A Labor of Love: Re-visiting My Inner Child

My body is saying something. I’ve been trying to decipher the message for months, but the meaning remains cryptic, hidden even. It uses the language of anxiety because that’s what it’s fluent in. As it turns out, anxiety has several dialogues. Restless nights, heart palpitations, sudden grief and intense loneliness.

I’ve felt these messages coming through day in and day out. My body is persistent in its communication. If I’m being honest, I know my body isn’t the original messenger. The messenger is much younger, much quieter, and much more elusive. He’s my inner child, and he knows I finally have the time and space to listen to him.

So he’s making himself heard, and while I don’t understand all that he is saying, I know he wants me to return home. Home isn’t a place or even a feeling. It is the moments that I’m stuck in. Flash points in my history that I moved through physically but not emotionally.

These moments arrested me with their intensity. I didn’t’ have the tools to process what I felt, so I buried what I could and ignored the rest in the name of survival. An understandable strategy, yet one that is no longer necessary.

It is time I return and face myself. Time I remember the cause of the wounds I carry. I know which moments are calling me back. As I revisit them anxiety and fear roll through me like waves on an unsettled sea. Loneliness draws me inward like the receding tide at dawn, and the tears I’ve held in reserve for decades sputter out in fits and spurts washing over me again and again.

Photo by Damon Carr on Unsplash

Nothing about this process is pleasant. Everything about it is purposeful. I was asked this week if everything (our pain, hope, physical or mental illness) is rooted in our childhood, and honestly I have no clue. I’m not a psychologist, therapist or mental health professional. I just know my story and I’m an expert in my own healing.

As it pertains to my journey, there is still a lot I need to learn, so I will continue to revisit these moments. For my son. For those I love, and most importantly for me. I deserve to heal, and to feel the expansion that comes with it. I’m done shrinking and hiding from my memories, from my pain, and from myself.

I know I’m not the only person doing inner child work. You’re probably reading this because you’re on your own journey of listening and revisiting. If so, I’d like you to join me in feeling through a few questions. I used the word feeling instead of thinking because we’re trying to access more than our conscious mind is aware of, and that requires a different way of processing. As you read, take a breath with each punctuation. Pause and note what you feel. The work of returning to ourselves requires that we slow down and be intentional.

What is your body telling you right now?

When you think of flash points from your childhood, what moments come to mind?

Imagine your inner child sitting on your lap and whispering into your ear. What are they telling you?

I don’t have many answers, but I know that every time I commit to this labor of love for myself, I come out feeling more complete and more in love with all of me. Day by day, piece by piece, moment by moment, we heal. Sometimes we heal through smiles, and other times through tears. Wherever you are today, I hope you’ll continue to journey into yourself. You’re worth it.

What Do You See?

Photo by Olu Famule on Unsplash

Several officers surrounded him. He was restrained, so he could neither fight back nor run. Still one officer swung. He raised his right hand and landed blow after blow in an apparent act of frustration. The other officers watched or continued to restrain the man as their colleague continued landing hook after hook to the man’s face and head.

The video, which had been recorded from several hundred feet away, didn’t allow me to see which department the officers were from, what race the victim was or whether or not anything was being said during the exchange.

As I read the comments and scanned various facebook pages, I found the victim’s sister and saw that he was indeed black. Moreover, his daughter was reportedly in the SUV next to him watching as all of this unfolded.

She saw her father robbed of his humanity by the people who should have procted him. I can’t imagine the terror she felt, or the humiliation her father felt. He had to know that no one was going to help him. The cops wouldn’t be reprimanded, and no one would care about a black guy on Indy’s east side getting roughed up in the name of keeping the peace.

I shared the video on my facebook page and was quickly met with the tired refrain of “don’t break the law and you won’t be in those situatons.” The heat rose through my chest, my jaw tightened and my twitter fingers prepared to fire off a cutting salvo when I paused for a moment to attend to my son. Thank God for children. Once I had a moment to begin breathing again, my frustration birthed curiosity and I wondered what other’s saw when they watched the same video.

Photo by Joey Nicotra on Unsplash

I know that white privilege has a way of blinding people and keeping them from seeing uncomfortable truths, but rather than speculate about others, I’ll explain what I saw.

I saw a dad hoping he’d see his baby girl again. I saw a man wondering if he should lay down his dignity and take the beating or respond with a sense of self-preservation and fight back. I saw a human-being who was overpowered and helpless. And even before I knew what color his skin was, I saw my kinfolk caught in the struggle.

The struggle that bound our hands and feet as we were forced across the Atlantic. The struggle that riddled our bodies with bullets and clothed our necks with nooses when we got “out of line”. The struggle that redlined our neighborhoods, suspended our children from school, politicized our hair and dehumanized us day after day. The struggle that elected men like Donald J. Trump, Mitch McConnell and Todd Young all the while denouncing identity politics.

I saw someone that Jesus would’ve died for. Someone that Malcolm and Fred fought for. Someone that Rosa and Claudette sat for. Someone who was holy and human before anything else. He was a victim deserving protection.

That’s what I saw.

This story is not unique to this video. You can look at the footage of Muhlaysia Booker’s assault, the report of Atatiana Jefferson’s death or Andrew Johnson’s locs being cut off. Whenever you have chosen to or been forced to bear witness to racial violence, what have you seen? What may be blinding your vision?

P.S. For the record: police brutality is never, ever, ever appropriate or justified. Once someone is restrained and/or compliant, any act of violence against them is immoral, inhumane and illegal.

My Soul’s Question

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“The real question is can you love the real me…Not that image you had of me, but who I really am”

-Christine Feehan

This is my soul’s question. It arrests me every moment of every day. I’m asking this question in one way or another with each glance and conversation. I’ve been asking it for decades, and still feel as though I’m waiting for an answer. Truth is, as desperately as I want to know, I’m also terrified of letting people get close enough to tell me. Can I share an even deeper truth? The first person I’m asking this question of, is me.

If you’ve read Coming Back to You, you likely recognize the quote above from the chapter on Enneagram type 3. I was first introduced to the enneagram about three years ago by a friend of mine. He invited our cohort to take the official test as a group bonding exercise, so I took some time and responded to all 144 questions. Having enjoyed the Meyers-Briggs assessment, I was curious about what this new-fangled test would tell me. I answered the final question and tabulated my results, but rather than a sense of relief and intrigue, I felt disappointment.

The results weren’t definitive. They gave me three different types that could be my primary type. It was descriptive to a fault, and wholly unsatisfactory. I wanted the enneagram to explain me, and it left me with more questions than answers. In all honesty, the actual problem is that I wanted to be seen, so that I could see myself. The enneagram didn’t so much as clear away the smoke, but rather tried to show me how much smoke was clouding my view. So naturally I ignored it.

Photo by Erik Eastman on Unsplash

As with most other things in my life, the more popular it became, the more indifferent I was about it. At least publically. Privately, I read articles, took quizzes, and poured over type descriptions ad naseum still desperate to find myself. Last week I retook the test, revisited Coming Back to You, and discussed my thoughts with those who know me best. In doing so, I’ve learned some truths that extend far deeper than my type or wing.

  1. I feet lost because in my quest for survival, I have learned to become anything to anyone at any moment. While my cameleon skills kept me alive at one point, they are no longer helping me.
  2. I want to be stripped of the insecurities and self-doubt that have made me a people pleaser. Free from the shame and inadequacy that drive me to “save” other people. Liberated from the deep loneliness that makes me seek constant attention.
  3. I worry that once I stop performing, pleasing and saving, no one will love me. I’ve tested every relationship with this in mind and eventually they all fail. What I know now is that every time, I was the one failing, not them. What I was seeing in each of these relationships wasn’t always that they couldn’t love me, but that I couldn’t love myself.

So my work is to see myself as I am. That means naming the false narratives I’m holding, so that I can discover my deepest truth. It means pulling back the curtain and inviting people to know the vulnerable man within. It means seeing myself and receiving the love that has always been available to me.

The journey back to me often feels like a transatlantic flight on spirit airlines, but I don’t regret making the trip. On my best days, I see more of myself and love the man in the mirror. On my worst days, I’m still blind to my true intentions and the narratives that shape them. Regardless of which this is, I know that the answer to the question of my soul is first offered within. That’s where I’ll find myself and from there I can welcome others.

What is your soul’s burning question?

Body in a Box

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As soon as I stepped into the sanctuary I knew you were there. My eyes scanned the mostly empty room and came to rest on the blue box in front of the stage. Though I was standing in the back of the room, I could tell you were in that box. Or so I thought. With each measured step forward, I recognized the figure before me less and less until I was certain it wasn’t you. The moment I laid eyes on that mannequin posing as my father, I knew you weren’t there.

You were in my memories playfully throwing jabs and asking if I wanted to fight. You were speaking with me in whispers about family and life. You were reminding me that my purpose was bigger than I knew. I experienced you in a lot of ways, but none of them involved that blue-chrome, man-sized box that we put into the ground.

Has it already been a year since the funeral? A year since I got that call? A year since my life ended and began within the same breath? This year has brought peaks and valleys the likes of which I’ve never seen.

Words don’t capture the full depth and weight of all I’ve felt since you transitioned. I’ve shed tears, expelled guttural screams, and faced endings I wasn’t expecting only to find that I’m still standing. I’m more balanced and rooted than I was before. The storms I thought might overwhelm me, have served to level my foundations and strengthen my roots. Preparing me for the journey forward.

Photo by Anton Darius | @theSollers on Unsplash

While in one breath I’m greatful, in another I wonder if it was worth it. What If I don’t want to miss you? What if I want to see you hold my child? What if I’m tired of feeling that golf-ball sized lump in my throat that reminds me you are gone? Does that have to be the trade-off for my growth? Was there no other way?

I ask but I know the answer, or rather, I know there is no answer. Whether or not things could have gone differently is irrelevant. This is the path I’m on, and this is the year I’ve had.

Within the last twelve months, my spirituality was broken open by a mystical experience. You suddenly passed away. My marriage was deconstructed and regrown. I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I left my church and graduated from seminary. I launched a blog, started a podcast and joined a racial equity consulting organization. I landed a wonderful job, deepened existing relationships, and started new friendships. And to top it all off, I became a father for the first time.

It is no coincidence that your death and my spiritual awakening were just weeks apart or that it was those two events which preceeded everything else. In fact, its actually quite fitting. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you planned it that way.

This is one of my favorite pictures of my pops! It captures his spirit.

Though the pain and grief of your transition are still very real, so too is our connection. I no longer tangibly feel you, but in a deeper sense, I feel more connected to you now than I ever have before.

I sense you in the quiet moments. Your cool, reassuring presence reminds me that I’m not alone. Your strength reverbrates throughout my chest with a rich, steadying warmth that soothes me and slowly brings a smile to my face. It’s these subtle moments of connection for which I’m eternally grateful.

Though we put a body in a box and a box in the ground nearly one year ago, we didn’t bury you. You’re here even now, connected, loving, and gently reminding me of my purpose. Thank you pops. I love you and miss you.

Your “Mighty Man of God“,

Ben

Disney Therapy

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I love the Lion King!!! I loved it the moment I heard James Earl Jones cry out “Remember Who You Are.” And my obsession only grew when Beyonce harmonized during “Can You Feel The Love Tonight”. Whether we’re talking the remake or the original, the Lion King is the defining Disney movie of my generation.

The lists of life lessons it offers are virtually endless.

  • Wisdom only comes with age and experience
  • The truth will set you free
  • Skinfolk ain’t always kinfolk
  • Good discipline is grounded in love, not fear

After my counsling session today, I added another lesson to the list. It involves my self-worth. Believe it or not, I struggle with low self-worth. While I try to appear confident, the truth is, there are moments when I feel unwanted, unworthy and unloved

I’d say, about 80% of the time, I’m comfortable and confident in who I am, but the other 20% I’m mired in insecurity. Even the act of naming that I struggle with self-worth makes me feel vulnerable and weak like a little boy. A boy who is uncertain, afraid and uncomfortably alone in a threatening world. A boy who believes he’s on his own, so his only choices are to puff out his chest and hope he can scare off those who wish him harm, or to slink into the shadows in the hopes that he can hide until danger passes.

If you’ve been around me long enough you’ve seen both of these responses manifest as either arrogance or painful shyness. Though seemingly opposite, they’re different reactions to my insecurity.

While I’ve had an idea that this was true for a while, I’ve never known why I get triggered or how to deescalate after its happenned. That is, until my counselor utilized what I’m calling Disney Therapy to help me gain insight. There is a pivotal moment in the Lion King when Simba confronts his shame and misplaced identity.

Nala tells him to return to Pride Rock as the rightful King, but he doesn’t feel worthy. He’s wandering the grassland and runs into Rafiki who tells him his father wants to speak with him. Rafiki takes Simba to a lake and instructs him to look into the water. At first, Simba only sees his own reflection, but (after a quick strike from Rafiki), he looks again and as the ripples dissipate, Mufassa’s image appears.

It is then that Simba recognizes that Mufassa is within him, and embraces the entirety of his identity as King. He returns to Pride Rock and defeats Scar because he internalized who his dad said he was. When Simba couldn’t hear his own voice, Mufassa’s offerred clarity.

Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash

When I feel insecure about who I am, what voice do I hear? What messages am I falling back on? Do I hear Mufassa or Scar? Unlike Simba, when I look in the lake, I see both. When I’m at my best, I’m falling back onto the messages of love, acceptance and confidence that loved ones have instilled in me. At my worst, I’m reminded that I can’t please anyone I’m not enough, and I don’t deserve love.

What determines which message I’ll receive? Sometimes its as simple as having a virtuous friend (or counselor) who can gently hit me on the head and invite me to look again, until I see what I most deeply know to be true. That I am worthy of love and grace. I am beautiful. I am me, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Wrestling with low self-worth means that in certain moments, I forget who I really am, and buy into the embedded messages I’ve picked up along the way, but they don’t have to be the only messages I hear. Once again, the Lion King has proven to be invaluable in my personal growth. I hope I’ve convinced you of its unparralled greatness, but more importantly, I hope you know its okay to have moments when you feel unworthy, invisible or insecure. If you can’t remember who you are, seek out people who will invite you to look again until you do.

When you look at yourself in the mirror, who do you see?

What does it mean for you to remember who you are today?

Who plays the role of Nala or Rafikki in your life?

Clarity Is Always On time

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Life is a journey not a destination.

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before. Its one of those phrases that we believe to be true, but can’t actually make sense of. The meaning of this aphorism finally kicked in as I was reflecting on something my counselor said about clarity taking its time.

I was trying to unpack what love is and how I experience it. Do I feel a different love for my wife than I do for my family? Do I love my adoptive mom the same way I love my biological mom? Is romantic love different than platonic love? Even a question as simple as what is love, gives me pause. I don’t know if everyone struggles with these questions, but I’m certain my tumultuous childhood did me no favors when it comes to understanding them.

A child’s connection to their parents heavily influences how they process and connect with the rest of the world. Unfortunately for me, that emotional development was repeatedly interrupted by abuse and neglect. As a result, I’m still doing the messy work of deconstructing my emotional foundation twenty years later.

I want answers to these questions and I want them now. How can I be a good husband, friend or son if I don’t know how I understand or experience something as basic as love? Some days it feels as though my entire web of relationships hangs in the balance as I wait for the right epiphany.

Though clarity can’t be rushed, I try doggedly to speed it up. I want simple answers and I want them quickly. Every fiber in my being craves the comfort that certainty brings, and the longer I go without it, the more unsettled I feel.

If clarity evades me long enough, the internal tension lingers and I become convinced I’m doing something wrong. Its as if the discomfort is an indication of trouble rather than a reminder that I’m on the right path.

When I become focused on resolving the tension, I miss what I’m actually supposed to be learning. I miss the journey that takes place between the question and its answer(s) because it is difficult, uncomfortable and a bit nonsensical. In some ways, its not that different than the journey of pregnancy. (Its been on my mind a lot lol).

Photo by Kewei Hu on Unsplash

For 40 weeks a woman’s body is changing in ways that are also difficult, uncomfortable and a bit nonsensical. (I’m certain only pregnancy and marijuana make one perpetually crave frosted flakes and pizza puffs). She takes the stretching, cravings and discomfort in stride and soon begins to marvel at the miracle taking place within her. She learns that her body is capable of so much more than she ever imagined and thus so is she. All of this learning and growth happens before the baby is even born. Pregnancy is the time between the question “what is happening” and the audible cries of new life that are its answer.*

The same is true for us. The time between our questions and answers is both challenging and wondrous if we’re willing to embrace the journey and forgo our demands for comfort. Sometimes it feels like my world is crumbling while I wait on clarity, but the truth is, though I don’t fully understand love, I know I still experience it.

Brooke and I have been through some trying times over the last decade, but somehow we always come out of it having grown as individuals and as a couple. Why? Love. Not the mushy-gooshy love you see in the Notebook (I hate that movie). Its more like the love you see in P.S. I love you. It’s messy, painful at times and hella persistent. It’s a love birthed by the tension and discomfort of the journey.

While I still wish clarity would come a little sooner, I also recognize that I’ve come this far because of the discomfort the journey produces, not in spite of it. Life is a journey and our travel guide is clarity. She cannot be rushed and is always on time.

Truth is in the Shadows

“I don’t trust that people are going to accept all of me.”

“And yet you can’t even accept yourself.”

My counselor’s observation caught me off-guard, but before I could get defensive or wonder what she meant, the truth of her words seeped into my consciousness. I am hidden. There are parts of my identity that have been relegated to the shadows so I can pretend they don’t exist.

One holds all of my shame. He reminds me of the ways I’ve failed and is certain I don’t deserve to be loved. Another carries my overpowering fear. His head is on a swivel; constantly searching for danger and disappointment. Still others hold my rage, anxiety and doubt. These shadow-selves lurk in the backround of my awareness because I refuse to accept them as the real Ben Tapper.

They don’t align with the person I’m trying to be, and yet they are probably the most authentic parts of me. I want to be this bold, outgoing man who has healed from his childhood trauma. I want to wake up with no residue of the pain I’ve experienced. Yet as my eyes open each morning and I take that first conscious breath, I feel the same fragility that plagued me the night before. I’ve assumed this fragility was meant to be overcome, but perhaps it is meant to be embraced.

I can keep pretending, or I can face the discomfort of my invisible truths and invite my shadow-selves into the light. I reconize the shame, anxiety, doubt, rage and fear that are embedded within me. These aren’t defects I need to improve. They’re responses I hope to understand.

Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

Healing isn’t about becoming the ideal version of myself. Healing is about seeing and accepting my truths, so that I might love who I am in this moment. For better or worse, who I am includes shame, insecurity, anger and a host of other emotions I don’t want to acknowledge.

There is something especially terrifying about accepting my whole self. It triggers a miniature identity crisis as my true self comes face-to-face with the partial persona I’ve constructed and put on display. I feel vulnerable and exposed when all I want to do is feel safe and comfortable. However, the journey I’m on demands growth, and growth requires discomfort. So here I am.

I’m not who I want to be, and that is ok. This. Is. Me. Vulnerable and Resilient. Bold and Terrified. Confident and Insecure. I’ve been hiding from myself for years because I wasn’t ready to accept my complexities and shadows. Now I understand that there is no other to get where I’m trying to go. I have to tell the truth. If I don’t accept myself, I won’t ever now when someone else does.

What parts of yourself do you push into the shadows? What version of you are you working to keep others from discovering? Even if you’re not yet ready to take the step into acceptance, at least write down or name these shadow-selves. Once they’re named, they’re much more difficult to forget.

The work of Radical Self-Awareness is not easy by any means, but it is worth it. As much as we like the light, remember that the truth is often in the shadows.

Lessons from Pops

“Love you Ben”

My dad’s voice still rings in my ears as I hold our final conversation with both gratitude and grief. With Father’s Day around the corner, and a child of my own on the way, I’m reflecting on the example my dad left for me to follow. He was a man of many words and infinite love.

“Eat the meat and spit out the bones”

This was a phrase my dad said religiously. It was his way of reminding me to listen to what he said, but decide for myself what was worth holding onto. He didn’t want me to mindlessly take his advice. Even though he was a man of deep convictions, he understood that what was true for him wasnt necessarily true for me.

Everything a parent does from discipline to play, must be in service of sharing wisdom and helping the child understand how to uniquely move through the world. My dad embodied this belief most profoundly during my adolescence. Which meant he offered advice rather than instruction. He listened patiently when I was frustrated and comiserated with me when my heart was broken. During my teenage years, my dad became my friend. While our friendship took a hit once I went to college, I have always appreciated our friendship.

Photo by Humphrey Muleba on Unsplash

Even before we became friends, however, I knew my dad believed everything was about love. This wasn’t something I heard him say, but rather something I watched him live out. He was the most loving person I knew. No matter how many people were added to his family through foster care, adoption or marriage, he loved each person as if they were his own. His love didn’t have an off-switch. He thought about and prayed for each of his children, grandchildren and former foster children. We were always on his heart.

As I anticipate the arrival of baby Jebediah, (don’t worry-Brooke already vetoed that name), I feel even more appreciative of my dad’s committment to being a friend and covering his children with love. I’ll admit that my dad wasn’t perfect. We disagreed on a lot of things, but even still, he gave me a model to follow.

This will be the first Father’s Day in over twenty years that I won’t be able to tell my dad I love him. While my grief has been strong this week, I’m comforted by the love and the lessons he has left with me.

As we celebrate Father’s Day, I encourage you to reflect on the lessons you’re holding from the people who have served as guides for you. They might be fathers, mothers, grandparents, mentors, etc…

Whoever has been there to love and guide you, can be celebrated on Father’s Day. I’ve just decreed it. Now that you have my permission, celebrate whomever is deserving of recognition in your life and take time to appreciate their investment in you.

The Miracle of Life

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“There’s the heartbeat…”

The nurse spoke in a matter-of-fact tone, but for me this was anything but ordinary. I looked at the screen in disbelief. The image turned and twirled with an energy I thought impossible. In that moment, I wasn’t hearing the rapid beating of a heart or the frantic movement of a fetus, I was looking at my child. Suddenly I was a father.

In an instant it all became real to me. It’s one thing to know you’re going to have a child. It is another thing entirely to see that child and hear its heartbeat. I was filled with a sense of childlike wonder as I looked at the ultrasound. I’d gone into the appointment expecting to see a small blob on the screen, but I watched in amazement as the nurse highlighted a mouth, fingers, and eyes all beginning to form, and I saw this for what it was…

…A Miracle

This is a miracle, not because we’d been trying to have a child for over two years, but because nothing changes your life quite like becoming a parent. Just as Brooke’s body is expanding to make room for the new life within, our relationship and individual perspectives are doing the same. Previous boundaries and walls are bending and stretching as space is created withing both of us to protect, nurture and hold this new life.

This new space is already shedding light on my secret motivations. I used to selfishly want a child in order to prove that I’d broken the cycle of poverty and abuse. I needed to prove that I wasn’t going to repeat the mistakes of my step-dad. In my mind, being being the father he wasn’t would complete my story arc. I’ve secretely measured myself against him for such a long time. I’ve spent a lot of energy trying to prove to myself that I’m different from him, and in doing so have allowed him to define me. He won’t define my child’s life.

As the full weight of our miracle sinks in, it has already ushered in deeper release and healing for me. The shadow of my step-dad lingers in the background, but its chill is being replaced by the gentle warmth of hope and the winds of resilience. I have nothing to prove to myself or anyone else. My only work is to create enough space and safety for this child to explore who they are and move into their own identity.

The space within me is filled with abject terror, indominable joy and every emotion in between. There is so much to consider, and so much I don’t know. As I think through the myriad of decisions that are to come, the gentle voice of the Spirit whispers “do the next right thing in love.” This reminder pulls my gaze from the distant future to the most immediate step right here, right now. I may not know how I’ll do all of the things, but I’m confident I can do the next thing.

Stinky diapers, sleepless nights and incessant crying are on the horizon, but so too are baby snuggles, first steps, and ecstatic giggles. As we prepare for all that is changing, I return to the first rapid beats of our child’s heart and am reminded that everything from here on out is indeed a miracle.

Patience Is The Best Coach

“You have to keep chipping away at it.”

The words registered, but I didn’t like what I was hearing. My counselor was imploring me to be patient as I uncovered deeper truths about my past traumas. She used the metaphor of chipping away at a large slab of stone to reveal what is underneath. You chip away piece by piece over time. It is a painstaking work that requires patience.

This may have been sage wisdom, but to my ears it was like nails on a chalkboard. When you feel the flood of anxiety, the flames of anger or the cloak of depression day in and day out, patience feels like a luxury you don’t have. I wanted the internal struggle I’d been living with for years to end. I wanted resolution, peace and freedom, yet the more I uncovered in counseling, the less I understood about myself. I finally exclaimed:

“I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do!”

To which she instructed me to keep chippin away slowly. For a split second I considered challening her. I couldn’t afford to wait. I needed answers for my marriage, my friendships and most importantly for myself. I couldn’t keep doing things exactly as they’d always been done. Patiently chipping away at the mountain of my emotional baggage just wasn’t an option. Yet even as the challenege was forming in my mind, the wisdom of her words sank in and a fundamental strategy for healing revealed itself.

Patience is the best coach
Two years ago I started running again, and since I hadn’t run in nearly a decade, I created a plan and gradually built up my mileage so I would avoid injury. I’m kidding, I jumped right in because I’m Ben Tapper and that’s what I do.

Fun fact: Your body is not the same at 28 as it is at 18. I discoered this ground breaking news when I abruptly awoke one morning with left knee pain. The soreness lingered for a few days, then a few weeks and soon I had been sidelined for a few months. The diagnosis was a simple one: runners knee. One of the most common running injuries. The treatment was also simple: rest, strengthen muscle imbalance, and ease back into the activity.

Why was I sidelined for months? I was impatient. As soon as I started to feel better, I’d hit the trails as if I’d never been injured. I had no desire to do the workouts I’d gotten from the trainer. I wanted to run, so I did and every time I was reinjured. I didn’t start healing until I accepted that my body wasn’t 18, started doing exercises to strengthen muscle imbalances and took plenty of time to rest.

The same strategies hold true with emotional healing. We need to do accept ourselves as we are, do the slow work of strengthening weakened and damaged areas of ourselves and take our rest seriously allowing patience to be our coach.

The moment I began incorporating these strategies, my anxiety loosened and hope began to fill the spaces it had vacated. I can now recognize the progress I’ve made, and it reminds me to continue to chip away. Some days I still feel frustrated and exhausted from the work of self-awareness, but I know it is worthwhile.

What mountain do you need to continue chipping away at today?