LOVE is teaching me.
What do I want you to know about this year's Valentine? In true therapeutic form, I feel like answering the question with another question will help. (Funny thing, on my way to work this morning I was skipping radio channels and I heard two different DJ's say "The question is...".)
Have you ever been grossly misunderstood?
It feels pretty terrible. Justifying my deep love for sparkly beauty and my open mind to symbols is not something I ever thought I would have to do, yet the "opportunity" recently arose.
Initially, there were lots of tears and feelings of isolation. I struggled alone by choice. I knew I would be given the grace needed to handle the situation. (I'm aware the people around me love me very much and do not ever want to see me in pain...so sometimes I process internally before allowing for potential influence. So, I Cave.) Once I found some peace and broke my silence to a few trusted people, of course healing rushed in. I went to my hypnotherapy training (YES!!! This is one exciting reason I have been so busy!) and experienced further amazing healing. I thought the issue was resolved and put to rest.
Turns out, the toughest part was yet to come. Lucky for me, I have one particular aunt who empowers me like no one else can (she personally understands the biz/therapist part of me). During this difficult time she said things as plainly as, "Honey, you're being a victim." Yeah, we're that close. And when I stubbornly held to my (and she also knew it was well justified) position she said things like, "Are you really willing to win the battle, just to lose the war?" She reminded me of things I have said before: "You have told me you feel called to work with Mennonites. This means any Mennonite who comes to you, client, neighbor, friend, colleague." (Because I grew up Menno—-& I know there are lots of Amazing Mennos out there.)
And so I met and grew my wise, strong adult in an unlikely way over the last 7 months. I chose open dialogue three times even though I experienced feeling unheard. I continuously faced the opportunity to love, even when I felt annoyed, mad, intruded upon, unsafe, criticized, persecuted. The time for dialogue is over now, and the healing continues. Who I am and what I actually DO believe continues to clarify...and it feels AwEsOmE!
During this time I read the work of George Tillich who Goodness knows (like Freud and Jung) certainly didn't get everything right. But why throw the baby out with the bath water? His work on symbols (read after the dialogue was over) was profoundly healing to my own narrative. He wrote about how our language, our letters and words and earth-bound concepts are ALL symbols to point us to knowing God, or what he called Ultimate Concern. I am no theologian, but I got enough of the feeling of his writing to experience profound healing as well as permission to continue using symbols as (what I call "anchors") in my faith and life.
During this time I also painted the painting (below) that would *eventually become the background of this valentine. The painting is called, I, Cave. It tells the story of two perspectives. One, a person standing outside of a cave seeing darkness, thinking the light is on their side. The second perspective is that of mine, me looking out from deep within (my inner knowing, my sparkly, well-lit, beautiful and mysterious cave) and seeing a vast amount of beauty and more mystery in darkness illuminated by stars and reflective sparkle. There is a poem to go with this piece, which actually emerged before the painting, but it is not yet complete.
So, my beautiful, clear, truth-filled Valentine is born from great difficulty...and all I see in it is great beauty. I even like the provocative way the sentiment "This is not love..." draws my Valentines closer, beckoning a second look. (Who ever sends a Valentine that says this?!! haha.) Dang it, I can't actually send love to you all. But what if I send a symbol, something that conveys the idea of love? And how great is it that I am not able to actually confine love to an envelope and a card that arrive one day per year? Love is not to be contained or too easily defined...for if it were, it would just become ordinary, cheap, another thing to be understood and categorized. The symbol allows me to send the sentiment of love, and for all of us to think more about love. It allows the conversation about love to continue.
The back is signed with my deepest conviction of LOVE, Ultimate Concern. Enjoy!
*I'd also like to document that I consulted with my amazing graphic designer daughter on the lettering and layout of this piece. She gave me great feedback which resulted in the more clear message of the (pictured) symbolic heart than I had originally drawn---and she also told me it was a little too busy overall, and that if the background (which at that time was b&w marbled paper) carried no message, to scrap it. So, I went back to the drawing table which is when the idea to use the painting dawned on me...like a big "duh". So I changed it and then asked Andria if my painting was too busy of a background...her response was perfect: "The background is the point, Mel." (The girl should be a therapist or something.)