How to be Whole. ~ Isabel Abbott

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“I’d rather be whole than good.” ~ Carl Jung

More than anything else in this world, this is what I want and seek and choose. I want to be whole, complete, knowing all of life, at home with all of me.

To live in this world, fragmentation is almost inevitable. It creates a splintering of the self into disparate pieces that seem to never connect or know the other’s name.

Something happens, a slow or sudden loss, a change that twists things inside out, and nothing fits anymore. You don’t know if this is your salvation or your undoing.

To be whole, to choose wholeness, asks for integration. It is sometimes uncomfortable and often the relaxed shoulders of relief. At times obscene and stunning. Loud and wild child messy and then quiet and subversive.

None of this is a problem to be solved or a thing to be fixed. The integrating itself is whole. I’m here, following where it leads me.

These are some of the things I learn in the walking.

1. Say things.

Speak, out loud, even if it is only to yourself, alone in the hot bath, protected in salt and steam. Just say them, the words, what happened, and what happened next. With the sound of spoken word, it is like I can listen again, and something inside me shifts.

No embellishment needed. No explanation required. Since it happens, I can become so accustomed to talking myself into and out of things, that I forget what it is like to hear the truth of my own voice.

It is saying this is what happened, and allowing for a real response to occur in me, breaking up the familiar loop of mental chatter telling me things that start with should and can’t.

Speaking, out loud, no matter what it is that comes out, is so very often the beginning of ending the disowning of ourselves
.

2. Speak the words out loud. Then let them be.

Hovering and smothering breed anxiety. The words, the truth, will go breathe and then migrate home to you in its own formation. The way you can say something and it feels like an earthquake tremor inside you. Then you just leave it alone.

Days or weeks later, you are doing something unrelated, like watering your plants or looking up at the rear-view mirror in the car. Suddenly it comes back to you, with the grace of clarity, and everything settles and quiets. Then you know what you will do. Maybe this is what it means to trust.

3. Watch the sun set. Watch the sun rise.

How it is light and then dark, dark and then light. Repeat, as often as necessary.

4. Respect what you did to survive.

Say thank you to the survival instinct itself. It is sometimes brutal, and offensive, and easy to judge after the fact. So too is love, and will do the unthinkable in order to save you, to love you.

You can also let it leave when it’s no longer needed. Knowing it will return at a moment’s notice, if ever you should call. You love it because it gave life. It was never meant to be your best friend, domesticated into a pet.

So you can go to bed and sleep deep now. Your body still etched in its scars, but no longer needing to lie there with the gun underneath the pillow next to you. Then you can say thank you, walk away, and enter into the living. It will let you. All it ever wanted was to give you life. Say thank you, love it back, by choosing now to live.

5. Do not ask your wilderness to be a cultivated rose garden.

Do not ask your wild to be civilized. Do not ask your honey sweetness to be bitter dark, or your emptied hollows to be food for others, or your bones to trade places with your veins.

Integration is not about meshing everything together, where it is then a diluted and anemic version of itself. Rather, it seems to be about allowing for coexistence, where there is then a greater fullness of all things, nothing excluded, and nothing asked to be anything other than what it is.

6. Have imaginary conversations with people, including and perhaps especially those who are not real or who you do not know personally or who lived long before you.

I talk to Lilith and Medea, Salvador Dali and Our Lady of Lourdes, and an entirely imagined flapper from the twenties who ran away from home and joined the circus.

Sometimes I can learn things in these conversations that are like the missing key to the things I need to know, the part of me that is ready to be invited back home, spilling wisdom out like buried treasure finally found.

7. Give up the tight fisted story, for a while at least.

The one that takes a great deal of energy and effort to continue telling yourself, asking everything in life to confirm its validity. It is exhausting.

Repeating the same bullshit story to myself integrates nothing. It only isolates me, leaving me locked away in a prison of my own making. Because, meaning is layered and ever changing, so let it.

8. Ask questions.

Questions are gold. Questions are doorways and gateways. Questions are both the map and the center of the x where it all leads. Questions are the space, where beginnings are wrapped around everything that came before.

9. Decide to not judge your grief, and tell it what it is supposed to look like.

It hurts. Dear god, does it hurt. And it sometimes feels like it won’t ever end. But what I am learning is this; grief does not require my management.

Left to its own ways, it just does what it does. I’m unhinged. I’m all over the place. I am wild eyed and wrecked makeup. I am curious and awake and building things. I am so many things, even in one day.

None of it is actually a problem. I am learning, I think, to get out of my own way. Learning that when I don’t interfere with life, I can actually participate in it more fully.

10. Listen to the voice of the body.

The way the heart and lungs and skin, brain and spine and the soft underside of knees, are all separate and all still your body.

Listen to all the places in the body that the feelings and names and memories and questions reside and roam about, how they come and go, settle and shape shift, ever changing truth, asking only that you listen.

11. Eat your shadow.

Take it into you. Let is feed you. If you do not, it will come to consume you. Eat the truth of your knowing. Eat the absence of your hoped for happy ending.

Eat your hate and your hardness and your fear of softness. Leave the upper world for a time, eat the pomegranate seed of the underworld, and know you belong now to the whole world.

12. Once you have a taken a thing into you, you are then free to let the rest go.

So, get rid of things. Burn the journals or letters. Throw away the bed sheets and shoes you never liked. Delete. Remove. Lighten. Let go.

The way that integration does not mean grasping onto everything, but in seeing the center that holds when other things fall away. In knowing that life happens, and we are changed, and there remains that which cannot be taken.

13. Leave the figuring out for later, for never.

And then, do something. So often, this is how things truly integrate for me. Doing something, giving yourself over to something, and letting the knotted thread unwind itself, all on its own.

So write everything down and then walk away and go get lost in the grocery store, aisles of teas and smoked meat and vanilla in dark glass bottles. Listen to your son play his recorder and then make waffles for dinner and next thing you know canvases are filled with smeared color and bedtime doesn’t even matter.

Scrub the floor and find your misplaced necklace and greenhouse heart. Paint the bedroom walls and discover that you are suddenly talking to your father except he is young, younger even than you now, wearing his blue work shirt, and you realize you are making your peace with your past.

Do something. Make something. Live. Let life happen. And know that it is being woven together, inside of you. Integrated, whole. All is welcome here, in this house of belonging.

Here, where all dwell free.

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Assistant Editor: Rheba Estante/Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo Credit: elephant archives

The Elephant Ecosystem

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Isabel Abbott

Isabel Abbott 
writer. activist. corporeal artist.
sanctuary in birth, sex, and death.
author of salt + honey: secular psalms for the human and hedonistic hearts. You can also find her at here.

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anonymous Apr 26, 2014 4:36am

I love every word of this. Will share. Thank you for writing it.

    anonymous Apr 27, 2014 12:56pm

    thank you for reading, and for sharing, and for the big love.

anonymous Feb 26, 2014 12:06pm

I read this and did not realize that you were the one who wrote it. I did not read this, I settled into it with a resounding "yes" and nodding of the head, that is right, just right. I connected with you in another place. I suppose it was the lists and letters. I am the writer of 58 lists of 58 things and other stuff too. You are a wonderful writer. I love your advice of speaking out loud. There are many days that I have not spoken to another person and I do not talk to myself enough out loud. I am going to start even though my dog will look at me and be puzzled. thanks ( and I did not find one error which very seldom happens !)

    anonymous Apr 20, 2014 4:44pm

    Martha,
    I'm so glad it filled you with a yes!
    And I hope the talking out loud has proven insightful and fun and fruitful.
    Glad to have connected here.
    Isabel

anonymous Jan 21, 2014 11:08pm

Awesome! Deep feeling. Real life spirituality! ♥

anonymous Jan 21, 2014 5:49pm

Beautiful. Thank you.

    anonymous Jan 22, 2014 6:15am

    thank *you*, for reading. i'm so glad the words landed for you in a way that felt good.