By Staci Welch-Bartley
I have a very early memory of swinging on my rusty pipe-welded swing set on a bright sunlit day. I was four, or possibly five years old at the time. I remember staring up at the glowing blue sky and thought if I could perhaps swing high enough I could touch the clouds with my feet floating by. I was pumping with all my might in hopes of accomplishing this feat, when I was completely overcome with the strong emotion of love. I know this sounds strange, but it was so intense, I immediately stopped swinging. I sat on my swing and looked up at the sky again, and then around at the green grass and flowers in the yard while tears ran from my eyes and my heart beat out of my chest. I knew at that very moment I was completely loved by everything in the universe, and that I loved everything. I remember having a conscious thought about the fact that I even loved all the people that were mentally challenged because that was the most unusual and scary thing I could think of in that moment.
I have reflected many times on this experience in my life. I have had the opportunity to love and accept people from many races, religions, and cultures. I have been privileged to cross many of these boundaries with great ease. I wonder if it is because of my experience on the swing that day.
Why is it so difficult for us to allow people to be different and unique? Why do we struggle to accept and embrace the differences that make us individuals? Why do we feel so threatened by the simple thing of people having a different song to sing on their life’s journey or a varying opinion? We seem to be so critical and judgmental of others and ourselves in our society. Does this come from feelings of inadequacies from within us? We are all so hard on ourselves. There seems to be an enormous pressure to fit in, to be smart, and to appear that we have it all together! We are our own worst critics. Why are we so afraid to stand up for our beliefs when they don’t fit in with everyone else’s or wear something out of fashion when we feel like it? Why do we struggle with the ability to challenge others opinions when we don’t agree? Or ask for what it is we need from others? Why are we so fearful of being all that we are, in all of our glorious uniqueness?
I am reminded of a speech that comes from Marianne Williamson that I am sure most of you are familiar with, however is always a good reminder. In it she states, “We ask ourselves, who am I to be beautiful, talented, smart, and successful…who are you not to be? You are a child of God. It is not our darkness but our light that frightens us. You playing small does not serve the world. When you refuse to be anything less than all that you are, you give permission for others to do the same.”
I have discovered something about myself, and that is the more I can love, accept, and embrace myself, the more I seem to be able to extend this love and acceptance to others. A good friend of mine once said, “There is nobody out there!” What he meant by this is that every thing and everyone is a creation of our own universe, our own reality. Therefore if we change what is inside, our thoughts, feelings, intentions, we can manifest different circumstances, relationships and events in our lives. Perhaps the experience I had at four was because I was completely in love with myself so I loved the world around me.
Could the answers to all of this be so simple? Could it be that we actually need to learn to love ourselves, and loving others will come naturally? Could it be one of the truths in life that are so simple yet not so easy?
I feel the following quote by George Bernard Shaw speaks to this question:
“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose. Recognized by yourself as a mighty one, by being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community. And as long as I live it is my privilege, to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die. For the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch, which I’ve got to make burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”
It is my true heart’s desire that we may, as a whole group, a community, and a world, do whatever is necessary to ensure that when the torch is handed down to the next generation, that it is done so with great love and acceptance of ourselves first and then to others.
It’s not really that hard is it?