"Embrace your raw, strange magic..."

Fair warning: if I had to wager a guess, I’d say that this post will be on the heavier side. Before you say it, I know. With a title like that and considering I’m the one writing, how can it be heavier and, more importantly, how can I not know whether it’ll be heavier or not? I’ll let the first question answer itself in the words to follow. As far as the second…I don’t really plan out my musings. I start with a general direction, then just let it go where it goes, for better or worse.

Because I don’t always have the time I’d like to read (or I don’t make the time because, let’s face it, you make time or you make excuses), I try to “read” while I’m in the car. Be it a podcast or an audio book, I try to fill that cup as best I can when/where I can. Lately, I’ve been gravitating toward TED talks on my way into work. I browse the titles and just go with the one that sparks my curiosity. I was totes not ready for the talk this morning. Casey Gerald, who just happens to be from Oak Cliff, “…shares the personal sacrifices he made to attain success in the upper echelons of American society — and shows why it’s time for us to have the courage to live in the raw, strange magic of ourselves” (TED description). And now you see why my blog title is in quotations: it’s Casey’s title.

I’ve previously shared my desire and intense calling for us to love others as they were uniquely created, not as we wish they had been. And I’ve shared part of why that’s so personal and convicting for me. So it’s not really shocking that I would instantaneously choose this talk based on its title alone. On any other day, it might have been nothing more than an affirmation of what I already “knew.” But today, there was an intense and aching need to be reassured that this conviction of mine is not only real and “right,” but necessary.

I’ve learned that it very well may be I’ll always struggle with this inner demon that tells me I’m both too much and not enough at the same time. I hate that possibility. I’ve worked SO hard to try and silence that voice. And, in fairness to myself, I’m able to do just that far more often than not. But lately, I find that at the core, I’m just sad. I’m actually fighting the tears as I write. It seems as if maybe instead of vanquishing the monster, it retreated, has been gathering its strength, and is now more powerful than ever and ready to mount the final attack. Academically, I know this is codswallop. But damn…I wish my heart could f*cking get with the program. Because feeling like this blows. Period.

So, a little context. In December, I lost a bridesmaid and someone I had viewed as my best friend. I had also taken a position as an event coordinator with a company that I was so excited to be a part of, only for them to realize they really needed someone locally, which I was not. “Lost” may not be the right word, but I also was no longer a part of another professional team and family as the owners found themselves needing to make as many financially smart decisions as they could while they try and build a business and reduce costs. Add to that the small pity party I threw myself when only three people came out for my “bachelorette,” and the fear of not fitting in at my new apprenticeship, and this demon I’ve worked so hard to starve was well and truly fed.

Now, a normal and sane personal would recognize all of the above as completely separate instances and they would be able to acknowledge that “it’s not always about me” and therefore these things aren’t personal. But I said normal. A word that’s never fit me very well. Couple that with my relational anxiety and my perpetual need to over analyze, and I’m suddenly obsessing over every single conversation, interaction, text message, social media post, etc., etc. These can’t be all a coincidence. I’ve done something or said something. What have I done wrong? What do I need to try and balance or make up for? What vibrant colors did I paint with this time that should have been muted? This never-ending f*cking self-imposed shame cycle that is exhausting and debilitating and results in me making myself as small as I f*cking can so I don’t offend or bother or remind anyone and everyone just how “too much and not enough” I am. My inner monologue goes something like this:

That friend? You lost her because you in fact are too needy and insecure and, well, pathetic. That first job? They may have said it was because they needed someone local, but knowing you, you rubbed someone the wrong way and/or they realized what a mistake it was to bring you on in the first place. Same thing with the second job/professional family. They were just tired of dealing with you and the vibe you bring. You weren’t being “helpful,” just obtrusive and a know-it-all. And you just thought you’d fit in at your new apprenticeship. HAHAHAHA, b*tch, please. Close your mouth, learn your place, and just pray they forget how “too much” you really are and they let you stay. Oh, and OF COURSE you’re not important enough for people to rearrange their schedules to celebrate with you. Members of your own family have told you how difficult you can be and how hard it is to be around you sometimes. Girl, get with it.

Are we feeling warm and fuzzy yet? I told you…heavy.

Fast forward to this morning. I see this title, and this small voice inside tells me I NEED this. I need to be reminded who I am and whose I am and that I was created exactly as I was for a purpose. Not an accident or a mistake, but a mother effing purpose. A “truth” I’m hanging on to by the skinniest thread in all of history. So I hit play.

**Sidenote…Bruh…I’ve got to stop listening to songs and podcasts and anything else that tugs on my heart strings while I’m driving.**

I would encourage anyone and everyone to give this podcast a listen (and if it gets you in your feels the way it did me, maybe check out his autobiography). But if you need a little convincing first, allow me to assist with just a few of the gems that resonated so intensely with me (emphases are mine):

So I took a bargain that I'd later see in a prison, a Stasi prison in Berlin, on a sign that read, "He who adapts can live tolerably." It was a bargain that helped ensure I had a place to stay and food to eat; a bargain that won me praise of teachers and kin, strangers; a bargain that paid off big time…

But the bargain I had accepted could not save me after all, nor can it save you. You may have already learned this lesson, or you will…We're taught to hide so many parts of who we are and what we've been through: our love, our pain, for some, our faith. So while coming out to the world can be hard, coming in to all the raw, strange magic of ourselves can be much harder. As Miles Davis said, "It takes a long time to sound like yourself." That surely was the case for me.

But I no longer believed what we are taught -- that the right direction is the safe direction…I believed what Kendrick Lamar says on "Section.80.": "I'm not on the outside looking in. I'm not on the inside looking out. I'm in the dead fucking center looking around."

That was the place from which I hoped to work, headed in the only direction worth going, the direction of myself, trying to help us all refuse the awful bargains we've been taught to take. We're taught to turn ourselves and our work into little nuggets that are easily digestible; taught to mutilate ourselves so that we make sense to others, to be a stranger to ourselves so the right people might befriend us and the right schools might accept us, and the right jobs might hire us, and the right parties might invite us,and, someday, the right God might invite us to the right heaven and close his pearly gates behind us,so we can bow down to Him forever and ever. These are the rewards, they say, for our obedience: to be a well-liked holy nugget, to be dead. And I say in return, "No, thank you."

Oh, to have the courage of Lot's wife. That's the kind of courage we need today. The courage to put ourselves over there… The courage to stand with other vagabonds in the street, with all the wretched of the earth, to form an army of the least of these, with the faith that from the naked crust of all we are, we can build a better world.

It’s ok. We’re both crying. And we should be. Because the piece that’s crying is that small piece of us that is so desperately thankful for this piece of truth and that same piece of us that is fiercely fighting to keep from drowning and choking on the lies we’ve allowed to take up residence in our minds and our hearts.

“Embrace your raw, strange magic.” I’m trying so hard to live out this truth in my life, but some days are harder than others. Sometimes it feels impossible and I find myself wondering if this truth is just another pathetic attempt to distract myself from the real truth: all those fears I have and the things I hate most about myself are not only true, but they are all I am.

I refuse to believe that. I can’t. And on those days where believing anything else seems impossible, I make the choice to actively and audibly acknowledge the lies and claim the truth instead. I have and am my own rare brand of raw, strange magic. I was created with intention and purpose. And while I certainly have my flaws and areas of needed improvement, I am good and I am worthy of love. Most importantly, the world needs my brand of raw, strange magic. It needs yours too. So stand in that truth and to hell with anything that tempts you to believe otherwise.

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Stephanie Roe