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A song I’m loving:
Some people are embodied billboards for healing — for what’s possible when we sort through all our “stuff”, when we learn all the right tools, when we can recite everything about the vagus nerve, when we drop all the gunk in our lives in favor of gold, when we move beyond our own inner narrator telling us we aren’t enough and finally flourish into the fullness, the bigness, the brightness, the buoyancy of who we are, for all the world to see, no hiding, no performing, no overthinking, no hesitation, no doubt, no questioning, no going backwards, nothing but an obvious confidence and knowing.
I used to think I needed to be that person — to become some tangible gold standard for what is possible when we show up for ourselves, when we “do the work”, when we live in integrity, when we excavate the threads wound up within us and come out the other side with the wisdom and wide stance to show for it. I used to think I could only be a therapist, write, express, share, and show up publicly if I did so with proof that I’ve “healed”, that I’ve grown, that I’m beyond all the pain I once was a home to, that I’m 100% aware and conscious and awake, that I’m not bogged down by self-doubt or self-judgment, that I’m mature and wise and humble, that I have more figured out than I do at times, that I’ve “made it.”
Part of this is because of the hierarchies we’re taught to buy into: we’re taught to view humans as “better” or “worse” than one another, as more or less, as above or below — and in the wellness/healing/personal growth world, better, more, and above means the most healed, the most mature, the most wise, the most embodied, the most connected, the most well, the most “on the other side.” Another part of this is because those of us who trained to become helping professionals were, in many ways, conditioned to be the ones who are all-knowing, the ones who are examples of growth, the ones who represent healing, the ones who can remain calm, cool, collected, the ones who sit atop the pyramid of health and wellness — all while making sure we hide everything that might fall below.
When I first started sharing my work publicly over five years ago, I decided to practice shifting away from the need to be “that person”. I practiced sharing from parts that weren’t totally healed not as a way of trying to find healing or pursuing vulnerability hangovers, but as a way of mirroring to myself how human it is to not be totally healed. I practiced sharing the in-between bits, the cobwebbed corners of me, the murky middles of deep transitions, the unanswered questions. I did this for my own wellbeing — to slowly embody a different way of orienting toward the ongoing formation of myself — to gently teach myself it’s actually okay to not be a walking billboard for growth and possibility, but to be an embodied reminder of what it looks like to just be a person in process, in practice.
Along the way, I’ve learned to befriend the parts of me I was told to keep hidden. I’ve learned to forgive myself for not yet reaching that place of total embodiment, of total peace, of total overcoming. I’ve learned to hold the hurt gently instead of with contempt. I’ve learned to accept that I am who I am — that I will never be one of the people I deem to be above or ahead of me in their process. I’ve learned I don’t actually need to become one of those people — that I have a depth of experience to share from the exact vantage point I share from — not from being further along, or more or less anything, but from right here, in this swirl of myself, in this choppy river I often find myself in, still not quite sure how to get out of at times.
The people I admire most aren’t the most healed ones, the biggest and most confident personalities, the bubbliest or brightest, the walking billboards for healing. The people I admire most are the honest ones. The ones who aren’t afraid to admit their humanity. The ones who know what they don’t know. The ones who choose to lean into their tender spots without rushing to fix, to change, to make better. The ones who don’t see their place as above or below anyone else, but right alongside the whole of us all. The ones who can sit with what’s real. The ones who learn to see the gold in even the least embodied around us, in even the least formed aspects of themselves. The ones who remember what it is to be tethered to the rest. The ones who let themselves stumble, fall, triumph, fail, grieve, love, be human out loud. The ones who know there is no other place to get to.
When I notice myself aligning with the people I admire most, I realize my task was never to become the most healed or far along person. It was just to become myself, as I am, and to learn to meet myself here. When I notice myself holding similar traits as those I admire most, I remember I’m already more like the person I hope to be than I might think, even with all the untended to stuff, the unhealed parts, the un-evolved aspects. When I look at my life and see all that isn’t yet figured out, fixed, “worked on”, changed, or embodied, I recognize the relief in letting that be okay instead of approaching it with the urgency I once did. And I have a felt sense of this being the whole entire point — reaching this place of willingness to be with all of it, rather than being in a place of desperation to make my way out of all of it.
I think about what is possible when we let ourselves be. I think about what change can actually take place when we stop trying to squeeze it out of ourselves and instead trust the slow drip. I think about what meaning can be made when we let things be what they are. I think about what relief can be found when we let ourselves be real, be unfinished, be in this body and this version and this life we currently have — even when there’s more to heal, more to grow, more to shift, more to embody.
I often write about the same things over and over in different words and ways because these are the questions and explorations of my life — ones that bring me closer and closer to myself as I examine them from different lenses and different versions of me. And we often repeat and recycle the same challenges over and over because they are the teachers of our life — the parts of us asking to be tended to again and again not because we haven’t done enough, but because they just are. And when we can choose to turn toward what is asking for our tending over and over, the tending itself becomes healing, rather than the outcome or absence of what needs tending.
May you tend and tend and tend some more.
May you let what is here teach you rather than hold you hostage.
May you listen to the lingering wounds before rushing to eliminate them.
May you see the gold in this version of you, the one that exists right now.
May you forgive what hasn’t yet been done, figured out, finished.
May you find beauty in the cobwebbed corners of you.
May you experience the relief of no longer seeing yourself as a project.
May you delight in awe and wonder, even when grief sits in your belly.
May you let yourself live in spite of what hasn’t been wrapped up in a bow.
May you notice all the ways you are already the person you hope to be.
May you let it be enough.
△ This listen: All About Love
△ Pamela Anderson’s Just A Girl
△ The Hidden Toll of Microstress
△ “…as writers, you trust your own voice. A lot of people write and think, “The public will like this,” or, “This will be important,” but you are your first reader. The first person that has to be impressed with what you’re writing is you. You always have to remember that.”
— Excerpt from A lovely interview with poet Nikki Giovanni
△ Re-reading this stunning book I’ve shared here before
△ Make your desk more ADHD friendly
△ You Don’t Have to Be Complicit in Our Culture of Destruction
△ Really looking forward to this upcoming writing class
△ A place, one of many, to donate to urgent relief for earthquake victims in Turkey and Syria
Human Stuff from Lisa Olivera is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Holy smokes! Love getting the wisdom exactly when I need the guidance. It’s as if you were living my life the last couple days so this resonates with me in an exquisite way. Thank you so much Lisa.
Sometimes, perhaps more often than we think, the challenge just is. As you say, it is there to be tended and the tending is the healing. Rather than striving for arrival at the other side of the lesson can we just nourish and allow?
The healing may be in the tending. Brilliant.
Thank you so much for your gorgeous words! I really resonated with what you said about finding gold in the version of us that exists right now. I often find myself wanting to rush to another reality where I have more wisdom, where I have more things figured out, where I am more healed. Yet letting it all be enough as it is truly feels like a breath of fresh air. Sending you so much love🏻✨