"Having compassion starts and ends with having compassion for all those unwanted parts of ourselves."

- Pema Chödrön.

Back in 2018, when life felt unexpectedly heavy and dark, I had a hard time articulating what was happening inside of me. I had no reference point; nothing familiar to compare it to. There were no words to adequately describe the fear and hopelessness that had found their way into my being.

So, in an attempt to make sense of the nonsensical, I put together a Spotify playlist with songs that captured the essence of my wordless suffering. Number One on my list was Phil Collins' "No Way Out" with these words:

There's no shelter from the storm inside of me.

There's no way out of this dark place.

No hope, no future.

I know I can't be free,

But I can't see another way.

Oh, And I can't face another day.


And Number Two was Danny Gokey's "Tell Your Heart to Beat Again" with these words:


Words fall short in times like these

When the world drives you to your knees.

You think you're never gonna get back

To the "you" you used to be.


I remember listening to my playlist on loop, earbuds securely in my ears, volume loud enough to drown out the noise in my head. I found moments of comfort, knowing that someone, somewhere, felt the same way inside that I did.

Even more importantly, the music allowed me to begin to actually feel emotions that I had never known how to feel.

You see, like most people, I had been conditioned to navigate AWAY from anything that seemed uncomfortable, upsetting, or unexplainable. Despair, fear, and confusion were things to be avoided at all costs. Circumventing these kinds of experiences was not just preferable, it was the only "normal" way to succeed in life. Just figure things out, make sense of things, and control as many outcomes as possible. It's easy to do as long as you don't pause to feel.

Comfort and security were the drivers of my decisions.

Every choice-point was a game of statistics and probability: Which decision would yield the most likely experience of comfort? Which decision would be least likely to provoke an experience of sadness, fear, emotional pain, or insecurity?

It was exhausting, all that managing and controlling. But it kept my illusory fortress of preservation securely intact.

Thankfully, the music on my carefully-selected Spotify list helped begin to chip away the fortress. My desperation for relief began to slowly melt into something softer, gentler, and more loving.

I found myself less interested in feeling comfortable and more interested in getting to know the parts of me that were asking for attention.

All those habitual anxious thoughts, the scary symptoms, and the fluctuating sensations in my nervous system began to feel more like little aspects of me—"little Missy's”—coming to the light of awareness to be held; to be seen; to be loved.

I could no longer turn her away or cast her aside. I was ready to take a second look at her—all of her—through the eyes of understanding and compassion rather than the eyes of my conditioning.

With each habitual thought of "This is terrifying" or "I can't handle this," I sensed an adorable little freckle-faced Missy coming up to the light to say Hi.

With each new round of physical symptoms or volcanic-like nervous system sensations, there was a felt-sense of a little Missy who just needed to know that love and worth are unconditional.

The things my mind had learned to call awful, unwanted, terrifying, and hopeless weren't AT ALL what I had been believing.

"Scary thoughts" were no longer scary thoughtsthey were invitations to see, often for the first time, all of the programming and conditioning that I had been identifying as "me" and "mine." There was so much that had gone unquestioned and unexplored. It was time to wake-up to who and what I was before all of the add-ons; before the judgments, comparisons, and meanings were layered on top. As the poetic words of Emily McDowell suggested—I was ready to find out who I was before the world got its hands on me.

I was ready to be still with the stories, the thoughts, the emotions, and the symptoms that I had innocently been running from and condemning. I was ready to find the truth hiding right in the very center of all the culturally conditioned disguises.

As an offering to the parts of me that I had spent so long avoiding, I wrote this poem from the perspective of one of those "Little Missy's" who needed to be seen, held, and met with unconditional love and compassion. It's called, "Meet Me Where I Am."

Could you please meet me where I am?

This still looks real and true to me.

Deep in my heart, there is a knowing that all is well.

Safety and love cannot be shattered or taken away.

But, in this moment, there is a veil.

A perceived distortion of what is real.

A feeling of fragility.

A raw vulnerability.

A wanting to be held in your arms.

An asking for love and acceptance.

A wishing to be seen through the eyes of grace.

A silent pleading to be met with compassion.

Could you please meet me where I am?

This is my most authentic offering of love.

My arms-open-wide.

My fortress dismantled.

No more guards or protectors.

No pretending to be strong or courageous.

Could you please meet me where I am?

Afraid yet free beyond words.

Anxious yet utterly whole and complete.

Wobbly yet overflowing with tenderness.

My vulnerable request laid bare—

A heart full of unconditional love.

Could you please meet me where I am?

As it turns out, my suffering had been my greatest gift all along. It was my invitation—the portal into the parts of me that were asking to be seen with clear eyes, to be understood for the very first time through the lens of truth. The suffering itself, once understood, was the guiding light to a much greater, “realer” sense of who I am.

Today, all experiences are welcome. Comfortable or not, they are my guests—all of my “Little Missy’s.” And I am the unconditional love and compassion that has the capacity to hold them all.