“Don’t we all want to belong?” -Anberlin

You know what is the best thing? When you spend time with someone and the simple moments jump out at you and suffuse you with gratefulness. Those moments alone are enough to provide some simple healing to a lifelong story of isolation.

I feel like I understand the word “family” for the first time in my life. The first time I had that experience, I was standing in a huge circle, holding hands. It felt so right – I knew my sisters had passed that moment on to me, understanding how much I needed it.

This feeling, this belief that I actually have people who want to be around me, keeps striking me. Truthfully I’m sitting here with tears running down my face after reading a short little sentence someone wrote about me. Is that stupid? I suspect not, not for me because of what my past looked like. After being in basically forced isolation for half my life, the notion that I have friends and that I belong is so foreign and so beautiful that my heart overflows. For me, it’s just as spiritual and wordlessly beautiful as standing at Panorama Point and feeling my heart burst looking at 180 degrees of mountains.

(like this, but it’s better in person)

Except that I am surrounded by 180 degrees of people who are all holding my hands and saying, “We care. We are here. We want to know you and be known.” Both knowing and being known are so precious; I can’t stop my own desire to carve out a little space inside someone’s heart and explore it like it’s a cave. That’s always been one of my favorite activities, heart spelunking. Haha, that sounds kind of creepy, but I just mean that people are fascinating.

There’s something healing about the receiving and giving of story. It’s a fostering of belonging in the human race. I am a firm believer in that. The reason I want to be a counselor is to be a safe place to receive stories. I know how powerful it is. I know the moments where I’ve sat and told my story (when I’m truly connected to it and not just speaking) and having people really receive it, are so healing to me. I belong, it’s beautiful. It’s like an ache that I imagine a flower has when it stretches its petals open.

I just read last week that the same brain activity takes place in both the storyteller and the listeners. How incredible is that? That’s what I want to give people. The experience of belonging. Stories connect us even in brain waves. That thought is so mind blowing to me.

I’m feeling that today; healing through story, healing through safe, dear friends. It’s changing my life, and changing the way I think. I’m slowly losing the dark feeling that trauma follows me around (you trauma survivors know what I mean). My heart is so full – my cup is running over and it’s not with sickness, it’s with so much vibrant joy. I feel comfort in the feeling that I finally belong. My story has been given place in the human race. Thank God.


Skydiving and Suffocation

Sometimes loss isn’t even death. Sometimes it’s loss of self, or loss of relationship. Or both. That’s what this piece is about.

Skydiving and Suffocation

I was being ripped apart, from head to toe. My flesh was being seared and shredded like a paper kite gets shredded in a gale. My wings were taken. I was deposited on the ground, dragged through the dirt. The kid holding the string screamed at me to “fly! Fly!” while running and trying to pull me up again. A kite doesn’t want to fly for someone who yanked her out of the sky in the first place. My spirit was gone. My tail was severed. I jumped along behind him like his puppet, a secure, constant, and voiceless friend. I forgot what the sky meant; I forgot the freedom of blue. Moments came where something in me tried to raise itself up, but the wind was always too strong. I dipped, and twirled, and crashed to the earth.

I was all tied up in knots. I was suffocating from the lack of clean oxygen. Over and over again I breathed the dirtiness of my own CO2, mine and his mixed up in their toxic stench. I was dying – the cause: poison by relation. It might as well have been anthrax diffused into every breath I took, killing everything inside me while my fragile human shell became a mask of skin and bones that just held it all together. Every moment of every day, I whispered to myself, “Just hold it all together.” But I couldn’t inhale. exhale. Expel. Breathe.

Fighting vs. Unfolding

I have had the privilege of going to a free yoga class at school for the past 2 weeks over the lunch hour on Tuesdays. I’m sending over loads of gratefulness to the sweet (and scattered, and adorable!) woman who puts it on. One thing she always says in her classes is that how we are on the mat often correlates to how we are in our lives.

One thing that has come to me from the class is the idea of fighting vs. unfolding. On the mat, am I fighting to get into a pose, or unfolding into it? There is a distinct difference. Fighting presupposes that external forces are preventing my pose. Unfolding presupposes that my body has what it takes to come into a pose as I can, today.

In life, I am prone to fighting. I assume that external forces are against me, and I have to summon my resources to withstand them. I feel like this is a a huge reaction to my trauma. An external force assaulted me without warning. Therefore, I assume that the external will always assault me, and often without warning. The only response then is to assume a hard, fighting stance.

I’ve started asking myself what it would look like to unfold.

What if life is not externally directed, but internal unfolding into external?

Think of a flower. Unfolding is like that; internal processes, provoked by photosynthesis which is provided by sunlight, are expressed in a beautiful flower that unfolds.

A flower is touchingly vulnerable, prone to the elements at all times. But this doesn’t make it any less beautiful. In fact, it is startlingly brave, to show such beauty in the face of what seems like madness.

It is really hard for me to approach life in this way. It is much, much easier to be hard, rigid, braced against the external and often threatening influences.

This is my current challenge, to soften myself and unfold into something stunning and wildly courageous.

Breathe. Open.

Breathe. Open.

and I was holding my breath in trikonasana. burning with tears in warrior one, with arms stretched backwards and my chest to the sky.

Breathe. Open.

There I was again, this week. Buried under the grim face of a soldier on the way to battle. The battlefield? Life.

I’m supposed the be the soldier that never blows his composure, even though I hold the weight of the whole world on my shoulders, I ain’t never supposed to show it, my crew ain’t supposed to know it…” (Eminem)

This is the normal way I live. The unexpected comes along like a tornado, bursting into my life. I square my shoulders, put my chin up, keep it to myself, and stop breathing. I’ve just got to make it through.

Do you know what I mean? Sometimes this is what we do to survive. Sometimes, this is what I do to survive. This is the mentality that carried me through my traumas – my sisters’ deaths, my marriage, my childhood.

Breathe. Open.

and I walk into a Saturday morning recovery meeting. ambushed by a Power much bigger than myself. assaulted with stories, all of them mine. My words, falling out of the mouths of others.

I am undone. My defenses are down. My heart softens up to the tears that rain so that flowers can grow.

What are you holding onto that no longer serves you?

I can control this. Bullets can’t take me down if I keep up this fight. If I don’t let them see me sweat. “You shoot me down, but I won’t fall, I am titanium.” Solid. Unbendable. I’m not going to break down. No one can see this fear that haunts, the pain that terrorizes, this breathless alone that, hushed, drains my heart. I won’t breathe. I won’t feel. I won’t let you see what this is doing to me. I am alone, and no one else will dare to understand, anyway.

Breathe. Open.

and the tears came for an hour yesterday morning while I was thoroughly dismantled. “Swiftly, with nothing spared, I am being entirely dismantled.” (St. John of the Cross) am I going to come down from this ledge… am I going to untangle this despair and fly it like a rainbow streamer for the world to see? will I achingly unfold my heart and open up to the sunlight of the spirit?

Breathe. Open.

There is no distance between you and freedom.