I have always felt this…sensed it…knew it deep within my bones.
When I was a child I felt very connected to the mystical world and loved sleeping outside under the stars. I would talk to the stars and they would wink at me. I always thought they looked like little punctures in the universe; like the biggest, coziest black blanket draped across the sky with little tears and holes in it from being so ancient. I felt safe and seen by those stars that appeared to me to be a beautiful mess in the sky.
I was six years old when I was diagnosed with Epilepsy, a neurological brain disorder that causes seizures. Until ‘the big seizure’ happened, I had only had Petite Mal seizures where I would come in and out of consciousness throughout my day. Essentially, the first six years of my life were presented to me in fragments, like a movie reel missing pieces of its footage. Truth be told, I had no idea that others weren’t experiencing the same thing; that my experience of the world wasn’t everyone else’s experience as well. I was too little to know otherwise. I just knew I seemed to cause a lot of frustration and people were often perplexed or annoyed by me. At home, in school, with friends…I always felt like a bit of an outsider. I know that wasn’t the intention of many people (especially my family), but nonetheless, that’s how I felt – misunderstood. a weirdo.
On the one hand, this made me very determined. In my attempt to prove myself I accomplished some pretty great things, such as getting my two-year college degree (AA) one month before graduating high school, at age sixteen. It also seemed to make me more resilient to making mistakes or worrying about conforming, which helped me to take risks early in my life that has led me to discoveries, adventures, and healing far beyond what most experience in their entire life.
On the other hand, it kept me hiding for many years, playing small, second-guessing my abilities, comparing myself to others more conventional expertise. In my twenties in NYC, I watched many of my friends and colleagues in the personal development world rise up into their voices and messages with a ferocity that left me feeling lost in the dust. The truth is, I never felt I belonged. I would meet people, they would like me (even love me), and deep down…I didn’t believe it. How could it be true, really true? I was broken, and certainly, sooner or later they would see the truth too…that I didn’t belong. So before that happened I often sabotaged the relationship, ran away, moved on, disconnected.
Deep down, I was ashamed of myself. I felt that I was a ‘jack of all trades, but a master of none’…and I felt this was a terrible flaw. I thought I was not very smart or clever and since I was viewing the world from the outside, I felt I could see (and feel) everything. Finding ways to express myself became my art, rather than a specific medium, I just chose whatever allowed for me reflect the brutality and beauty I witnessed. I suppose it made me prolific in a way, an explorer – writing, photographing, cooking, teaching, mentoring, coaching – whatever means I could to show the world as I see it, which is bigger, better than we know. However, I was always at ‘half mast’ with my light. And it was suffocating my soul.
I remember watching people in their full power and light and feeling so drawn to them. Something would rise up in me…and then I’d go silent and just feel envious. I’d feel they only hung out with me because of pity or lack of knowing the truth just yet. This battle inside me was a terrible thing that ate at my soul for half of my life. And it’s a tricky one because it wasn’t a terrible life…it was just one in which I knew, deep in my bones, I wasn’t bringing my full self to the world.
The truth is, it wasn’t a single moment in which the light came on for me. I don’t have a turning point in my story where everything changed. Rather, it was an unfolding. Quite similar to the beginning of my life, I seem to come alive, to awaken, in fragments.
Like pieces of gift that were handed to me over time. An experience, a book, a teacher, a mentor, a friend, words that hit my soul, changing the pathways in my mind and heart and therefore, changing my path. Piece by piece, I began to embrace my flaws, to remember who I really was, and to honor all the parts of who I am. I found ways to reinvent myself without leaving aspects of myself behind and courageous step by courageous step, I began to bring my full self to the world.
It makes me think of a poetic Japanese art form, called Kintsugi or Kintsukuroi. It means ‘golden mend’ and is known as the art of precious scars. It repairs broken pottery with a glue that is mixed with powdered gold so that the broken parts are illuminated and honored. The philosophy is that breakage is part of the pottery’s history and is not something to hide or disguise. Its imperfection makes the piece more unique. The mess is considered an opportunity for beauty to emerge in a way that takes the art to new heights. The thread of its story deepens and the depth of its life becomes an inspiration for all those who get to witness it.
I share these words and this story with you because maybe, just maybe, today you needed to be told that you are bigger, better than you know. Maybe you needed someone to say, “I see you.” Maybe you needed to be reminded that your rough edges, your heartbreaking mess, holds within it staggering beauty. Please don’t hide, apologize, defer, shrink, or wait any longer. Shine (even if it feels scary and messy)… so that you can illuminate the world.