The Great Cover Up

A flash of light breaks through the clouds of clamour, followed by faint sound – sparking a subtle interest in me.

Dull to most noise, I decide to lend an ear.

Wordless in nature and often ignored, I’m urged to lean in and let go.

A rumble runs its course from stomach, to head, to heart, turning noise into emotion.

Wanting to silence the uproar, I cannot.

I decide I must be-friend the emotion.

Uncertain, even fearful, feelings I’ve held hostage rise like fizzy bubbles, popping as they climb to the surface.

Lament, anger and unresolve simultaneously race to the surface, making it difficult to bear.

Innocent longings are drench in disappointment: What is now grieves what was not. 

Former desires brave heartbreak with hopeful tears that not all is lost.

Healing is having the courage to wade in the muddy waters of the uncomfortable until the waters run clear.

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Whatever You Want

My life is far from perfect but it’s pretty good. I’ve felt shame and the feeling of being trapped before, but nothing prepared me for what I was about to hear from a stranger.

It was late evening on a Saturday night. We were dressed to impress and ready to party. Birthday celebrations were in order: upscale Indian food, a crowded bar filled with other party-goers, and a small dance floor in front of a live band. We reminisced over dinner and later took our kitchen dance moves to a whole new level on an actual dance floor. With busy adult lives, we made sure to soak in every moment. 

As the evening came to a close, our bellies were full and sore from laughter, and we took to the streets of the “big city” for our final walk to our cars. The moon was bright and just shy of being full – perfect conditions for impromptu side-walk conversations along the way. 

As we approached our parked car we were stopped at one of the many busy intersections. A man sitting on the ground slouched against a concrete block, un-showered and holding a beverage of sorts, started up a conversation with my friends: “Do you have money for a smoke? Any spare change? Can I do something for you so you’ll have more time for you’re lady? Anything?” They bantered back and forth for a bit, but what came out of this man’s mouth next hit the deepest cord in my consciousness. 

“I’ll be your slave. I’ll do whatever you want for 5 dollars.” 

Unable to express my shock and sorrow, I swallowed my sadness in that moment.

In a free country where we have the privilege to an education, health care, social services and work opportunities, this man identified himself as a slave, willing to do ‘whatever’ for 5 bucks. Even if it was addiction talking, no human being should feel that he or she is worthless – a slave to another. 

This man did not see himself as an equal to my friend. He viewed himself as less than human. Worthless. To be used. Overcome with the need to numb his pain, addiction was traded for any sense of his self-worth. His worthlessness, I’m sure, wasn’t something that just happened overnight. One negative thought, one broken moral promise and one more line he swore he would never cross, until he’d do ‘anything’ for 5 dollars. 

My belly was full and my heart was happy, but the world isn’t all about my satisfaction. God directed my attention to a man who felt worthless. A man that I shared my humanity with. A man that I did nothing to help, other than empathize with and pray for. A man that reminded me that I am his equal and I too have felt the way he has felt (to some degree)…

My experience was not unlike what a wise man who spent his last years walking the same streets I walked that night, “…that only by entering into communion with human suffering can relief be found.” – Henri Nouwen 

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“The rich and the poor shake hands as equals – God made them both!” Proverbs 22:2 MSG

“You’re Fine.”

“You’re fine!”

As red spots appeared all over my skin I replied with, “No, I’m  not! This happens every night.”

“Look, it’s going to get better!”

I stood there, unable to convince my audience that it’s not a matter of attitude but a medical reality. As the red spots rapidly raised my skin into amass of hives, I felt defeated on two accounts: first, the hives are taking over. Second, being misunderstood and muted.

“You’re fine!” is a response I’ve heard far too many times in my life. To my uneasiness, I always reply with, “I’m fine! It’s okay!” all the while knowing that it is not what I genuinely feel or think. I get it, “You’re fine!” is supposed to snap you out of negative thinking and, in a weird way, encourage you. Heck, I’m just as guilty of using “You’re fine!” as a dose of medicine to the worried. What else can you say?

It’s only recent that I realized how ignorant, “You’re fine!” can feel. Through personal reflection I’ve discovered that when I hear, “You’re fine!” what I really hear is, “Ignore your gut-response, stuff your emotions in a tickle-trunk and don’t speak of it anymore.” I’m cautiously navigating through the years of socially-appropriate agreement, “Yes, I’m fine!” by asking myself, “Am I truly fine?” 

I’m doing this by learning to trust the gut-response. It’s the “Wait! Something isn’t right here!” kind of sensation. I have the right to feel angry, upset, sad, disappointed, and so on. The gut-response initializes action in one of three ways: ignore, react or plan. Ignore is the ‘I’m fine!’ pill you swallow. React is impulsive and seeks immediate gratification, usually in the form of vengeance or wallowing. Plan is I will feel and I will decide.

The next time I hear, “You’re fine!” I won’t be quick to glaze over my feelings or the feelings of others. I will get better at listening and simply ‘being-present.’ I will ask, “What is needed?” and “What is the best way to move forward?” 

There’s no pretending “I’m fine!” when I’m covered head-to-toe with amass of ever-spreading hives. No matter how much positive self-talk or hearing the words, “You’re fine! It will get better!” A good cry and silent comfort from loved ones is the best medicine. I know someday I will be fine but pretending it’s fine right now is a lie and a revolt to what I’m genuinely feeling. I will feel and I will decide.

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“let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;” James 1:19b

 

Revealed

After a soupy late-August heatwave, the peaceful morning brought promise of a perfectly sunny day with a much desired breeze. Half-way through my morning walk with Winston (my furry friend), he paused to give a specific patch of grass a thorough sniff. My tendency most days is to tell him, “Come on! You’ve already sniffed every blade of grass in the neighbourhood. Let’s get on with it!” 

Learning to slow down is a constant discipline. This was one of those moments I was practicing pace and welcoming reflection. Paused by my friend with paws I detected something quite out of place. In a ripened sea of green grass I spotted a thin fleck of soft cream colour. At first I thought to myself, “Could this be a sign of fall?” Perplexed by the possibility that a lone cream-coloured leaf drifted so far from its mother tree was troubling. While my dog was busy sniffing around, I had to get a closer look. As I bent down, the ‘leaf’ twittered as if wind was blowing, though there was no other evidence of wind. Gripping to a blade of grass making subtle but very elegant movement, I discovered a beautifully delicate butterfly camouflaged as a leaf. 

I grinned with gratitude as I welcomed the hidden treasure. Hidden treasures are nature’s gift to us, and within them can be revealing truth. I have found more often that God uses these moments to teach me. 

As the pup and I continued on our walk, leaving behind the petite butterfly in a deep sea of green grass, I thought to myself, “Why would such an elegant insect disguise itself as a common leaf?” To this I quickly answered, “to avoid harm of course.” Sadly, hidden for fear of harm the petite butterfly also hides its beauty. 

At the end of our walk, I continued on with my day all the while pondering the significance of this early morning exchange with nature. Days later, it came to me: When out of my element, to the passer-by I am disguised to avoid harm. But to those who are willing to lean in and look closer, I reveal my true vulnerable self. They see me not as what I try to avoid but as who I truly am.

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“If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.”  – Proverbs 29:18 MSG

 

 

Treasures Traded

I woke up sleepy but rested. It’s a fresh start. Although my day-to-day has seen only minor changes, I have a new perspective on life. The classic, perfectly-painted life now looks more like multidimensional abstract art.

Today, I’ve embraced my life as a perfectly messy art-form. It’s beautiful because it’s my journey. I’ve re-discovered the simple treasures I lost while trying to paint the perfect life. What a lie that is! And what an ongoing battle to fight! These treasures, hidden by my own blind eyes were always there. They beckoned me, but I ignored their voice. My body was too weathered with stress and those treasures were luxuries – not necessities. One more thing my burdened soul couldn’t balance. 

Today, I’ve humbly traded my classic art piece for time. It came at the cost of my pride and position, but essential for survival. Frantic mornings have turned into a soothing routine of gratitude. Tiny kisses on my nose coupled with a rapidly wagging tail, “Good morning! I must charge the morning by announcing this yard is mine and I’m awake!” A pressed and poured Americano in a hand-picked mug, each sip a memory from where the mug was purchased. A rooster mug from Portugal. A turtle mug from Aruba. A turquoise and white-striped mug – a gift from a special family. Time has allowed for reflection, and with it, knowledge. When life speeds up, my route must be reset. I pull off the speedway and make my way down a scenic road. The natural life – the green, gold and blues – seep into me, revitalizing my soul. 

Time is a choice of focus. Shifting focus, shifts time. 

Today, I woke up sleepy but rested. I gaze beyond the picture perfect life to fully appreciate the perfectly messy art-form – the place where time is stilled and treasures dwell.

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Connecting Roots

The storm clouds have dissipated,

Cooled by the steady downpour of tears.

The thundering crashes and jolting bolts have refrained,

Hushed by vigilant discernment and practice.

 

A calm so bold and boisterous has settled in,

Stabilizing unassuming weather patterns.

With my feet securely planted in the soil,

I am in-touch with my roots.

 

My toes, arches and heels extend deep into the dirt, 

Connecting me to memory after memory after memory.

 

My toes wiggle playfully in the soil,

Jogging my memory of joyful times.

I smile. 

 

My heels dig deep into the dirt,

Uncovering the rocky hard-to-handle memories.

I tense up.

 

As my arches press firmly into the soil,

I watch the dirt spill over the tops of my feet.

The joyful and hard-to-handle are harmoniously bridged.

 

My feet: toes, arches and heels are grounded in the soil,

Connecting me to all that is me.

My roots: past, both fond and “rather forgotten” 

are the life-sustaining lessons needed for growth.

 

The storm clouds have dissipated.

My feet have sunk steadily into the warm wet earth, 

Fastening me with my roots, 

Preparing me for new growth.

 

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Copyright: thesoulwhispersblog

 

Smile

I spoke in a calm tone. My face made its natural gestures. Like a stern teacher, her eyes squinted glaring right at me. She shook her head in disappointment as she spoke. “You’re smiling!” she said in disapproval. Confused, I asked her to clarify. I didn’t think I was smiling. This was my natural appearance. “I think you’re afraid to feel anger.”

Silence.

I sat there shocked into very deep reflection and later walked away feeling frustrated for smiling. 

Was I afraid of anger? 

Chaos, yelling, screaming, closed-ears, tears, slamming doors and walking away from loved ones is how I see anger. To me, anger is the most unproductive way of handling a problem. This type of anger generates more problems and creates more of a disconnect between people. It is someone viciously trying to get his/her voice heard by someone not willing to hear them. Afraid of anger? I placed anger in the unproductive category long ago. 

Sure, I’ve felt anger. We all feel anger when we think we’ve been mistreated, over-looked or stressed out. My ‘kind’ of anger happens while I’m removed from what made me angry in the first place. It’s, “I can’t believe this happened. Why would anyone do that?” My ‘kind’ of anger is a civil conversation trying to re-iterate my reasoning in hopes to get the person to see something from my perspective. My ‘kind’ of anger is, ”Is this really worth getting angry over?”

Am I afraid of anger? Maybe. No one likes an angry person. Angry people are mean and hurtful and down right grumps. In my experience, angry people seem to be the ones with the most hurt. Anger is their fortress that keeps others from seeing their hurts. 

So how do I view anger as a normal emotion when my idea of anger is not so pretty? I like smiles and pretty things-not the ugly angry grumps. 

To me, anger is not a gentle feather emotion. It is a raging bear emotion. Anger is the ‘red flag’ emotion warning you that something is not right. Anger sounds its alarm when your dignity is trampled on, when you’ve been mistreated and when someone crosses a line. Anger is a motivator. It reminds me that I have rights, needs and worth. It’s a boarding call to move on. This ‘kind’ of anger I am not afraid of.

Anger is a warning sign for justice-not the seed you plant in your soul. 

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Failed To Listen

The soul whispers, but I failed to listen. It’s ironic, naming my blog ‘The Soul Whispers’ when I forgot how to listen…maybe it’s not that I forgot so much as I wasn’t ready to hear what my soul had to say.

I like to think that I’m that tough, rugged, All-Terrain Vehicle that can plough through anything, all the while looking flawless. I pride myself in appearing to have it altogether. I thought that I could do it all and with grace, patience and success – not perfect, but pretty close to it! I thought I could take care of my loved one’s needs, be a good friend, manage a household and have endless amounts of patience, wisdom and achievement at work. I failed to recognize what I was working with. 

Over the past few years my ‘fuel’ was being used up at rapid rate. So much so that even when I stopped to ‘fill-up’ no amount could push the needle to ‘F’. With my engine perpetually running at near-full throttle, I quickly drained the fuel dry. I needed fuel to survive the demands placed on me. Needing to go on, I stripped away layers of my empty tank until it was rusted and unfit for fuel. I had nothing to work with. I was forced out of the race and sidelined.

I had given it all. Here, in the mud, I could finally listen to my soul…to be honest, even then I struggled to listen to my soul. I never realized how hard it was to give yourself permission to slow down and to let go. 

We pride ourselves in having it altogether because we think that somehow having it altogether bring us fulfillment. My tough, rugged All-Terrain Vehicle that flawlessly ploughed through everything is useless without its tank and fuel. It took me the hard way to learn that I don’t have to have it altogether. I forgot how to listen. I didn’t think it was okay to pay attention to my own needs. I am learning to tend to the whisper within. Its gentle sound repairs my soul. 

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My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion. Psalm 73:26

 

Cashed In

When I put myself last I suffered a great loss.

At the start, I happily gave bits and pieces of myself away. The takers received them, unknowing that I was gradually emptying inside. Everyone knows you’re responsible for your own well-being. It’s assumed that if you ‘give’ you have the cash to spend. I had the cash to spend (and even replenished) as it was traded in for love, friendship, order and a “job well-done.” Life was good when I had cash flow…but somewhere along the way the demands increased. The cost of living became higher than my salary could afford. I was robbed of a fair deal, and my lenders took and took and took. I stayed. I let it happen. I thought I was smarter than that. I’ve always been wise with my money…but I still had to meet my demands.

Not realizing my infinite value, I was spending money I didn’t have. What is one to do when you have debt to pay and no cash to pay for it? I now understand that my well-being is costly to replace, and the debt I had incurred would take months to replace and take even more work than what it took when I first gave it away.

When someone requires more than you can afford, leave! Never give gold to the greedy.

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Unearthed

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My outer guard cracked as the inner voice intensified.

Nothing a little glue couldn’t fix.

Demanding to be heard, the surface cracked once more.

Nothing a little glue couldn’t fix.

Uprising in revolt, its current surged my body undoing all its working parts,

shaking my outer guard.

Nothing a little glue couldn’t fix.

Accelerating in anger, the tremor from inside ruptures the outer guard.

Heard with an intense cry, the inner voice screamed, “Listen!”

Nothing, not even a little glue could fix.