Lucidity in Self-Perception

It has been a year since I decided to leave Utah and move to Florida. A year since I decided to make a decision that was based on only what I wanted; a decision that was both uncomfortable and difficult, and left me with a nagging inner-critic that said I wasn’t justified in pursuing my dreams. There were many motivating factors behind the decision to move, but the main drivers were: I knew I wanted to live in the sun by the beach, I wanted to live in an area where I could afford real estate on my own income, I wanted to take on a challenging career opportunity, to feel empowerment and freedom, and the most importantly, find clarity and discernment. I wasn’t sure why, but for some reason the words and concepts of “clarity” and “discernment” were constantly imprinted on my heart. I stated them as a phrase over and over again, in my journal, my heart and in my prayers; they became my guiding mantra during and after the move here to Florida.

However, we all know the reality that our fantasy and longings never quite match up. Yes, I do live near a gorgeous beach, and I am incredibly grateful for the sun and warmth. But the impacts from 2020 are so deep, they are reverberating and affecting every aspect of society and our individual lives. Over the last 10 months, my personal driving decision factors, fantasies, goals, dreams, and paths have all been called to question. I have been tested in ways that I did not think I could be (our needed to be) tested. I have learned more lessons in the last 10 months than I have in the last four years, and ultimately that is because I am finding clarity and discernment.

I never thought clarity and discernment to be loaded words, or to be “dangerous” prayers. A dangerous prayer is like praying for empathy; your prayer might be answered but you are most likely to go through a lot of personal pain to gain true empathy for the pain of others. Yet, 2020 has been one of the hardest years I’ve ever had. I’ve been asking the Universe, “Did I really have to go through this much pain to gain clarity?” The answer is yes, and I won’t even caveat it as “unfortunately, yes;” any answer to your prayer is a blessing. 

Clarity 

noun

clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity. The state or quality of being clear or transparent to the eye; pellucidity:

dictionary.com

Since I’ve made the Utah-Florida move I have faced just a couple challenges:  the ending of two of my closest friendships, the hardship of moving across country to a place where you know virtually no one, a devastating personal failure and the resulting severe financial strain, starting my own company,  Covd-19 and the grief at the human toll, resulting extreme isolation – fear – in ability to even make a tribe or connect because of social distancing, enormous strain and stress because of corporate layoffs, and oh, I was in critical condition that required emergency surgery and endured the worst pain of my life. 

Basically, I was driven to my knees emotionally, mentally, physically and financially over the last year. Not that I didn’t get my sun and my beaches, but I gained a lot more than I ever expected (or bargained for).  And I also gained, in mega doses; clarity. 

The biggest lesson in clarity that I have gained is lucidity in self-perception, or what I use, self-awareness. Growing in self-awareness is part of my daily spiritual practice now. Understanding how to label my emotions, self-sooth and sitting with discomfort has given me clarity on my values, the everyday choices I make that are in, or out of line, with my values as well as a crystal-clear understanding that my journey needs to be focused on self-compassion. I am no longer fragmented, with the various aspects of myself exiled off from one another, scared to meet and integrate.

I have always had a desire to help people. When I was around the age of four, my parents were arguing in the car on the way home. I was too little to comprehend what the argument was about, only to perceive that my parents were upset, and that my mother was crying and particularly sad. From the back seat, I leaned as far forward as my little body would allow and grabbed my mother’s hand and sang to her the entire rest of the way home. I do not remember what I was signing, I know it was mostly made up, but I do  remember feeling this overwhelming desire to take away her sadness, even though my little body was aching and stiff from leaning completely over to hold her hand,  I felt it the discomfort was worth it if I made my momma a little less sad.  

In my desire to help people, I was living under the completely destructive notion that one had to be completely focused on external compassion, e.g. for others, that self-compassion felt awful close to pride and selfishness. I did not realize that the failure to provide myself with self-compassion meant I never could really show up in the way I wanted to the people who mattered most to me. Not only could I not show up, but I couldn’t guarantee I’d still be around if I didn’t stop treating myself with contempt. 

“…The three essential elements of self-compassion is loving (self-kindness), connected (common humanity), and presence (mindfulness).” – Dr. Neff The Mind Self-Compassion  

Dr. Neff, Mindful Self-Compassion

Through each of these, recent knee-dropping life events, I have grown in loving, connected presence – I am becoming the person I always wanted to be but thought I was never intrinsically good enough to be. 

Discernment 

noun

the faculty of discerning; discrimination; acuteness of judgment and understanding. The act or an instance of discerning.

dictionary.com

Since I can first remember, I have wanted and dreamed of freedom. Freedom to live a life of my choosing, and not live the only option I was told I had, getting married as young as possible and having as many babies as possible. I cried bitterly at the age of six because I wasn’t boy, because boys had freedom. Freedom to be Veterinarians and visit Austria (things I dreamt of but were “ungodly” and out of line me as a girl to long for.)  As long as I can remember, I have had to fight for freedom every step of the way, and the hardest realization to me was that in fighting for freedom, the biggest barrier to freedom was my own mind and perception. I have to constantly learn and challenge my internal worldview. Is my worldview originating from a from the place of internal victimhood? Anger? Fear? Prejudice?

Discernment has taught me that no matter how open-minded, anti-racist and socially conscious, I still have a lot of biases I need to examine. Biases to other people, and biases I have internalized and are still sources of shame. I have to searchfor discernment because that is the only way I realize I can be a blessing and an agent of change in this world and community. Discernment is teaching me how to be a helper. And being self-compassionate and helping others find their own compassion is where it all starts and ends. That is what love is about.

So, a year later, I am on this incredible island, in a place that is physically and emotionally peaceful. Looking back, would I still move knowing what I know now? Absolutely yes. It’s been a hell of a ride and I am holding on to my hat for whatever the second half of 2020 has in-store, but I know the universe holds me in love. 

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