When I turned the volume up to better hear Track 1 on Rose Ave., an album from You+Me, I knew the album was worth listening to with my full attention. My friend Crystal gave me the album, because she knew I would love it. Friends can be good like that. Since autumn, I’ve listened to this album on repeat nearly every time I’ve been alone in the car. Alecia Moore (Pink) and Dallas Green (City and Colour), have amazing vocal talents that command an audience. Their ability to convey emotion in this album is what brings me back day after day for another listen.
As I drove to work yesterday morning, I listened to Track 10, their broken down intimate version of No Ordinary Love, on repeat. It’s a short commute, but I was able to lose myself for about 15 minutes and just hear the words. I naturally thought of my husband the first go round. Then something different happened as the song was beginning a second time.
“I gave you all the love I’ve got,
I gave you more than I could give
I gave you love
I gave you all that I had inside”
I wondered aloud, “What if I loved myself this much?”
A few years ago when we were houseparents, when our cottage was in a real funk one summer – when the kids were on campus all day without a break away, without distractions from each other or from us – half of our girls were on restriction and sitting at the kitchen table. What we don’t always talk about is how mean the girls could be. Their anger and frustration bred a nastiness in them, and misery loves company, doesn’t it? So, they projected their pain and confusion and sorrow and worry onto everyone around them.
Tired of the heaviness in the air and exhausted from fighting the girls’ defenses, I realized it was an opportunity to work through some things. I gave each of them an index card and asked them to write down all of the lies they had been told in their lives. My hope was that if the girls were able to write out some of the ugly things they were told about themselves, we could make some associations with their behaviors and figure out new ways to respond to triggers.
Here are a few of the untruths they shared:
1. Nobody will ever love me. 2. I’m stupid. 3. I’m never going to be anything. 4. I can never be forgiven. 5. I’ll never be happy.
My heart was not always ready for their honesty.
I knew that I couldn’t make up for a life time of lies, but I hoped to establish some new ground work for these girls to build on. I openly forgave them for the times they hurt me. I empowered them and helped the girls realize their potential. I encouraged them to ask for help, to use the resources available to them, to create solid futures for themselves. I laughed with them. We danced together – to Michael Jackson. They laughed when I danced to Michael Jackson. We cooked together. We celebrated all of our birthdays together. They taught Stella to play the piano. We traveled, we painted pictures, we cared for three fat goldfish together. We sang songs. We held hands. We cried together. I loved them.
In this season of renewal I challenged myself to be a place where God loves to dwell. I’m still figuring out what that means. I think it means, among other things, I have to learn to really love myself. I have to take care of myself and provide for my needs – time to be alone, time to think, time to read, to laugh, time to be creative, time to write. I have to practicing forgiving myself – for eating that candy bar, for doubting myself, for hurting other people. Isn’t forgiveness the ultimate love?
When I listen to the lyrics of No Ordinary Love, I envision an unconditional love – that’s how I should love myself. I don’t always, and I’m afraid most of us suffer from some form of self-loathing. I’m trying to balance my realistic self with my ideal self. It would bring me some small amount of peace if I could get those women to meet in the middle. I’m working through some of the untruths told to me.
1. I can’t do that, because I’m a woman. 2. I can’t do this job without a degree. 3. All husbands will lie and cheat.
People I loved and cared for spoke these untruths to me. I’m saying no to those lies, and I’m asking you to do the same. When we identify the awful, hurtful things we’ve been told in our lives, we can begin to put them in their places and grow beyond the stagnation such words can cause. When we move out of those dark places, we can begin to see our true selves more clearly. Our spirits become warmer, softer, more welcoming, and offer a place for love to dwell. I think that’s a good start.
Agere Contra, friends