I used to push and run and barely breathe. Life was an uphill climb to an unknown destination. Like a hamster on a wheel, I frantically peddled my feet forward, never really arriving anywhere.
I felt out of touch with myself, short of air, and numb to feel. It wasn’t elegant. I call this stage in my life my “time of roughness.”
I kept my life rough on the surface—jagged and sharp—in order to keep people away, to keep feelings from entering, to keep memories from coming too close.
I was in protection mode, on the defense, clothed in full armor, and ready for battle. Looking back, it was an exhausting way to live. At some point, I got tired of the fight, drained by the push. I grew weary of holding myself as a hostage and surviving each day in a state of emotional gridlock.
Do you ever feel this way? Have you ever felt this kind of isolation? It’s scary. For many of us, adopted or not, it’s a reality. Life can leave us with dents and scratches that cause us to hide. We hold our arms out, not to embrace, but to insulate ourselves from future pain—to avoid facing the ache within us.
There is no flow. Life seems mechanical, yet we are not mechanically made. We are not machines. We are real, living, and feeling beings. Souls. We’re made for love. We’re designed for kindness, empathy, and service. None of these things can be accomplished while wearing a hard, protective shell that snuffs out our spirits and our ability to create meaningful connections.
Those jagged parts of me were only the hurts that I wasn’t allowing myself to face. The hurts that kept me from engaging in my own life. I could see my life beyond the brokenness, I just didn’t know how to navigate the shattered parts in order to reclaim that life: the life that existed before hurt crashed its way through.
I felt trapped as I lived my days on the opposite side of elegance and the flow of freedom.
So, how can we live elegantly in this inelegant world? I believe there are three essential steps.
- We start by loving ourselves enough to face the hurts that hold us back. Face them and move through them. Moving around hurt, running away from hurt, blaming the hurt—these things will never allow us to grow. They only serve to keep us in a state of static. Move through the center of your pain and come out changed on the other side. You see, on the other side of pain awaits your purpose. Knowing your purpose and living out your purpose—that’s elegance.
- Stop pushing and start pulling. Fighting against life is a broken way of living. Pushing is fighting. Ultimately, pushing our way through life blocks our ability to see what we really need. There is more friction created with pushing and less overall friction created by pulling. Don’t we all desire less friction in our lives? Think of that suitcase in your closet. Would you rather push it through a busy airport, or pull it on smooth-moving wheels through a crowded terminal? Pulling is flowing. It’s living from a belief that life is happening for us and not to us. This energy pulls us as if a tether were attached to our heart, pulling us towards our ultimate vision and desire. I like the sensation of that: a life lived elegantly—gracefully—as we flow from the heart.
- Soften and find true strength. It is difficult to grow when you’ve been hardened by life; when love cannot penetrate the shell. I wasn’t strong when I was clothed in full armor. I was at my weakest then. The moment when I softened my heart, began to trust, and let love in—this is the time when life became sweeter and the jagged and shattered pieces became whole.
I breathe so much easier now. I’ve exchanged the frantic pace for a life of living and loving well. It’s a simpler and more soulful way of being. And, it’s offered to each of us. It starts with loving ourselves enough—and trusting in God enough—to do what is needed to move from fear to faith.
Onward to elegance,