“It’s hard to celebrate ‘me.’”
20 WONDROUS STORIES OF RADICAL SELF LOVE
Exclusive Excerpts from Acclaimed Author Andy Chaleff and His New Book Release: “The Wounded Healer”
In This Story: After years of diminishing his writing in order to protect himself from criticism, the universe conspires to teach him a lesson.
Exploring the Series: Andy is leading the way in supporting people to fully love themselves. Through the “projection and reclamation” method, he holds the hands of many as they discover newfound freedom and radical self-love. In this series of 20 stories from the book “The Wounded Healer”, we examine some of the most familiar archetypes as real people overcome common yet deep struggles we all face that get in the way of loving ourselves completely.
“We are all just walking each other home.”
When I leave Jeff’s home, I have about nine hours before I need to be at my next appointment in Virginia Beach. Since it’s only about a three-hour drive, I have time to spend. Jeff mentions that Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, is on the way, so I decide to go there.
While I drive, a cold rain slices through cold air. The trees start to form icicles which look like chandeliers.
When I arrive, I walk to the admission counter to find out that the actual home is up a hill and I need to take a shuttle bus. We take the shuttle bus and the tour begins. As we walk through the home, I hear strange crackling sounds outside. We are not exactly sure what’s making the sounds, but one of the guides says, “We are initiating the inclement weather protocol.”
Apparently, the ice I was appreciating so much on my drive has now grown so heavy that many trees on the property are beginning to fall over, and some have already fallen over the entry road.
The tour is cut short and we are taken to the bottom floor, which is the kitchen quarters. I can see that our guide is not exactly sure what to do next. I ask, “Has this ever happened to you before?”
She replies, “Not in the fifteen years I’ve worked here.”
No one can let us know when we can leave because there are so many fallen trees blocking traffic. I look at my watch and see that I have six hours to get to the next stop. Since it’s a three-hour drive, I’m not particularly worried.
To wait out the storm, we are shuffled into a small break room that is used by the guides. Chairs are arranged in a circle. We sit and wait. An hour passes. A child in the group begins to have a panic attack as we sit in the windowless room. The guide brings her some chocolate in hopes that it might calm her. Although we have no specific reason to feel unsafe, there is a strange fear in the room.
Going into the second hour, the guide invites us to ask questions while we wait. There are a lot of questions, especially because the room we are in is filled with photos and the family tree of Thomas Jefferson’s mistress. She was a fourteen-year-old slave at the time, and I faintly remember discussions around how this relationship was judged over the years.
It is clear that the guide has been taught how to engage the subject matter. In essence, they have been taught how to discuss the period without passing judgment. They are also prepared on how to address issues when they arise. I understand this when the guide shares, “We are not supposed to discuss our opinions on this matter.”
But since we are stuck in the same room for such a long period, she eventually relents and says, “I’m not supposed to discuss this, but I’ll share my thoughts. Please understand that this is not part of the tour.” There are no black people in the group and I don’t believe she would feel comfortable to share if there were.
She continues, “It wasn’t often discussed until more recent history. But after Thomas Jefferson’s wife died, he took a slave as a mistress. This slave, Sally Hemings, was fourteen years old at the time. He had six children with her. When I tell this story, people often react aggressively. One time a woman shouted, ‘It was not a relationship, she was raped! Tell the truth. She was raped!’”
She continues, “I believe the problem is that we have elevated Thomas Jefferson to almost god-like status. But he was human, just like any of us. So to elevate him is to disregard that he was also flawed. It would be easy for us to judge him from our context today, but that would be dismissing the context in which he lived. He inherited slaves and at the same time was against slavery. If Jefferson had released his inherited slaves, they would have had to travel to the North. They likely wouldn’t have survived the trip.”
I appreciate the wisdom and delicacy with which she approaches the subject. She sees both sides and doesn’t have a strong opinion either way. Over my lifetime, I’ve slowly moved away from people with strong opinions. I have found that if I don’t adopt their opinions, I am seen as part of the problem.
As I write this, I see the potential projections made upon me: “If he knew the real story, he would not be writing this way.” Or even, “He is just ignorant.” I contemplate leaving these sections out of the book for fear that it might alienate readers or even worse, generate animosity.
I have realized that everyone holds beliefs. I have little to no interest in people’s beliefs. What I am intensely interested in, however, is what has caused them to create those beliefs. This is what brings us together in our shared humanity. Thomas Jefferson is just an idea that elicits emotions. If I allow these emotions to go uninvestigated, I am lost. If I see these emotions as an opportunity to explore what makes me feel this way, space emerges and I see the world with clear and wonder-filled eyes.
I am certainly not a historian and I don’t profess to understand the cultural dynamics of any period. What I have found to be true, though, is that when we sling labels at people, we are then no longer able to see them as individuals in our shared humanity. We can no longer understand the context in which someone lives, and we lose connection within ourselves and with them.
See What Experts Are Saying Below About “The Wounded Healer: A Journey in Radical Self-Love”, Now Available on Amazon
Once we make it personal by projecting an image onto them, we ourselves are locked into a belief. Everything we do needs to validate that point. And if there’s one thing that has been lost in America, on all sides of the political divide, it is the ability to reflect on how one feels, and the knowledge that how one feels isn’t necessarily a claim to truth. Rather, it is an opinion that can be held lightly in order to engage with others with differing opinions.
Jefferson is the quintessential person who can be seen in different lights. He wrote that all men are equal under the law, while at the same time he was owning slaves. It begs the question how such hypocrisy can exist. How we interpret that is what separates us. Some see it as a sign of the times, while others see it as willful neglect. Both sides are correct in their assertions, and at the same time incorrect. Each side decides the context they find relevant when making the argument.
When we start judging before we consider the context, we are left with two competing beliefs. This can only end in name-calling and mudslinging.
As the guide continues, I glance at my watch. If I don’t leave in the next forty-five minutes, I will be late for the next session in Virginia Beach. I begin to fear that my window of opportunity might close if I don’t do something soon. “I have a bit of a predicament,” I tell the guide. “If possible, I’ll need to find a way to get off the mountain sooner.”
“Is it an emergency?” she asks.
I reply, “Well, I am supposed to be at an event where I will be speaking about my book.”
“Are you an author?” she asks.
I laugh inside as I think how long I have come to accept that I’m an author. Now I am forced to proclaim it in order to get off the mountain. “Yes, I am an author,” I say.
She hesitates as if she is sizing me up. Then she grabs her walkie-talkie and says to it, “We have an author who needs to get to a book signing. We need to find a way to get him to the parking lot.”
I feel people in the group looking at me as if they might be sitting next to someone famous. Little do they know that I have only sold a few hundred copies of my book.
The guide receives a response on the walkie-talkie. I’m escorted to a woman named Judy, who will help me get to my car. Her first question is, “Are you the author?”
“Yes,” I say.
She walks me to the front door, which has turned into a staging area to evacuate groups. She hands me off to the next guide who asks, “Are you the author?”
Again, I reply, “Yes, I am the author.”
I am treated with surprising grace as I wait. Apparently, everyone with a walkie-talkie is aware of my status. They take it as a shared mission to get the author off the mountain. It is an amazing moment for me as I feel how beautiful it is to surrender to full self-acceptance.
I wait on the front porch. There, two of the guides are waiting and preparing for the shuttles. One says, “So, you’re the author.”
“Yes, that’s me,” I reply once again.
Eventually a shuttle arrives and I’m driven to my car. I see the freshly-cut trees that have been removed from the road. As I sit in my car, I am flooded with gratitude. I cry at the display of love and care I have received. There is nothing more beautiful in life than surrendering to the acceptance of love. I have spent so many years pushing it away in different ways, and to have it handed to me in such abundance is overwhelming.
To the people of the Jefferson Museum, thank you for the love you showed me. You’ll never know how a simple act of caring supported me, not only in getting off the mountain in time, but seeing that I could embrace love. Especially for something I was struggling with: I am an author, and it’s fucking great.
Andy Chaleff is one of our heroes in the profound work of healing our world’s heart.
He is an acclaimed author, motivational speaker, talk show host of “A Wonderful Chaos”, a conscious business advisor, and a beloved mentor to many.
He dropped everything and devotionally toured across America for three months holding “Last Letter” healing circles for a wide array of communities to safely explore the depths of their grief, giving people permission to release suffering and move forward with an opened and unburdened heart.
This recent body of work, “The Wounded Healer”, showcases personal stories of breakthroughs where most people deprive themselves of self-love. We are honored to showcase excerpts from this transformational series. A voice of clarity and wholeness in our transitional time.