It feels as if I have lived my whole life searching for wholeness, for belonging, for my way back to connection with something greater. I have felt as if I’m just treading water while waiting for a better, holier version of myself to arrive.

When I was a kid, I learned I couldn’t look to the grown-ups in my life for the protection or steadfast guidance I needed, so I read the Bible and lived inside country music. 

I grew up in a small town in Texas. Even moving there at 5 years old meant being an outsider and not really from there. It was hard to fit in anyway as the boyish girl I was. In a small town without many relatives or connections outside of school, kids either joined 4-H or Future Farmers of America, or made friends with the air, the trees, and whatever wildlife happened by. Thank goodness our house was next to a pine forest! I desperately wanted to be free of the loneliness and fear I felt, so I would daydream, play outside, and pray to God.

In middle school, I leaned into my Catholic faith by making sure all my classmates knew they needed to ask Jesus to come into their hearts to be saved. That didn’t make me popular, but I was already outside every social circle anyway. I felt outside of my own skin, too, as I hovered somewhere close by but distant enough that I was hard to know and hard to be friends with. 

Early in high school, I realized I was more attracted to girls than boys. That pretty much meant I couldn’t be Catholic anymore—not even Jesus could save me. Expressing the love and attraction I felt as holy and beautiful was an unforgivable sin. How could this be? My uncle said I was being tested and that if I abstained from expressing my sexuality, I would pass the test and get into heaven. 

This made me pretty mad at God. What kind of God would give me love but tell me I couldn’t love who I loved? 

Finding Something Better

So I turned to songwriting to help me make sense of my life and find hope that I was not alone. I poured my heart into song lyrics:

Angel, come down and be with me.

Right this moment I am in need.

I’ve gotta find some sense of security.

Please, angel, come sit close to me.

Music and songwriting became my way to pray, to feel connected to myself and something greater at the same time. 

I met my wife after college, and we have been together 21 years. I am also a parent to a wonderful 10-year-old. I have become the parent I’d been waiting for. 

I have learned that I am worthy just because I am alive, that I am imperfect and still lovable at the same time.

With the help of community, my family, dharma, relational recovery, and the gift of music and songwriting, I am learning what it means to love myself and others. And while a holier version of myself has not arrived, I have found something better. I have learned that I am worthy just because I am alive, that I am imperfect and still lovable at the same time. I am leaning into the truth—even when I can’t see it—that we each have inherent worth.

Self-esteem is not something you are given, it’s something you do. It is a worthiness practice. I am learning that worth is not something we have or don’t have, but rather something we do for ourselves and others. We are all worthy.

About the Author

Ellis Delaney (she, her; they, them) is a singer/songwriter based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.


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