This blog post, like me, is a work in progress. But I’m going to post it anyway. In fact, I’m going to write it in half an hour and post it immediately, so I have time for lunch, to get ready and to get out the door to catch a train to a meeting. I’m not going to stew or stress over it. I’m not going to edit it for hours. I’m just going to write it, read it once or twice and press send.
It’ll do. It’ll do for now because I know I’ll be coming back to this topic of ‘becoming whole’ many times. It’s what I’m about. It’s what my book is about. And it’s what I want my work, going forward, to be about. I want to become whole, as much as humanly possible, and I want to help others to become whole, through writing, coaching and speaking.
So here goes.
Let’s start with what I mean by being whole. Think of the oak tree, with its wide, solid trunk. It stands firm in the wind. It doesn’t sway, waver or bend. It’s grounded, solid, safe from the elements, from outer influences. It’s connected to the earth. It’s resilient. It’s sure of who it is and what it’s about.
Now think of a thin, scrawny tree with spindly branches. It gets blown about all over the place. It may get uprooted, knocked over, or its branches may snap when the wind blows.
Or think of a feather in the wind. It gets blown back and forth, up and down. It has no substance. It’s not able to resist. It’s vulnerable, flighty. It goes where it’s pushed. External influences decide its direction of travel. It has no course of its own.
I want to be like the oak tree, grounded, rooted, secure. I want to know who I am and what I’m about. I want to stand tall and strong, with my feet planted firmly on the ground, connected to Nature, to my source. I don’t want to be like the scrawny tree or the feather. I don’t want to be blown about. I want to decide where I’m going and stay on that path.
The oak tree is inside me somewhere. It’s growing, taking shape, slowly inhabiting my insides. But it takes time and effort to develop a solid core, particularly if we’re starting from a scrawny base. I want to embrace my inner oak and nurture it. And I want to help others do the same.
It’s hard to trust yourself when you never have before. It’s hard to believe you know what’s right for you when you’ve lived with so many years of insecurity and self-doubt. It’s hard to break the habit of listening to other people’s opinions and handing them authority over your life, thinking they’re right and you’re wrong. It’s hard to say No when you really mean No when you’ve spent a lifetime saying Yes to things you don’t want. It’s hard to stand up to ‘authority’ figures when your first attempt of doing so – perhaps as a child, standing up to a parent – went horribly long.
But we can learn. How do we learn? Through practice, by practicing being whole, saying No, standing up to people, trusting ourselves, taking up our rightful place in the world, even if doing so makes us scared, even if it makes us sweat, cry, shiver or start running for the hills. We learn by spending time with ourselves, feeding and watering our inner oak in whatever way works.
What works for me? Meditation, prayer, writing, walking by the sea, taking time to listen to the ‘still small voice’ inside, speaking to friends to build up my courage and by exercising the muscles that have been under-used (saying No, trusting myself, making choices and accepting my mistakes).
Becoming whole, or as whole as possible, will take time. I’ll be on this journey for the rest of my life. But it’s probably the most important road I will walk. And it’s a road that’s well worth travelling.
Whole. Authentic. Free. True. This is what I want for my life.
Becoming whole doesn’t mean I won’t cry anymore or I won’t make mistakes, mess up or get hurt. It means I’ll cry as much as I need to and want to because it’s healing and freeing. It means I’ll accept my mistakes and learn from them. Maybe I’ll even laugh at them.
I know I’ll have days when I feel less whole, days when I’m more like the feather in the wind than the sturdy oak tree, but that’s OK. The inner oak is there. It’s growing. My core, my authentic self is becoming strong.
I watched a talk the other day by a woman called Johanna Walker that inspired me to continue on this journey of becoming whole and to continue to share my story with absolute honesty. I’ll leave you with the Youtube clip of the talk (see below). I think it will inspire anyone who’s struggling to come to terms with a life that looks nothing like the one they thought they’d be living. Johanna talks of the power of storytelling to make sense of our sorrow, whatever it may be, and shares how she came to terms with her grief around not being a mum. Johanna says she was inspired to speak by watching Jody Day of Gateway Women do the same. Jody talks openly and honestly about her grief around not having children and helps other women come to terms with their infertility and lead fulfilling lives. Jody’s new book is out very soon. I’ve read the first edition and can highly recommend it.
So that’s me for today. I’ve written and edited my blog post in just under an hour, not quite half an hour but still quick for me, and I’m trusting it’s good enough. Perfectionism holds me back. Perfectionism is a result of not feeling whole. When I don’t feel whole, I need to be perfect; I need other people’s approval to feel OK, to feel good about myself.
I’m done with that.
Today, I’m embracing my inner oak.