By Ashley Young
“There is no greater battle in life than the battle between the parts of you that want to be healed and the parts of you that are comfortable and content remaining broken.” – Iyanla Vanzant, Trust: Mastering the 4 Essential Trusts: Trust in God, Trust in Yourself, Trust in Others, Trust in Life
“To have love, you must be love.” – Starhawk, Spiral Dance
I’ve been reading spiritual teacher and life coach Iyanla Vanzant’s Trust. It’s been sitting in a pile of books in my living room ever since I heard Vanzant debut it at the Barnes & Noble near my place. Then on a chair near my altar. Then in my backpack. Then back in the pile. In every resting place it’s remained unread.
Then I suffered a sudden-but-saw-it-coming-breakup and fell fast into depression. The following Sunday, Vanzant was the guest spot on Oprah’s “SuperSoul Sunday,” again debuting her book. She gave me the same words she had at Barnes & Noble and in very timely fashion, I was finally ready to feel them. And I could not stop crying. I knew it was time to start reading Trust.
Trust in God. Trust in Self. Trust in Others. Trust in Life.
This is Vanzant’s outline to discovering what it really means to begin to trust–a concept that has rendered me vulnerable, frightened and often broken. But I’ve made a choice to shift my life in such a way that I want to trust something greater than myself.
My authentic voice comes from my gut, not from a head that is filled with painful memories from the past and not even from a heart that feels the history of that pain.
Recovery from drugs, alcohol, and codependency (a state in which your concern for others supersedes your concern for yourself) has begun to give me a clear listening of my inner voice. The voice inside my head used to sound, feel and speak from the voice of my mother.
This voice was very critical: “You’re a writer! Why can’t you spell that right?” “You are a reflection of me, not defined by yourself.” “You’ll be loved when the people around you are ready to love you.”
The volume of these words suppressed the voice inside me that was authentically my own, so much so that I thought my mother’s voice was my own. I would never be a good writer. I would never be able to become the woman I wanted to become and if I wanted someone to really love me, I had to be the one to get them ready to.
The first step to my recovery was discovering that I am worth fighting to be well and deserve all the good things that I want in life. What has emerged is a voice that has begun to guide me to where I want to go and who I want to be.
It warns me against the danger of old patterns that no longer work for me: Welcome people into your life who come to you with the love you need, not with the potential of who they could be for you.
It reminds me that I am responsible for creating my own experience of myself: You are strong enough to determine who you are in every moment of your existence.
It assures me that I have a right to my passion and that those aspirations are the space for me to flourish: You are the writer you’ve always wanted to be and what you have to give to the world is not only a place of healing for yourself but for others.
My authentic voice comes from my gut, not from a head that is filled with painful memories from the past and not even from a heart that feels the history of that pain. Listening to my gut, my moonpit, is a new learning. It requires being quiet so I can hear what it is telling me about my true feelings and guides me to determine my actions. It requires an ongoing distinction from the voice I am starting to reject that is comfortable with me staying sick because it is so familiar. It requires that I be kind and gentle to myself, that I experience every heartache, every failed action, every mistake as another step to growth.
I assert that my authentic inner voice is the voice of God as I understand her. I understand my Higher Power to be both God/Goddess, male/female, everything/nothing. She is an image that has always given me comfort: a woman who is the creator and destroyer holding the balance of both light and dark.
Her voice, my inner voice, has not always been trusted. It was hidden under my urge to suppress all my feelings with drugs and alcohol. I was silenced by my focus on others’ healing instead of my own. It was shadowed by my bad experiences with religion and my teachings that God is a white man sitting externally above with judgement, punishment and unattainable perfection. But I’m finding the more I allow myself access to designing what is true for me, the louder I hear a voice that is teaching me I am worth creating a life that I want and creating the woman I want to be.
And that the only holy forces I feel I am safe to follow is the voice of love that lives inside of me.
Editor’s Note: Ashley will be developing her collection of poetry and first novel at this summer’s Lambda Literary Foundation Writers Retreat for LGBTQ writers. She is raising funds to attend the retreat, so if you are so moved to support her work, please contribute here.
Ashley Young is a Queer feminist poet, author and teacher. Her work has been published in three anthologies, Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion (Seal Press), All About Skin: Short Fiction by Women of Color (University of Wisconsin Press) and Glitter and Grit: Queer Performance from the Heels on Wheels Femme Galaxy (Portland Studio). She has been a contributor for Elixher magazine since 2011 and has been featured in various online magazines, such as Autostraddle, Rvkvry Journal and more. She is a 2010 Voices of Our Nation’s Foundation Poetry Fellow and a 2011 Lambda Literary Foundation Nonfiction Fellow, to return summer of 2016. She has taught her biomythography workshop at the Fire and Ink Conference in 2015 and at the Northeast Queer and Trans Conference at NYU. She performs her work at various readings throughout the country and will be reading at her first solo show at Bluestockings Bookstore, Cafe and Activist Center in New York City. She is currently working on a collection of poetry and prose entitled Chronicles of Bipolar Living and is completing her first novel, a biomythography entitled The Liberation of the Black Unicorn. Ashley lives in New York City with her wife, four wild cats and her sweet service dog.