Flip it’s been a while. The last two months have been like a long black tunnel of survival, for reasons I’ll go into at some other point. Suffice to say that today, in this moment I feel ok. It might not last, the darkness might start swirling around again like those dementors in Harry Potter (rereading them at the moment so every analogy is a Harry Potter one…). But for now I feel awake. Today is a good day.
Part of the darkness of my mind in such times involves me grabbing a large big stick and beating myself up with it. I get stuck in cycles of self hatred, self pity and more hatred for being such a self pitying weirdo. It’s not such a fun place to be or to inflict on others, so usually only the lovely husbandface gets the privilege of seeing me at my worst. It’s not a pretty sight. Everything I do makes me a ‘bad person’, everything I think confirms that I am ‘bad’. I’m sure it’s a hangover from my childhood/teenage years where I very clearly categorised myself into the ‘bad’ person role, thinking of my brother as the contrasting ‘good’ person. Not helpful for either of us as I grew to realise that he was just a different kind of person but never really grew out of the thinking of myself in such negative terms.
Pop psychology aside, yesterday I went to my Spiritual Direction course feeling battered and bruised from a night of beating myself up. We were looking at the psychological side of Spiritual Direction and being aware of what might be going on with people on that level, not to step into the role of a counsellor but to know how these things affect our spirituality. The difference being if someone comes to a Spiritual Director with depression we need to make sure they are seeing someone for that specific depression but it’s good to talk about how that depression impacts their relationship with God. I think that’s the general gist anyway.
We thought a lot about our role as directors being to notice what is going on with someone, not to tell them what to do, or to solve problems but to gently be with them and help them be aware of what is going on in their worlds. This seems to get to the heart of what Spiritual Direction is all about, noticing what is going on, helping the other person really see and so be able to make choices and move forward with knowledge.
We also thought about Ignatius and his ‘particular examen’, taking a particular issue in our lives, eg pride, and noticing each day where we have struggled with it or been able to be humble etc. The guy leading the course used the phrase, ‘without attaching moral weight’ to those reflections. For me that was a completely radical concept, how could I reflect on the day and not attach moral weight to what I’ve done? I generally reflect on the day and always think I have fallen short, in my darkest moments I think I’m wholly bad because of actions I’ve done or failed to do. It seemed almost too radical to take off the labels of good and bad and just see my day as it was. I’m still not sure where reflecting on sin fits into this, as part of the examen is to ask for forgiveness but I think it’s probably about specific times where we have definitely sinned, rather than us ascribing the rather nebulous good and bad to all our actions.
I usually think my actions or non actions have made me a bad person therefore I am all bad. The reality is, I am a beloved child of God who messes up sometimes. That’s my status before God right now, I’m in his family. I am loved. I am his. I still get things wrong, I still hurt people, I am in a broken world and I am broken but I am not a bad person. I am not a bad person. I’m not really sure how much I can convey that this blows my tiny little mind. I am not a bad person.
We always chat through the day in threes at the end, taking it in turns to direct each other and observe. It gives us time to practise and to reflect on what God has been up to in our lives over the day itself. Yesterday the lovely person directing me asked what my life would be like if I was kind to myself. If I didn’t assume the worst about myself, if I stopped beating myself up. What would life be like if I accepted that I need rest and so happily went to bed when my son naps rather than feeling guilty about it? What would life be like if I didn’t beat myself up if I haven’t achieved what I wanted to each day? What would life be like if I didn’t label myself as a bad person? I didn’t know so I’m going to give it a go.
This week/month/year/lifetime is going to be about being kind to Kath. I’m going to give life a go not beating myself up, and I think that maybe, just maybe life might become less about me as a result and I might end up bending some of that crazy love out to those around me. I’ll give it a shot anyway.