Sunday, May 19, 2013

Was Blind, But Now

"... I formed my consciousness by turning pages ..." 
--Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter

"... being in the fog does not mean being altogether lost."
--Joan Anderson, A Year by the Sea

I've been living in (and writing about) the in-between place for some time now, hovering between life-chapters, biding my time. But I crossed a threshold recently and there has been a shift inside.

"... I have rebounded from a sense of loss to a feeling as new as the morning."
--Joan Anderson, A Year by the Sea

On the eve of Easter, I was standing at the sink brushing my teeth when I was suddenly aware of this new idea - an epiphany, really - coming up from my core to the center of my conscious mind. I watched it emerge, like the thought itself was a bird flying by my window. I saw it come toward me out of the corner of my eye and stop once it reached my line of vision, hovering, humming and singing its song.

I am not The-Woman-Who-Lost.

As this idea floated and fluttered before me, I watched my life play out on a movie screen, as if I was seeing it for the first time. I watched with rapt attention when the most painful ten-year period of my adult life unfolded – the time during which my firstborn died, my health deteriorated, and my marriage disintegrated – and I saw those experiences in a different dimension. Gaps in my memory were filled with the visceral reality I was coming to grips with. I am not The-Woman-Who-Lost. Though I often felt terrified, desperate and utterly alone during those years, those feelings were not the whole story.

That night, I saw what I couldn’t before see – in bold relief. I saw how those tragic experiences pressed me up against a belief system that needed to be dismantled. I saw that I am not the sum total of all the hard things that I have been through, that I am not a helpless woman waiting to be rescued, not a victim to be pitied.  

I am not The-Woman-Who-Lost.

That belief system had perpetuated a deep sense of helplessness, and when my life continued to veer off the path of “what I thought it would be,” I was given the opportunity to re-evaluate what I believed. Instead of waiting for something or someone to intervene on my behalf, I took the reins of my life back into my own hands, and I began to learn that passivity is far scarier than action.

"Being able to say that one is a survivor is an accomplishment ... And yet ... [there is a] time to go to the next stage after survivorship, to healing and thriving."
--Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves

Shedding that damaging belief structure has been a process that has unfurled over the past several years – the clarity that I am not The-Woman-Who-Lost was its natural by-product.

My Easter Eve experience was so valuable because it is a touch point in my journey toward wholeness, a place to return to when clarity wanes and the familiar feelings of victimhood want to settle in again.

That way of relating to my story and my world – interpreting every hard event through the lens of loss – had worn a deep groove in my brain. When I was living in that space, even a glass of spilt milk was a catastrophe – further proof that nothing would ever go my way, despite how hard I tried to will “the good” into being.

That’s why - though I no longer believe it – The Woman-Who-Lost story feels true when I am vulnerable or run down physically, emotionally, or mentally. When those feelings resurface I remind myself of what I know. I remind myself that it was not the hard things in my life that caused the crippling depression and hopelessness that for many years had become normal for me; it was my belief that the hard was all there was and all there ever would be.

I am not The-Woman-Who-Lost. 

This new reality is settling in in waves, and each time one crests and crashes over me, I feel undone by the gloriousness of it all.   

I was blind but now I see, is not a trite cliché, but a perfect description of what has been happening.

I am not the Woman-Who-Lost. I never was. And I never will be.