Happy New Year, everyone!
As an exercise in developing intention for the new year ahead, I looked back over the past year. In the spirit of looking back, I browsed at the beginning of this blog and saw that my first post was in October of 2009. I feel shocked at that. It’s hard to believe. When I sat down and typed out that first entry, I don’t think I would or even could have imagined that my life would have taken the shape of its present form, and I don’t say that to be dramatic.
I’m sitting in an apartment in San Francisco in early 2020 sincerely trying to bring to mind October 2009. Who was I then? Why did I decide to start a blog? What did I hope would happen? Was I just trying to process something? Was I trying to make sense of life events that didn’t make sense to me? Was I hoping to make connections with other people outside of my own small world? I don’t remember why I started blogging to be honest. I just remember feeling alone in my life experiences. I recall feeling driven to put reason where I could find none. I wanted to understand why my mother acted as she did. Why had my father been so cruel, detached, and abusive? Why was my then husband so aloof and distant and yet so content with such a shallow relationship, and why was I so dissatisfied with my life? Why was I in such emotional pain all the time no matter what I did?
After a decade of blogging and a brief hiatus, I’ve learned a lot about those queries although I don’t think I have definitive answers. I have answers of a kind, but they are subjective if you will but important nonetheless.
I’ve learned that self-inquiry is not a wasted pursuit. Sitting down and writing with the sincere intention to learn the truth about oneself even if the truth is painful will never be a fruitless effort. That is essentially what blogging was and is for me. It is how I processed one of the most productive decades of my life in terms of personal growth, and I would recommend blogging to everyone particularly people who are trying to rediscover, or perhaps discover for the first time, the essential truths about themselves and their world.
When I started this blog, I was a married stay-at-home mother, homeschooling kids, who somehow managed to “do it all”. I thought I had it all together except for that pesky relationship with my mentally ill mother and that painful past with my father that sometimes bothered me. And, in the span of a few years, it all fell apart. Just like that. Well, truthfully, the more honest I became in my pursuit of truth, the more I pulled at the threads that bothered me. It became an unraveling. A necessary unraveling of all the tiny untruths I had let myself believe over the years. Those tiny untruths that came together to weave the fabric of my life came apart, and my life became unrecognizable. Everything that I had once counted on to be there for me, to be firm under my feet, quaked and shook and crumbled.
I experienced inordinate loss. I lost my health. I lost my marriage. I lost most of my friendships. I lost my relationship with my mother. I watched three of my daughters lose their mental health for a time. I lost my faith.
It was a devastation of sorts. A burning.
Sometimes, however, things have to burn and even require fire to propagate like pyrophytic plants. Fires blaze a trail through the landscapes of our lives leaving what looks like utter desolation until we see that new sprouts are emerging from underneath the ashes. Tiny plants grow from seeds that we didn’t even plant. Nothing is recognizable, but there is growth nonetheless. And, slowly our lives are transforming into something new and vital. That is what happened to me. What looked like a total loss was not. It was a transformation.
My paradigm changed from that of one who mourned and grieved to a person who could exist in the present with intention and look ahead with hope. Over a period of four years, I learned to grasp my own narrative with greater courage and intention, and this matters because there is a very real line of demarcation between feeling like Life and Circumstances victimized you vs. you made your own choices to arrive at your current position.
Did I lose my relationship with my mother? Did I lose my marriage? Did I lose my health? Did I lose my faith? It all felt like this, but feelings are not necessarily truthful. I ended my marriage because it was violent and abusive, and it was the right thing to do. It was the courageous choice although it was laced with grief and pain. Did I lose my relationship with my mother? I could have stayed in that relationship–far more invested in it than my mother–all the while enabling her emotional abuse and borderline behaviors, but I chose to insist she pursue therapeutic help. I made the choice to invest in my own well-being and hers by insisting that we both get the help we need to heal from past wounds. Did I lose my health? I did descend into profound illness, but it was that descent into illness that, in part, motivated me to leave my abusive marriage. Did I lose my faith? No. My faith was transformed into what it should have been. As with any process of change and transformation, grief will be your companion as you leave behind what was in exchange for what will be. And, it is vital to recognize grief for what it is and not conflate grief with other emotional experiences.
If you don’t rush the healing process, a time does come when you stop looking back, and I am almost there now. There isn’t much to see back there anymore except for the occasional traumatic memory that needs attention and healing. I would not have been able to imagine this present reality in 2009. I once believed that I would always carry trauma with me. I did once subscribe to the idea that there were events in life that were simply too heinous or horrible to recover from. I don’t believe that anymore. I think that it is possible to recover from even the most horrific traumas, and I say this having healed from sexual torture, incest, human trafficking, long-term abuse in childhood of every kind, SRA, and domestic violence including sexual violence.
My borderline mother doesn’t really trigger me anymore. My father and his wife are a non-issue. My ex-husband is only an issue when I go to therapy and discuss an unresolved trauma of which there are a few remaining, and that’s when we use EMDR.
Today, I’m beginning the third year of my doctoral program in Eastern medicine. I’m in a very loving partnership with an outstanding man. My health issues are resolving. No, nothing is perfect because life isn’t perfect for anyone, but it is more good than bad. And, I have hope that it will continue to get better–even when there are bad days.
So, after a decade of blogging and recovering from profound trauma, what would I say is my primary message?
Never, ever give up. Ever. Even if the best you can do is binge watch the same season of Law & Order: SVU for the millionth time while eating a king size bag of your favorite candy–then do that. There are days for standing up, fighting, and taking on the world. There are days for running through a field of poppies while feeling like a million bucks. And, there are days when you just have to cross the finish line. It doesn’t matter if you come in last. Just finish–even if someone is carrying you. That has been my philosophy, and it has served me well.
Never, ever give up. You truly never know what is around the corner. May 2020 be a year of transformation for you.