Saturday, May 30, 2015

No More Hiding

I suppose we all have something we’d rather not have everyone know.   Whether it’s cellulite on our thighs, a bad credit rating or a shameful past, we find ways to lay low, hoping nobody sees.  We put on an “everything’s fine” face and do whatever it takes to avoid the sting of judgement if people knew the whole story about us.   I have been lying low so long that my posture has developed a slump.  I’ve been hiding out, telling carefully worded partial truths about myself because: 1) the whole truth seemed too bizarre to believe and 2) I was barely holding it together, so adding someone else’s doubt to my self-doubt was more than I could handle.  I didn’t want to risk losing friends or family, but in the end, that’s happened anyway, so what have I got to lose by being fully honest?

Background Story
Before I get to the confession part, I want to provide a little background.  About ten years ago I heard a voice telling me loud and clear, “Stop everything you’re doing…there’s something bigger for you to do…just follow your heart and it will lead you there.”  I’d already abandoned a mainstream life to pursue writing a book about emotional self-healing, so while I had some experience with leaps of faith and exploring new things, I couldn’t imagine how much more “out there” I could go.  I had no idea what I was getting into, but I trusted my inner voice implicitly.  I figured whatever was arriving would take a few months and I had the resources to live a few months without working, so I dutifully stopped everything to listen in.  Shortly after, a clear message came forth:  Redistribute wealth in the world.  Follow your heart and it will lead you there.

I was a little nervous, but mostly excited about this new calling.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that redistributing wealth involves lots of money and what could be more fun than giving away money?  It’s good that I had a high level of excitement because the journey I was about to endure required absolute commitment to following my heart through some awful terrain.

Step One:  Lose Everything 
Naturally, I’d assumed the first step of my calling would be landing large sums of money.  I was wrong.  The first step was preparation for having large sums of money, which apparently included having no money.  When my heart told me to “do nothing” it meant it.  Do nothing to earn money.  Do nothing to save your home from foreclosure.  Do nothing to rescue yourself from humiliation, including the humiliation of telling creditors you have no money, cannot pay your bills or debts and don’t know when that will change.  I pleaded with my heart to let me DO SOMETHING, but the answer was, “Let everything fall apart.”  So I did.  I was painfully faithful to my heart.  Over time I lost my house, my cabin, my car, my reputation and my pride.  One bright spot was that I picked up a partner, Greg, along the way.   A perfect companion for the journey, he was game for this experience and willingly joined in.  Of course he lost everything too, without even trying.

Step Two:  Keep the Pressure On
No matter what we did to try to bring in support, there were times when it just wasn’t going to happen.  Once in a while we’d get an unexpected sum of money that came out of nowhere or a friend would generously offer to let us live with them.  For a time, Greg started a successful business, but we never knew when we were going to be blindsided and thrown back into survival mode or dependence on the mercy of others.  The way things came and went made it abundantly clear that there was divine design in everything.  We could go from absolute despair to grand relief in an instant, but always knew another wave of lessons or insights or deliberate experiences was on its way.  This went on for several years. 

Step Three:  Find the Perfection in It
When you’ve had a fabulous calling dangled in front of you, it’s hard to make sense of having the opposite experience.  In order to keep strong, I was constantly asking “how is this perfect?” or “how does this fit into the overall plan?”  I always got answers and always knew it was somehow preparing me to redistribute wealth in the world.  I figured that money wields such power that having lots of it could make me a different kind of prisoner, so a good deal of my journey was about finding the kind of wisdom, compassion and absolute freedom that would make me a trustworthy guardian or philanthropist.  Freedom from norms, freedom from fear, and freedom from the old consciousness that had created the mess our world is in, so that I could distribute wealth in innovative ways.  I needed to stretch completely out of the limitations of mainstream thinking and that meant living on the edge.  It meant living in ways that gained disapproval, but being strong enough to know that I was still a good person; transcending shame and judgement because those are the things that keep us prisoner to the norms that limit us; breaking free of the belief that if you break the rules, you don’t deserve goodness.  God, I hated how hard it was!  I’d made a life of fitting in and now I was sticking out – and in the most uncomfortable ways.

My way of coping was to lay low.  I’d avoid friends and family or avoid talking about my life, hoping the hard part of this spiritual journey would end before anyone noticed how wretched and embarrassing my life had become.  A few years earlier I’d had scores of people cheering me on when I’d left the corporate world to pursue my writing career.  I was gaining success in that career when this new calling called.  But this leap of faith was different.  Instead of being cheered on, I was being criticized and interrogated about the choices I was making.  I was challenged constantly by my own doubts and the doubts of others.  “Why don’t you just get a job?”  “How can you do this to your daughter?” “When is this silliness going to end?”  As I grew stronger on the inside, I shrank on the outside.   Making myself as invisible as possible, I begged my heart to end this pain before anyone found out the ugly truths of it.  But after laying low now for many years, and despite the fact that I feel this quest is coming to a close, I feel compelled to be completely open about whom I’ve been.  Otherwise shame wins.  So here is my confession:

I have been horrified by the things that I participated in or have allowed to happen in the pursuit of this cause and I’m going to stop hiding them.  I have been foreclosed.  I have been evicted. I have been homeless. I have used food pantries.  I have had every kind of service cut off or disconnected because of non-payment.  I’ve spent 10 days without electricity -- cooking and heating bath water on an outdoor grill, sleeping with a hat and winter coat on because we had no heat, dragging my children through all of this and enduring the shame of lectures, scoldings, and anger as we begged family and friends for help to pay the electric bill.  I have a credit rating in the 500’s.  I owe people a lot of money. I have borrowed money from my children when I should have been the one supporting them.  I have lived off the backs of others. I've broken promises.  I have been many versions of what our society shuns and although working in a job would have prevented all of these things from happening, I have not done so in over 10 years.  And although society says good, responsible people pay off their debts and pay their bills on time, I have not always done so.  I could have avoided this whole mess, but I didn’t…because my heart said so.  I tried not to make it anyone else’s problem, but sometimes I failed.  I have hurt, disappointed and lost the confidence of many people.  I am sorry for the hurt, but I have no regrets because I trust my heart implicitly. 

More than anything, I hated being dependent on – or at the mercy of – others.  I admit that this probably caused even more suffering than was necessary. For much of those ten years we scraped by without help, but when we needed it, I hated to ask.  (I was the kid who refused to let her mother accompany her to the first day of kindergarten because I wanted to “do it myself!”) Independence was my middle name, so I cannot imagine a more challenging or humbling experience than asking for money to live on while I pursued a nebulous quest.  How does one explain that? I was raised to be responsible, hard-working and self-sufficient.  How could I disobey those norms and keep my self-respect?  And yet, how does one find freedom from those norms or find intrinsic self-worth other than by disobeying them and rising above the shame that comes with it?  Yes, many good things came of this and much more good will come, but that is not the point of this story.  My point is that I’m not hiding in shame any more.  There are so many ways to second guess what I have or haven’t done, and many people have told me how I “should have” done it.  I did it all with my eyes wide open and I accept all the consequences.  I’m going to see this dream through.  I’m not asking for anything; I just don’t want to hide anymore. 

I have had every drop of judgement drained out of me and replaced with compassion.  It’s pretty hard to call someone else wrong when your inner self knows “I’ve been that.”  My journey hasn’t reached its conclusion, but I’ve reached this conclusion:  Every life is sacred.  Even the ones that look despicable.  Even mine. 

Carla Berg

p.s. please take advantage of this website.  There are five sets of divination cards here that were written as a result of this long journey.  They’re available to use for free and I’d love to have them shared.