When I was in the seventh grade, I shot up seven inches from five-foot-nothing to five-foot seven. It took me years to grow out of my awkward phase. I believe I’m still in my clumsy phase. At that time, this awkward, coltish teenager was going to Sunday School at a largish Southern Baptist Church; we were new to the area and newcomers at the church. Everyone was very nice to the kids, though years later my parents told different stories. One bright sunny day, I overheard my Sunday School teacher talking about another girl in my class about what a wonderful girl she was. Apparently while her parents were away, she had kept the house clean and made sure that when her parents returned, they came home to a house full of fresh flowers.
I looked over at her on that sunny Sunday, as she sat gracefully in her pretty yellow dress with a hat covered in daisies on her head and envied her perfection. I was tugging at my homemade dress as I crossed my ungainly long legs. I didn’t have a hat…if I did, I wouldn’t be able to keep it perfectly atop my head. This girl was like an unattainable ideal of perfection. Neat, pretty, contained, and poised and very definitely not me.
I, on the other hand, was clumsy, sloppy, and unformed. I didn’t have any idea how a kid like me could fill a house with fresh flowers. How do you do that? We had a vegetable garden and dandelions galore, but fresh flowers?
I didn’t envy her, I was just regarded her with a sense of wonder. I knew I could never be like her so I didn’t set her as a standard. After all, she had one older brother, I have three younger ones. She didn’t have a sister and I do. Her mother didn’t work and mine did. Her family didn’t seem to have money problems and mine definitely did. There was really no similarity between us. I think what had me bemused is what the church ladies set up as an ideal of a nice young woman-to-be. I didn’t talk to her because what would we have in common and what would I say to such a perfection?
Many many years later I took this delightful workshop from a woman named Jenny, Mary, or some such name. She was delightful–fun, funny, and flawed. It was a great experience and I gained a great deal of insight from it. A few years later, attending the same retreat, I ran into her again. She had changed her name to some magical name like Morgan, Brigit, or something. She dressed in flowing robes and never cracked a smile. She spoke in hushed wise tones. Where was that delightful flawed woman I met before? “Oh,” I thought, “She got holy.” Of course, behind the scenes there were rumors of dissension in her circle and of behaviors that belied that holiness, leaving me to think her inauthentic to herself and to others.
A lot of times in spiritual circles as people gain more wisdom and insight, they believe that they must never show their flaws, their struggles or their problems. Somehow as spiritual leaders they must show only perfection. Sometimes their vision of what perfection is makes them seem inhuman.
I’ve never been able to achieve that level of holiness; I simply cannot maintain it. Spirit seems to demand that I live my life out loud, confronting me with issues in circle and in public, sometimes embarrassing ways. One of my circle sisters wrote me and thanked me for being her teacher, stating that what she liked best about me was that I was wholly human with bad moods and good. I treasure that comment while at the same time saying to myself, “thank you, I think.” It is true that I’m as honest about my struggles as I am about my accomplishments. In this way I do think I’m am wholly myself.
We are all divine creatures, with the spark of the goddess and the god within us. By living authentically, we keep our flames burning bright. I think about that girl in the daisy hat from long ago. I think her poise and composure were innate and she was finding ways to live authentically just as I was living my sloppy, awkward self. I think in order to be holy, we do need to live wholly ourselves. Our lives are the journey to wholeness and integration. Our lives are made up of accomplishments, of tatters and failures, of tepid responses, and of bright shining moments. This amalgam of success and failure blends together to create our divine wholeness. You cannot have one without the other. If you deny one, then the other will cast big shadows in your life. You may think you are fooling people, but the only person fooled is you. I have found that the Goddess is very demanding. She demands the level of holiness She shows to us. With all it’s dichotomy, contradiction, pain, joy and exuberance. She demands wholeness, a recognition of the holes as well as the full spaces. In this way, we can say, authentically, “I am Goddess, I am God.”
May you live your life out loud, joyfully dancing your holey, holy wholeness!