I’ve decided to steal the idea of having a theme for the year. I used to think that trusting myself and trusting God were mutually exclusive, but I’m learning that that’s not necessarily true. Henri Nouwen says, “Many spiritual writers speak about the body as if it cannot be trusted. This might be true if your body has not come home. But once you have brought your body home, once it is an integral part of yourself, you can trust it and listen to its language.” I think that he means we can listen to our intuition and live fully integrated. A lot of times we think we should only approach life from a purely logical angle, but our bodies and brains have a lot more to offer us than just logic. Logic and intuition are meant to be used in conjunction.
When we start seeing that our bodies are not separate from ourselves and stop living in such a dichotomous haze, we can allow our body and brain to work together. It’s part of the work of integration that is so crucial to our mental and physical health. The Catholic Church has a high doctrine of the body, which is why she teaches us to respect life in ourselves and others in various ways . It’s part of why we have such a complicated relationship with food – we try to master it and reduce it to “fuel”, but isn’t it so much more?
I want to remember more that the physical and spiritual intersect. And this is why I want to learn to trust myself more. I think in carefully learning to trust my body and my heart I can move forward. For so long I’ve been going the way I thought I was supposed to go, not listening to myself or God, and as a result I’ve been moving laterally instead of forward. I’d like my life to reflect inner values that “spark joy” (Marie Kondo) and exclaim “hell yeah” (Greg McKeown), rather than “I might need this someday” or “this is pretty good”.
I’ve narrowed down the ways I want to trust myself more this year:
1.Honoring my creativity. The biggest way I can honor creativity is to allow myself the time for what feels superfluous – writing. This also means being open to changing the structure of my daily routine in order to allow time for writing. I have an obsessive need to clean the house whenever my children are gone. In this precious, quiet, block of time, I frantically run around the house picking up toys and doing dishes instead of writing. It’s classic reactive living instead of proactive living, and it has to change.
2) Embracing simply, daily structure. If I’m going to live more creatively, I also need to have a path roped off in order to stay on track. I’ve been fighting structure my whole life, but now that it’s not being imposed upon me I realized without it I feel totally lost. People in religious life often have a “rule of life”, which is a daily routine or structure that is lived out as an act of obedience. I’ve been inspired to create my own rule of life, and was inspired by the Missionaries of Charity schedule (see Jennifer Fulwiler’s blog post about it here). The genius of this schedule is that it’s simple, allows margin in the day and takes into account basic life needs. See this book for more about creating your own rule.
3) Listening to my body. I always want to make food issues about self-discipline. Of course self-control is a virtue, but there’s more to this story, isn’t there? For as long as I can remember I’ve pushed off my hunger early in the day, but end up over-eating in the afternoon and evening. I always end up beating myself up about not having self-control, but it finally occurred to me that I needed to trust those hunger cues earlier so that I don’t have the overwhelming hunger later. In other words, I need to let go and trust my body. I’m trying to stop thinking of food and weight issues from a shameful perspective, which sounds something like “you know better than to eat that right now”. I’m starting to challenge those voices and figure out why those behaviors are there in the first place. Maybe there’s a reason I’m eating this way, and I’m open to finding out what that is.
4)Trusting to my instincts. This is probably the biggest thing. I’ve been listening to other’s ideas of what I should be doing and who I should be for my. entire. life. Maybe it’s part of growing up, but I’m ready to just be me and do what works for me. It may not look cool or successful , but I don’t care anymore. I’m ready to boldly wear lipstick and stop beating myself up about my failures and move in the direction of taking risks I’m excited about. I’m ready to be honest with myself and others, to be a friend who is transparent and a mother who apologizes when she makes mistakes, and a wife who is willing to share her whole life.
Again, Henri Nouwen writes, “You have to trust the inner voice that shows the way. You know that inner voice. You turn to it often. But after you have heard with clarity what you are asked to do, you start raising questions, fabricating objections, and seeking everyone else’s opinion. Thus you become entangled in countless often contradictory thoughts, feelings, and ideas and lose touch with the God in you…Only by attending constantly to the inner voice can you be converted to a new life of freedom and joy.”