The past year has been one of the hardest of my whole life. I fondly refer to it as the year where dreams came to die.
I suppose I should have seen it coming when on day 3, in the bright light of day, amidst onlookers, my legs wildly came out from underneath me on a patch of black ice, my head popped off the concrete, and a feeling of utter devastation and helplessness washed over me. Immediately tears welled. While I certainly got some stares – no one came to see if I was ok. It was one of those utterly shocking, utterly frightening, utterly disorienting moments in life. Thankfully, I only walked away with a mild concussion. But somehow looking back, it feels a bit like a metaphoric warning for the times ahead.
I really wish there was some better, more awesome and synchronicity-filled story of how I finally hung the shingle with ONLY my name on it. Seriously though, what’s true is that in a single year I’ve navigated losing my partner to PhD dissertation hell realm, substance abuse in someone very close to me, the crumbling of a community I helped build, the constant redefining chaos of another project, financial difficulties, infertility, and a whole host of other minor goodies peppered in for maximum effect. Thank you life may I have another. No, just kidding. Please, no more.
Toward the beginning of the year, when I was navigating the community meltdown, I made somewhat of a subconscious commitment, what I think was actually a good one, in this case. I vowed to be honest with myself and others. To share myself more freely. To not worry so much about how my expression looked, felt, or was heard. To just show up and serve. To thin the veil of my contractions and what keeps me separated and disconnected from others.
Writing this now, I realize that perhaps this was also a wish. One that I was granted the circumstances I really needed to make this commitment a reality. I can be a stubborn mo-fo sometimes, and so, in retrospect (of course), I can feel how I needed everything that I was given in order for my learning to really blossom, to embody who I really wanted to be, and to make me fit to serve in a much deeper capacity.
I’m sure that I will probably write a lot more about all of the stuff this year had me navigating, but here is one example of what I mean when I say that I was given what I needed to bring myself to my next level of health, wellbeing, trust, and expansion.
Having a partner complete a PhD program (which he did, btw, yay!), especially when they are in the final throes of dissertation research and writing is just downright hell. Pure and simple.
I’m under the impression that we’re not a special case. But regardless, it was hell for us.
Clint worked endless hours, mostly throughout the night (which is just the way he prefers). So, we had basically opposite schedules. Sometimes he came to bed right as I was getting up. Sometimes he didn’t come to bed at all.
In general, we didn’t share mealtime or for that matter have any time together. The moments we did share were generally him complaining about something with his data, deadlines, or having to go through some edits AGAIN.
We both work from our home. There isn’t a lot of places to escape the intensity. His anxieties leaked out from under the office door, and being the sensitive person I am who very much loves and cares about him, I could feel the pressure. More than some of the time. I’m not saying what I went through didn’t pale in comparison to his version of the hell, but still, it was pretty rough.
And, I just felt really lonely and alone. Alone with my worries and challenges. Alone with my sorrow, grief, and loss. Lonely in bed, while making meals, in dealing with life.
However, the silver lining was pretty profound. I had a lot of time to myself, which, for the most part, was enjoyable. I hid out in the bedroom, letting emotion wash over me freely, feeling mad, sad, glad, and everything in between, largely dependent on the flavor of the day and time.
I prayed a lot, surrendering to the darkness and begging for light. I made up and stuck to beautiful, heart-filling rituals that I am still and probably will forever practice. They helped me find a deeper trust in God, Goddess, the Universe-whatever you want to call it.
To not let the stress of the situation overwhelm me, I had to come to the realization that he was having his experience, and I was having mine. And they were different.
And though I could feel empathy for his gargantuan task and all the challenges that popped up along the way, I didn’t have to feel responsible. Or try and control him or the situation…i.e. he’s not taking care of himself properly, he’s too stressed, he needs to do this, or this, or this.
I developed better boundaries. He’s over there. And I’m over here. And we intertwine in certain ways and at certain times, but I’m free to be in my experience, and he in his.
I sought out support and companionship from other people more regularly. Great friends and mentors started really showing up for me in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. Radical as is may not seem, it’s largely just because I asked them to. I opened myself up to receiving that love in a different way. I saw myself as worthy and deserving of that support. And, I reflected on the ways that I wasn’t yet able to feel and advocate for that in my most intimate and important of relationships. Hmmm…that part was interesting. And painful. And, it led me to becoming more honest with my needs, even in those most precious of relationships.
I began to feel more me, more self-sufficient, more empowered. Despite, and in part, because of the waves of emotions I was letting course through me, I felt more alive.
I guess this wasn’t as much a silver lining, actually, as it was more like the golden center. I had to crack through the crusty outside of myself and my situations, but once I was in it, I was flowing with it. Flowing with the pain and the joy…as if it were the same flavor. Letting it be lively and just course through me.
I’m not saying I didn’t prefer the “good” feelings over the “bad.” I most certainly did prefer them. But they were actually so much more juicy and alive than ever before because of the accompanying darkness that was not far from my memory nor far away into the future. Somehow, this was freeing. Being with whatever was happening…and really being in it. Oozing around in it like it was warm honey. Letting it cover me and suffocate me and warm my heart and move my feet, and on and on. Full High Def life.
Now please, don’t get me wrong. To get to the place I’m at now (on a good day), I kicked and screamed and fought it and begged and prayed. I had to go through the ringer to get out the other side. I had to feel a lot. Emotions I wan’t super familiar with feeling. Shame. Anger. Grief.
Let’s be honest, feelings suck sometimes. But in dropping below my tendency to deflect and mask and put on a good face, and surrendering to the feelings that just wanted to be felt, something else opened up in me. Deep faith. I’m here. I’m alive. I’m ok. I’m enough. (Thanks for the mantra Gayle Colman) I am strong and can respond to and learn from just about anything. I will live and I choose to live. And with that recognition came deep joy and sweet, simple pleasure. A feeling of being really connected…to me, to my experience. And that me-ness helped me feel ironically a whole lot more connected to others. More compassionate of what they were going through. More understanding. Less judgmental.
In essence, through the battle and pain and devastation, what I was able to feel a whole lot more of was my own freedom. And thus the colors seemed brighter, the sun warmer and more life-giving. The air I breathed more cleansing, refreshing, and nourishing. The good food I ate more enjoyable and more energy-producing.
I guess you can just call me a gold miner. A miner of the truth and beauty in all situations. Slogging the dirt to get to the goods. Traveling long distances over hardened territory with little food but knowing I’m headed to the promised land. Knowing that it will all be worth it when I see and feel the shine of abundance, even if only for a few moments at a time. Knowing the sweet center of Me, the unabashed lively deliciousness always right there…and choosing to return again and again and again, now and now.