Rachael Felicity Grace: Old name, new blog, ongoing journey

 

I love my name.

(Now)

But I didn’t always.

 

And that, in a nutshell, is why I’ve chosen to start a new blog space with a new-to-the-blogosphere but 39-years-old- today-to-me name!  My lifetime journey of shifting feelings about my name – a story for another day? – largely mirrors my feelings about myself. For most of my life I would say I haven’t liked myself all that much, and definitely not LOVED myself very well. But over the years my capacity for self-love and self-acceptance has slowly but surely been growing as I have been loved well – by family, friends, and God. I have gradually, GRADUALLY, learned how to accept and internalize a little more the love I’ve been given, trusting it (mostly!) to be real love that I am worthy of, and not just well-meaning but misguided charity or codependent neediness masquerading as love!  {I know, I have issues… That’s why I’m doing this!}

It’s definitely an ongoing journey – I think I still love my name more consistently than who it designates! – but thank goodness that love never gives up. Because… can I tell you what I believe? That all those small choices to love each other and love ourselves really do make a difference over time, even if sometimes all we are aware of is the brokenness, the apparent lack of love, or the bottomless pit that never seems to get filled. At the moment I’m feeling the difference those small choices make, as if a watershed moment is approaching and I had better get ready. For the last year or so I’ve been sensing a significant shift in how I see myself and how much I can love, forgive and accept myself, and I’m basking in the corresponding ability to enjoy my life and be more present to people and events. But I know I’ve still got a long way to go… Some mornings I still wake up feeling inexplicably loveless, unloved and unlovable; the difference is that I now know my feelings aren’t always the best truth-tellers out there (!) and I’m determined to learn how to live more wholeheartedly in the unshakable truth of how deeply loved I am, as we all are. Hence a new blog for a new leg of the journey.

It was the desire to really learn to savour life that pushed me to start my first blog, as a way to notice the everyday gifts of life through slowing down enough to write, and as a way to both process and chronicle my learning curve. It’s been good. (Though admittedly sporadic!) And now – with a blank slate on a new blog – my desire is to take this journey a step further and really learn to savour myself: Rachael Felicity Grace!

Just the fact that a big part of me cringes as I say that is indication enough of why I need to write about this, journeying through the baggage that would still have me believe that learning to love and delight in myself is 1) self-centred, unholy and ultimately unloving and 2) (not at all disconnected to #1) a foolish and pointless endeavour due both to my inherent unlovableness (sorry Spellcheck, it should be a word!) and the dire needs of the world and people around me. But here’s another thing I have come to believe through my own lived experience: that the world IS in dire need of compassion, and that I am in no position to give it if I don’t have compassion on myself.

I have heard countless talks or sermons in which it has been pointed out that implicit in Jesus’ Great Commandment to “love our neighbour” is the mandate to love ourselves. But I wonder how many times I’ve really believed that message? It has sounded to my self-despising ears like a selfish cop-out at worst or an anachronistic, ill-advised wish-dream at best. And yet haven’t you found this puzzling equation to be true yourself? That real self-love only leads to MORE love for others and for God, and on the cycle goes? And, conversely, that trying to ‘love’ others when you hate yourself – or because you hate yourself! – just gets very sad and futile, or very messy and painful, very fast? I have! Even “loving the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength” has been – and continues to be – impossible for me when I have no clue that this God loves ME first! And so, more and more, I really ‘get’ Bernard of Clairvaux’s (12th C) mysterious ‘Four Degrees of Love’ from the inside out. I used to think that attaining “Love of God for God’s sake” would be the ultimate realization, and of course it trumps “Love of self for self’s sake” and “Love of God for self’s sake” because it means having reached the highest level of selflessness and Other-centredness possible. But Bernard describes the highest degree of love, one step beyond loving God for God’s sake, as “Love of self for God’s sake!”

What?! And YES!! Though I don’t completely comprehend this rationally, I can feel its truth in my core. (Can you?) And that’s what I want.

 

So this is me.

Rachael Felicity Grace.

And this is my space to write about who I am, what I love and what I don’t love; and what it means to love (myself and others and God), including the all-important but challenging journey of loving and caring for my body; and what it looks like when I don’t love me and those around me and can’t feel that I am loved or lovable at all; and what the heck I can do about that! My hope is that writing regularly and honestly about these things can be significant both as a mini ‘coming out’ about who I am and what’s important or difficult for me – which helps hammer another nail into the coffin of my shame issues every time – and also as a context to connect with others in a way that encourages me and you, and lets us know we are not as alone or different as we imagined.

So. Maybe you are exploring some of these same things? Want to join me?