Growing Pains

I don certain perspectives with ease. They’re like sunglasses in the sense that they block out certain spectrums of light. Like that one pair of sunglasses that you hate that makes everything look brown.

It’s easy to see life as shit-colored.

Sometimes I wear my sunglasses at night.

That makes it even more difficult.

I was driving home from work one day about 2 weeks ago. Frustrated with myself, upset for feeling so constantly negative. A song came on that reminds me of my sisters, from The Holiday’s movie soundtrack. With tears in my eyes I wished my sisters were here, that things weren’t so hard for me all the time. I was talking to Rachel in my head as I usually do; she was my confidante sister who heard my inner life.

And suddenly I had an image of her, smilingly showing me a picture of myself. I was freaking out, WITH MY OWN HAND OVER MY EYES.

I was covering the light myself.

And I felt like she gently said, “Happiness is not as far away as you think.”

I’m still absorbing that message. Because as Brene Brown talks about, I hustle for worthiness. I hustle for love. I hustle for happiness, and I think that doing things just perfectly will get me there. In fact, one of my favorite perspectives is that IF I JUST DO THINGS PERFECTLY I won’t lose.

I won’t lose the things I desire. I won’t lose happiness. I won’t lose someone I love.

I begged Rachel, in the Critical Care Unit at Penrose Hospital, to stay with me. To be here. I repeated almost word for word the scene from Sense and Sensibility where Elinor begs Marianne not to leave her here alone. I did everything that I could possibly think of. I quoted all her favorite movies, from Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings to the aforementioned Sense and Sensibility. I sang to her. And in the end, she still left. I couldn’t make her stay for me even though I tried so hard. Even though she was the only person in my family who truly understood me, the only one in my family that I actually felt deeply connected to.

Before that, I begged my dad not to leave. I was 10 years old or so, my dad was very angry one night and threatened to go live on his own, without us. He had threatened this in the past while we had all silently frozen in the face of his rage. I changed my mind that night. I was tired of staying silent. Maybe my feelings would change something. So I hurled myself into his arms crying. “Don’t go Daddy. I love you.”

He put me away from him, moved me away… “Stop all that nonsense.”

I shrouded my heart to keep it safe. Maybe if I had held on tighter. Maybe if I had said the right words instead of “nonsense”.

I have tried ever since to hold on tighter and to do all the right things. I lost my grandpa when I was 15, and that shattered me. 6 months after that, I lost my first love, which I blamed my dad for. I lost my sisters. I got divorced. All these things, I tried so hard to hold them all together and they fell apart. About 6 months after I got divorced, I stopped drinking alcohol. A lot of my drinking had been to release myself from the vice of perfection I was holding myself in.

When I took away that crutch, my perfectionism transferred to school and to alcohol/love addiction recovery. I tried to be the perfect person in recovery. I tried to be perfect with my grades at school. This escalated and escalated until last May when I started to see what I was doing to myself. I stopped running. The instant I did, I was overcome by the deepest depression I’ve ever experienced. I’m still not clear on why… maybe because I finally stopped running from falling apart.

I’ve been unraveling it all ever since. I see it as a huge ball. I pull all sorts of strands in, but I have this huge overarching narrative that I like to believe about myself and my life.

“If I can just be perfect I will not lose.” But I can’t be perfect, so I will inevitably lose all I love.

I wish that just seeing that this is going on would eliminate it totally, but that’s not how it works. It’s helpful to be aware that this story is ruling my life, but, then I get to take action.

Which I have been, but change is slow. Especially when there are so many intertwining stories that are connected to this overarching one. And courage is hard to come by sometimes. When I don my usual perspectacles (as dear Glennon Melton calls them) and see only loss in my future, everything gets really black. I lose so much motivation to even go forward.

And so some days it takes all I have to just have the courage to believe what Source/the Universe/my Higher Power (you know, whatever I call that thing these days) seems to be telling me. To just let go and know that It has good things in store for me. Truly good things. And seriously that does take a lot of courage some days to believe. I fight myself, trying to be perfect, until I’m tuckered out and I finally give in. Then I have a cry about my losses because I need to purge the grief, and usually after that purging the world looks a little brighter again. I can see the light again just enough to find strength move forward.

I’m grateful right now for the support I have – a wonderful boyfriend who has persisted in staying by my side, my RootEd satsang who are more precious to me than I could ever put in words, and my new therapist who has valiantly gotten down in the muck with me.

After our immersion weekend for my teacher training last week, something really cool happened. I had brought a plant for the altar as an offering. As I was leaving on Sunday, my teacher asked, “Do you like plants?” and handed me an amaryllis flower, explaining that it needed some TLC. I was thrilled to take it home and put it in my sunroom/altar area. “I’m good at resurrecting things,” I said. Like I was reminding myself.

Then I walked out to my car. Tucked under my wiper blades was a bright, beautiful, colorful bouquet from my boyfriend. I offered a flower. I went home with 3.

These words sprang to mind:

“You are so full of rain,
there is so much that is growing,
hallelujah to your weathervanes,
hallelujah to the ache
hallelujah to your full, to the fall,
hallelujah to the grace,
and every body
and every cell
of us all.”
-Andrea Gibson, I Sing the Body Electric (Even When the Power’s Out)

 

Seeds grow in the dark. Even in the dark where it’s my own hand over my eyes, when it’s my own old stories that hold me back. But that also presumes they are dirt. Which presumes they provide what is needed for that seed to grow.

“You make beautiful things out of dust…” – Gungor, Beautiful Things.

There is so much that is growing. Hallelujah to the ache. To my own precious growing pains. To the sunglasses over my eyes that reveal my need to unveil myself to the world. Hallelujah to it all.

Twilight

Knowing sacred places in the shadows, I come to a new understanding of them. When I approach them in the blue January twilight, instead of the blazing June sun, I see things a little bit differently.

I walked this trail in June, on June 29th to be exact. I have walked it since then. Once in fall. Now in winter. So far, 3 seasons I’ve marked on this trail. It’s a newer trail for me.

In summer I came with questions.

In winter, I came with the same questions, but I have changed.

I see the dark and light of me. The shades all in between. I have stumbled, I have lost my way, I have walked many twilights and dark nights in the past 6 months.

One time in late fall, I visited this trail in pitch dark. Without a flashlight. Momentarily, I used the light from my phone to find the path to the bridge. Then I stood on the bridge in the darkness. I couldn’t see the water around me. I could barely make out the outlines of the trees. Slowly, they came into focus. I felt so out of place. I had inner tremors of fear. I wished I could make out my surroundings. I pushed myself to walk a few steps beyond the bridge, just to know that I could. To know the dark was not going to overwhelm me. And slowly I found a strange comfort there, a twinge of wild-ness.

I returned tonight just before sunset, walked the trail with a bounce in my step. Questions still here, living in my body, but my expansive soul had stopped contracting around them. Instead of getting so small in attempts to find certainty, tonight, I was expanded with possibility. I was a beautiful mystery. The snow clung to branches like my soft skin clings to my skeleton; in other words, my body remembered itself.

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I found the glade I love, chanted to the wind, called the guru in me that I most dislike (scary!) but most need; the wild one. the untamed changeable one. the Black Panther of my soul. the Bluebeard man in my psyche who exposes the old stories in which I’ve systematically murdered my sweet Self. Guru. Devo. Maheshwara. The breeze danced down while I sang it, slowly… Guru devo maheshwara, guru sakshat, param brahma, tasmai shri guruvay namaha.

I began back down only to turn around and see fiery sunset clouds erupting over the glen where I’d just stood. I understood their brilliant symbolism, the fire I have died in, and rise from. I smiled, I was not afraid, I was cheered by this light show the earth acknowledged me in. A sign that I am grand and glorious still, perhaps more glorious because I am rising out of the deepest dark I’ve ever known.

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And I walked back down through the cool January woods, with the blue light of winter sculpting my path. It was not the harsh light of winter day, but the softness of twilight. I am not out of the darkness yet, only beginning to see and understand in a new way. There is a softness to this iteration of me that I have not seen before. But an uncanny wilderness, too. An awareness, a watchful grace. I move slowly, like the light does down the mountainside as the sun disappears behind it.

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In this moment, I am still afraid. But I am beginning to know my soul, and to know my strength. I embody twilight.

“I will never see the sky the same way
And I have learned to say goodbye to yesterday and I
Will never cease to fly if held down and
I will always reach too high, cuz I’ve seen
cuz I’ve seen
twilight.”
-Vanessa Carlton