The above mantra sums up everything I have been trying to do/embody over this holiday season and hopefully, I can keep it going and going and going until I barely have to think about it anymore.
This deep-rooted idea comes from the work I have been doing in therapy around my inability to feel loved. This was born in childhood trauma and has strengthened its hold over the years in so many different ways. It is hard to want love, need love, and long to feel love and not really have the ability to let it fully sink in.
I have been working on this in therapy for almost 5 months now and what has come up is a new understanding of my child-self and what she needs. This is connected to why it is so hard for me to feel the love I am given and what is holding me back from fully receiving it- and that is safety! I don't know if the child me has ever really felt true safety on a cellular level. I don't know if she has ever been able to truly rest, let down, lower her guard. If she has ever NOT been hyper-vigilant to some degree.
And this is with all the work I've been doing for over 20 years now. With all that work there is still this part of me that is not quite willing to trust me with our safety. There is the protector part of me that is still reacting even when it is not necessary. It is hard to stop doing the thing that you have been doing since birth that for the most part has worked pretty well to keep you safe.
But I am so tired. So tired of feeling all of this. It is exhausting, never-ending, and worth every fucking second I spend on it. Because my freedom is worth it. The work of healing ourselves is not for the faint of heart (whatever that means- because all of our hearts are fainting doing this work)
For some of you, this may be a little hard to understand (who's the protector? who's the child?) if you didn't have to split off parts of yourself to survive it may be hard to understand. But those of you that feel it know. And if you didn't have to do this kind of splitting that is a gift to be treasured- treasure it.
So this work of gently, lovingly, piecing my true self back together is deeply rooted in listening. Listening to my protector-self and giving her the day off. Reminding her that I appreciate how she has kept us safe all these years, reminding her we are in this together and that I am an adult now and can and will keep her safe. I have to have similar conversations with my child-self but with a slightly different approach. In my attempts to keep her/us safe, I have misread situations and leaned toward not wanting to make others angry in my attempts to keep myself safe. So I went to things and endured things that ultimately weren't safe because I was trying not to poke the bear and become more of a target. This was at the expense of my own safety. So in my conversation with my child-self, I really have to listen to what she wants, what she needs, what she feels, and where those feelings show up in my body. And I have to try and do whatever she needs me to do for her to feel safe.
If I don't pay attention to this why would she let her guard down? Because I haven't proven I will keep us safe- she is doing what has always worked and my job is to help make it safe so she doesn't have to do that anymore.
It would be easier to do this if everyone liked my decisions to not go places or do things I've always done but more often than not when we make new safe (for us) choices people hate it and are even offended by it. And we end up poking the bear anyway.
So now I am leaning towards her and trying to deeply listen to her needs. Because dammit someone has to and that someone has to be me.
As you look at your history I hope you can learn from my well-meaning mistakes with myself and poke every fucking bear that needs poking for the sake of your safety. That you will err on the side of keeping yourself safe first, remembering you can always apologize if you missed it. That you will give that sweet child you what the adults in your life couldn't give you - unconditional love. Because you are worth knowing, you are worth loving, you are worth being in this world.
P.S. The photos series is from an art piece I finished last month. It came straight from an image my child-self gave me in therapy 4 months ago. It is a body cast I did of myself and filled with found objects (collected bits of nature) I've found on hikes, walks, and swims in my favorite places with my favorite people. There is a nest I found on a hike where I do archery and a bumblebee that died on my kitchen window sill. Every second spent on it and bit collected is an act of love from me to me.