The words “born anew in the stable of self-knowledge” have become my new mantra. Written by a 14th century mystic and philosopher in Dominican Order religious life, these words gave me a frame for articulating the tremendous life-changing struggles I experienced throughout 2015. Last year, unlike any time before, so much of what I “knew” about myself – that is, my self-image – was stripped away. I was in the stable of self-knowledge and constantly smelling a stench that seemed overwhelming.
As I learned truths about myself that did not align with my self-image or my public image, I suffered because I did not want to admit that after all the years of “working on myself, there were things about me that I had still hidden away from my self-knowledge. I didn’t want to admit how much I used denial as a coping strategy. I did not want to admit that I struggled with the same kinds of issues that people I help struggle with.
This was so hard for me because I was taught in my church that “99½ won’t do.” I was taught that if I only made it to 99 ½ I would go to hell. Even though my 59 year-old-self doesn’t believe in hell as I was taught it, my 9 year-old self-within still does – and I carry her with me everywhere. As she saw aspects of me that evoked fear, guilt and shame, she w3as convinced that she was a bad person and going straight to hell. She panicked. She was angry at for me letting go of the comfortable denials. For years, my unconscious motto had been, “ignorance is bliss.” Because I resisted it, coming to greater self-knowledge was painful and humiliating.
As I prayed for help to deal with these overwhelming feelings, Spirit took me on a journey from humiliation to humility to humanity. First I experienced intense feelings of humiliation, guilt and shame – the unhealed, hurtful aspects so long hidden from my self-knowledge eclipsed the wonderful, life-giving aspects of me. I became uncertain about who the real Cari Jackson is. I became more depressed than ever before in my life.
With lots of prayer, support of loved ones, and anti-depressant medication, my sense of humiliation shifted to humility. My humility was an acknowledgement that I have ooky stuffy that I am not proud of – like everybody else. I was humbled to realize I was not as strong, virtuous, and self-aware as I had thought I was.
Then the miraculous happened. Gradually, I became more able to see all of who I am. I became more able to love all of me unconditionally. I realized the truth: not only am I not perfect, but I am not called to be perfect. I helped the younger Caris within me to know that the message “99½ won’t do” was a message from people not from God. As the all of me accepted that God celebrates my full humanity, I have been born anew.
May you be born anew this year in the stable of self-knowledge.