Living on six acres of land has been both a blessed and challenging endeavor. And the most challenging part isn’t the weeds, or the coyotes, or keeping Maple from eating chicken poop, it’s having the *perfect* neighbors with a *perfect* yard. God love them, Phil and Carol are retired and have an absolute knack for designing and tending and rethinking their botany -- to the extent that they hold occasional garden walks with over 90 PEOPLE. Every time I pop over to grab my mail or say hello, I am astounded that yet another beautiful flower bed is in full bloom, perfectly tended, perfectly abundant.
It’s kinda like talking to that total babe at the beach with the *perfect* body, trying to get sensical words out of my mouth acting like talking to a gorgeous, half-naked person is totally a normal thing to do while, at the same time, I kinda want to look at her bod because it’s pretty amazing, but if I look too long it’s weird, so I kinda half-look, and officially become the weird/awkward chick in the room. This is me standing in Phil and Carol’s lawn: every. single. time.
As I take the short walk home, wrapped in my shame, all I can see are the distant thistles in my brush, the two-week overgrown grass beneath me, and the smattering of chicken poop on my pavement (or, interchangeably, my robust thighs, stretch marks, and kinda saggy post-breast feeding boobs -- same, same ;)).
But let me be super clear: this sooooooo isn’t about Phil and Carol (or hot beach chick).
This is my sh*t, popping up in yet another crazy and ridiculous (and appropriate metaphor) for my life.
When Phil and Carol came for dinner the other night, I took Carol for a walk around the yard so that I could sheepishly explain (and apologize for) my yard. "I’ve probably ruined all the hard work of the former owners, and I just am not very good at this stuff, and Maple takes up soooo much of my time, and…"
Carol graciously stopped me mid-sentence and said: "Erin, this is YOUR yard now. You can do whatever you want with it. I didn’t start getting into gardening until my kids were out of the house. It’s okay."
And honestly? The truth is that my inner hippie kinda likes the overgrown look -- the flowers wildly popping up in various places, the ability to witness how a poppy seed can travel all the way to my front yard and reseed itself in the middle of my rockbed, the ability to see how, without my intervening, a lot of life can keep happening in amazing and mysterious places.
But growing up in this society has taught me to apologize for myself, for my way, for my truth, especially when it’s disorderly, messy and hippie-ish. I’ve learned that I have to check in with the whole freaking neighborhood before I make decisions about my yard to make sure that I’ve designed it how they like it, and I’ve chosen all of their favorite colors, and that they approve of the layout.
But, as my teacher Glennon Doyle Melton says, the world will change when women stop defending themselves.
The other night I had a dream that I was in the middle of a war-zone, running around frantically, making sure that everyone else was okay, bandaging this woman’s arm and wiping that man’s tears. When I looked down at my own body, I realized that I had no idea what I needed, what was going on with ME. I was tired, and broken, and needing my own love -- and the attention that I could so effortlessly give to others was most magical when first used on myself.
As women we have been told that the main goal in life is to secure a man (thank you, Disney movies), make him happy, and tend to his (and the rest of the family’s) needs until death kindly releases us from this prison -- that sacrifice of oneself is the holiest work on Earth -- but lately, God is asking me to think about this differently.
Yesterday I decided to finally rummage through my stuffed-too-full closet, and as I did so, I realized that I DON’T EVEN LIKE half of my STUFF (which… ahem... is a serious problem, you guys, because a LOOOOOT of my debt has come from this mass of woven cotton). I just... bought all of this crap because I was told that “statement necklaces were in”... no wait “LONG necklaces are in”... no wait “riding boots are in”... no wait “ANKLE BOOTS ARE IN”... the endless chase of my “enoughness” and the approval of the tribe never freaking ending. I collected the heaps of items that didn’t belong in my yard any more, and as I held them in my arms, I wept at the incredible loss of money and time and energy that have gone into pleasing the herd. As I handed them off to my gracious, nonjudgemental friend to scour through and donate, I initially felt anxious because who is Erin when she stops trying to please others -- What will she wear? What will she say? Who will she be? It was a mourning and a relief. And as I did so, my God-voice sweetly urged me to relax, because, as you get out of your own way, She reminded me, there’s a lot more room for Me to show you who you are.
And with this, I realized that the holiest work on Earth is not to abandon myself for the sake of others, but to OWN myself for the sake of others -- and that there is truly no other way to be. That the bravest and most attractive people on Earth embody their unique and specific “child-of-God-ness” and stand in their yard (or in their two-piece), exactly as they are, exactly as they feel like, and without apology.
Yoga Therapist, Teacher, Speaker, Writer, Mother