I, Akeelah

Grousing about being awakened at the crack of dawn on a Sunday aside, I’m still a pretty happy person. Somewhat neurotic, sure. Some things never go away, especially for ex-New Yorkers like me. But as this amazing year has taught me, there’s a lot more to me than I ever realized–or at least than I ever felt brave enough to let out. I have a lot to be thankful for, and lately I’ve been pretty publicly grateful. I know that’s been off-putting to a few people. To those folks I say: how do you think I feel?

No one would label me a morning person, so it’s no surprise that I drove my morning-joyful Rockford friend up a wall Sunday morning by grousing at being shifted to a north-central Illinois Starbucks while he went to work before, I’m sure, even God had gotten out of bed. He’s Christian clergy, so I suppose it comes with the territory, though seen in that frame it makes perfect sense I feel most at home in a Jewish denomination with post-evening-rush-hour services.

Notwithstanding sitting groggy-eyed in that Rockford Starbucks where this post began, I remain uncharacteristically unflappably content–at least compared to how I felt about life at the beginning of this year. It’s hard to describe how titanic yet simple it felt the morning four months ago when I decided to stop fighting against my life and start embracing it instead.

I had always been afraid of letting go of my fear of the world. I fought against it my whole life, not knowing what I was really trying to protect myself from were the toxic adult family members who helped raise me. I eventually gave in and stopped going to war with my life because (thanks to three years in these rooms) I finally came to see the unnecessary devastation I was leaving behind. My heart couldn’t take any more if it. I was sure I was going to drop dead once I gave in, but there wasn’t much choice anymore. Instead, by the end of the day, the sense of growing ease and peace in my life was palpable.

That led to a lot of amends and healing, and that led to my Jewish journey. All of it led straight into places inside of me I never knew existed. It’s not as if suddenly here’s this pain-in-the-ass blogger talking about love, and joy, and God. These things have always been in me, and I’ve always known it. I’ve just been too afraid to act on it, to let it out, to let my actions be guided by it. I was afraid it wouldn’t make much difference. I didn’t want anybody to know (drumroll)…who I really was.

To borrow a line from Robert Frost, as it turns outs, that has made all the difference. I’m not suddenly some new Michael Doyle. (Though you may have noticed, I’m taking my name back–Mike was shorter to write in a blog sidebar, but to friends I have always been Michael.) I’m just, finally, the Michael Doyle I’ve never let you see before. He’s actually a pretty nice guy.

Yeah I know. The whole thing sounds kind of trite, and I admit from time to time in the past few months having to just stand back and ask myself, “Who in the hell are you and what have you done with Mike Doyle?” On the other hand, it has been a lot easier to deal with life–problems and setbacks and stresses especially–by taking a decidedly different approach to them.

I’m happy. There it is. My life is full of confusion and stress and uncertainty at the moment, and I could complain about it all. But so is everyone else’s. That, I really don’t need to tell you, is life. But I’m still happy. There’s a gratitude I’m in touch with now about, really, all of it, that leaves me in awe on an hour-by-hour basis. It took a long time to get here. I intend to revel in it.

I’m reminded of a saying featured in the movie, Akeelah and the Bee. It was mis-attributed to Nelson Mandela, but it really comes from Marianne Williamson. It reads in full:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we’re liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

And if you didn’t drown on the sickening sweetness of that quote, get used to it. Because I’m living in the middle of it.

Happy, happy. Joy, joy.

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