The world is alive and talking to us all of the time. If we still ourselves long enough to pay attention, we can have a dialogue, a communion with this life, and thus an enchanted existence.
I like to think that my life is enchanted, but it did not arrive that way without effort.
I’ve always wanted to understand the unknowable, to touch the great mystery that is life itself, one tiny drop at a time - if that was all I could get my hands around. And, quite often, it is all I can get my hands around. The world around and within us is unimaginably vast. Endless possibilities scatter before us in all directions.
So in order to live what I feel is an enchanted life, I began a relentless witnessing, pursuing, processing and connecting, which has brought the most profound (yet utterly mundane) insights.
I can go weeks without insights, much like the weeks or months without remembering any dreams. And then out of the muck rises some breakthrough, suddenly, and without warning, without ceremony. The other day I had such a revelation. This one was about worthiness.
Now let me preface this by saying that I did not grow up with any extra-ordinary amount of self esteem or inherent worthiness. Quite the contrary, actually. A life long history of crippling depression did not naturally lend itself to personal value. Perhaps it was rooted in the belief that I was inherently bad, undeserving of good things, no matter how “good” I was inside or behaved on the outside, constantly reinforced an unworthy bias.
It could have been the internalized message of a religious upbringing (we are all born sinners or something like that), or it could’ve just been the baggage I brought with me to this life when I entered. It doesn’t really matter where it came from. What matters is that I’ve carried it, day in and day out for decades. It was the hole I dug in the ground to escape a loving encounter, it was the cliff I built to leap away from a frightening (but good) opportunity.
This feeling that we don’t really deserve such blessings is one of those things that lives behind our smiles, it hides on the backs of our open hands as we hesitantly accept grace. “Do I really deserve this?” is the question we never form, but that lives under our tongues, as we try and say yes through the sludge of that loaded question.
Somewhere I started to believe that it was necessary to “do good” in order to BE deserving of good. That whole like attracts like thing, maybe. Or maybe it was my way of punishing myself, of creating impossible standards, in order to prove myself right by never reaching the unattainable. But, because I am stubborn, and a survivor, I continued on, striving to someday be “worthy”.
The other day I went for a walk on the beach. I have a bit of a pattern when it comes to these sunset walks, always walking towards the sun. This day, for some reason, I walked the other direction. I only walked a short distance when I came across a bird in need of help.
This bird, a cormorant, had been caught with a line of some kind, which wrapped around both of its wings and neck.
(I wrote about it in detail here)
The poor bird was really suffering, it was hard to watch and not to help. This was the first time in my life (that I remember, anyway) where I had an opportunity to truly be of help to a creature in need. Looking back, I surprised even myself with how I handled it. The bird needed help, and so I patiently, lovingly, unwound that string from his feathers. The whole ordeal took about an hour, and the sun was down by the time I left his side, once I knew he’d be ok.
The walk home was when the surreal nature of what had occurred hit me. Did I really just save a bird’s life? He surely would’ve drowned had I not helped, right? But, I was always going to help. That creature deserves help, I thought to myself. It had nothing to do with me, or my ego or anything else. It was about connection, compassion. And that was when I realized the thing about value, about worthiness.
Each one of us has tremendous value as a living being, as part of this world. You are part of the synergy of the whole complex thing. Consider the possibility that maybe your actual value lies simply in being an active participant in life. That is, just by being alive, by breathing, you have value. You don’t have to “do” anything except exactly what is natural to you.
Try that on for size. How does it feel? I admit, it felt more comfortable when I tried it on at first. As I write these words I am tempted to backtrack, to explain more, to agree that maybe it does seem far fetched and simplified. But really, when the insight came, it was just that simple.
In the case of the bird: I felt an impulse to take a different path in a moment that lasted less than a fraction of a second. Didn’t question it. Seemed natural enough, I do have an adventurous streak, and had gotten into a rut by walking the same way day in and day out.
So, yeah. Just by showing up, I found myself in a situation where I could give back to life.
Oh, but there is a catch. Showing up in integrity with who you really are, by following the impulses that are unique to you, that is the value you serve and give back to life itself.
Consider the relief in that you just have to do what’s right and best and natural to you. Life has given you life. Life itself wants you to live, and feed back into the loop that continues life. It is, therefore, of value to life itself that you show up - in all the ways that are authentic to you. It has nothing to do with being anything other than exactly who you are.
I’m still trying to wrap my head around this. It’s so simple, yet so hard to hold. We’ve been taught our whole lives that our value is measured in our striving. In how many hours we work, or how many followers we have, that's where we find our worth. But those things are fleeting, although, I guess under this new awareness those things do have their place.
So, if it is your natural impulse to work endless hours, to court countless followers, go forth and do it with no apologies. Your life has value, you have value. Your unique contribution is important to the functioning of the whole. So do your thing. Stop doubting yourself. Stop questioning your worth. Stop digging a hole to hide in. Just live. Live your life in the most authentic way you can. And then at the end of it, weather you die in obscurity, die next to your beloved, or die with millions of fans mourning your passing - if you lived the life that was authentic to you, as often as you could, nobody will be able to deny that you lived, and you lived well.
Liz Huston, October 21, 2015