blue-green spruces. There's a friendly-but-worn oak porch swing sitting invitingly just a few feet beyond the back gate, and tall, summer grasses are bending to the breeze, accented by a wave of slow moving Cottonwood seed pods, all scouting out a soft place to land. In this moment, I am reminded of my personal mission statement once again: through beauty...

So, how is beauty a part of my purpose?

I am laughing at myself this morning,  remembering how important it seemed, back in the day, to be beautiful. Here and now, in my 60th year, I feel like I have finally laid some meaningful groundwork on this one. It's not about me. There is no longer any mandate to be physically beautiful, or to age better than the next girl. It doesn't matter, and it doesn't satisfy.

Maybe, on some mystical level, I knew even then that the goal of this adventure is to be restored to wholeness through experience: through nature and the present moment, through writing and poetry, through music and art, and mostly, through relationships and community. There is beauty erupting and rising through all of these gifts when our eyes are open to it.

It's this kind of beauty that resonates all around us, offering the simple abundant quality of life we need to be whole, to be a vibrant, to be at peace and to be generous.

                                                Copyright © 2017 Laury Boone Browning

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