No More Gold Stars, You Are Enough

“It is when all our somethings are collapsing that we may finally turn to nothing, and find there everything we need.” ~ Martha Beck

Twenty years ago, when all my somethings seemed to be collapsing all about me, I found myself completely alone and stranded hundreds of miles away from home.  A taxi had dropped me off at a Greyhound Bus station because I had no other address to give the driver.  No marriage, no home, no job, no vehicle, and very little money in my purse.  I was unsure of what the next day, or even the next minute held for me, and my life seemed completely and hopelessly out of control. I found myself grasping for something, anything, that would shine a light into that darkness.

It was then, that I first heard an ancient story that still serves me today. It is an old legend of a Native American Elder sharing an important life lesson with a young warrior in his village.  I share it here in hopes it may help another find their way.  I had been listening to a recording from a lecture series on a cassette tape, and I remember sitting there in the bus station literally hitting play and pause, play and pause, over and over, on my little Sony Walkman with tears streaming down my cheeks, as I wrote down the story in its entirety, word for word. I recognized a glimmering light in these words. Something called hope.

Lost
Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made this place around you.
If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand Still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.
— by David Wagoner

I was so completely lost and untethered in the “forest of my life” at that time and those words offered me a calming wisdom.  Even now, 20 years later, I continue to find solace and answers in the stillness of the forest… when I stand still, and am willing to listen.

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Cape Sebastian State Park, Southern Oregon Coast

The message I heard that day listening to that poem in the Greyhound Bus station was that if I just stopped and stood still, completely still, quieting my mind, my thoughts and my emotions, I would no longer be lost. Because “Wherever you are is called Here.” And “Here” is just one small moment in time.  Just one moment, to be followed by another moment, and then yet another. It was in one of those moments that day, that I began to recognize and understand the powerful sense of peace that comes from “standing still” and stopping the spinning thoughts and emotions that create what we call fear.

For me, those spinning thoughts and emotions of fear came from my lack of control over what was happening in my life. Or more honestly, my perceived lack over the illusion of control I thought I had over my life… as if I had any power or influence over all those things so beyond my control. The more out of control my life had become, the more I had worked to take care of everyone, and everything. I believed if I just tried hard enough, and then tried just a little harder, and did not give up, I could, and would, make a difference. Ahhh… Yes, that thinking is what I now fondly recognize as my great illusion… “my illusion of control.” I distinctly remember the day when I wrote: “Today, I stop!” “No more Gold Stars!” followed by many exclamation marks in my journal.  Again, I reminded myself that I no longer needed the recognition or approval of others to feel a sense of self-worth or happiness.

One of the most life changing and significant whispers my soul shared on that journey in the darkness, was that to be truly at peace, I needed to be responsible for my own happiness. I needed to learn how to love myself and believe I was good enough, no matter what was happening in my life. I needed to love myself just as fiercely, and unconditionally as I had loved others in my life. I was shocked to discover that I had been so focused on taking care of everyone else, I did not even know who I was anymore.

It took years of inner work to once again begin to recognize the self I barely remembered from long ago, instead of  the self who had begun to settle for less than. The self who I had gradually and unknowingly neglected.  The self who had become hidden away in the day-to-day survival of a dysfunctional life that comes in caring about, and loving, someone who struggles with drug addiction. I had to learn and acknowledge what role I had contributed to that dysfunction, learn to forgive myself, and then learn to love myself, anyway.

Thank you to writer, Kathy Parker, for so graciously allowing me to share her eloquent words from her blog, This Girl Unraveled.  Her words speak so tenderly to the heart of that woman I have forgiven, and have now learned to love and admire for her survivor spirit:

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You can read more of Kathy Parker’s amazing writing at This Girl Unraveled: https://kathyparker.com.au

A sterling moment of truth occurred one day after my marriage had ended, and I found myself standing in the aisle of a department store staring bewilderingly at a large collage of color. I had needed to buy some bath towels, and suddenly it occurred to me standing there, that I had no idea what color I even liked or preferred. That image has now become humorous over the years, but it was startling at the time.  I began to realize that throughout my marriage, I had created a home based on what my husband would like, what would please him. Loving him, making him happy is what made me happy. Or so I had allowed myself to believe. I think that this is common for a lot of woman who define their happiness through caring for and loving their families. However sadly, the truth of the matter is, that when drug addiction is a mistress in a marriage, no one is really authentically happy.

From that moment when I realized I didn’t know what color of bath towel to buy, an archeological dig began, that lasted for several years as I searched to find myself and begin to love her again. Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of one of my favorite books, Simple Abundance, calles this excavating your authentic self.  She states, “the magic seeds of contentment are planted deep within us. Happiness that the world cannot take away only flourishes in the secret garden of our souls. By tending to our inner garden and uprooting the weeds of external expectations, we can nurture our authentic happiness the way we would nurture something that’s beautiful and alive.”

I dug down deep and discovered the things I love doing, the things that make me happy, the things that make my heart sing. Creating my own happiness while out working in my yard, or walking on the beach. Hours strolling in book stores and browsing through antique shops. Hiking in the forest, or watching for the first signs of Spring.  Cooking on rainy days, or reading a good book with a favorite cup of tea. Losing myself for hours researching history and family genealogy. Spending time with my friends, or spending quiet time alone.  With time, my list began to grow, and I found I really could be happy by myself.

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February Daffodils on the Southern Oregon Coast

And in all honesty, I have now discovered that I really do enjoy and treasure my quiet time alone. That is one of the whispers my soul was able to finally hear in the stillness, while being bed bound for 3 years due to Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.  I have come to realize that I truly am an introvert who had struggled for so many years attempting to portray an extrovert. I have a new understanding of how that struggle only led to this overwhelming sense of never being at peace, never quite finding my groove, never quite fitting in anywhere.

I have learned to love my time alone and to really enjoy and celebrate it. I have discovered “there is nothing more empowering and liberating than rejoicing in your own aloneness.” There is a big heart-felt and soul-felt difference between being alone and lonely.  Until I learned how to find my own happiness, I had been very lonely at times, no matter how many people surrounded me in my life.

I truly do believe that each person has to be responsible for their own happiness in this crazy world, and people can’t be dependent on others to make them feel happy or “complete them”…  like the movies suggest, lol. I know I will never settle for less than in a relationship again.

I think that’s why many relationships fail. People don’t know how to be happy by themselves first. They are not bringing a WHOLE person into the relationship, but instead are looking for something or someone else to fill them up, to make them feel better, to define their own self-worth.  Trying to make themselves feel whole by adding another person’s energy to their own, which is somehow lacking.

It has been an ongoing process, one that requires continuous work. From the darkness much color can fill our lives when we unselfishly learn to love ourselves.  With thanks to my incredible health coach Toby Morrison who shared the words below with me several years ago, I have learned to love the perfectly imperfect me. I have learned I am more than enough.

And so it is. And so it is.  ~ Michele Marie

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Start Embracing YOU!

———————————

Toby Morrison, Author & Founder of CFS Health

Toby has helped hundreds of ME/CFS patients, in over 40 countries with his Online Program. I will be forever grateful to him for the time we spent working together, as I continue my journey towards wellness.

Follow Toby Morrison – Health and Lifestyles on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tobymorrisoncfs

9 thoughts on “No More Gold Stars, You Are Enough

  1. Hello Sweetie. Once again you have amazed with your words. Isn’t it amazing how long it has taken to finally “find” your true self. I have heard before that it takes a special person to have comfort in being by themselves. I, for one, have had that ability for quite a long time. I do truly love my family of course. I cherish the time I get to spend with my children and grandchildren. But the time I get to spend on my own and get inside my own head is just as important for me. People think it strange at times, as I am usually tagged as someone who needs to be around people. And as much as I enjoy people time, I enjoy my “quiet” time.
    Kudos to you my dear. Keep the insights coming. You are an amazing lady. I knew this many years ago by the way.
    Much Love to you. The world awaits.
    Bob

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your continued encouragement and understanding, my dear forever brother! It means so much to know that you also know the dichotomy of being an introvert in a world that encourages us to be extroverts every day. It is still often difficult for me to describe. You have always been an inspiration to me in the way that you are so comfortable in your own skin. Often I hear your voice clearly reminding me of the importance to not give a moment of my serenity to the concern of what other people think of me. Thank you for that! This favorite quote of mine reminds me of your daily walks, and many hikes you enjoy in solitude. Enjoy!
      “I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, ‘Walden’

      Much love, light, and gratitude, Michele ❤

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  2. Every time I read your words I find a piece of myself in them as I’m sure so many do, it’s like you’re writing this beautiful story for all of us. I too spent the first 20 years of my marriage always trying to please, fearful that one day it would be just me and my kids. I did it to myself, Mick never did anything to me to feel that way, I too had no idea what color I liked for my towels or even what my favorite foods were, I was a self imposed stepford wife. I almost list so much before I realized that I was worth so much more than I was giving myself. Thank you for inspiring me and so many others. Love your heart and oh so beautiful soul.

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    1. Thank you, dear Sue, for your kind, loving, and gracious words. I am so sorry that you too, know that moment when “all your somethings are collapsing all around you” my dear friend. I think that is the thing I am finding the most surprising about taking this risk and opening up my heart to share my own vulnerabilities… that so many others have experienced such similar stories. I hope in sharing my journey, others will find hope and encouragement along the way. It means so much to have you join me here at Gracehaven By The Sea, dear woman. You are absolutely and completely spot on when you said no one makes us do these things that we thought resembled loving our love ones, even at such a high price to our own self worth. And yes, OH MY, that moment of recognition of not even knowing what kind of food we like… Like a lightening bolt of awareness that rocked me out of a deep sleep! Thank you for sharing a glimpse of your story here. Thank you for opening your heart to me this past year, it means so much to me. I look forward to wherever this journey takes us, my friend! ❤

      With much gratitude, love and light, Michele Marie

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      1. Dear friend I really can’t explain how much I’ve thought of your words, last night I laid in bed and recalled so many instances and had a tear or two and some smiles but wondered why. It’s like she’s yelling my story, some differences but my story and I see from other comments I’m not alone. I wonder if this was how we grew up, that you have to do this to be loved and happy? I’ve thought about this over and over, something I’ve never thought about but now I wonder why was I like this? Why did it take my marriage almost falling apart before I found myself? I’m watching my daughter go through her divorce and she too is finding herself and her happiness. I hope by talking about this we can make sure that her daughter knows only how to love herself and know her self worth. Thank you thank you for letting us come on your journey and opening ourselves up to understanding and healing. Much love, I look forward to many more beautiful, thoughtful and honest posts. Always, Sue

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    1. Oh my sweet, dear SisterFriend, thank you so much for loving me and “all my words” throughout the years. You know my heart more than most and I am so happy to have you join me here as I share my journey. Thank you for loving me unconditionally over the years, even when I could not seem to love myself the same. You are, and will forever, and always, be my sister in my heart! ❤

      With much gratitude, love and light, Michele Marie

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  3. Hi Michele, Karin from Tasmania here. (from CFS Inner Circle set up by Toby Morrison….he’s so good isn’t he!)
    Your words are inspiring and honest and a privelege to read. Thankyou. I relate to your journey. 10 yrs into my marriage I reached a point where I’d had enough. With 4 children, I didn’t want to leave but I decided to tell my husband that I would no longer do as he wanted, finish where he left off, try to fix him etc and that I would get on with my own life and it was up to him to work out what he really wanted in life. I also told him I would be completely honest, no longer skirt around a topic, be blunt, be direct. It was challenging at first as my new found determination had a tendency to come out a little too strong! His challenge was to listen and not take it personally! I let go of trying to save us, save him and chose to save me and the reward was remarkable. Not only did I free myself, my husband felt free also. A sense of relief flooded him that it didn’t matter to me if he didn’t complete a project. I let go of trying to get him to see he didn’t need drugs. The result then being that he destroyed his paraphanalia, he stopped using, he worked on clearing his mind. I’m one of the lucky ones, my letting go saved our marriage. Sure it the adjusting was difficult at first but I kept letting go. And where did I go to let go? The forest! We lived on 25 acres, mostly gum tree and blackwood trees and I would sit in a small gully and be still. And yes, the kids have all grown up and now have kids of their own and hubby and I continue to support each other in a loving and healthy way 27 yrs later from that 10yr epiphany in my life!
    Look forward to reading more of your wonderful insights.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh sweet Karin from Tasmania, how wonderful to have you join me here at Gracehaven By The Sea! I am so happy our paths have continued to cross from other sides of the world these past 3 years since first meeting in the Inner Circle. Thank you for sharing a glimpse of your story here. Yes, you are absolutely right, when we make the choice to begin loving ourselves and taking care of ourselves, our loved ones are then free to begin taking care of their own lives and allowed to become all they are meant to be! I am so happy that you and your husband have weathered the storms and your love has withstood the test of time. Not easy, especially when we add in a chronic illness like ME/CFS. I remember your love for books, your gardening, and now I am thrilled to learn you also love the silence and whispers of the forest. ❤ I remember seeing pictures of you and your beautiful family that you have shared. May you continue to be blessed and always find a soft place within their love for you. Thank you again for your encouragement and friendship.

      With gratitude, love and light, Michele Marie

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