“If you hear a voice within you saying, You are not a painter, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” ~Vincent Van Gogh
“Ha!” she giggled as she reached the edge of our old Victorian’s front porch.
I remember fumbling with the snaps of my raincoat when she said something that changed me forever.
“Betsy, have you ever noticed that whenever you come outside the rain stops and the sun comes out?”
Was that true? I’ve spent my life gathering evidence of that truth. Such is the power of words uttered by others that become the voices in our heads.
I was only five years old. I was in Kindergarten, heading out for the bus stop on a typical weekday morning.
“Bets, every time I bring you fishing with me I catch a lot of fish! You are my good luck charm!”
That one sentence made waking up at 4am, sloshing through a boggy shore to a row boat and finally a motor boat which we’d sit in silently for hours in the middle of a quiet ocean, my favorite memory with my dad.
And I was no older than 7.
Those are a sampling of powerful thoughts that have threaded themselves into my heart and have a lot to do with how I see myself in the world, and how I interact with it.
But I have other, very destructive thoughts, too. They were said to me in anger, jealousy, and sometimes rage. (Never by my parents). They are constant companions, too. I hate them because sometimes I believe them, too. I watch as they tell me all sorts of horrible things that I know aren’t true. I battle with those voices every day as I go about talking to people, asking questions, learning, growing, sharing, and just living my life. I won’t tell you what they say, but they make me confused, vulnerable, and like crying. They make me doubt and second guess everything I say and write. It is a constant struggle to “show up” and to “be”.
And all of this goes on in my head. If I keep a straight face, nobody sees the war between the good and bad thoughts going on behind my eyes.
But, I have a secret to tell you.
The good thoughts are winning.
When I stall on a hill as I’m learning to drive my shift, and a line of cars builds behind me, the voice that starts teasing me saying, “You’re such a bother, Betsy” is quieted by “Sssh.” And I calm down and figure out what gear I’m supposed to be in.
When someone corrects me at work, the voice that says, “You need to be perfect and you will never do it well enough!” is momentarily crowded out by “Thank you,” and I keep working, doing my best.
I can do that for my children, like my parents did for me. I can tell them the truth about the beauty I see in them. I can comfort them when the world and it’s negativity and pain tells them dark things that deflate their spirits, and teach them to listen with their hearts – hearts that want so desperately to feel open. loving and free to enjoy life, but are sometime afraid because there is fear that the mounting evidence of the opposite is the “real” truth.
But it’s a lot harder for me to do that for myself.
Nobody can do it for me. It’s a choice – one thought at a time.
What I know for sure is that this is a lot of what life is about; recognizing that we are free to choose our thoughts and to change them. We were born already full of thoughts and memories that are added to every day. It is up to us, nobody else, to quiet our minds and to allow our hearts the freedom they crave; the freedom that comes with the truth.
And the truth is beautiful, joyful, uplifting, and loving. It seeks beauty and growth, friendship and love. It is warm and happy and finds meaning in pain, sorrow and suffering that never deflates one’s spirit but gives hope and energy to move forward in the face of any and all adversity.
The truth is very well expressed by Marianne Williamson:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
― Marianne Williamson, Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”
Have a beautiful day.
You are, you know.