The Top of Our Lungs

“…We want access to the top of our lungs, where the shouts and the holy hosannahs are, the whoops and wails and hullabaloos — not just the bottom of our lungs, which is reserved for whispers and polite conversation, for things said under the breath.”–Gregg Levoy Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life

“I’ve decided to become a trophy wife,” said Marty when he quit his job. Then, more seriously, “I’m sick of selling shiny things to rich people. I want to do something that helps someone.”

Another friend has said: “I don’t want to retire from mortgage banking. It’s paid the bills, but it isn’t where I want to be. I’m thinking about getting my associate’s degree in digital photography.”

“I’m taking the leap! Leaving the job to do consulting work and spend more time with my boys,” was yet another friend’s announcement.


How does it happen that so many of us, stopping to take a look around, to take stock of our lives, find ourselves in a place that isn’t quite right? Not terrible, perhaps, but not where we feel called to be?

Like many of our deepest life issues, for me this one goes all the way back to my childhood. In a family with six children, there was not a finite amount of love – it just felt like there was. I was always sure there wasn’t enough for me. So I tried to compensate for this perceived scarcity by becoming more lovable. I learned not to express or even acknowledge anger. I trained myself to apologize if people were mad at me – regardless of whether I was at fault (the faster I apologized the sooner they loved me again). I changed what I liked, or didn’t like, in order to please. I compromised, giving up not only the piece I thought was asked for, but a little bit more.

I didn’t know or recognize that I was disowning myself in these ways, it was just the only thing my child-self knew to do. The interesting thing is, I’m not alone: we all do it. To differing degrees perhaps, but we all respond to the world by rejecting parts of ourselves “whatever wasn’t loved, respected and accepted in us by ourselves or our parents, teachers, peers, religion, and culture.” (Gregg Levoy) Then, by the time we enter young adulthood “our pie was reduced to a sliver, and a terrible wealth of talent and soul was imprisoned.” (Levoy)

And so we find ourselves, in the middle of our lives, wondering just how we ended up here. And we know we are called to make a change. To live our lives fully, we have to reclaim these parts we’ve rejected – even the parts like anger:  “In whatever we rejected, though, is something that a part of us wants, and there lies a calling that we should follow, if only for the sake of completing the jigsaw and healing the past. We want that anger and that creativity, and the creative power that anger can be if we learn how to use it. We want those tears that swab the soul.” (Levoy)

We need to reconnect with what gives meaning and purpose to our days – like the value of helping others. Or the joy that comes with excavating the artist whose vision has not been allowed to fully develop. Perhaps even learn to leap with excitement into the unknown, leaving the fear behind.

We are not the only ones who have missed our best and whole selves. The world wants and needs who we were born to become, misses our full voices. So here is my prayer – that we, each of us, gain access to the top of our lungs. May the world be filled with our holy hosannahs and hullabaloos!

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