By Erinbell Fanore
Flying home from my recent meditation retreat, I felt giddy with what I had come to understand: I am not special.
For the last 8 years, I have been going on a yearly silent retreat. There, my days consist of mediation, yoga, and quiet wondering. No reading or writing or communicating with anyone.
Over the years, different truths about myself have found clarity. This past retreat was no different. In packing my suitcase to come home, I realized I was not packing my guilt. It disappeared as I realized that I was not special. When telling people about this, I get mostly looks of confusion. My daughter tried to hush me, “No mama, you are special, everyone is. Right?”
“Wait honey, let me share with you why this makes me so happy. Why I feel lighter and more full of love.”
For as long as I an remember, I have been carrying a heavy load of guilt. I felt guilty for being blessed. For having so much. For being loved by my parents, my siblings, my friends. I felt guilty for being born in middle-class suburbia, for the education I got, for knowing what happiness feels like. I felt guilty for living in Berlin with its safety and abundance. I felt guilty for being a white Canadian and knowing it was easier for me in immigration lines and passport control at the airport. Guilt for having a job I love, a family, a support network. It is crazy the amount of guilt I carried around with me, no wonder I felt so heavy.
Along with this guilt, was a sense that I needed to live up to all that I was given. I was special to have so much, to be so loved. Therefore I needed to work hard and prove that I was worthy of these gifts. I had to find ways to be extra good, extra generous, extra kind, extra thankful. It was ambitious work that I failed at.
During one of my walks on the retreat an image of a huge field of daisies came to me. You couldn't see the green of the grass for all the daisy petals. I thought to myself, how ridiculous it would be to point to one daisy and say, “You, you are it! You are the one. You are special.” No way, there are seven billion of them. Not one daisy is special, but each and every daisy is precious, individually and collectively.
It was such a simple image. But it taught me so much. I realized how my sense of specialness separated me from others. How foolish and small-hearted I had been. By thinking I was special to have been given so much, I subconsciously thought other people were less special. This is where the guilt had set in. I had felt spoiled and spoiled is something rotting. There was an inner need to atone for the secret stench. I put myself on a false pedestal and had been trying to keep up the facade, working hard to be kind, share, and show my gratitude.
This image of the daisies showed me how intertwined we all are. The daisies don't choose where they emerge from the ground, but how they grow affects the collective. The lines between me and others, between us and everything around us melted in the sea of yellow and white. We are all reflections of each other. My happiness is the happiness of others. The suffering of others is my suffering. The successes of others are my successes. We are deeply interconnected AND interdependent through our roots, our thoughts, our souls. We are all loved by whatever you want to call it: the Divine, God, the Great Spirit, Mother Nature, the Cosmos, Energy. Each and every human being, no matter what their deeds or actions are, no matter if I like, love, or hate them, is loved. Our worth does not depend on what we have, do, think, or say. We are born worthy. We will die worthy. Our actions though, will lead to more or less suffering for ourselves and thereby for others.
Without my guilt, I flew home feeling very blessed, but not spoiled. I have been given great opportunities to learn and look inward. I live in a place where I feel safe and respected. There is a lot of love in my life. Therefore I have a lot to share and I want to share it all because it doesn't only belong to me. It is not mine, but ours.
I have even more to give of myself because I am not grasping at trying to be more than I am. I am not trying to prove or hide my separateness, specialness, or otherness. I am one of very many daisies, no better, no worse. I am part of the collective whole sharing the sun, the wind, and the dirt. This understanding fills me with more strength to reach out and connect. I want to protect those in need of protection, encourage those in need of encouragement, help those in need of help, and be open to learn from anyone. I want to celebrate with those who have something to celebrate. I want to share in our collective suffering and awakening until each and every person on the planet feels connected and loved.
After I shared my discoveries with my daughter and tucked her into bed, I told them to my husband. When I finished, he smiled and said “You are still special to me.” He is right. I love how we are special to one another. I am very grateful for him, for all that I have, for this precious life.
For more great Wild Word essays on HuffPost see:
My Many Lives As An American Abroad by Annie Mark-Westfall
What the World Needs Now is Men Who Cry by Jami Ingledue