By Wendy Flaherty
I try not to give much advice. Many years ago, someone I respected told me that when you give advice to people, they only hear and follow the parts they like and are happy to blame you for things that don’t work out. So, over the years, I told myself to listen more, talk less and try not to offer much advice.
But if I could, there are things I’d like to tell my younger self about life. Here they are, in no particular order.
You know, those parts of yourself you hate and try so hard to hide? The parts of yourself you believe no one could love? The parts that embarrass you? All the parts you’d vote off the island in a heartbeat if you only could?
Each of these “imperfect” parts is a beautiful and essential piece of you. They are trying to protect you and they are telling you truths you need to hear. They are handling all the messy stuff in life you abdicate and refuse to deal with. Listening to them and loving them will work so much better than judging them. And by the way, all those “flaws” you so desperately try to hide are also the most loveable and relatable parts of you. Authenticity beats perfection any day. Perfection is too damn intimidating for people to invite into their hearts. If you hide who you are, you will never believe anyone loves you for who you are, even if they do.
We live in a flawed, messy and gloriously amazing world; every moment of this human experience is a sacred treasure. Be here. Live it. Feel it. Cry it, scream it, tell the Universe to F*CK off if you need to, but stay engaged with life. As someone who spent a lot of years disconnected from my feelings and my body, I had to fight my way back and I can tell you, it’s worth it. YOU are worth it. Relish your senses, your feelings and your connection with others.
This one is really important. Safety is an illusion. Comforting as hell, but an illusion nonetheless. If you live your life trying to be safe it will not work, because nothing will ever be “safe enough” and your life will quickly become very, very small. Fear cannot conceive of something new, and fear always argues for the worst possible outcome. Fear wears many masks and can be the basis of our most comforting beliefs. When we give in to fear, we betray the core of my being. Fear is the “good enemy” that requires us to be bigger than we ever thought we could be. I pay a lot of attention to my fear – it’s usually pointing exactly the direction I need to go.
Life is not under your control, and sometimes it really sucks. No matter how unselfish you are, how positive your thinking, how high your vibration, how much you meditate, how many people you help or whatever thing you secretly feel should equalize the cosmic scales, at some point something bad, maybe very bad, is going to happen to you or someone you deeply love. It will. And it is not your fault. It’s really not. It’s the hand you were dealt, and your only choice will be to decide how you want to show up, who you want to be in those moments. Those moments are the very stuff of life and love.
So live in a way that develops in you the strength and depth you will need at those fragile, awful, beautiful moments. It’s like making bread. All the ingredients are there but for bread to turn out well you have to knead it. And it takes a while. You stretch it, knead it, stretch it, knead it, stretch it and knead it some more. And after a while the fibers in the dough break down and you develop the gluten, and it becomes elastic. And that elasticity means it can stretch and stretch without breaking.
How? Let your heart be big enough to love yourself in all your messy imperfection and love others that way, too. Train yourself to be present even when you aren’t comfortable. Be courageous, and follow your heart instead of your fears. Show up for your life. Risk love. Risk joy.