I grew up with gates. On a ranch, a gate determines boundaries. It keeps livestock in its proper area and trespassers at bay.
You always leave a gate the way you find it. If it’s open, leave it open. If it’s closed, leave it closed. If it’s locked and you unlock it, lock it back exactly the same way. Never, ever stand on it.
I started riding with my dad on the ranch around the age of five. Inevitably we’d pull up to a gate to be opened. Usually it needed to be unlocked as well. A heavy ring of twenty keys or more would be passed to my hands, the one key specific for that job set apart for my fingers to grasp. I’d hold it tightly, hustling from the cab of the pick up to the padlock at the gate.
Forever imprinted upon me are those fumbling gate-opening moments. The truck idling, dad at the wheel, eyes upon me, watching, waiting, as I went about the business of opening. Keys into padlocks, thick iron chains unwrapping. Did the gate open in or out? Every opening process was a mini, on-stage execution, keenly observed by my father. Ever the dutiful pleaser, I longed to be quick and successful.
The worst scenario (the one I tried earnestly to avoid) would be if the truck had to go into park and dad had to climb out to help. Not that he was impatient walking over to me in his hay-covered jeans. But if he was beside me at the gate, time was up, and I had failed.
Sometimes it was simply my own nerves keeping me from being able to get the lock open, or from figuring out how to unwrap the chain. These pressures to perform were mostly imposed upon myself, and they created a bit of gate phobia lasting long into adulthood.
This past December I found myself riding shotgun with my dad again. This time I was 43, not five. But when we came to that first gate, the familiar angst rumbled around in my stomach. It’d been years since I’d unlocked a gate on the ranch, but once again, all eyes were on me, waiting. The only thing I could do was my best. Though it may sound absurd to think one would need a pep talk to open a gate, there I was, bolstering myself with “Don’t worry, you’ve got this.”
Sure enough, the first gate was easy. Whew! Dad drove through, and I closed it with ease behind him. I was soon to learn that there were new gates since I’d been gone. In the course of our round-trip excursion, I probably opened and closed gates 15 times. In each instance of pulling up to the barrier, I felt the tinge of tension. And each time I climbed out, unlocking and locking, I experienced a small success.
That day, no one knew my scary gatekeeping secret. Little did the Bohemian realize that as he snapped photos, he was documenting me in breakthrough moments. Yesterday I came across some of the shots he took of me at the gateways, and I thought to share them here as a testament to conquering fears.
This is simple evidence of just how powerful our minds can be, to either lock up in fear, or to open and walk through. Close, open. Lock, unlock. No hurry, no worry.
In the words of Napoleon Hill, “Whatever the mind of (hu)man can conceive and believe it can achieve.”
It took me 40 years, but I think I’ve finally got the gates.
You must love yourself in order to love anyone else. We’ve heard this adage before and we can understand its truth.
But are we really loving ourselves? Truly? Deeply? Body, mind, heart, soul?
Or are there little pockets where we are withholding love?
At the end of 2016, judgements swirled at the height of a presidential election and the media was saturated with criticisms and finger-pointing.
As I observed this play out on the world screen, I turned my gaze inward, noticing I had my own little tit for tat going on within.
I was ashamed to admit it, but it was true. I wasn’t loving myself, unconditionally. Truth be told, there were pockets in my mind where I just wasn’t being kind. Sometimes the thoughts would flit so quickly, they’d often go unnoticed. But their sear was cumulative and lasting.
A criticism of myself for not having been more patient with Jeb: “Well that exchange will scar him for life. I’m an awful mother.”
A judgement that my stir-fry just didn’t turn out with the spice I was hoping for: “No matter how I try, I’m just a terrible cook.”
A defeated look in the mirror: “Wow, I’m getting old. Who is that ugly woman in the mirror?”
It’s not easy to admit that I would send these silent zingers to myself. It’s even harder to type them out to lay bare in the ether here. But perhaps they sound familiar. My wish would be that these quiet put downs are alien to you. But I suspect that all too often, many of us fall prey to the mental looping of continual criticism, which eats away at our esteem and staves off love.
So tired I was of being mean to myself, but not sure how to stop the habit, I grasped for something tangible. I put a big pause on what I was feeding myself, literally. I chose not to put in anything unhealthy. I chose to add only the highest, most nutritious food and phyto-nutrients. I figured I could start with my body and hopefully the vessel that housed my mind would have influence on my thoughts.
As I loved my body by giving it the utmost care, I began to see more loving thoughts cross my mind. The negative judgements dissolved. My cells reverberated with more kindness. I felt happier. I had more patience. Food was more appreciated and flavorful. I saw my true and beautiful self in the mirror again. I felt younger, more inspired.
We hold our hearts in our own hands. We get to choose how to treat ourselves. I’m still learning. But as we enter the month of Valentine’s Day with hearts and flowers, chocolates and diamonds, I’d like to advocate for the truest gem: our own hearts.
Delicate and pure, full of infinite potential. Lets house them well. Nurture them. Then spread the love.