My friend Hillary pointed out this song in her beautifully written post (CLICK). Alanis was part of my formative years but somehow I had missed this particular song. I had a listen and was struck by the lyrics.
Growing up surrounded by various versions of christianity, grace was preached. Repentance and forgiveness were repeated daily themes. Yet, the conversations, the pressure, the sermons, the judgment disguised in prayer or in rebuking a fellow "sister" insinuated the exact opposite. I was a sensitive soul so this did not go unnoticed and while it had it's affects, I was also lucky that I grew up with a bit of a princess complex. I was very loved at home, adored by those who chose to love me, and felt (even when I had a belief in God in that way) that I was also un boundlessly loved by my "creator." Thus, I was luckily unscathed by most of this hypocrisy in theology. However, many of my friends were not. Unfortunately, because of strong beliefs, I unwittingly contributed to this at times even while trying to help. We don't realize how indoctrinated our speech can be until we have stepped out of our boxes. It's taken me years to get certain automatic phrases out of my vocabulary and still I tend to sound like a typical christian which is fine if I was one but this does not fully encompass my essence.
I was often preached to be "part of the world but not OF it." That the world had all these horrid consumerism, materialistic, evil, awful pressures and that christians were exempt from a lot of this because of choices to abstain and "Gods covering grace." What I have found is the opposite. Now fully immersed in what is considered a "pagan" lifestyle I have found grace. Yes, I admit that the world CAN be materialistic, evil and there is a huge pressure to consume, but there was in the christian sphere too. Instead of celebrities it was Michael W. Smith, Amy Grant and worship music (This post really dates me, doesn't it?) Instead of buying "wordly" clothes we bought clothes with ripped off captions and plagiarized sayings. Or with pretentious phrases like, "Love them, don't judge them" which were ironically judgy in and of themselves. I digress. So we were "set apart from the world" with our little ways of working around the system while ironically being a duplicate copy in a different form while still believing we were "good."
I remember many in my circle having massive secret self esteem issues. Made worse by the fact that if God loved them, they were not supposed to have self esteem issues. God was always supposed to be enough. If you believed in God and were suffering depression or an illness ect, different sects of christianity would have different fixes, judgments or verses or prayers to complicate the matter.
I think the hardest stage for us was when we were stepping out of this. The first few years of our transition we were on the edges and we felt really annoyed by those "conservative, fundamentalist" christians who gave "the rest of us" a bad name. But years later, fully stepping out, we realized the issues became clearer, the grace was abundant, and life was less confusing. It probably helped that we didn't give a flying @#$@. When you are out of it, you care about love, but it doesn't bother as much when someone is fundamentalist or too Calvinist or too Evangelical or too Anglican or too whatever....eventually it's the same fabric but a different colour. You don't care when someone accuses you of being selfish...because you know your worth, that you have love, and you also admit to selfishness both for growth and life enhancement. Each one has beauty and each one has a bit of corruption too. Suddenly everyone is on the same playing field. And if something bothers you about it you can challenge it without it triggering much emotion, ignore, or focus on what is compatible between you and the other person. Suddenly everyone is enough. Suddenly everyone is both beautiful and brutal, including one's own self.
The secret I discovered was that I was still good. I was good enough. The following lyrics are by Alanis Morisette and underneath are my experiences with each;
"That I would be good even if I did nothing."
Where I grew up, deeds were everything. You knew a person by "the fruit they bear." Outward appearances, servitude, a good attitude...these were all things prized to show the God who may be. This pressure was especially tough on women. I remember most mother's day services were about the Proverbs 31 woman. I was asked to bake pies for events even though I did not bake. When I said as much they told me I was on the list and it was how a woman contributed to the health of the church and since I was a member it was important to do. Since I had young kids at the time I was already overwhelmed but my husband was quite conservative in those days so he pressured me to bake the pie. I went to the local store and bought one. Money that should have gone to our babies. A small example of what was asked of us on a regular basis. I was told I was only something if I accepted God. I was nothing without belief. I was told I was a lowly sinner, worthless, and the most selfish creature but all is redeemed through the Lord. Obviously, for a time I bought that. So thankful I do not anymore. Admittingly this was only one subtype of christianity and for most of my life I was luckily a member of a more generous orthodoxy of christian thought. However, the other strong voice in the community was constant "accountability" and never peace. Never good enough. Always watching your brothers and sisters and "lovingly" rebuking them in the name of Christ.
Stepping out of that addictive pace of "doing" was really tough on my spirit. At first I thought I was not good if I did nothing about most things. Now I am sick and some days consist of nothing. Yet I know I am still good enough. I am still worthy. My children and husband still love me. Even if they did not, within whom I am, doing nothing, I am still good.
"That I would be good even if I got the thumbs down,"
Being an outspoken writer occasionally has given me opportunities for definite thumbs down. I have had practice with disagreements, challenges and opinions on my character. The perspective I have chosen is that I was once one of these people who judge me. I was once in a completely different mindset. Also, being out of it, I realize how much it does not matter. We all have our own path...let's let one another walk. The beauty is often in the mistakes. We need to allow each other to make them. We can support, challenge or have a neat discussion...in the end though, even if I may adamantly disagree, I have realized that the beauty of my freedom is that they get to have theirs. Even if I may believe it is damaging to the world or myself. They need to be on their own path. The thumbs down or disapproval to me means that I am just part of the world. We all will have people who approve and disapprove and if I am living for the thumbs up I am not truly living my own life.
"That I would be good if I got and stayed sick"
This is probably one of the hardest lines for me. I had to gulp for a minute and ask myself, "Am I good enough being sick and staying sick?" The beauty in illness is what it teaches. There is a lot of brutal too. I have tried different cures, lifestyles, mentalities, spiritualities, and practices. Some helped heal while others have managed a few symptoms, yet here I am, still spending days in bed or in pain. Am I good enough? I prefer to view this one through the eyes of a child. The other day my daughter was listening to "Mom" by Meghan Trainer. Her eyes filled up within the first line and she grabbed me tightly, "That is how I feel about you mom. You are my best friend and I love who you are. Nobody has a mom like mine." Awwwww. I replied, "Even when I can't do anything for you sometimes or be a typical mom?" She smiled, "I especially like it when your mad. You are hilarious. I like that you can be real and how you are... makes me feel good about everything. Even the bad things." I was blown away. My daughter takes the brunt of our household work when I am sick. She sometimes is MY caretaker so the fact that she said that meant loads more. I am good enough even though my body is broken. (See side label Anemia for more on this)
"That I would be good even if I gained ten pounds"
I have been there, done that and have gained ten pounds again. Before I was fifty pounds "overweight" and for years I tried many healthy eating habits and exercises until one day I went off gluten. Within three months it just melted off. But three years after eating healthy and fresh an extra ten pounds is back. In fact, I walk more and do more healthy things than ever before. Sometimes weight just happens. Due to lack of sleep, disease, or life. The first time this happened I was devastated. I felt so yucky. Luckily, I did not lose weight until I learned to accept my weight, otherwise I would have missed out on some of the beauty of being "overweight". What I have a tougher time with now is just the adjusting to fluctuations and the reasons why. An awesome song that helps me whenever I have body issues is Meghan Trainor's cheesy "Me too." Because we should all want to be whom we are. Anything less seems like a sad way to spend life. And I was one of those girls who wished I was Jennifer Lopez. But I have so many things Jenny from the block (lol) doesn't have...and she has many I don't have. We both have beautiful live's with strife and beauty. What is the point of wanting more? I have written about body image more in depth HERE and HERE. I have gained ten pounds. I am good enough. I am still my essence. Anyone who can't see that can walk.
"That I would be fine even if I went bankrupt"
We have ALMOST been here too. Years ago we were advised to go bankrupt. We actually didn't but those two years were hell. See THIS post for more. Money is a tough issue. To be honest, I don't know if I would have said I was enough during these years. It felt like we were operating continually from a place of lack. Money runs deep and our beliefs regarding. We don't know until we are searching the couch for basic needs or purchasing that diamond ring without a second thought, how ingrained our money issues are and how they add to our value. I had friends who did go bankrupt and looking back said it was the best thing that happened to them though hard at the time. We live and learn. It's hard but even still, within finances, good or bad, the important attribute is that we are still fine within ourselves.
"That I would be good if I lost my hair and my youth"
Living with chronic illness and an old soul makes youth relative. Sometimes I act WAY younger than my age and feel like I am getting younger while getting older (CLICK) while other days I feel like I am way older than most of my decade old friends. Body wise, I don't hold up to my peers. I have to guard my time and schedule like a banshee just to be stable. I have lost my hair. Contrary to those with luscious locks understand, losing hair truly can bring on a crisis. Click HERE, HERE and HERE for more on that topic. What I have found? While sometimes it is important to fake it to make it (CLICK) acceptance is crucial. Hair loss has provided an opportunity to rethink social constructs, sexuality, and soul work and put them into a larger perspective. I am good enough.
"That I would be great if I was no longer queen"
Yea...I get this on so many levels. I am queen in my house. I love it and it would suck to lose that adoration and love, but there was the year our marriage was on the brink of divorce and I resented my children. There was that year when no one seemed to like me and I didn't know if I liked anyone either. I wondered if I would survive my love lost. Yet during that time I discovered crucial truths to being. I found comfortability in being anonymous. That was the time I learned that I do not need anyone to even remember me if I die because I am just a part of the world. That is everything and nothing. I found a strange peace in that. I was great within nothingness.
"That I would be grand if I was not all knowing"
I had a lot of answers when I was an evangelical christian. I was brought up with arguments and verses to back them up. The Bible was my ultimate authority. Now, while interesting, that book does not hold any sort of authority over me at all. Our years of adjusting from something telling us everything to everything open to interpretation were gut wrenching. Having more questions than answers seemed more than unsettling. In fact, we went through a couple existential crises as a family and as individuals. Now, I have a few more answers for myself again but for about five years everything was open to interpretation. The answers I have now are also open to growth and perspective. In my childhood, I had learned I was nothing without the Lord. That I was all but a wretched sinner with nothing but the blood of Jesus to atone for me. How terrifying was it to slowly question that and to unravel all my previous answers to life. Those were tough, tough years made tougher by those trying to convince us to be blind. Yet in not knowing we found a grand grace.
"That I would be loved even when I numb myself"
I'm human. Which means I will sometimes numb myself. Being an INFJ means that I abstain from most addictions but I would be lying to myself if I did not admit to my vices. I use music, chocolate, sex, sleep, decorating and purchasing to avoid feeling some darker things sometimes. All of which are good things in moderation. I am not a judger of individual people even though I DO judge social movements. Thus I do not often judge myself but if I am going to be tough on someone, it will most likely be myself first. I used to think I was such an underdog when I gave in to a numbing behaviour. Now I realize I am still loved by my husband when I do. I have that grace and acceptance. I am loved despite needing to escape sometimes.
"That I would be good even when I am overwhelmed"
Living with sensory overload (CLICK and CLICK and CLICK) mean that my life is often overwhelming. As my posts mention, I have learned to manage some of this and accept the rest. In my essence, I am good even when I am overwhelmed.
"That I would be loved even when I was fuming"
Ha! Well, it doesn't happen often that I am fuming but cranky? Yup. Plus I am passionate. My husband calls me his little spitfire. I know I am loved...especially when I am mad. My husband, for some reason, gets a kick out of me when I am angry. He says I am terrifying but also humorous. This is good for me. Because of my upbringing I was the toughest on my temper. I was always trying to stifle anger instead of honouring it and using it appropriately. My husband's love of my anger has taught me more about using it appropriately than any denial ever could. My children also seem to think I am funny when I am fuming...and believe me when I say, I am dead serious in those moments, but they dissolve it quickly with their acceptance. They have taught me how to also love them when they are angry...and allow them to BE and express.
"That I would be good even if I was clingy"
I am fiercely independent. But I am also clingy. That paradox factor again. It depends on the person involved. Usually I prefer my space, but if I get particularly attached for some reason I can be quite clingy. I have had to work on boundaries in the past. However, even if I AM clingy sometimes I am still good. We all are "too clingy" or "too independent" at various stages of life but within this, we are still good enough. We are still worthy of being human as we are.
"That I would be good even if I lost sanity"
Lol...sometimes I feel I have lost my sanity and perhaps I have? Having a different wiring plus a personality that can be opposite of said wiring can make for some interesting complexities. Sometimes I look at people eating and feel like I am watching some alien ritual. I think people should poop skittles instead of feces and it baffles me that this can't be the case. I find most cultural traditions bonkers. But I suppose in general my sanity could sometimes be questioned. But I am still good. As the Cheshire Cat answered, "Mad, completely bonkers, but let me tell you a secret...all the best people are." Sometimes I envy the completely insane. And sometimes I think that they have more things right than wrong. It's like the Matrix or Adjustment Bureau of the brain. Whose to say what is real? I often feel like Alice in Wonderland. Except everything normal is Wonderlandy to me. Without sanity we ARE still.
That I would be good, whether with or without you.."
This is a tough one. None of us like to be completely alone. I thrive on being alone but I would still be devastated without those I love. I have had to learn though, that completely on my own, I am still good enough. No one else can define, make my choices or BE me. That is up to me. It has to be enough.
Song Choices: That I would be Good- Alanis Morissette, The Last Resort- The Eagles