A couple weeks ago, I found myself silently crying, alone, on a nighttime G Train. Of course, I wasn't wholly alone, a smattering of other passengers dotted the orange and yellow seats as we sputtered beneath Brooklyn, but no one acknowledged me, which was fine.
I wondered if solo subway tears were some type of New Yorker rite of passage. I thought, in my year and three months living here, I'd already crossed off the big ones: I'd been shit on by a bird while waiting at a crosswalk, I'd been almost run over by a halal truck in Manhattan, I'd nearly forgotten garbage disposals, dishwashers, and central air existed.
And yet: tears on a train. The whole scene felt abhorrently cliché externally; internally, it felt strangely new.
I’ve cried in public myriad times before, but in this instance the quality of the tears felt distinct. I wasn’t crying my usual tears of negative emotion—anger, sadness, frustration, etc.—instead, I cried because I was so emotionally moved, so stirred, so, well, inspired.
I had just met Anne Lamott on a book tour for her new book Almost Everything: Notes on Hope.
I've met many authors on many book tours and never had an emotional response before beyond basic excitement or fleeting inspiration to keep writing. But this whole night had been wildly touching. As Anne sat on the stage speaking into a microphone, it was if she recapped my entire inner journey this year in one forty minute interview. It was bizarre. It was amazing. It was kind of hard to take in.
Still, I didn't cry, just sat in a strange state of awe. But when I reached the front of the book signing line, unbidden tears began streaming down my face. Anne was abundantly kind in our two minute interaction. A palpable, loving energy surrounded her. Then, I was outside in the dark trying to piece together what had happened, the tears persisting.
What did Anne speak of that so moved me? Well, a lot, but I'm going to focus on one thread today: the thread of reteaching.
You see, Anne was a star student in school with intellectual parents (in a miserable marriage), so she decided young she needed to get perfect grades in an effort to keep the family together. Anne said she was 35 years old before she realized a B plus was actually a good grade. (That certainly struck a personal chord; I always got grossly good grades. There's something distinctly disappointing about investing so much energy in schooling and then realizing that—for me, anyway—it was almost pointless.)
After talking about school, she turned to the audience and said with urgency:
"You know, all those years of schooling. All those classes. And no one ever thought to tell me that I had value."
Thus encapsulating a year's worth of inner work me. 2018: the year of realizing my own value.
The last thing I want to do is paint some woe-is-me victim story. I was definitely loved as a child, and told I was special. But I was also sent many societal messages that linked my worth to things external to me. It's good to get A's; it's good to win basketball games; it's good to have a boyfriend. Along the way, I began linking my value to those things, linking my self-worth to my "results" in the external world.
This is super common, and also, not a sound approach, homie. As Anne said that night:
"The world is like an alcoholic man who's still drinking. One day, it loves you and wants to seduce you and the next day it can't remember who you are."
So if you hang your worth on anything out in the world (anything not you), it's a total crap shoot. Sure, some days you feel high-highs, but the low-lows are perpetually waiting. But: if you can shift and see your worth as inherent, life opens up in a whole new way.
Saying "I have value" is one thing, feeling it something else entirely. It's ultimately not a mind thing; it's a heart thing. The mindthinks things. It wants reasons. The mind wants to say "I have value because ..." but that's flawed. That's putting your worth in a rationale that isn't you. The heart knows things. The heart knows: I have value because I have value. (Dropping from the head to the heart is an ongoing practice for me; meditation and yoga and breath work help.)
Rumi says it like this:
There are two kinds of intelligence: one acquired,
as a child in school memorizes facts and concepts
from books and from what the teacher says,
with such intelligence you rise in the world.
There's another kind of tablet, one
already completed and preserved inside you.
A spring overflowing its springbox. A freshness
in the center of the chest.
This second knowing is a fountainhead
from within you, moving out.
And Galway Kinnell's poem Saint Francis and the Sow begins (emphasis mine):
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing.
This isn't a new teaching—it's a reteaching. At your core, in the center of your chest, you already know your value. (If you need a metaphorical hand on your brow or reminders that you're lovely (I definitely did), hit me up.)
When I got to the front of the book signing line, I told Anne, "I'm 29 years old, and I finally realized, this year, that I have value."
I know it sounds like the simplest realization in the world—but the simplest realization, felt deeply, can be the most profound.
And when Anne looked in my eyes and said earnestly, "I know exactly what you mean." I realized I had tears on my cheeks.
with Love and with Light,
p.s. I wrote about unlearning a while ago; I see reteaching as naturally following unlearning old belief systems. Or, you can start with reteaching and watch the old limiting beliefs fall away. There’s no one way; nothing energetic is linear.
p.p.s. You have value. You have value. You have value.