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To Be Chosen

Love yourself-accept yourself-forgive yourself-and be good to yourself because, without you, the rest of us are without a source of many wonderful things.”

—Leo Buscaglia

I remember being in elementary school out on the playground. “Red Rover. Red Rover. Send Sally right over!” I clasped the hands of the children on either side of me tight. The three of us would not be the ones who allowed Sally to break our sealed bond. We refused to be the “weak link” in the long line of children chanting. What a horrible game this was for me. Did any child ever really want to be chosen to run through the clasped hands of classmates? For me, it felt like that familiar rock in a hard place of kind of wanting your name called out because that meant the kids knew you existed, but then you’d inevitably experience that scared feeling of anticipated public humiliation and failure if you weren’t big enough or able to run fast enough to burst through those seemingly bonded with glue hands. And then the laughter that inevitably occurred when a child did not break through the line of the opposite team. Ugh.

I’ve honestly blanked on what happened in the steps of the game to the child after she failed her teammates. I’m remembering more tormenting, jeering, and laughing. Then there’s the enduring public shame of not ever having my name called to run, having my name called last when teams were being chosen because my body was too tiny…not strong enough or fast enough. The rejection of my classmates at recess during the play of “red rover” left me in that place of pseudo-invisibility, yet painfully visible for my “unwanted” status because the adults on the playground would insist that the game include everyone which dumped “salt in the wound.”

In a different context, I managed to swim swiftly through the water and earned trophies, including the most valuable girl swimmer trophy of our summer swim team at 10 years old. I could hardly take in this moment of “being chosen.” The cheering teammates, coaches, parents wildly applauding on their feet completely overwhelmed me. The humiliation of all my other mistakes or perceived by others’ failings burned too fiercely. Plus, I knew what I’d hear when I returned to my parent’s house. Feeling the complete opposite of elation, my heart pounded with fear. I wanted to sink into the floor and hand the trophy to at least 10 other more deserving teammates. My coaches and teammates could not have chosen me. My face burned with embarrassment and my stomach did uncontrollable somersaults. I prayed I wouldn’t throw up. My legs shook. This type of “being chosen” felt like complete torture for what I believed about myself at my core, what I had been told by specific important adults did not translate into “most valuable” anything.

Years later I discovered these trophies in a box. While my infant son napped, my pre-school aged daughter and I explored some cabinets where I knew unpacked boxes remained. I pulled them out. Taken by the shine, the shape of the bent-over woman bodies clad in metal suits and caps in that ready to dive posture, my daughter asked if she could hold them. I said, “Of course. They’ve just been sitting in a box.” Her small hands tenderly held the trophies. She began playing with them on the floor, bringing each one to animated life by talking out loud, giving them voices. She uttered kind words as these shiny metal bodies on those wood platforms flowed through the air guided by her hands and arms.  She created lively interactions with each of them. My daughter brought these objects to imaginative, playful life much like children enjoy a tea party with their stuffed animals and dolls.

All I felt as I watched her was deep humiliation, a shame to which I could not begin to put into words. I had imbued these awards with the private put-downs, the cruel shaming sessions I had endured. At this juncture, I had begun learning about the wisdom of feng shui. I knew belongings came with positive stories, associations, memories or negative ones. I realized in that moment that I had to dispose of these trophies.

After she completed her play, we placed them back in the box. Later that day while my then-husband interacted with both children, I carried the box of trophies to the large green trash container behind the garage. The need for relief outweighed everything else.  I trusted that letting go of those trophies would help me continue to untangle my inner world of the awful feelings and memories that still hurt deeply.

These days I continue to choose all of me-all my expressions and ways of interacting with people in my life. I live grateful that most of that internal shame has lifted off. I know the value of choosing people for all that they are and all that they are not. I know the benefits of remaining far away from toxic, deeply troubled people. The belongings in my current physical space uplift me and hold beautiful memories and associations.

Nothing replaces being chosen, being fully accepted for all that you are-all your expressions-your goodness, sweetness, your bursts of joy, your meltdowns, your frustrations, fears, terrors, mistakes, accomplishments, awards, resilience, courage, intelligence, silliness, sass, even the look on your face when you do the heartbreaking cry that some people call “the ugly cry” which I actually accept as the healing cry of deep grieflove or gratitude.

I don’t understand why this type of crying has been called “ugly.” This kind of crying can be such a healthy, transformative, cleansing of the heart from all the hurts that have been hiding or shrouded by the numbing distractions of adult life or it can be a deep love, a profound gratitude for the unexpected kindness of others. I realize you probably don’t want the cleansing cry to happen in public, but sometimes it does, like at a funeral of a beloved one, the graduation of a child, a wedding, or because something happens that sets off the cascade of tears. Emotional health requires that emotions continue to be E (energy) in Motion (emotion).

Radical acceptance, the capacity to choose whatever life brings can free you to respond from your inner strength and deep acceptance of yourself knowing you have gained skills, much courage, and enduring inner dignity.

You may have your preferences, but life will continue to deliver experiences that are uncomfortable or challenging. That’s the design of life. Choosing life exactly as it is and is not in this moment becomes a pathway to freedom and peace.

A compassion for all your human expressions emerges as you choose and deeply accept yourself including the parts of you that might still feel a bit tender from too many years of the bruising ache of not being chosen by people with whom you had yearned and desperately wished to be accepted by and celebrated. You can choose yourself in all your laughing, crying, dancing, pouting, angst, silly, and easy expressions. There’s no law that requires anyone else to do so. You can choose to do so for you.

May you tenderly clasp your own hands in a beautiful bond of acceptance. May you hold your sweet face gently in both your hands with love, choosing fully to embrace your perfectly imperfect self. May you choose to see your whole self through eyes of compassion and grace.

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Laura Staley
Laura Staleyhttp://www.cherishyourworld.com
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura Staley passionately helps people thrive by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Laura knows that there’s a relationship between the conditions of our homes or workplaces and the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by almost two decades of working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to empower her clients to produce remarkable results in their lives. Her trifecta of serving people includes speaking, writing, and compassionate listening. As a columnist, Laura writes personal essays focused on self-discovery, feng shui, emotional health, and transformations from the inside out. Laura is the published author of three books: Live Inspired, Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui, and the Cherish Your World Gift Book of 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a fulltime parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Her joys in life include laughing with loved ones, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. She resides in Black Mountain, NC with lovable dog, Layla. Laura is a contributing author to the inspiring book Crappy to Happy: Sacred Stories of Transformational Joy

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20 CONVERSATIONS

  1. Great piece Laura! To love one’s self is the start and necesssity to lifes joys!” I have learned through my faith that the soul is the core that from the inside out, loving ones self is key before we can move on and truly love all that there is in life. Even dealing with the bad stuff.

    • Thanks, Lynn. Yes. The self-love-heart, mind, body, and soul must happen from the very core of us-that deep inside place that remains untouchable by life’s events–whether those events are good, bad, or meh. We are so much more than anything that has ever happened to us. I love knowing that your faith and deep love for yourself have supported your ability to “move on and truly love all that there is in life.” Beautiful. I celebrate you!!

  2. This is quintessential Laura Staley. Raw, honest and achingly beautiful. So beautiful. I too was that child on the playground. The moment I first read your words, “red rover” my stomach clenched. I was the smallest kid in my class (they all called me “shrimp”) and was always the weak link. I am reaching through this keyboard, my friend, and giving you a big hug! Thank you for reminding me of how far we can travel in a lifetime to come back to ourselves.

    • Oh, Kimberly. I see you. I feel you in that red rover – right with me. And now in our adult women dignity, confidence, and grace. The kind words of resonance touch my heart deeply. I, too, am giving you a hug. Your last sentence-beautifully stated-Wow. Yes. “Thank you for reminding me of how far we can travel in a lifetime to come back to ourselves.” Oh, indeed, Kimberly. Yes. The rich contents of our character then and now-always there sometimes like strong threads weaving themselves as an enduring lifeline to the truth of who we really are and have always been-no matter what has happened. Thank you so much, Kimberly, from my heart to yours.

  3. Ah, Laura … wow. Radical acceptance is not a term I’ve heard before, but it’s so appropriate! Now you may laugh, but I was just loving my little dog Gibbs, whose early years were clearly a trauma no being should go through. He and Abby were thrown from a truck behind a Walmart in Tennessee 7 years ago, so it’s pretty obvious, just from that, that they were not well cared for. Not valued.

    Fast-forward to today. Although Abby was a calmer dog than Gibbs, neither was 100% emotionally OK. And to this day, Gibbs is still scared about anything new. He shakes even when I pick him up. It’s hard to see, heartbreaking, to be honest.

    The point here is that I accept him exactly as he is, certainly wishing he weren’t so scared, but knowing it’s how he is. And I have a couple of friends who say they couldn’t deal with it … that he’s lucky to be here with me. (I think I’m lucky to have him!)

    But what are the choices? For a dog or a human, we must take them as we find them. Of course, we want even better for them than they may be right now, and there are some issues we might never accept (a biting dog, for example), but we’re all a package of our DNA wiring, where we’ve been, how we’ve been treated, and on and on.

    We humans can at least choose to see how to make things better if we wish to; we have the ability to verbalize our wounds to ask for the help we need, to offer it to others if it’s asked for. We can certainly find help for our animals if it’s called for.

    And even beyond that, Laura — who among us is perfect … and what is perfect, anyway?

    Boy, you sure do get us all thinking and feeling — and I’m so darn grateful I can call you friend! Hugs.

    • Susan –I really appreciate your thoughtful reflections here as the idea of acceptance absolutely applies to our beloved pets and to people in our lives. What a gift that you and your dog, Gibbs, found each other, that you have the capacities, the patience (I imagine) (or some would say “the bandwidth” -that maybe your friends don’t have in this case-they have other gifts!) that you can love him even with his fears– you completely accept him as he is. I’m grateful that this essay got you thinking and feeling. Many hugs to you, my friend-and lots of love to both your pups! Thank you for these thoughtful contributions to this discussion of choosing, of accepting ourselves (and our pets, too!!) I’m grateful you are part of my life, too, Susan!

      My first dog, Liesel, used to lick her paws like some people chain smoke. I completely accepted this about her as she was an older dog and unlikely to overcome this habit when we adopted her. She died several years ago and stays in my heart and memories. She remains my forever dog…the one who chose me unconditionally-followed me around everywhere I went, greeted me happily ever single time I returned home. She taught me great deal about unconditional love and acceptance.

  4. “Nothing replaces being chosen, being fully accepted for all that you are-all your expressions-your goodness, sweetness, your bursts of joy, your meltdowns, your frustrations, fears, terrors, mistakes, accomplishments, awards, resilience, courage, intelligence, silliness, sass, even the look on your face when you do the heartbreaking cry that some people call “the ugly cry” which I actually accept as the healing cry of deep grieflove or gratitude.”

    “You may have your preferences, but life will continue to deliver experiences that are uncomfortable or challenging. That’s the design of life. Choosing life exactly as it is and is not in this moment becomes a pathway to freedom and peace.”

    You have touched me so much with this one, Laura! So much of this resonates for very different reasons. I’m sending a homemade batch of virtual chicken soup for your “old” soul. I’m so glad you found your path to freedom and peace, and I’m grateful that you share your gifts with me!

    • Really touched to know that these phrases, sections moved you, resonated-for different reasons-that there’s that common ground of being human and the swirl of our emotional-landscape, Melissa. Oh, gosh, trust me I continue to be incredibly grateful that I came through all the Yah Yah, difficult, heinous, WFT?!?!, layered whoo Haaa and many moments of incredible wonder and awe that landed me in a bonus round of inner enduring peace and freedom (and quiet, safety, beauty, love in my outer world too!!). Unexpected, yet deeply welcomed. I’m slurping that chicken soup and savoring every single warm, delicious spoonful. Thank you from my heart to yours.

  5. Laura I love this. Your words reached deep and whispered to my heart. I too am troubled, perhaps we must accept that we face many things in life, yet we have the power to change our life. All of us that write share a common bond and we are your friends on this journey and hope for you only the best that life has to give. Alone we may become afraid but with the many we can be strong.

    • Thank you so much, Larry. I love all your thoughtful and heartfelt reflections that you’ve offered. We absolutely have the power to alter the trajectory of our lives! Yes. I know this in my lived experiences and when I see others bravely take new pathways and make healthier choices, I know this is possible. Many here on this platform are doing just that. When we find that common bond of our vulnerability, honesty, and our courage and connect with others from the heart of lived experiences we find that strength—Your words completely resonate: “Alone we may become afraid but with the many we can be strong.” All your words lifted my heart. Thank you, my friend. You may not be someone who hugs-but if you are-I would be giving you a hug right now. I wish you a beautiful weekend ahead.

  6. “The humiliation of all my other mistakes or perceived by others’ failings burned too fiercely. Plus, I knew what I’d hear when I returned to my parent’s house.” You have come so far…and maybe because of that, you are able to give so much to others.

    • Thank you so much, Jeff. Yes, I have come very far on quite a hike. I appreciate your support and recognition for what I’m now able to give to other people. May the wisdom gleaned and offered inspire someone else’s brave walk-or at the very least let them know they are not alone in some of these difficult human experiences-which hopefully makes the delicious ones all the more wonderful!

  7. Oh Laura, so beautifully written.
    “ Radical acceptance, the capacity to choose whatever life brings can free you to respond from your inner strength and deep acceptance of yourself knowing you have gained skills, much courage, and enduring inner dignity.”
    I love this most of all… dignity is the overall experience and birthright we all need. Nothing can reward you more than a sense of value, unless of course you present it to others! Two-fold!
    Thank you so much for this beautifully crafted article. I’m positively sure we can all relate to this.. i held on to some things, still have other things. As I come across these items.. I ask myself if the memory was worth it… letting go is usually best.
    Thank you my dear fine writer! Have a wonderful rest of the week too!
    Paula

    • Thank you so much for all your kind words and thoughtful reflections, Paula. I am trusting you saw the response I left on the LI platform. I find myself confused as to which place to reply. Probably best to copy/paste both places! Again, I appreciate your honest sharing about your process of letting go of things or still holding on-each person’s process is personal and unique. How great that you are honoring yours.

  8. Laura, you and I have gotten to know each other such that I read what you write slowly and deliberately, trying to get from it all that it gives. (It always gives.) I read this piece in the same way, I think that’s why I was struck and troubled by this: “Radical acceptance, the capacity to choose whatever life brings can free you to respond from your inner strength and deep acceptance of yourself knowing you have gained skills, much courage, and enduring inner dignity.”

    I was troubled because acceptance of ourselves shouldn’t have to depend on what we’ve gained. It’s in us from the start. I was troubled because some people, like you, like me, suffer from the attempts of others to steal our inner strength, our inner peace, our faith in our worthiness, and the recognition of our enduring inner dignity. And I was troubled because you were so clearly and profoundly hurt by those who attempted to steal yours.

    I congratulate and admire you for all you’ve overcome, for all you give, for all you share with us.

    Thank you. I’m so grateful to you and for you.

    • Wow, Mark, I deeply appreciate your keen insight as I hadn’t even seen that I still feel like I have to earn this inner dignity back from the places it felt stolen. I know I have felt like I had earn my right to exist. Ah, the indignities that can trample a budding being -seemingly from birth forward-definitely a different life path. Much of my life continues to be about reclaiming pieces and parts of myself-my soul which even the word reclaiming-sounds like I’m standing in the line at the Claims Department or the Lost and Found Department- waiting to be handed back my heart, my goodness, my sweet disposition, my dignity– over the counter from some Yoda like character. And you are correct-these qualities (contents of my character) have always been inside of me-it just didn’t feel like it for a really long time.

      Some days I think I carry several past lives of Disney animated fairy tale “people” who committed lifetimes of OMG!-so this time around I’m doing major cleaning up, reclaiming, seeing, healing, transforming. Your insights continue to be profound, deeply moving, a pouring forth from all of you who has trudged a similar hike.

      What a great experience from the mountains of NC to look back at my life through fresh eyes-seeing all the ways I was brave-that I LIVED. And that I can flourish as best as I can at this point. The learnings remain layered when there’s been a battleground of many persistent traumas that unfortunately did not end after childhood. Whew. I’m fortunate to know you, to receive these sound insights, to be fully seen and celebrated.

      Thank you. I, too, am very grateful to you and for you. Heart emoji

      • Feeling like we have to earn our inner dignity back is another way in which we’re alike, Laura. As I said to Anne this morning, perhaps it’s because of my Irish stubbornness, but I was always determined not be daunted by that feeling. It made me a late bloomer, of course. But somehow, I just always “knew”.

        I’m so happy to know your journey of self-discovery and self-awareness is yielding such joy.

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