A Holy Wild Woman Rebellion

I spent so many formative years “doing” my way to love. I earned my “right” to exist through my actions—sacrifice, hard work, service, an utter giving away of my Self.

A young version of me learned that approval, appreciation, acceptance and good will were the rewards of things I did to earn them. It has taken a lifetime to reach a space where I can unreservedly embrace being and doing together. Healing my old way of thinking meant I had to rebel—a holy wild woman rebellion. I had to stop the work. Stop the doing. Do the opposite, actually ... allow myself to “just be.” This terrified me because surely I didn't deserve love or acceptance now! The inner critic rushed to call me lazy and selfish—and that was on a good day. Allowing myself an extended season of rest + waking up to the truth that I am loved as I am, not because if what I do, was a luxury I felt I did not deserve and could not afford. 

The hunger for love takes many forms. For years it manifested through me as codependence. Now I recognize it as a form of disbelief ... I did not believe I was lovable as-is. Who would love this? <Insert all manner of what I considered disgusting and repulsive.> I grew up with strong faith and yet even my faith could not hold up beneath the tenderness of a young girl aching to be loved. A young girl who felt faceless and unmemorable in a sea of others—just one of the kids, one anonymous face in a crowd, one soul in a million souls. How could I be loved when there are so many other children? So many other women? Who am I? How could there be enough love to go around? And yet I did not want to be loved at the expense of others—I did not want others to be any less loved. Unconsciously I told myself, then I will sacrifice. I will be less-loved so that others can be loved. I will give love. I will love and love and love. 

And I loved so much my heart broke. I loved intensely the way I wanted to be loved. I showed it through service, devotion, words, presence. I deeply wanted to prove my love—and underneath it, not even really known to me—my lovability. 

I remember one evening in January, years ago, standing on my balcony alone with tears on my face. The stars glimmered sweet and the wind whispered soft poems to my skin.

I looked at the stars and suddenly realized that I was looking at them with my own eyes for no other reason than so that I could see them. For myself. I could see them, and I didn't need to give this seeing to anyone else. In that moment, all this beauty was for me.

I remember touching my eyes and in those moments, illumination burst through my entire being.

In a lifetime of “doing” where I learned that it was holy to work hard, sacrifice, and give my Self completely away, I also learned that nothing belonged to me. I had no right to good things or beauty. If I had anything good, it was mine to share with others and to sacrifice. Nothing felt sacred in the sense that it was private, with protective boundaries, worthy of holding close and treasuring and keeping. 

And yet I stood looking at the stars, with my very own eyes, eyes that were given to me for my own pleasure. And I got to keep them. I had something beautiful to keep for my very own.

And suddenly I realized: this is love.

It felt like a thrilling secret. I have eyes and this person over here has eyes and we both get to see and my seeing doesn't take away from theirs, and theirs doesn't take away from mine. 

And I began to see all the things that are mine that I get to keep: my soul. My breath. My eyes. Feeling the soft night air on my skin. The way my heart beats with joyful, gentle rhythms. Gifts. Just for me. I did nothing to earn them. They just Are, and I just Am. 

It was here that I began to finally grasp the mystery of grace and the divine love of God. It was here I sank into permission to stop doing. Finally, to give myself to a season of rest and learning what it means to Be. To heal my work—to dismantle what I believed about work and sacrifice, selfishness and doing. To examine why I did things and revamp my intentions and beliefs. 

To “undo.”

It was my season of Undoing. After a lifetime of the opposite, rebellion became the only way I could move forward. I had to deliberately not do the things I normally did in order to unravel the tightly bound threads that locked up my heart. Over time, she began to stretch out, timidly peek out from her cave. Honestly? This season took years. Years of gradually gaining strength. Years of healing the old ways and beliefs. Years of trusting that it's not all some kind of joke and that any moment I will wake up to find that I'm completely wrong and there's no love for me and that God is insidiously laughing (or sad) at how deceived I am. That it's too good to be true that God is this good, that love is this abundant, that beauty is this lush.

Now I'm ready to embrace doing again. But for the right reasons this time, secure in the truth that I'm worthy and loved and accepted for who I am, period. End of story. I have nothing to prove.

In this space I get to come even more alive! I can ask myself what do I want? and move forward rejoicing. I can work from a pure heart not holding my breath waiting for my work to be rejected or approved along with myself. I can give freely because I know I am enough. I can serve because my service does not ask others to hold the weight of my need. 

A few months ago I told a friend that I realized I was giving out of my lack—that I already had nothing, and was giving and giving from that space of nothing which was leaving me even more depleted than before. And I said to her, now it is time to give from my overflow. From my abundance. And when one is that depleted, it can take time for the well to fill. But I must fill my well in order to have something to give. And when I do, it will be that much more rich and nourishing because it comes from a deep, sweet, rippling well rather than tiny drops scraped off the rocks of my dark desert cave walls. 

So here is permission for both of us, love—let's fill our wells. Let's bring ourselves to the eternal river of divine love that is always lush and here for us to drink from so deeply, filling our chalices and buckets and clay mugs and tea cups and bathtubs until our entire lives are drenched and overflowing. Let us bring our beings to our doings and hold out our arms to tenderness. Let us give from the abundance that we are and nourish the whole earth with our presence and gifts and the light of the Eternal within. Let us love from the exuberant verdant garden of love that bursts within, vines ripe and heavy with flower and fruit. And may we always know that we are beloved from the depth of our cells to the vast fields of our souls and that there is nothing that can separate us from this love.

Hillary McFarland