I mentioned on The Way of the River Facebook Community Group page last week that I’ve been listening to Sara Bareilles’s “Brave” quite a lot of late. Also Mary Lambert, Beyoncé, and Pink, come to think of it.
All of these artists, as well as some people in my “micropreneur” communities have been reminding me that “my brave,” “my freak,” and “my weird” are strengths. Your brave, your freak, your weird are strengths, my friends, strengths. Sara Bareilles’s people dancing in the streets and the library are expressing that the big brave is strength.
As Mary Lambert says, “I’ve got bipolar disorder / My shit’s not in order… / They tell us from the time we’re young / To hide the things that we don’t like about ourselves, / Inside ourselves…. / I don’t care if the world knows what my secrets are!”
They are strengths, the strange, freaky, weird, geeky, dorky parts of our selves we’ve been told to keep secret are also can contain superpowers we can lean into. Superpowers to get us toward knowing our own Deepest, Wisest Selves, and living the outside life that we most long for.
Nonetheless, we–at least I–spend so many life hours worrying about how our weird makes us not belong. And belonging is a human need. So it makes sense that we worry. The prospect of conjuring weird, freaky bravery can remind me of being picked last for kickball, over and over again. It can remind me of people who were “friends” with me outside of school but who didn’t talk to me in the hallways between high school classes.
But I also know that a small-fat woman rocking out on the dance floor gave other people permission to come out under the lights. I know that telling people that being fat is a complex issue for me helps them talk about their struggles. I know that talking about how some part of me still thinks my sexual assaults were my own fault means that others feel less alone in their journey.
Crazy, Fat, Queer, Minister Priestess?
I know that for me, coming out as a minister with mental illness (what a dear friend with the same diagnosis called “batshit crazy”) has transformed my ministry. Not only that, but I acknowledge that treatment for that illness also changed my relationship with the Divine… well that was a biggy. Treatment, meds, therapy, a focus on steady routines — it all came together to save my life.
And it didn’t flatten my affect. It didn’t make me a zombie. It did make me safer.
But in becoming safer–as well as in growing older–I also lost some of the ways the world had seemed to glitter with glory (when I wasn’t bleakly depressed). It’s a complicated thing to give up in favor of all the rest that I got.
Just admitting that I miss it felt really brave, really vulnerable, like I was breaking some unspoken rules about who and how I was supposed to be as a spiritual leader.
And the blog posts that I wrote about those things–about fat and about mental illness–have been the ones that have people sit up and say, Whoa, this woman is real. Real, wounded, healed, hurting, and healing some more.
I’m feeling as though there is some new brave coming on. There’s something I can hear calling my name in the distance, or just barely waking me up out of a deep sleep like Samuel. I haven’t said yes yet, because I’m not sure what the question is. One of the things I learned from those of you who took Making Hard Choices: The Art of Discernment is that finding the right question is at least as important as finding the answer.
And so, in closing this week’s Reflections, I offer that quotation that may already be spinning in some of your heads. It’s from Rilke’s Letters to A Young Poet: “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”
Here’s to the brave, freaky, weird questions that will lead to even braver answers! There’s a thread on the Facebook Community Group about this, as I mentioned. Feel free to join in and tell us about how big your brave is!
Blessings on you and on your house–
Coming into the Dark with Me
Sometimes you just a need a break. Sometimes it feels as though if you do take a break, everything will fall apart.
I want to tell you a little story about that. I’ve heard that when Bishop Desmond Tutu was in the thick of his work in the struggle against white apartheid in South Africa, he took two days every month to go away into retreat.
Every month he did this. Month in and month out this Anglican bishop took himself away for rest, renewal, and contemplation, sometimes in silence and sometimes in community. One day, a friend in the struggle asked him, “How can you leave us every month?!” The friend didn’t understand how Bishop Tutu could do what seemed like leaving the struggle every month.
“If I am to do this,” Bishop Desmond answered gently (referring to the work for justice), “I must do that.” (referring to his retreat time)
Can you imagine? A time just for you and perhaps a few others just to be who you are with no expectations, no demands, totally wandering in the close and holy darkness together with me as your guide?
That’s what we’ll be doing on December 15th. Starting at 8 am Pacific and 11 pm Eastern, we’ll share four calls together just to be in the peaceful stillness, together, nourishing the quiet joy of our hearts. The retreat will have breaks in between calls, so the day will end around 3 Pacific and 6 Eastern. This is a shorter day than we’ve had in the past, so that everyone is sure to get to dinner. 🙂
Look for upcoming emails this week and following to find more information about Going into the Dark. The retreat is capped at 12 people, and I very much hope to see you there!