A friend called me up today to see how I was doing in the aftermath of my bolt from school. She is a new enough friend that I wasn’t entirely sure which lens she was rotating to get me into focus. She is also a self-proclaimed type-A and I know she recognizes the same in me; someone who finds it hard to accept failure, especially by one’s own hand. Perhaps this was the sympathy call to acknowledge that failure and to participate in giving the required fifty lashes for not having known something before it could even be known. I braced myself. I am good at the fifty lashes thing, no help needed, thank you very much. Maybe because of that, I almost missed the sincerity of the question. You see, she has been on her own path of recovery from self-inflicted perfectionism and the simple fact is that she was wondering how I was doing in the way a recovering alcoholic wonders about a kindred soul. She was wondering whether I needed a leg up. I probably do.
I am not myself. But really, I am pretty darned glad about that. I don’t want to be myself — that self. The one who thinks worthiness is tied to what I am doing or becoming or contributing and the extent to which external forces measure the value of that. Letting go of that creates quite an energy vortex though. I think she knows that. I think she is living in her own version of such an energy vortex. She told me a story, meant to be funny, about riding. She is learning about such things, which in and of itself is a noble act because it comes from her intention to be close to her partner who is a horse person. She told me about how they went on an evening trail ride to leave behind a stressful day and how the ride out was magical, but the ride home was anything but. There is something about pointing a horse’s nose homeward that changes everything. The part meant to be funny is that she described it as if they were drunken sailors, weaving up one embankment and down another — the byproduct of the horse wanting to take charge of heading home and her wanting to curtail his urges.
Yeah, that. A beautiful life lesson plopped in my lap. Right now, I — or at least the dominant part of my mind — is that horse. It is well-programmed and it wants to take me home along the familiar route. Straight there, as a matter of fact. No need to admire the scenery. It doesn’t want to process the experiences of the past year. It just wants to go back to where and when it was nice and safe and familiar. Wish I could. But no, I am the new rider, the one trying to take charge, to set a new course and pace for where we are going. It ain’t pretty. That whole drunken sailor thing is full-on at work here. I am up one embankment and down another. The reins are in my hands, but god help me if you try to discern where I am going by the path I am taking. At least right now.
I wanted to become something that was notable in its intention to be present for others. A counselor. A therapist. Let me help you on your journey. But my own damn journey got in the way. That was terribly shattering and also no longer surprising. Once cancer happened, nothing can ever really be surprising. I wanted to be worthy, to feel worthy before I died. To have something worthy to write in my obituary that wasn’t from years ago, but right now. I thought that worthiness was out there. It’s what I have always believed. But this premise, once the engine that powered me, now fatigues me in a deep interior place. I don’t want to do something to be worthy. I just want to be me and have that be enough. I want it to be okay to make mistakes, to try something and fail, to try something and not feel that, unless it is a success, it is nothing. I want to ride the horse home like a drunken sailor and feel proud of how brave that actually is.
I have broken my own heart enough. So I have created a new lens to look through, the worthy lens. Here’s how it works, which is simple: Everything I see, everything I have in my life, every dream that I have, no matter how fleeting, reflects my worthiness — right here, right now, ongoing worthiness. Let me show you the beauty of this with sheer randomness. For example, I am writing this while seated at the computer in the family room. I am never alone. Here is the view to my left:
You know how I feel about Marco and Sophie and I am worthy enough to be flock to them. I am worthy of being held in their presence and to be kept safe from harm, to the best of their abilities.
And here is the view to my right:
Molly and Maizey were unexpected gifts from god, each one in their own time and place. I did not know we needed more love in our lives, yet here they are; dog number six and dog number seven; rescues in the “who rescued who” way that you ever refer to to an animal, rescued and, yes, I am worthy of them.
Then there is this:
Donkeys do not find just anyone worthy and I have three, yes three of them in my life who say I’m not such a bad deal. So there.
Finally, there is this.
Now, that is a massively big way to make an impression on someone’s sense of worthiness – send a UPS semi to deliver the goods. You see, in my moping sadness about walking away from school, Gordy took me to a quilt show in Daytona Beach and made me try the longarm quilting machines, you know, just for the fun of it. I explained to him in meticulous ways that I was not yet worthy of such a fine thing. He begged to differ and persisted and now, well, the truck speaks for itself. A longarm quilting machine! Seriously. I am not worthy. But wait — let me adjust my new lens and with disbelief I must say that I am, in fact, worthy because here it is.
This cluster of boxes is going to morph into the most fabulous beast of a machine and be welcomed home to my room, the place where I retreat to find another part of myself, the part that uses my hands and my heart to make beautiful things. I am completely overwhelmed and thoroughly delighted. It is horribly incongruent but I can live with that. Somehow, this is all going to work out right. Somehow, I will find myself back on the trail telling a funny story about remember when I was weaving around like a drunken sailor? And I will laugh about it because, dammit I am still on the horse. We are all still on the horse. We are all still riding forward in the best way we know how in the moment. There is deep and utter worthiness in that.