I was sat at a restaurant, listening to the sound of crashing waves, and examined more fully the Memory Dress by Sunvibes that I had custom printed and designed. I passed my fingers over the palm trees that drew me to move to Andalusía in Spain, the lanterns from The Daring Way training with Brené Brown that guided me to complete my 16 country in 16 weeks tour even though my dad passed away at country no. 3, the turtles I swam with who gave me full permission to return aaaaaall the grief I carried for myself and others to the ocean in the form of tears.
Then I set my eyes on the prayer gates from the 1,000 Prayer Gates on My Inari in Kyoto and wondered, “What would I pray for now (beyond my own inner peace and joy for all)?” And I heard back, “I’d pray for the awakening of all unconscious grand/parents.” Like Lola’s abuela, who wakes up shouting, spends the day swearing and ends the day shouting, through my bedroom window from the back courtyard. Lola wakes up in agonizing wailing and yaps all day long (begging to be heard) and goes to sleep in agonizing wailing. Her mom is not around. This abuela has zero clue how much damage she’s caused her granddaughter. Thank all that is holy that conditioning can be unconditioned!!! It’ll be painful and costly, but totally un-condition-able.
I’d also pray for all people to let each other know that they matter. Deeply. Not their productivity or accomplishments or legacy, but their existence matters. Their existence has worth, as-is (like the IKEA section). Regardless of their bank account balance, their resume, their <insert long list of damage done by patriarchy to all man, woman and child>, their existence has worth.
And above all, I’d pray that everyone SEE this truth, KNOW this truth, LIVE this truth. As I added this to the 20,000+ gratitude entries I’ve kept since 1999, I was whisked away by the memory of the first time I discovered I mattered.
At a retreat, I once stood at the bottom of a tall vertical obstacle course, with increasingly difficult rungs. With my aerial silks training, I knew I could get to the top and ring the bell. Easy peasy. When the facilitators shuffled the teams around, I was paired up with Deanna, who had health and mobility challenges. She was also much larger than me.
Grace must have entered because my mind didn’t pre-mediate a plan of attack like old me would have. I wasn’t suddenly liberated from the suffocating need to ring that bell, to prove to the world I had worth by ringing that bell.
Grace possesses me and inspired to climbing the first ladder right behind her, as if her shadow, so she could rest on my shoulder if she needed to. I watched as the old film strip of my life flashed: me leaving her on the ground and scurrying up to the top like a monkey to ring that bell, nearly killing myself to do so.
Without words, I could hear her say, “I can’t do that.” I looked at her with such conviction and ordered, “Yes, you can!” That power, that conviction, where didn’t it come from? Surely not from this shy scraggly little thing? “Don’t worry,” I said. “I’ll climb right behind you and you can sit on my shoulder. We’ll climb together.” Who is this person I was being? Where did she emerge from?
Buoyed by my belief in her, and something deep inside of her own self, Deanna started the climb. We made it to the top bar after the first ladder. When she looked down, I saw awe on her face as she realized what she’d accomplished. We turned something unlikely into something achieved. Together. Was it because I believed in myself so deeply, that she felt how deeply I believed in her, and so she believed in herself so deeply as well?
When we got to the second ladder on the vertical course, I noticed the bars were very far apart. In order to reach the top, either I had to climb on Deanna or she had to climb on me. We made a decision for her to use my kneeled leg as a step stool. We tried twice, and on the third time, she fell off the bar. She was still harnessed, of course, and our facilitators urged her to get back on. I couldn’t see Deanna’s face, but could sense that she was afraid she might be hurting me.
“Just climb on my shoulders,” I ordered. It seemed impossible. How could this woman with genuine physical constraints, larger than I, climb on top of me to reach the top bar? Would I truly be able to support her?
Then everything went pitch black and deathly silent. I couldn’t have fainted, since my body gripped the bars with white knuckles. I wasn’t going to budge; I never let go. It wasn’t strenuous at all. In fact, I don’t remember most of it.
I never let go.
A thundering roar snapped me out of the darkness. Below us, our teammates howled and cheered us on because Deanna had made it to the top bar. Through tears, she looked down at me as if to say, “I thought I was going to break you, but I couldn’t have gotten up here without you.”
I was so moved and overwhelmed, I completely forgot about the peanut gallery in my head chanting, “Ring that bell! Don’t forget that bell! You’re a failure unless you ring that bell!” I hopped up onto the top bar and Deanna tugged me up that last inch. We sat there, catching our breaths. If we had some wine and cheese, we would have broken that out. We stared at each other, and I wondered how a few silly ropes and bars could create such a transcendental moment. We had both put our relationship before the task, which was a new concept for me. The sun had never shone so bright. How sweet it was for me to finally taste the nectar of grace and of liberation from my achievaholic self.
I could have kept going on my own and rung that bell for the both of us. But that moment of grace, of transcending, of Love wasn’t too delicious to pass up for some illusion of success, for some bell.
When they harnessed me back down and my feet touched the forest ground, the truth split me in half like a bolt of lightning: I matter. The end goal didn’t matter; I, Ellany Lea, mattered. I NEVER knew that before!!!
How had I lived thirty years of my life thinking I didn’t matter? I was shown many times that I don’t matter. I was never told I mattered.
All those “black outs” led to brick walls crashing down. As each brick fell, I was liberated. I see now how futile it was to hold the bricks up with tape and glue. If you are experiencing a disappointment or crisis, stop resisting the breakdown. Have it. Have it good! Cry your guts out. I promise you that you will be liberated. Your tears will heal you. And the breakthrough that follows shall set you free.
When I look back on my achievements and financial freedom, I see a different kind of freedom: a liberation from a career I didn’t want, from cultural molds I didn’t value, from parental duties I didn’t ask for, from guilt as a way of life and from exhaustion as a status symbol. Each liberation came from a breakthrough that came from a breakdown.
Snapped back into the present, the waiter came by and had a “omg I’m not sure I know how to handle a crying woman, was the food or service really that bad?” look. Bless his heart. I pointed to the spicy sauce and smiled and he immediately let out a sigh of relief. I wasn’t going to get into it. He can follow my blog to read the full story lol!
When did you KNOW, KNOW that you mattered?