The Wound.

Dear one, I want to ask you a few things. May I?

Do you feel innately and deeply attuned to perceptions others have about you? Is your consciousness pockmarked and pitted with little, unidentifiable fears?

Are you smattered with poorly healed, puckered emotional and spiritual scars you rue, but which cannot be tied to any specific incident? Do you believe you are filled with sin so grievous it could never be forgiven? Do you believe all the wrongs committed by you, and those committed against you, have their origins in your intrinsic badness and unworthiness?

Do you use the word “deserve” a lot, either in the negative or the affirmative? Do you find yourself doubting your own judgement on everything? Do you accept blame for mistakes, crimes, misdeeds, shortcomings and faults others point out to you, never exploring the possibility these may not be wrongdoings at all but are perhaps the real-world results of your intrinsic strength, wisdom, beauty and goodness? Is it easy for others to change your mood, and your mind? Are you, my darling, an unwilling, unwitting carrier of shame?

If so, it’s because you’ve learned to be.

For many of us, our welfare and survival depended on it, unless we were fortunate enough to be born into a situation where the goodness, wholeness, and purity of children and the vulnerable are considered holy things never to be interfered with.

Shame is endemic. And it is toxic for humans, and everything we touch.

As we mature, many of us arrive at a kind of resignation about the state of the world, feeling it is somehow different from the way it seemed when we were very young. We feel often the fault for this perception lies with us, and not with something that happened to us, despite our being the beneficiary of a great body of evidence to suggest otherwise. This is just how the world is, we lament, and it’s not a better place now. This is not a great epiphany, sweet heart – it’s a kind of misunderstanding. The world is not an awful place. And you are not a fool. Something happened back there. Something that caused a deep hurt in you, and made you change the way you saw things. You had to do this to survive, and survive you have.

But it has not been without a price. You have a wound, a scar. It isn’t healed, and the pain of it has made you jaded. You’ve been carrying something for these many years, a gritty thorn that’s worked its way to the surface, and beloved, it’s time to deal with it, for good. You have a wound there. Let me see.

Ah, yes, it’s as I thought. It’s shame.

There now, lay still and let the sting subside. Lay still, and let me sing to you. Let me sing these words over you, and you simply be still, and breath. There is nothing for you to do. Be still, and I will sing.

You are good. You are good. You are good.

This is not your fault.

This is not your fault.

Come home to your body.

The body conversation.

Self-acceptance or other-acceptance?

Self-acceptance is the one kind you don’t have to bargain for.

The body conversation which is asks, “Why do consumers only want *those* kinds of bodies? Why can’t they want my body too?” is a misguided conversation.

It doesn’t matter if “they” like or accept or love or want your body.

It only matters if you do.

The better conversation about bodies is the one where we address exactly who it is we imagine has to approve of, desire, view and dictate to us about our bodies. It’s the conversation about body consumption, not body image or appearance.

If you put your “real” woman’s body out on show, next to the “other” woman’s body, and argue about perfection, ideals and who is the real woman, you’ve taken the side of those who see bodies as a commodity. You’ve taken a side against other women and their bodies. You’ve become the viewer of your body, rather than the owner and inhabitant.

Don’t let the market and the marketeers dictate the body conversation.

We with women’s bodies dictate it.

You dictate that conversation.

Don’t take your beautiful, strong, fragile, perfect body out on the battleground or the marketplace and allow it to be hustled, argued over, scorned, or lauded as if it were you.

Your body is a temple. Make it a place of serenity, respect and contemplation. Make it a place of joy, not war.

Your body is a sacred space, a place of peace. It is not to be bought or sold. It is not for judging or fighting over. It’s the place on earth where the eternal makes its home.

Your body is not your brave, not your cause, not your weapon. It’s your safe place. Your home.

You don’t worship the temple. You worship in the temple.

Come home to your body. It waits for you to come home.

Where The Power Is.

I thought my power was in my mind
In my thinking

I thought my power was in my strength
In resistance

I thought my power was in my courage
In fighting

I thought my power was in my achieving
My doing

But it was not there

It was in the stillness
It was in my
Simply being.

Words and image (c) Jo Hilder 2015

Not allowing history to dictate your future is BRAVE.

I know so many of you are looking for answers to big questions you have about how to do this thing called life. I know you, like me, are seeking a place where you can function in everyday existence without crumpling on the floor in pain, without fighting the voices in your head that tell you how worthless you are, without wrestling with shame and punching it in the face, only to have it hobble you, kick you in the back of the knees whilst you attempt to complete some task or go some place you need to be.

The last few days have been a storm of shadows and thunder for me, my friends. As we prepare to leave the farm we’ve been care-taking for the past six months, perhaps not to return, without any plans for the future and without any more physical or financial security than we had a year ago, I’ve been stumbling about emotionally, boxed in the ears constantly by those voices which affirm all my worst fears. We have nothing. We are headed nowhere. We are insane. Living a life of trust in God and the goodness of people is a recipe for failure, or worse, for disaster. All those things the bullies of my past say to me are true. And anyway, God and the goodness of people is a ruse, a myth and a lie, right?

And with my face pressed into the dirt by the bullies of history, I look through my tears at the world and all the oppression and violence and selfishness and think, that could be true. Say it! Cry the bullies of history. See how powerless you are? Say it, and crawl back to that life you had, the one you thought in your arrogance you could escape from. Who do you think you are? What right do you have? This is how things are! This is reality! You have no power here! This is the truth!

Yes, this is what is. This is the truth. But it is not my truth. I do not live in the past. You are the bullies of history, but I do not live in my history. I live here, in the present. And you, bullies of history, do not live here either. I am not looking towards my history to create my future. I am looking to my imagination. I am rescuing my imagination from the bullies of history, and liberating my creativity, freeing my soul. History, you’ve no power here.

Wow. I wish simply casting insults at the captors of my creative heart was enough to make me feel better, feel different. But I ate dirt. My mouth is bruised and my throat is sore. I’m grazed and I hurt right through to my guts. Fighters bleed the same places the fought do.

A life of faith and trust and risk and creativity sounds like its own reward. But your wounds will go wherever you do, until they are healed. Now, heal staying put, or heal on the go, makes no difference. But do not fool yourself into believing staying will keep you safe from hurt, or moving forward will help you leave your hurt behind. We are made to grow, and made to bleed. If we wait until we are all better to evacuate from history, we grow old in the past, consumed by the weight of resignation and regret. Better to move out of history’s neighbourhood while we can.

And you always can.

History is where the voices of our shame live. History is where the bullies of mistake-making reside. They have no new information for us. There is no health or life in their reminders of our failures, or their echoes of the ones who knew better but did not do it. History is no place for us. There is only mourning there, and we’ve lain our flowers and sung our hymns to that self.

It’s not a new day today, not for you or I. I am not painting rainbows and pretending its all different now, just because you chose. But time is stretching out before you, not behind you. We, you and I, stand hand in hand on the path, and we look each other in the eye. And we say, I know, me too. Ready? Ok. Go. History behind us. The path before us. Days of all kinds ahead. Even more like this one, if that’s what it takes. We are doing this. Pain and all, we are doing it.

Let’s go.

Love you, and thank you.
Jo xx

The love you think you deserve.

You’re haunted at times by that bad thing that happened to you, my love, you and I both know it. You suspect the bad thing happened because bad things only happen to people who deserve them. You’ve believed it was your fault – literally. You’ve believed if you were somehow able to be enough, if you were not too much and not too much trouble, if you were more beautiful, more obedient, more brave, their real daughter or son, smarter, stronger, quieter, not so much of a show off, not the way you are, the bad thing wouldn’t have happened. You’d be okay now, and you’re not, but that’s what you get.

Oh, honey, no. That’s not okay. You didn’t get something bad because you deserved it. There can be so many reasons why bad things happen to us, but your deserving it is not one of them.

The something bad that happened to you didn’t happen because you are bad. If you head down that road, you’ll never get to the end of it. Nobody will ever find a way into your heart, not a friend, not a lover, not even God. Because you’ll never feel like you deserve their love, no matter what they do.

You only accept the love you think you deserve.

Why do you think so many people believe their God is angry at their sin? Why are so many people walking around angry, defiant, or broken so deeply they can no longer function?

They are deflecting love they don’t think they deserve.

The thing is, love, and all it’s fruits, are there for you. Not “out there”, beyond being “all fixed up” or “forgiven for your part”, or “when you’ve paid your dues.”

Love is there. There, as in right here. Because God is love and is right here.

“Deserve” isn’t part of the economy of God’s love. You’re in Jubilee when it comes to the love you “deserve”. All debts erased. All defaults forgotten. All obligations met, all bonds redeemed. Walk away, beloved one, under grace, you owe nothing. Not to anyone. Only love.

Love is for you, and all that comes with it.

Blessings,
Jo xxx

What you deserve.

Deserve.

It’s such a divisive word. When we talk about what we or someone else deserves, we’re talking about the worthiness of a person. Not their true worth, but a perceived worth, and a perceived lot according to that worth. It’s us passing judgement on ourselves, which is just a mad thing to do. Because when we pass judgement on others, we are judging ourselves at the same time. Deserve better. Didn’t get what they deserved. You don’t deserve that. I deserve this. Your value and someone else’s value, held up against each other, as if there were a big old cosmic scale of worthiness up there somewhere, with only so much blessing, mercy and joy to go around.

But there isn’t.

The economy of “deserve” is like an artwork consisting of just one word splashed across a canvas, a word describing it’s opinion of itself. “I am shit” it says. A mad thing. It’s not the arts job to decide on its own worth, value or meaning. It’s its job to simply be.

The art isn’t shit just because it says it. It’s art, is intrinsically beautiful, and has worth as a wonderful created thing.

You aren’t shit just because you think you are. You’re an amazing, complex and valuable person, are intrinsically beautiful, have worth, and are a wonderful, created being.

What if, just like a piece of art, it were your job just to simply be? What if there were not even a job, just the being?

What if everything you desire and everything you’ve experienced, everything you dream of and accept and settle for, everything you are bound by the everything you bind yourself to was not connected to what you think you deserve?

How different would your life be, if you decided you were of great worth, instead of either worthy or unworthy, deserving or undeserving?

Deserve. It’s a mad, mad thing.

Love, Jo xxx

The opposite of should.

The word “should” is designed to make people feel they need fixing before they even realise they are broken. In fact, an awful lot of people are doing an awful lot of what they think they “should”, when in fact, what they were doing in the first place was fine.

Loving people where – and for whom – they are right now is the key to helping them. Really helping them.

We are all on a healing journey. But I find so many people are ignoring the true source of their pain and have taken up practices and habits which do nothing to help that pain, but which are simply a distraction and a kind of occupational therapy. Because someone those things or that thing was something they *should* do.

Go to church. Read the bible every day. Get up and pray at 5am. Walk 5kms. Eat macro, bio, organic, paleo. Activate your almonds. Elevate your heart rate. Eliminate toxic thoughts. Read this book. Volunteer at that shelter. Take a class. Give all your money away. Save all your money. Live simply. Get rich. Get out more. Keep yourself unstained by the world. Blah, blah, blah. Should, should should.

Being mindful of who and where you truly are right now in this time and place will do more to show you what you need, where you’re wounded and how you’re broken than any sermon, self-help book or entrepreneur with a gadget or gimmick.

“You are here.”

This is what God says. His love shines on us and shows us everything we need to know. It illuminates the dark places. Bathed in His love, all our beautiful selves with all the wounds and cracks and failures and sorrows can be clearly seen. This is where you are. This is who you are. This is what is. And I love you. These are His words to us.

God never says you “should” do something. He says, “This is what is. This is who I am. This is who you are.” The rest is up to He and we.

If we never changed, He’d not love us less. If we choose to change, He is there to help us do it.

To use the word “should” is to assume you, fellow human being, have the whole, entire and intimate measure of another person. It’s to assume you know exactly why someone does what they do, and doesn’t do what they don’t do. It’s basically to presume everyone is exactly like you.

In fact, everyone is exactly like themselves. And the way you are now is just, well, the way you are now.

Not better than, not worse than, just… the way you are now.

You’re on a journey, on a trajectory. Of healing, knowledge, intimacy, knowledge, all that. No one has arrived, and we all help each other along, as brothers and sisters under His love.

To say to someone “you should” is to say “I have arrived.” No, you haven’t. You’re not there. And our job isn’t to try pull people up to our highest level.

It’s to help lift them up to theirs.

In love, Jo xxx

New House Plans

If there were a place where you didn’t have to hide your past, where everything you’d been through was a qualification and not a liability, would you move there?

If there were a place where everyone talked openly about their fragility, doubt and pain, where nobody pretended to have their shit together and there was no way to graduate to the top by being the most fixed up, the most perfect or the most clever at hiding all your flaws, would you want to live there?

If there were a place where your shame was treated like a wound which needs healing, instead of a compulsory uniform, would you be interested in being part of it?

If there were a place where it was assumed grace was Gods constant posture, towards you and everyone else, would you seek it out?

If there were a place where you didn’t have to be the strong one, where you didn’t have to hold it all together, where the buck didn’t stop with you, where it wasn’t all on your shoulders, and you could just let it all fall down, and somebody would catch you, so you could finally stop being the strong one and just let it all go, would you apply to go there?

If there were a place where someone had your kids in their sights, so you didn’t feel like you were the only one who didn’t see them as typical kids from a broken home, or a project to be taken on, or as coming from a family we don’t mix with, or didn’t see them at all, would you try and make it even if just for a while?

If there were a place like this, would it seem like somewhere you’d like to be?

Wouldn’t it be amazing if there were such a place? I think about our family after I was recovering from cancer, and I think, we could’ve found answers there. I think about me and my kids when Ben went away to rehab and nobody knew what to do with us, and I think, I know I’d have been all right there.

And I know it would be a safe, healing place for so many others.

If only we believed it were actually possible to create places like this on the earth, and the idea of profits and cost and viability and who would get to be the boss and who would pay the bills and what makes you think you’re qualified to do something like that came second, and people came first.

Not fixed up people. Broken people. First.

On earth, as it is in heaven.

We are dreaming of such a place. Because we are the most broken of all.

Love, Jo xxx

Embracing The Shitty and The Shiny – Why You Don’t Need To Be Ashamed Because Your Life Isn’t Perfect

Warning: This post contains mild profanity, as if you didn’t already notice – I don’t think it’ll get any worse than the word used in the title though. I hope. However, I haven’t actually written the post yet, so here’s hoping I don’t forget to come back and change this caveat if I accidentally say fuck.

Ben (my husband) and I have this little saying about people, which bodes us very well. Our little saying generally stops us getting too down the track of being judgey at people, and ourselves for that matter, and also prevents us giving in to the temptation to pretend we are way more fixed-up and together than we actually are. This little phrase has been gleaned from years of getting off our own particularly churchy high-horse (which ended up with a broken leg and had to be shot) and also learning the very, very, very hard way God isn’t actually in control of as much as we sometimes like to think. As it turns out, the humans are in charge of most things we sometimes like to blame God for, and we mess those things up quite a lot. Surprisingly, we also discovered humans are always far more worried about the mess-ups than God is.

“Everyone’s got the shit.”

Whenever we meet someone new who tries to impress us by boasting about all their expensive playthings and how clever they are or otherwise gloat about the apparent perfection and excruciating wonderfulnessof their life,  and how AHH-SUM God is – but only to them – we say to each other “Well, everyone’s got the shit”. We also remember it when we meet someone who is having a particularly hard time of things through no fault of their own, or otherwise. “Everyone’s got the shit” is not a putdown, and we never say it to people’s faces. It’s simply a way to remind ourselves that in all our 50 collective years as adults in society, we’ve never met one person who doesn’t have fears, insecurities, anxieties, emotional baggage, painful memories, shame or consequences of poor choices to deal with. Not one. Ever.

There was a time in our lives when we thought we were the only ones with problems, the only ones who ever fought, failed or fucked up. That was when we were deeply embedded in a collective society who upheld all-fixed-upedness to be the ideal, and also promoted it as attainable. The dummies. We all lauded and celebrated our master-race of leaders, who helped us ignore our actual problems by giving us a new, exciting self-improvment project every Sunday morning to distract us from doing any real inner work. In this way, for years and years and years, we and many others were able to fool ourselves into believing perfection was not only possible, but desirable and sustainable.

It couldn’t last, for us anyway. We were just way too flawed and wounded to make it stick. We were doomed to one day  just DUI on all that repressed shame and insecurity about our problems and our past, get behind the wheel, drive way too fast and careen headlong into the Real World at an intersection.

You see, I got cancer. Then my husband became an alcoholic.

The Real World – where denial about problems, flaws and imperfection cannot exist – and us collided, and all our very carefully held-together pieces and all the messed-up shit which constitutes reality and The Way Things Really Are For Human Beings lay scattered across the road. It were ugly. Our blood and bone all the bits of us got mixed together with the gravel and the tar, and there was no way we could collect it all up again. All those problems we’d been holding onto and hiding were out there in the open for all to see, and all the things we’d worked so hard to achieve, our self-improvements and the things we’d been so proud of were now – to our horror – blended with all the horrible, yucky bits. In public.

Real World, people.

One thing we learned while we were making cancer go away and helping Ben acknowledge his alcoholism was these kinds of problems are not rare or peculiar in the Real World. Crashing into the Real World and dealing with our own shit helped us see just how common Real Problems are. Most people never let others see their shit, until they go DUI on shame and insecurity and lose control as well. We found we couldn’t justify the time and energy it would take for us to separate all those messy bits into perfection/problem piles, so we just decided to keep going, armless, legless if necessary, but definitely less-than-perfect, and honest about it for the very first time.

Everyone, when it comes to problems and imperfection, has the shit. We all do. Even that person you believe is self-actualised beyond your comprehension, unattainably all-fixed-up and just totally-together has nasty, hurtful stuff they’re dealing with – painful, shameful stuff. They may be dealing with it well, they may be dealing with it poorly, but they have it, of that you can be sure. Many people are well-aware of their pain and their vulnerabilities, and they ask for help, and know how to get that help into the parts where it will help the most. But others are so afraid of their own shame, they stuff it into a brown paper bag and take it down into dark, secret places, where they cry and drink up shame, and cry and drink up shame, alone there in the dark for as long as it takes.

It takes forever, just so’s you know. And let’s face it – we just don’t have that kind of time.

Acknowledging your shit, and the reality others have it too, is incredibly liberating, for yourself and for them. Ben and I are learning to embrace our own shit. It was the only way we could get bits of ourselves back together again after our incident with the Real World. We picked up the salvageable pieces – the stuff both we and others felt represented our failures and the worst of us – and we held them closer and closer to the best of us that remained, until they all began to graft to one another again. Its not pretty, but by God, it feels right. The yin and and yang. The shiny and the shitty. And I promise you, in embracing both the shitty and the shiny, you’ll help so many. There’s a whole lot of people out there about to go DUI, honey, and the best paramedics are the ones not afraid to get their hands a bit dirty. 🙂

*****

I love comments! Leave yours below, tell us your own story of the shame, the “shit”, and about your healing journey.

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