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.

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17 thoughts on “Growing Pains

  1. Oh Laurie. Your words. You could fill a book with beauty. Volumes. I honor your journey. Stay with it. I know you are. You are IN it, immersed in it and feeling all of it, and I applaud you for that, warrior woman xxx

  2. Interesting, the loss in your life caused you to hold on tightly. The loss in my life caused me to keep a safe distance and I still fight against getting close to anyone, including family. This was a recently revelation to me, I didn’t realize I was doing it till I had a hard look at my life and saw that I was pushing everyone but my husband out. I have created a bubble and am hiding inside it. Living abroad made it easy to do. The thing is I really mostly don’t want to change it, but there’s a tick inside that keeps poking me that it isn’t right.

    Big changes for you, will be interesting to see who you become. Maybe it will motivate me to do something.

  3. Laurie, this is beautiful (or brutiful as Glennon says). So much hope here, so much wisdom. I’ve been in a place of learning to trust myself with my flaws, to not live the scripted life that perfectionism forces upon me. I relate to so much of what you’re saying here. xo

    1. Thank you so much Karen. So lovely to see you here again, by the way. I feel like the learning to not be perfect has been one of the harder lessons of my life, but indeed, so brutiful. I wish you well on your continued journey of the same. Hope you are well! xo

  4. Oh, I just can’t imagine a father turning away his little girl like that. That’s the moment when your heart is supposed to melt, not harden. I’m so sorry you’ve lived with that rejection, but it exists no more. Not from Kevin, not from God. Their arms will always be open towards you and I’m so glad for that.

  5. —I just adore your words, the way you describe your pain, the metaphors, the rawness, the beauty.
    I’m not going to say it “get’s better.” I HAAAATE THAT. I hate when people tell me this. SHUT the F UP!!!
    ….but I will say that you will Utilize your pain because it will NEVER go to waste. You will find light. You will incorporate your loss into your new life. You will bloom in a different way.
    —one of my fave. interviews by Billy Bob. I love love love this so so so much. It’s like I’m talking. xxxx

  6. You’ve had to suffer so much in your life – and that isn’t fair.
    Just watched that Billy Bob thing – my wife’s brother died at 21 one night just went to bed and never woke up. She was devastated and he is right she never ever got over it – his picture is on our fireplace still to this day and the kids call him Uncle Roger even though he died over 8 years before my son was born.
    All I can do is say my heart goes out to you and I hope you can come to a better place with it all – and that you don’t let the perfectionism you speak about here dictate you for ever.

    1. God no, it’s not fair. Some days I just hate it to be honest. Getting dealt this hand was not nice. But… then I come to acceptance because I truly can’t change it… so what can I do with it? Definitely am not over losing my sisters; my twin and my bday was last week and I cried quite a bit.
      And, I’m moving towards a not so perfect life… but a good one. Imperfect and brutiful.

  7. This post touched my heart. I often feel that same drive to be perfect – thinking it allows me control over my life. I had a little breakdown a few years ago and I’m so grateful for it – because while recovering, I learned that I can’t control anything. The best thing I ever did was to give myself permission not to care so much about being perfect and expecting others to be perfect. So far, this perspective has been confined, for the most part, to my work life – but I strive every day for imperfection (and the acceptance of it) in the rest of my life as well. This post touched my heart. I often feel that same drive to be perfect – thinking it allows me control over my life. I had a little breakdown a few years ago and I’m so grateful for it – because while recovering, I learned that I can’t control anything. The best thing I ever did was to give myself permission not to care so much about being perfect and expecting others to be perfect. So far, this perspective has been confined, for the most part, to my work life – but I strive every day for imperfection (and the acceptance of it) in the rest of my life as well.

    1. Jana, sometimes I think it’s the breakdowns that allow us to accept imperfection. Or, I should say it allows me a little more space for it. That drive is so strong; to be perfect and keep things together. The need for control. The thing that keeps pulling me back to letting the pieces fall where they may (in haphazard fashion) is that somehow they tend to end up in the most beautiful pattern anyway… So letting go really is what’s needed, in the end. But man is it hard to get to that point sometimes!

  8. Laurie, I don’t know if I understand how you feel, even though I’m deeply impressed by your strength. You live your life although you’ve been through so much darkness.
    I “only” suffer from depression and sometimes it’s hard for me to live life, or to even get out of bed. I tried to be perfect until a few years ago, trying this way to prove to everyone around me that I got a right to exist. Seeing this and understanding why I felt/thought this way was a difficult journey, but I’m glad I made it.
    I wish you all the best life has to offer. Don’t give up.

  9. It’s crazy how there can be such a disconnect between KNOWING and actually living by that knowledge– we can know why our behavior or thought patterns follow the same self-defeating route but actually being able to change it is a whole other story. I feel like following along with your blog for the past… what, year or so? has been like watching you bridging the gap between knowing and living. I know it has been said to you many a time and I hope that my saying it again doesn’t diminish the truth of it, but you are very strong, and the post shows how much more so.

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