The surface of our lives is filled with schedules, jobs, relationships, money, habits, to-do lists, dishes to be done, laundry to fold, recreation – the daily stuff that engages much of our attention. These things are important. Money keeps the lights on. Healthy food keeps the body functioning well. Bedtime allows rest for school and work. Mowing the lawn keeps the neighbors from gossiping too much. Each aspect of our “surface-life” needs tending. Sometimes tending to all of these ‘to-dos’ is like spinning plates. One begins to wobble, we reach to spin the plate with renewed vigor, and another begins to wobble. On and on it goes.
At times this surface life may need attention. Our bills are behind, so there is a need to explore spending habits. Relationships are strained, and we are called to learn communication skills. We are thinking about a career change or are preparing for retirement and need to discuss the lifestyle changes that accompany that. Destructive habits may be causing damage to self and others.
Beneath the surface are other, deeper currents of life. We may be coming to adulthood, graduating from college. Falling in love. Suffering heartbreak. Facing mortality through our own or a loved one’s illness or old age. We may have been betrayed, or we have betrayed another. We may have found our “calling”, our purpose in life. Perhaps we have become a parent for the first time. We may be entering middle age, struggling with the meaning of life, or becoming a wise elder, reviewing the experiences of a lifetime.
At times we may be called to explore this deeper current of our life and look within ourselves. The deeper places within us can be profoundly beautiful or tremendously terrifying. We can encounter old wounds, repressed memories, nightmares, or playfulness, long-forgotten dreams, and creativity. We need to learn to make space for these deep movements within us.
We are both the shallow and the deep. The outer and the inner. This is our home. Like a home we require maintenance through our attention. An ignored foundation can crack and become mold-ridden, with termite infested floor joists. A forgotten roof will leak soon enough. The living space within will quickly become cluttered and dust covered without proper home hygiene.
Care for the self is care for the many layers within and without. The question is: Who am I in relation to these many realms? How am I relating to all these aspects of my Self? Through ignorance? Enmeshment? Love? Repression? Resistance? Avoidance? Am I at war with myself? Or perhaps fragmented? Perhaps my home feels shattered as if torn by a tornado from the foundation?
The first step to change is awareness. Awareness that something is broken or off balance and needs attention. Then a deeper relationship is required to learn what is needed. Through looking, listening, and feeling into ourselves, we can learn what action is needed next…sometimes inner, sometimes outer. Sometimes both.
When things are out of balance, broken, shattered, or just plain overwhelming it is difficult or impossible to sort through on our own. These are the times we need a witness, a trusted confidant, a guide, and a cheerleader. A trained therapist can be all of these, can walk with us as we begin to rise from the rubble and re-build our homes consciously.
Our self, like a home, can be maintained, remodeled, or rebuilt from the ground up. We humans are resilient. It may seem that we live in a hopeless shack at times. With the right help and guidance, with dedicated work, we can transform our shack into the home of our dreams.