Last week I posted a note about God winks – those unexplained coincidences which occur for no apparent reason, but offer hidden gifts.
Well I had another this morning and it was life altering. Here’s what happened. I discovered that I had an overdue library book, so I rushed up to the public library to pay my fine and pick up a delicious new murder mystery. On the way out I stopped by the “freeby table” where folks leave their old magazines and unwanted books.
I spotted a book by John Bradshaw entitled “Healing the shame that binds you.” Something MADE me pick up the book and bring it home. Perhaps I was feeling shame because I’ve basically done nothing with my life since I retired. A pervasive sense of guilt and longing for something more has been dogging my steps.
Home again, I sat down with the book. Immediately it fell open to page 159. I began to read.
“Understanding the distinction between being and doing is one of the great learnings of my life,” wrote Bradshaw. “I tried so hard to achieve and do better and better. But no matter what I did, I still felt that deep sense of defectiveness that is the mark of internalized shame. Saying I love myself for whatever (reason) is a powerful counteraction to the voice of shame. But saying, ‘I accept myself unconditionally’ can transform our lives.”
That paragraph brought tears to my eyes. I had been a human doing rather than a human being all my life – giving myself brownie points for good deeds done and pitchforks for not doing enough.
Bradshaw reminded me that until we learn to love and accept ourselves unconditionally, we can never find our genuine humanity or even lasting change. “I’ll never lose 15 pounds by continually shaming myself,” he wrote. “Every time we compare ourselves or put ourselves down with a negative label, we start a shame spiral which sets us up to eat more as a way to mood alter the pain of the shame.
“If you decide to love yourself you will be willing to give yourself time and attention,” he stated. “The work of love involves giving yourself time.”
“Do you take time for proper rest and relaxation or do you drive yourself unmercifully? If you’re willing to love and accept yourself unconditionally, you will allow yourself time to just be. You will set times when there’s nothing you have to do and nowhere you have to go. You will allow yourself solitude, a nourishing time of aloneness. ”
I needed to hear all this in the worst way. It suddenly dawned on me that this time in my life can be the most fertile, rewarding and productive period in my life. But I have work to do. I’m taking myself on a date for a long hike in the woods. I bet you a dollar there will be more God winks waiting for me when I get there. I’ll let you know.