I don’t know how therapists do it. Anytime I hear someone spew their problems, I want to shake them and simultaneously point to a list of step-by-step instructions saying, “here’s exactly what you need to do.” I don’t even know if that gut reaction could be swayed with money (probably not. #sorrynotsorry). All that to say, my counselor is a saint… and a life preserver! But mostly, a saint.
A few days ago, I walked out of her office and into the post-Labor Day sunshine with two sheets of paper – one, a wheel of emotions that aids in finding the root of experiences. Sure, I can talk through an issue for hours, but nothing makes it sink into my brain like a good visual.
I’ve had the wheel sitting on my desk during the week and occasionally I’ll find myself picking it up and tracing over the words the moment I make declarative statements like, “I’m just SO frustrated.” Only to find out, what I’m really feeling in the moment is anger.
As I’m trying to be more mindful with a SNAP practice, I recently took note of a few triggers that surfaced feelings of insignificance, rejection, and worthlessness. Color me SHOCKED when I traced my finger back to the root of all of these: fear.
“This feels wrong,” I admitted. “I’m not really scared of anything.” “But remember when you first came in to see me,” she countered. Of course, I knew what she was referring to: the mask I wear so people never see me sweat.
My mom and I talk quite a bit, but it’s mostly when one of us is driving. On the way home from my session, I called her. I’m never sure how deep anyone wants to dive into psych talk with me, but she asked if I’d had any ‘a-ha’ moments, anyway. “Sort of,” I responded. “I discovered something about myself. I’m just not sure what to do with it yet.”
Although I never feel actively scared, it appears my adult behavior has been crafted around a deep-seated fear of authenticity and vulnerability, and (true to an Enneagram 3) what everyone will think. And here I was feeling like I’d made serious strides after reading The Gifts of Imperfection.
When I closed the last chapter of The Road Back to You, I mostly sat with the feeling of “Cool cool cool. Now what?” I’d only hit the tip of the iceberg, so The Sacred Enneagram felt like the next logical (albeit slightly intimidating) read. There are chapters I’ve had to re-read because they leave me flailing in deep waters and there are other chapters where I go highlight crazy and feel all too seen.
The biggest takeaway over halfway through? We will always feel like beginners in our spiritual journeys. I can make leaps and bounds in knowing more about myself in relation to God today than I did yesterday and, at the same time, feel I know nothing. There’s a certain beauty in the mystery and tension of all this. I wish I could find a clear way to articulate that.
Thankfully, author Christopher L. Heuertz did when he compared this journey to The Wizard of Oz.
It’s a one-way pilgrimage, a lot like Dorothy’s quest to find her way home… once she realizes she can’t get back to Kansas the way she came. And we know pilgrimages don’t end; they merely facilitate new beginnings. This new way of finding our way home is the first of a series of minor deaths to which we must submit. And it can be scary.— The Sacred Enneagram
There’s another piece I read about a pastor who spent the last days of his mother’s life accompanying her and sharing his profound thoughts on their journey:
“Life best lived is lived as a series of losses, a series of deaths. Death is not meant to be a one-time event at the end of life but, rather, a daily experience by which we learn to continually embrace the unknown, step into mystery, and release the need to control.”
Too morbid? I get how some might see it this way. To me though, I think of Romans 5:3-4 where Paul suggests we should glory in suffering because it produces perseverance; and perseverance produces character; and character, hope. In the same light, I recall how James 1:4 advises us to let perseverance finish its work so that we become mature and complete, lacking nothing.
Before I left my counselor’s office she shared how proud of me / excited for me she was, noting my willingness to dive right in. I made a Type 3 joke that I was just trying to check boxes to finish quickly. She started walking away, but not before tossing “it’s a journey…” over her shoulder.
Realistically, perseverance feels like a “left foot, right foot, breathe” situation, but Paul and James sound like smart men to me. Although even in agreement, I have to acknowledge the normalcy for the human condition getting stuck in the ruts the years have carved in our brains.
I still want to be recognized. I still want to be significant. I still want to be loved.
It’s not the feelings attached where the problems come in.
It’s the focus. It’s the motivation.
Fortunately, in the meantime, my family always pulls through. Over the past few weeks, I’ve received unsolicited texts from two of my aunts. I’m not sure what prompted them, but from being on the other side of promptings myself, I’ve learned those nudgings usually come at the most-needed times.
Hopefully, they will warm your heart as they warmed mine.
Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. He is rich who owns the day, and no on owns the day who allows it to be invaded with fret and anxiety. Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities, no doubt crept in. Forget them as soon as you can, tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely, with too high a spirit to be cumbered with your old nonsense. This new day is too dear, with its hopes and invitations, to waste a moment on the yesterdays.— Ralph Waldo Emerson