Over the last several weeks we’ve been introducing you to the faces behind Being Human. Our goal with these interviews is to offer you a small glimpse into the heart and story of another traveler so that we can build connections through our shared humanity. Rob Bell likes to remind us, “The real art is: Can I look far enough inside of you to find me?”
Our biggest hope is that you would uncover surprising commonalities, seek to understand someone else’s perspective, and practice empathy as you read through the interview.
With that said, we’d like you to meet Bec Ellis. Bec is a writer, poet, artist & photographer living in Central Oregon with her husband and three kids. A seeker of questions and deep noticer, she began writing at a young age. She has a strong belief that our stories are what bring healing and unite us together, finding deep beauty in the curves and scars of our lives.
And now onto our chat with Bec!
The first question is always this: What emotions, images, thoughts, or ideas come to you when you hear the phrase “being human”?
So many images come to mind – from feeling a simple, cool breeze on my cheek to running my hands down an intricate, beautiful and yet imperfect tapestry. It is a feeling of being full and alive, our senses teeming, while also being pulled in the direction of the complicated and unknown. It is the beauty of humanity woven together, knowing sometimes our threads break or become tangled – but each of us plays our part, connected in ways we don’t even realize as we support one another and keep the tapestry from falling apart.
Being human is really a bit of a paradox that is difficult to explain – it is finding freedom in our incompleteness while embracing our intrinsic wholeness. It is allowing for space to pause and breathe and question and fail and grow most importantly – change our minds and do better.
Looking back on your childhood how did you see or feel or experience your innate connection and belonging to Love/the Bigger Story?
I remember when I was about 8 years old, my dad used to get up at 3 or 4 am and walk to this little hill near a park to watch the stars. A few times, I’d get up and go with him. The walk was always long and quiet, but there was something thrilling about being out in the dark while most of the town slept. When we got there, we’d lay down on some blankets and I still remember the dewy scent of the grass and the sound of crickets and frogs. He called it “Prayer Hill”, but I never remember hearing him talk while we were there.
We just listened and watched the stars. Sometimes I’d get tired and doze off for a minute. Then we’d walk back home as the sun started to rise. This is where I learned, like Anne of Green Gables describes, how to feel a prayer. The quiet and stillness of nature has always been the place where I have been drawn into the Expansive Mystery. It is here that I am reminded both of my smallness and my deep connection to everything around me.
What are a few simple ways you intentionally build connection and stand in solidarity with others?
One way is through my writing – there is something about sharing what is deep within you with others and then, having them raise their hands with a “me too”. I feel like poetry is especially suited for this; it has the ability to open us in a really vulnerable way.
I also just try to reach out to those I have relationships with, go for walks and grab coffees and sit together with tea and chat about all the mundane and deep things in life. Sitting in circles with women has also been a powerful practice that has the ability to build really deep bonds and connection with one another. I’ll never stop doing that (although, during COVID it has looked like virtual “circles”. Mostly this has taught me that women still know how to connect against all odds. Maybe because we, especially mothers, have to fight so hard to find that time and make it happen, even with the insane amount of demands placed on us).
Why do you think it is so difficult for us as humans to accept our innate wholeness and dignity? What (moments, books, experiences, etc) or who has helped you along in this journey?
I think mostly it is because of shame. Many of us have grown up with heaps of shame weighing us down, which in many cases, we have allowed to creep in and determine who we are. Especially growing up in the church, I found that almost every decision I made in my life was driven by (or immediately followed with) deep shame and fear.
It’s only when we can begin to sort through which parts are us and which are the stories we have allowed to settle in our bones that we can begin to listen to a new narrative; one where we have always been whole and are simply on a long journey of discovery.
I could never name all the writers, friends, mentors and artists who have helped me process and heal through this. Brene Brown’s work has been pretty foundational for me, as well as Anne Lamott, Rob Bell and Hillary Mcbride. I would also say working alongside some amazing colleagues who “get” all of this on a deep level, even within a church setting. In more recent years I have surprisingly found a lot of healing in the midst of a religious context.
Paula D’Arcy says, “God comes to us disguised as our life.” What does this stir up in you and how do you see the truth of it unfolding in your day-to-day?
Ah so much YES! This is how I see God these days. I don’t think of some deity in the sky or even just hovering in my midst. I see God in everything – especially one another. And I see God in the simple, everyday and mundane. This bothers some people, I think, because they want their experience of God to feel “sacred” and “holy”, but is there anything more sacred than the grittiness and realness of life? The dirt under our fingernails, the sweat on our brow, the heartbreak and bursting-of-joy we carry? I think of taking care of my children, tending to the little things right in front of me with care and attention – God meets us here, also.
And when we see God in everything – in each other, in the earth – how much better will we begin to treat them? Imagine a world where we all held each other as holy and sacred in our eyes.
What are some things you do to nurture your soul and practice self-compassion?
One thing I started doing about a year ago is writing letters to myself. I write these as if from a dear friend who only sees the very best in me. I often picture myself as a child and ask, “what are the words I am most longing to hear right now?” and then see what flows. This helps me speak with more kindness to myself and to others. It actually might be the #1 practice that has helped me become a better parent in regards to how I both model self-compassion and extend it to my kids, too.
How does creativity play a role in your spirituality and daily life? How do you keep the artist inside of you awake and alive?
Creativity to me is fresh air; without it, maybe I’d be walking around but I would feel disoriented, barely alive.
I believe deeply in humankind’s partnership in creation; in the ongoing creation and healing of the world. It isn’t hard for me to create on a daily basis – I bring it into my work, my parenting, our home.
I share it with others and try to bring some sort of light and beauty into the world. It helps me process and heal, and I hope what I offer helps others too. To me, it is the greatest gift and purpose to dive deep into artistry in any form.
What a joy to hear some of Bec’s story and the insights she gained throughout her life. There are so many gems packed into this conversation! What made you stop? What do you need to read over again and perhaps jot down on a sticky note to remember? Where could you relate with Bec? If you’d like, we created a one-page sheet of prompts “inner and outer movements” for further exploration with the ideas Bec shared in this conversation. Go to our Instagram and DM us and we’ll send it right over to you!
Bec would be honored to connect with you more! She offers incredibly grounding words and poetry on her Instagram, if you aren’t following her- change that now! You can also read her latest articles on Being Human here.
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