Two weeks ago, during a massage that felt about four years overdue, I voiced a struggle to let go of tension. Lori, the gifted massage therapist tending to me, said something that tripped the tear switch behind my eyes.
“This is a safe place.”
With those words, I blew out the breath I’d been holding, and my eyes released a surplus of tears.
I felt a second of surprise at that reaction, although I wasn’t sure why. I know words have power. I’ve built my life, personal and professional, around them. Not to mention that I have a big safety thing, also permeates my personal and professional life.
I like to feel secure and secured. Several layers of blankets, bed and desk arranged with a view of the door, scarves worn halfway into summer, plenty of toilet paper in stock. Those kinds of things.
In my work—coaching writers, editing books, and leading writing retreats—I make an intentional effort to create sanctuary for stories. I am committed to helping others feel secure to release their authentic voices, wild words, heart stories.
So given what I know about words and how I feel about safety, why the surprise?
In part, I think because words just have that potency. The same words I’ve heard a thousand times can still sound different and take on a new meaning or depth or nuance. I’m left shaking my head and smiling, like I was just in a Mentos commercial, surprised awake. Oh words, you’ve done it again!
And, well, a good surprise is really, simply a reminder that you’re loved.
Friends secretly plan a party for you. You remember you’re worth celebrating.
Lover brings you dark roast coffee or Pad See Ew or a bourbon barrel stout (pecifics matter). You remember you’re cherished.
A beautiful opportunity surfaces. You remember The Universe has some good things, just for you, up its big billowy sleeves (Yes, The Universe wears muumuus; I have an in, so I know these things).
So I suppose in that moment, during that massage, I was surprised by those words because on a most basic level, I needed a reminder that I was loved. That reminder elicited a question: How about giving yourself a safe place to release?
I don’t mean to drift into idolizing self-sufficiency. We need each other, and it’s absolutely okay and necessary to ask for help and graciously receive kindness. Favors, support, gifts, massages? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
At the same time, constantly outsourcing the meeting of my needs can leave me feeling unnecessarily helpless. I had needed some safety and release long before that massage, and I’d forgotten that I could also give those things to myself.
As my friend Shannon and I like to tell each other with exaggerated affirmative enthusiasm, “You are a human resource!” As we outsource, we must also remember that inner source, the one that knows how to take care of us—feed us, shelter us, and sometimes, get us to safety.
So your FHP activity for this week, should you choose to accept it, is to declare and create a safe zone and time for yourself to release, A.K.A. a reminder that you are loved.
Ask yourself what makes you feel safe or secure or comfortable. What sensory elements put you at ease? Soft music, silence, reggae, NPR? Twinkly lights, sunlight, moonlight, candlelight? Hot tea, cold grape juice, smooth whiskey? Fresh air, fresh baked bread, incense in your bedroom? Then gather, stage, concoct, and prepare for the honored guest that is you.
Other supplies you might need: journal, pen, oil pastels, big blank canvas, poster paper.
Pick a time, and put it on the calendar. Maybe five minutes or five hours. You decide how much releasing you need.
When you get there, as you begin, say to yourself: This is a safe place. And make it so.
After listing all of the possibilities for the trappings and treasures of your safe place, I add this caveat: you might not need much.
I’ve built plenty of safe spaces for myself with only words and breath and saltwater.
When I christened my closet floor with tears as my heart broke over the end of my marriage, I whispered to myself, I am still here. I am still here.
In those leaden minutes, that was enough to make a safe place from where I could rise and step forward. I wish that kind of simple enoughness for you, too.
This week, this day, this minute, may you create sanctuary for your dear self. You are, after all, a human resource.