Reclamation - 2017

In new thought circles it’s popular to spout “Change your thinking, change your life.” Entering that phrase into the Google search engine returns 171,000,000 results in less than one second. There are a lot of people who want to tell you just how your current thinking is wrong, how it’s messing up your life and how to fix your life by thinking differently. This sounds great. Just change the way you think and life will be exponentially better. You will attract, or keep, a wonderful mate, make gobs of money, have lots of stuff, smell good, look great, be the perfect weight and be wildly successful. Sounds good, doesn’t it? Yet if it really were this simple, all of these sites promising “ten tips for changing your thoughts” or “four ways to change your life” or “thirty days to a better life with nine little steps” would cease to exist, self-help books would die on the shelf. But, they proliferate and, many of us go from site to site, workshop to workshop, guru to guru looking to be fixed.

The problem is the assumption behind all of this is that there is something wrong with you that needs to be fixed, mended or changed. And, most people I talk to say that’s true. They can recite a litany of things they don’t like about themselves, whether it’s wanting to lose weight or gain weight, negative thinking, being moody, being unkind, being too kind, thinning hair, being too old, unlucky in love, bad with money, their past, old beliefs, emotional states and on and on.

I often hear “I want to change because I’m not happy.” But, the truth is real, lasting change can only come when we give up all hope of change. Why? Because, when we try to change because we think there is something wrong with us, what we are focusing on is wrongness. In reality, the only thinking that needs changing is the thinking we need changing. Thus, instead of changing our thinking as a way to a better life, I would rather think about reclamation—the process of reclaiming all of who we are. Most of us have bits of ourselves we don’t like or of which we are ashamed—we reject parts of ourselves. It is only by reaching out to those rejected parts and bringing them back into our heart that we can break through the barriers preventing us from living fulfilling lives. We can take all the workshops we want, have a successful career, make lots of money, have friends, but if we reject pieces of ourselves we will never be happy. And, we will never have the energy to accomplish great things in life, because it takes a lot of energy to repress what we don’t like; energy that can’t be used for life fulfilling activity.

I learned this lesson the hard way when I had a breast removed as a result of breast cancer. The first moment I saw my chest unbandaged after the mastectomy I felt sick. There was a red, angry scar running from my sternum across my chest and under my armpit. I was lopsided, deformed, unfeminine, no longer a real woman. All of these thoughts crowded through my head in a matter of seconds. I was no longer whole, or worthy of love. It was a stark moment and I struggled for many months with what it meant. I wore baggy clothes, experimented with a removable prosthetic breast and, finally, decided I would just be who I was. Some people don’t notice, some people are bothered by it and let me know, some people tell me I should get reconstructive surgery and some people make comments about me to others. The truth is, I don’t care. I reclaimed the maimed part of me. I can look at myself in the mirror now and see beauty. I can appreciate the fine work of the surgeon who left me with a beautiful scar. I can love my body one breasted and I can let go of what other people think about it and about me.

So, this year reclaim who you are. Instead of making resolutions, make a list of all the things you hate about yourself—don’t cheat—get real. Take a long, hard look at that list and pick one item. Imagine that thing was a tiny puppy or kitten you found abandoned on the highway. Love that thing and take care of it the way you would that tiny animal. Nourish it, feed it, love it, give it a home in your heart. Reclaim your stinky bits, your icky bits, your shameful bits—they are a glorious messy part of who you are—a glorious, messy, lovely human being. Once you’ve nourished that, pick another and another until you’ve reclaimed you, glorious messy, lovely, complicated you. Love yourself and the world will open up before you.

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