My Whole Self
Updated: Jan 17, 2022
On our drive back down the mountains from Angeles Crest Forest this past Sunday, my age came up in the conversation, and my girl friend said, “Oh! It’s your Jesus Year!” Yup! I claimed it on December 21st, 2018. I joked with her that it sure is, ‘cause I feel like I’m being crucified on the cross. I’ve had some time to come down from my drama high since then. Jesus died on the cross, yes. He suffered, yes. But if it had not been for His matchless love and sacrifice, I don’t wanna know who I’d be, or where I’d be today. He died to His flesh, in the flesh. His Spirit reigns forever. Talk about transcendence and transformation! Today's translation of, "It is finished," might be akin to, "It's above me now." No? Okay, HA!
So this is my Jesus Year. The year I desire to die to my flesh more than ever. If you’ve ever heard of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, our levels of needs are illustrated in a pyramid, and at the foundation are Physiological Needs: air, food, sleep, shelter, stability, warmth, water, and the like. When life is getting us down, we should get curious as to whether or not those needs are satisfied before we give unreasonable credence to our emotions (i.e. Am I hangry? Are bills past due? Insomnia? Etc.)
I’ll share my own check-in for example's sake. Air: I’m still breathing *in Toni Braxton’s voice.* I’d like to work toward not getting winded when I exercise. Food: Prior to starting a ketogenic diet, I was over-indulging and sluggish. Thus far I feel more in control of what, when, and why I eat. I have healthier tools, and I needed to remove food [emotional eating] in order to see that more clearly. Sleep: I have an 18 month old who’s still nursing. I have a 4 year old and a 9 year old, as well. I basically haven’t slept in 84 years *cue meme of Rose from Titanic recalling her youth.* Nonetheless, changing my eating habits has increased my energy and mental clarity. Shelter: With rising rent prices, this has been a major stressor, and I can't say we're out of the woods. Stability: Many, many layers here. With God and the love of my people, yes, most of the time I am stable. Warmth: According to my kids, I am always warm. Check! Water: Blessed to have access to drinking water, and I’ve been drinking more of it!
Moving up from the bottom, the next layer in MHoN is Safety, then Belonging, and then Esteem and Self-Actualization [or, I'd like to coin it Spiritual Actualization]. They build upon one another for total wellness. This year alone, God blessed me with friends who genuinely listen to my heart, not only the words I’m saying. You have friends and family like that? I didn’t know I could, at least not so abundantly. But I do! And as I’ve shared with these beautiful people throughout this year, I am constantly going back to and reminded of my inner child who’s still there. She's someone they've been holding space for. The best part is that I’m realizing it’s okay to tend to her. It won’t look the same as it would if I were still a child, and I’m not trying to reclaim that time or change those experiences. I’m simply in a position to nurture her and extract the love and the lessons from her experiences in a way that fosters healing for the woman I have become and am becoming.
My childhood shaped the story I tell myself around my basic needs being met. Take a trip back there with me, if you will. Air: Been breathing ever since God gave me the breath of life. As long as there's breath in me, I've got a purpose to fulfill. Food: Never been a picky eater. When we lived in the car and from motel to motel, there wasn’t a lot of variety in our diet. We often ate fast food. When we moved into an apartment, my dad cooked, and he made delicious food--"Exquisite!" he'd call it, with I'm guessing a French accent? He was strict and silly--it was confusing at times. We weren’t allowed to not eat what he made. I ate everything on my plate, and I didn’t protest his rules. Back to lots of fast food after he passed away. Sleep: First memories are of sleeping in the car, which leads to Shelter as my first memories are of being homeless. I remember our dad dropping my mom, my little sister and me off at the park on Rosecrans and Prairie very early in the mornings. We would quietly and quickly take a duck bath in the restrooms and change our clothes—no actual door to the entrance of the structure, brick walls, cold, concrete floors, cold water. I take quick showers to this day. Warmth: Nothing pressing. Sleep: Once in our first apartment, my parents never slept together. My dad had a room, my older brother had a room, my mom slept on the couch, and my little sister and I slept on the pull-out couch. I’ve had vivid dreams from a young age, some I still remember and have come to pass. Thinking can keep me up. Same today. Stability: My parents were often at odds. My father passed away when I was 9. My brother's mental illness surfaced shortly after. I've shared more in previous blog offerings--you can always take a look. My stable place was school. That’s where I was seen, heard, affirmed, and where I excelled. Water: Whether at the park, motel, or apartment, we did have access to clean running water. We mostly drank kool-aid, which is also part water.
A picture is formulating in your mind, right? Have you ever heard of the ACES Study? If not, a quick Google search shall enlighten you, and I encourage you to watch Nadine Burke Harris’ TedTalk: How Childhood Trauma Effects Health Across a Lifetime [right after you finish reading this]. Side Note: In the early brainstorming and building stages of Silent Hearts Heal Here, or SHHH, the 3 Es were birthed: Educate, Encourage, Enlist as a means for cultivating compassion around people's experiences. This video touches the Educate requirement.
As a child, you don’t choose who your people are, or your environment, yet that informs the control you exercise for yourself throughout your life. Going back is not to harp on the past, and not to excuse myself of doing better. It is to remind myself: You can grieve those losses and mitigate the harm, no matter how long ago it occurred. You can do life with a healthier inner child. This is why you made certain choices. That little girl remains alive, in need of your care, and you have the power to show up for her and choose people who will, too.
When people affirm me, and despite my love language being Words of Affirmation, I curl inside of myself, hesitantly giving thanks. When I'm concerned with what you think about what and how I'm coming across right now. When I shrink in the spotlight I actually wish for. When I accept toxic behavior to avoid conflict. When anger feels safer to express than vulnerability. When I worry myself to no end about how finances will be covered. When I believe I can only be my true silly self in the presence of my children. When I struggle to take in my childrens’ big feelings, or know what to do with them. When I don’t know how to tell people what I need. When resentment creeps into my marriage because I'm with someone who subconsciously feels familiar to the wounded parts of my inner child. When I remain in communion with people who silence me, like I was as a child. When I do feel safe, loved, and strong. From my pensiveness to my playfulness. From my sensitivity to my spunk. All this data directs me to my roots—where the integration of she and I began. The more harmonious these parts are, the more authentically and fully I show up. The beauty of our wholeness is in its parts.
I imagine your story from the beginning. Something about opening myself up to your inner child and what it may have been like for you, it softens my heart for you and turns me toward you. Unless there is a wound that is being prodded. Ouch! Let's face it. We are all experiencing this interpersonal dance day in and day out. We show up in every relationship with this babe inside of us, with this heart history, seeking out the inner child and heart strings of another, to quench our physiological, safety and belonging needs, to make meaning of our story. Because this miracle happens exclusively in connection. And yes, it is miraculous! To be created and wired to love and be loved. I can’t think of anything more remarkable in this life.
We are bringing our entire selves to one another. How well we do it is up to us. Legends like Maya Angelou broached this holy subject. Ya figure there's gotta be something to it! In her memoir, Mom & Me & Mom, the story of her childhood, particularly the significance of her relationship with her mother, is beautifully and painstakingly poured onto paper, and I was able to see how it shaped the phenomenal woman she became and the exuberant life she lived. In this book, she digs deep to demonstrate her love for her son: “I will look after you and I will look after anybody you say needs to be looked after, any way you say. I am here. I brought my whole self to you. I am your mother.” If that doesn't strike your soul and bring this message home!
I honor God for allowing the experiences that formed my inner child and built my heart history, rich with pain and joy, lack and overflow, rich with His purpose for my life at the helm of it all, nothing in vain, everything for the greater good. We are made in His image, One transcended and transformed through the crucifixion of the flesh. Because death to the flesh gives life to the Spirit within us--a compelling, lasting Spirit.
How sacred our humanity is. I honor the inner child in you, meeting with mine in this very space, for such a time as this.
Shush Your Shame
Jennifer J. Jones