Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. – Rumi
Recognizing decades worth of collateral damage and the importance of breaking down the barriers to love is an integral part of the journey to joy.
Here is what I know for sure, the importance of breaking down barriers to love is key in any healing journey. When I do not like a feeling I ignore it, I bury it where no one can find it. I was going to say, I don’t think I remember when it started, but actually I do. I spent a significant part of my young adult life with someone who had absolutely no regard for me. I didn’t realize at the time that I would have been better off spending my energy on myself rather than siphoning it off for the benefit of another person. Especially one that was more than happy to suck every bit of life force I was throwing their way. This story is not new or remarkable and I wholeheartedly believe that the beautiful children and life that I created from that situation were all part of the divine plan.
I was born knowing that I am always right. I was born knowing that good always prevails. I was born passionate. I was born to see the best that life has to offer, see the best in people, to love without barriers. This I also know, for sure. Thank the gods, angels and the universe, this optimism has never left me. The flame of this optimism has burned, sometimes brightly, other times as an ember inside me my whole life as a constant companion. It balances the dark and I am grateful.
At the same time, like most folks, I have been seeking approval, acceptance and love my entire life. I had no idea that these things come from within. I naturally thought these things came from external sources. And, armed with my overflowing optimism I set out to get love, be liked by everyone, be popular in school, get acceptance, achieve more, collect compliments and so on and so on. You get the picture. The problem is that from an early age I equated my success and ability to be liked, popular and accepted everywhere and in every situation with being perfect and above reproach. To make matters worse, I never believed in perfection, so right from the start I was chasing something that I didn’t even believe I could achieve. And, with boundless optimism I encountered barrier after barrier and banging my head on the proverbial wall, over and over and over again, with rose-colored glasses on, hoping for a different result. Every. Single. Time. This, my friends is exhausting.
So why does this matter now? It matters because there is collateral damage with this that can last decades. The disappointment eventually got to me. I looked for, an found someone who was the ultimate test. Right from the start, this person had absolutely no demonstrated ability to fulfill any of the things I was seeking. This person would not make me feel loved, protected, taken care of, appreciated, accepted, popular, thin enough, pretty enough…..enough. In fact this person demonstrated the exact opposite, over and over again at almost every opportunity. So what better way to test myself and my ability to be perfect, to overcome all obstacles, to show myself and the world how very special I am to climb this mountain and prove that I could prevail. I fully intended to crack this person like a pinata and in doing so, all the love and appreciation I was seeking would magically flow to me and I would be happy, fulfilled and have the perfect life. Admittedly a flawed plan. Obviously.
Again, why does this matter now, or to you, the reader? Because this is how the barriers that Rumi is referring to, get built. There are so many other similar stories that share one thing. When you are hurt, even if you are self-aware and hurt, the hurt, hurts. When it hurts, we get tired, we deflect, we ignore it, we act out, we become victims, we become aggressors or, like me, it gets buried. In my case I can almost remember exactly when I became expert level status at this. I tried to have a nervous breakdown! I tried to withdraw. I tried like hell to be a victim, to feel sorry for myself but at my core I am not that person. My optimism won out again I dusted myself off and moved on. Great! Right? Well, yes, but not without some collateral damage. The adrenaline propelled me up, out and forward. The exhilaration of beginning anew and the pride I regained in pushing through gave me strength. Eventually I found my way and even thrived.
Great ending, except the story isn’t over. To keep my optimism alive I also learned to ignore anything remotely resembling a real feeling. This is where the real fun starts. I know this for sure too: Once you give up feelings, you give up feeling. For me, when I gave up feeling in the name of optimism, I went back to the pursuit of perfection and failed almost every time at everything. With each failure at being perfect, I ignored all the areas I was succeeding in. Soon, I was carrying, guilt and shame that I couldn’t just get anything right, my weight, my relationships, my parenting, my job…… in my internal dialogue I wasn’t getting anything right. Insecurity, self-doubt and anxiety ran rampant. I wasn’t even looking to external sources to provide love, acceptance and validation. Living completely in the past or the future, never in the present. Ever the optimist, I began chasing, “what if’s”, “when I get there’s” and my favorite, “let’s get away”.
No matter how great we are doing outwardly, healing this internal collateral damage is an important part of our journey. It doesn’t matter when we start, or how long it takes only that we do it. Feelings and emotions are our guidance system. They keep us real, in alignment with our true self and on the right path. Without feelings, good and bad, there is no path. It’s like being carried into shore and back out again, floating aimlessly on a wave. No control, no forward momentum, just forward and backward. Over and over again.
My optimism is still serving me and because I never gave up and never gave in and I found a path to cleaning up the old damage that resonates. I am slowly peeling open the onion of detached, non-emotion I have cultivated for so long and am starting to explore the nooks and crannies that hold locked away feelings and emotions. Finally open to feeling what makes me uncomfortable to make room and let in what feels good. The mission is joy. I have learned so many beautiful things in the past year. I have grown, I have expanded, my heart has opened, I have softened. I have been exposed to so many new things, I have leaned in, said yes more, been less fearful, left a lot of insecurity and anxiety behind me. I’ve also learned that the practice of expecting more, becoming more, loving more, laughing more, feeling more, never ends. This is not a race. We can never get it wrong and it is never over. Yet, I am impatient.
Despite being a veritable walking encyclopedia on the art of allowing and despite publishing to a fun and inspirational Instagram account, I find myself floundering. Constantly and consistently sharing what I am learning, passing on inspiration and generally being of good cheer, makes me truly happy. I sincerely hope that what I am sharing resonates with my tribe, yet, I am still bobbing on the tide. How do I really give up control? To ride the ride for all that it is worth? To really settle in, give it up to the Universe, trust myself and ride the wave all the way to shore to continue on my journey? By seeking and being honest about my barriers and breaking them down. One by one. This is my work.
The truth is, we are love. When we engage in breaking down barriers to love and have unconditional love for ourselves and others, there is no room in life for anything other than love. Fear based positions of protection, anxiety rooted in self-doubt and judgement fade away. The result is freedom. Wild, unfettered freedom. Freedom to be who we really are, freedom from worrying about what others think, freedom to relax, unwind, be creative and play. Freedom to experience miracles.