Wednesday, October 17, 2007

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
Robert Burns

As is often the case when I am working on something in my life, God, with wisdom and often no small amount of humor provides me with these lovely learning opportunities. I mentioned in the Yurt post that my retreat was themed around self-forgiveness. This links up with the letting-go of the critical voices and embracing of authentic self that I have been doing as soulwork over the last several months. Recently I have been given some interesting opportunities to see myself as others see me. The information has been surprising and enlightening, but what has been transforming has been the grace to accept it as truth.

I had my review at work this week. These are usually not too stressful as my supervisor and I get along fine, and I know that if there were problems I would already know about them as she does not believe in using reviews to surprise people in that way. But I was taken aback by the level of her regard and things she conveyed. She told me, among other things that she was “proud” I worked here and thought that my public presence in the community was an asset to our center. She also compared me, rather humorously to E.F. Hutton, saying, “When Kate speaks, people listen.” She said that my coworkers tell her that because I don’t rant and rave about the stuff that people often go on about (too busy to notice, frankly), that when I do have a strong opinion about something, everyone kind of sits up and pays attention. She tells me that I have a great deal of respect from them, and carry a lot of power here. Whew! Not anything I ever went striving for, I’ll tell you. I was amazed, and … it made sense. Later, when I thought about what she said, I found myself thinking that she might be right. Who knew!?!

And then there were the sisters up at the yurt-farm. They asked me to be on the board of directors for the educational center they are developing. Reluctantly I declined due to the time thing. But to hear them describe the reasons they were asking me, the person they see in me…again, not the first attributes I would list in myself, but on reflection, again in the quiet of my soul a small affirming “yes, that too is me.”

Yesterday I was invited to coffee to meet the mother of one of the most conservative ministers in town. She is an Episcopal clergywoman, he is planting a Missionary Alliance church. He has been telling me that he wanted me to meet her when she came to town, and when we met, it became clear that he has been talking to her about me. With great respect. Oh my. Theologically we are on different planets. We have had conversations about this. In public. I laughingly told friends I witnessed to him in the coffee shop about the need to worry more about doing our co-creative work to bring about God’s kingdom here on earth than we do how many people are going to hell today.
And yes, this too is me!

One that really hit home for me happened just before I left for the Yurt last week. I do a therapy group at our short-term intensive treatment program. One of my own clients is in the group right now. We were talking about trust and how you become a more trusting person, opening yourself to life, living with less fear. Suddenly out of the blue, J said, “Kate, I know I’m probably not supposed to ask this, you’re not supposed to talk about yourself and all, but what’s it like?” “Excuse me?” I said, madly peddling for time. “What is it like for you?" she persisted. "You are like that, one of those people who lives with your heart open in compassion? What is it like?” Oh. My. Goodness. I don’t really know quite what I said. I know what was going on inside was an audible thunk of truth falling into place, that yes, that too, is who I am, at least most of the time these days. And when my heart closes up, I know it, and I usually know it’s because there is danger present.

A few weeks ago I was looking for something in an old journal. I ran across an entry from about ten years ago in which I described myself in some extremely critical, self-deprecating adjectives. What was really sad was that the tone of that rather horrifying rhetoric was very matter-of-fact. Kind of, “Oh well, this is the mess I am, guess I have to live with it.” It is clear to me in retrospect that there were reasons in that place and time that I had come to believe and accept those things about myself, as well as the fact that, thanks be to God, grace and good therapy, I have come a long, long way in no longer holding that negative and self-destructive view.

But the residue has remained, and has continued to rear up at times, especially under stress, like with the student, and in some other interpersonal incidents this year that have been, at the least distressing, and had the potential to be more destructive. So my soulwork has been about this. To identify and release the last holdouts, to peel away the false self and release the authentic created self. To be converted. To repent of seeing myself through other than God’s eyes.

My SD and I have been talking about doing something liturgical to mark this transformation, the release of the critical voices, the turn toward a more compassionate way of living with myself. Every month as we meet, my plan, my hope is that by “next time” I will have completed this, found language for prayer and ritual that captures this important rite of passage. With the demands on my time and energy is just hasn’t quite gotten there. It’s in bits and pieces and I keep having to say again and again, somewhat disappointedly, “well, maybe next month.” Feeling somehow I think that here was something else vitally important to me that was Not Gettting Done.

But I had forgotten something I know to be important. In healing, change and transformation, it is not an event that happens but a process that transpires. As with my clients who make the decision to confront someone who has abused them. The healing takes place as they work to prepare to do this. Often by the time comes, there is no longer even a need to do so, they have so resolved things in themselves, done that redemptive act that Countryman talked about. Oh we will do this. But it will be different now than it might have been had it arrived earlier in the process. To be truthful, I’m not sure yet what, or when, it will be. I’m releasing that a little too. The pieces that are complete have come easily and spontaneously, written themselves, really. I trust that Source. And when it comes, I think it might be a great celebration, because as Temple said “To adopt God’s viewpoint in place of your own…is the most joyful thing in the world because when you have done it you have adopted the viewpoint of truth itself, and you are in fellowship with God.”


Katherine E. said...

Oh, Kate. This is just the most wonderful post. Honestly, reading it just fills me with joy. One of the most amazing learnings I've ever had was finally agreeing with my therapist to trust others to mirror who I am. But I forget so often...what you've written is a powerful reminder for me!

Would it be OK with you if I used this as an example in my lecture on Saturday? "The Authentic Self" is the topic, and what you've said here illustrates SO MUCH of what I'm going to talk about. Would it be OK?

"PS" (a.k.a. purple) said...

What a wonderful affirmation of who are are!!!! Doing a liturgical ritual to honor that is a wonderful idea...and the ideas for it will come...when they are ready.

mompriest said...

Beautiful reflection, beautifully said. Thank you.

Kathryn said...

Having written and recognised these truths, I do hope you are printing a copy of this post and putting it away in a "rainy day" box for those times when confidence in ministry and identity before God falters somewhat.
It's such lovely writing - and such a gift to have been given all round

Diane said...

this was really life-affirming for me and something I need to hear, as wel.. thank you very much!