I trust my body.
I trust my path.
I breathe my faith.
I am not alone.
I requested the release, sitting at the kitchen table that had been my Grandmother’s. This release, this surrender, was the most challenging step I have ever made.
Harder than the proposal for the union.
Harder than falling out of the sky, trusting a stranger’s own will to live.
Harder than backpacking through Europe, alone, at age 25.
Harder than starting my own business, alone, at age 26.
Harder than growing that business, again alone, to a space four times larger.
Harder than learning a foreign skill set: how to renovate a foreclosed home.
Harder than witnessing my own pain, rage and confusion as the days dragged into months and years.
Yes, these things were hard. Yes, these things took courage.
But not nearly as much courage as the afternoon I placed the steaming blue teapot on Grandma’s old kitchen table, which holds countless memories of the farm in Arborg, Manitoba, and sat rigidly on the chair nearest the sliding glass door.
My fingers gripped the sides of my mug, my eyes focused on the rising steam, and I made my request.
I am an empath, meaning I sense and absorb other peoples’ pain and can take it on as my own pain. I put myself in peoples’ shoes and experience their feelings, thoughts and emotions… sometimes I feel more intensely than their own experience.
I think of empaths as compassionate people, which can be an amazing quality when we are consciously choosing authentic compassion. Brené Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection, suggests that compassion isn’t our default response.
When we practice generating compassion,
we can expect to experience the fear of our pain.
Compassion practice is daring.
It involves learning to relax and allow ourselves to
move gently toward what scares us.
[Pema Chödrön, The Places That Scare You]
The word compassion is derived from the Latin words pati and cum, meaning “to suffer with” [Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection]. She suggests that in the face of suffering, we self-protect by looking outside ourselves for someone or something to blame.
Or sometimes we shield ourselves by turning to judgment or by going into fix-it mode.
I think an empath is a socially acceptable fix-it strategy. There are literally trillions of articles about empaths: what it means to be an empath, how to recognize an empath, how to love an empath, how empaths are attracted to narcissists and more about this relationship duo, survival guides for empaths and so on.
When we attempt to fix our friends, family, complete strangers, we take away from their experience and their potential for growth. In some ways it’s egotistical, like saying, I don’t trust that you can help yourself, so I’ll do it for you. And so, in the end, what it means to be an empath is that we have to work daily—minute-by-minute, sometimes—on establishing boundaries.
Again, to quote Brené Brown: “One of the greatest (and least discussed) barriers to compassion practice is the fear of setting boundaries and holding people accountable.”
When we fail to set boundaries and hold people accountable,
we feel used and mistreated. [Brené Brown]
When I first read these words, I identified more with being sweet on the outside and bitter—resentful, angry and judgmental—on the inside. I was playing the victim, feeling used and mistreated.
What I really wanted was to feel like I belonged, to feel connected, cherished, and I wanted to experience all that while being authentically me. Being the most Beck-like that I could be.
And so I stopped trying to fix it. I stopped giving 200%. I stopped overachieving. I focused on me. On being authentically me. I held people accountable. I shone the spotlight on love.
When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves
from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with
who we think we’re supposed to be,
we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness
by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving.
I began to recognize the difference between professing love and practicing love. I don’t want someone who just says they love me; I want someone who practices that love for me every day.
It begins within myself: self-love and self-acceptance are not optional anymore. We live in a society that says, put yourself last, and suggests that anything else is selfish or overly indulgent.
But, for the empaths out there, practicing self-love could be the difference between life and death.
The blue teapot sat on my kitchen table for months. I saw it whenever I visited to pick up more clothes, to water the plants, to check the mail.
I’m not in control of my life now, and I know now I never was. I was in the trance of control—believing I had the power to avoid pain and suffering.
I embarked on one self-improvement project after another: striving to be a better wife, a better daughter, a better sister, a better friend, a better lover, a better business woman. Certainly growth is wonderful and can be accomplished in a wholehearted way, but much of my striving came from the core of “not good enough.”
The heart of compassion is acceptance.
The better we are at accepting ourselves and others,
the more compassionate we become.
Compassionate people are boundaried people.
There is a natural law of abundance which pervades the entire universe,
but it will not flow through a doorway of belief in lack and limitation.
Looking back over the decade that made up my 20s, I am so thankful for each moment of pain and suffering. I’ve come face-to-face with my own imperfections, my own sense of unworthiness, my own judgments. I don’t like admitting it, for what it means about any future growth, but it was in those moments of suffering I grew the most.
Twelve weeks and two days later, in the sterile chambers of the judge, the release was granted.
And, being the empath that I am, it was the second hardest step of my life. However, I recognize that choices we make for our own highest good are always best for the highest good of every other soul on earth.
So I trust in the journey, knowing I’m not alone. I cannot see the future, and that brings up all sorts of fear. However, the future I saw at age 23 wasn’t the future for me after all, so why take on the trance of being in control again?
All we have is today. And in this moment we can chose to grow, to be authentic, to be wholehearted. To know that we are enough.
All we can do is move within love, because God is love.
When you let go of trying to get more of what you don’t really need,
it frees up oceans of energy to make a difference with what you have.
When you make a difference with what you have, it expands.
[Lynne Twist, The Soul of Money]
We don’t need someone to show us the ropes.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
Deep inside us we know the feelings we need to guide us.
Our task is to learn to trust our inner knowing.
[Sonia Johnson, Going Out of Our Minds]