The Art of Mirriam Neal

learning

I promised myself I’d read more non-fiction in 2k15, and I’ve kept that promise to myself (although my fiction-reading has suffered, I’ve made up for it by watching TV shows while I draw). Because of that, I’ve read some of the most amazing, life-changing books I’ve ever had the opportunity of picking up – one of those books being Found by Micha Boyett. The book is so good that I gave Mom my library copy, and I pretty much didn’t get it back – which, it turns out, is fine, because she ordered a copy for us to keep.  I’m on the last chapter now, and while so many things have really dropped the metaphorical scales from my eyes, there was just one moment in particular that whispered, That’s you.

‘Sometime in the midst of all those foggy days, my spiritual director sends me an e-mail. I’d apologized to her for failing to hold to some commitment. I’d cited my exhaustion, my struggle to adjust to all the changes. Her e-mail says: “Micha, please try to remember not to be so ferocious with yourself.” …Ferocious. A dinosaur word. When we’re ferocious with ourselves we’re more likely to be ferocious with the tenderest ones around us, roaring and stomping and demanding our own way…’

I realized, then, that I am a dinosaur – and not a small one. I’m more like that genetically engineered fire-breathing hybrid from the new Jurassic Park movie (who else is excited about that!?). I also realized that I’ve been going about trying to fix things all wrong. I’ve compartmentalized – seen the way I treat myself and the way I treat others as two different things when, in reality, the way I treat myself should mirror the way I treat others. If I’m constantly berating myself, pushing myself to deadlines I can’t keep, beating myself with a mental stick because I forget to turn in an article on time, or fretting about the fact I haven’t posted something here in a week, or that my current art commission isn’t going as well as I hoped – then I’m not only wearing myself down, I’m being completely self-centered.

And one thing a self-centered woman cannot do is give her time and attention to other people. It’s impossible. You can’t face two directions at once – I can either look inward and spend my time wallowing in my closet of custom-designed hair shirts, or I can look outward. Love covers a multitude of sins – selfish love does not. ‘Self-love’ does not; but treating ourselves gently enables us to treat others the same way.

If I consider myself the highest standard and I spend all my time failing to reach that (frankly impossible) height, then of course I’ll see everyone else as failing, too. They can’t jump over the bar I’ve set for them.

This isn’t about ‘self-esteem’, this is about priorities. You know that little acronym you learned in Sunday School – JOY? Jesus. Others. You. While I personally think that loving Jesus and loving Others are one and the same, ‘you’ still comes last. When I learn to ease the grip I have on myself and focus on what’s more important, pieces tend to fall into place. I just need to remember to let it go.

(Yes, I did that on purpose. You will now have ‘Let It Go’ stuck in your head for the remainder of the day. You are so very welcome.)

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