My mind is the clearest in the morning, particularly when I’m showering. Images, concrete and imagined, trigger a lot of thoughts. It feels like layers of protective barriers are washed away and I get to peek into what is making me tick. Or maybe I just have too much time on my hands and use these reveries as a distraction from my emotional saboteurs.
During these times scenarios from past events pop into my mind as I relive what happened and how I reacted in that moment. I find myself trying to reframe the situations, asking, “What would have I have done, said, or felt differently?” I am an observer, surveying the scene in my head while being part of it.
Yet I often come to a dead end. I think, “Ah well, it’s just not the way the world is” and I jolt back into reality. But which is the real world? Something in me doesn’t want to leave my thoughts or give up on finding a more satisfactory outcome in my imagination.
What is it about these two worlds? There’s the world of my daily conscious existence, which often feels imperfect and incomplete. Then there is the world of my imagination where everything is just fine. Both worlds are trying to tell me something about my life.
I began to think more about all of this while watching the film, “300”, the story of the Spartan warriors who faced overwhelming odds against the Persian army. It was a simple tale of heroes meant to inspire the heroism in others. It resonated with me and I realized once again that I often feel deep emotional connection to any story that lifts up a hero or underdog. I began to ponder the meaning of this resonance.
I was prompted to recall something I had told a coach once, that I had an infinite hunger for intimacy. I always thought of it as a hunger for friendship, love, closeness, and safety in others. But my new line of thinking pushed me beyond this long-standing assumption. This hunger for intimacy was really a hunger to be of ultimate value to someone, to be their hero. A lot of people get married or join the armed services or Peace Corps…or priesthood…for that very reason.
So what about my hero? Who would take on that role? I had yet to find the one to fill it. And how would it relate to my value as a person?
All my life I’ve had trouble valuing myself apart from my accomplishments. I am proud of a long list of skills and deeds which I can list ad nauseum. In fact I often rehearsed them in part to convince myself of the value of my life. Yet none of these accomplishments brought me a sense of permanent and lasting completion!
Discussing this with a coach friend of mine was very helpful. She asked me what feeling I wanted to have in my heroic drive for intimacy. At the time I didn’t know what to say. Now it came to me. I want to feel complete, whole, loved and valued, nothing less.
This concept is not new to me. The word “whole” is the same root as “holy”. But for too long holiness or wholeness was something God could give me. Ah, but God has already given it to me. I just haven’t acknowledged the gift all these years, really acknowledged it at the core of my being!
I needed a new life-perspective: “I AM LOVED, COMPLETE, VALUED AND WHOLE.” And this means I can be my own HERO.
As I write these words, I can feel them moving from my mind/intellect into the depths of that place in my body where feelings, conscience, life-energy, and faith reside: my soul. As they sink in I am feeling filled. It’s a feeling like falling in love, feeling complete in myself for the first time.
I have experienced different levels of wholeness while on spiritual retreats over the years. Only then my perspective was that it was a gift from God. Now looking back at these experiences, it’s as if God were saying to me, “I have already done this for you, now go and do it for yourself.” Then I couldn’t. I was still waiting to be rescued by my hero. Now I can.
Strangely, since I left ministry I have become more aware of being united with God as one. If I am one with God in creation (good Catholic theology!) then I am as responsible as God for giving and receiving the gift of ultimate value, of completion, of wholeness, and of love to myself.
And so a major shift has occurred. I am in a new existential reality. I know what it feels like to be complete. There is nothing more I need to do but renew and reaffirm this reality each day.
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