So yes I know how angry, or naive, or self-destructive, or messed up,
or even deluded I sound weaving my way through these life stories at times.
But beautiful things. Graceful things. Hopeful things can sometimes appear in dark places. Besides, I’m trying to tell you the truth of a woman like me.”
― Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water
I remember when I was about twenty-three years old, my mother said to me: "Everyone has a book in them." Though at that time, I was young, naive, and unscathed. Despite writing a children's book in lit class in college, I had never given thought to writing a book. Surely I hadn't experienced enough pain, tragedy, or loss.
Or so I thought.
But as I reflect now, there's a certain amount of heartbreak in all the turning points of our lives. No matter how welcoming the transition from one place to another. Those graveyards of all the people we used to be are present & alive in us today.
At forty-five years old, I have a lifetime of sadness, suffering, and trauma. And thus, I might have several novels in me. I bet you do too.
And yet, I am still living my story.
It's scary to step into the greatest, fullest versions of ourselves. With so many obstacles on our journeys, we think the detours are wrong turns.
They rarely are.
So, I keep following the trail of breadcrumbs leading me closer to my heart & soul.
In truth, the only way we can deeply connect to others is by sharing our stories, to make sense of the senseless, and feel like we belong and are making a difference. For me, I've always found solace and comfort in the written word. Words have been equally healing, as well as hurtful and penetrating.
During this past weekend's workshop The Stories We Carry at Kripalu, we were given several writing prompts by author & teacher Dani Shapiro. We then had to share with a small group of people. One in particular bought me to a place I both expected and feared: "I could have but didn't....". For 20 minutes, we wrote.
It seemed like long time to free write. I even wrote that on the paper ten minutes in, something like "20 minutes is a really long time. I have nothing more to say. Isn't Morning Pages only 3 full pages? Why I don't I do morning pages again." And on and on. Until I regained focus, so when Dani rang the bell to stop, I didn't want to.
I had a lot to say.
My passage started with "I could have saved my marriage but didn't. I could have saved my family but didn't." Though the process of writing, I realized something I've been in denial of for years. My heart didn't feel safe there. I now know that safety & security are two very different things. I never knew how much I had lost myself. And how I ached for that girl.
As the relationship unraveled, the emotional abuse was inevitable. I couldn’t see it until my wise therapist and friends helped me realize it. I will not go into the dirty details (yet, or maybe ever), but I was told when I used too much dish soap: "You will be poor like your mother someday." Words hurt, scars remain. I fully contributed in the end as my anger and frustration of being dismissed, ignored, and devalued rose in me. As I learned this weekend, pain engraves deep, deep memories.
I became unrecognizable. The anger and sadness I felt were foreign feelings to me at this level. I asked myself: “How could a kind, loving, peaceful woman feel this much rage?"
It was abusive because we stayed too long in a place that neither of us wanted to be in or neither us wanted leave. It was abusive because neither one us knew how to have a healthy relationship. It was abusive relationship because the wounds and resentments of 20 years had piled up around our caged hearts.
My divorce is not final. Nor is my healing, and I can only write from a place that I feel is responsible and compassionate to both parties. We contributed in equal measure to the dissolution of that relationship.
It expired a long time ago.
And in this moment, divorce is the hardest transition I have ever experienced. To grieve someone who is living is deepest pain I have ever felt. Or maybe, never even really knew. The saddest part of all –– even when the papers are signed –– it will never be truly over. The legacy of love and pain that we could not fix will carry on to our children.
And in this moment, I feel hopeful, joyful, and optimistic as I rise up to the woman I was meant to be.
And in this moment, I know my pain has purpose. To burn and destroy identities that are no longer relevant. To heal myself and continue my work as a true healer all the rest of days of my life.
And in this moment, I feel both powerless and powerful. Uncertain and assured. Wounded and whole. Chaotic and Calm. Learning to die and learning to live.
And in this moment, I'm learning how to love for the first time in my life.
Starting with myself, piece by piece.
Life is so fragile.
... so tricky.
... so messy.
Why can't we admit this to each other?
Psychoanalyst Carl Jung spoke of midlife: As the afternoon of life in which our task is to turn inward, awaken unconscious parts of ourselves, and find our purpose & meaning.
We enter it, so unprepared.
And right now in this perfect moment, I am a woman living on the wild edge of sorrow, falling in love with all the beauty and terror that surrounds me, and attempting to stay open & loving with grace and gratitude.
Bleeding, growing, learning.
When I shared my story (replete all the raw and gory details) with the 5 women and 1 man in my group, the look in their eyes told me everything. After they listened to my story for the first time, they all chimed in. "You must write. Your story is too good not to share. You write with so much heart. I will read anything you ever write." Oddly enough, I felt so liberated, free, heard - when moments before I wanted to run out of the room.
I wanted to disappear.
It's a story about a girl who fell in love with a boy who lived in very different worlds. And then, our worlds turned cold. It's ugly, tragic, and honest, but it's also beautiful, haunting, & (hopefully) inspiring.
It's just a chapter.
May all the stories that you carry: save you, heal you, grow you into the person you are meant to be.
Please don't die with those stories still in you.
Please don't disappear.
Please don't stop being you in a world that needs more candid, frank, and faithful truth tellers now more than ever.
As my teacher and muse, Glennon Doyle Melton says, “If a woman has a choice between saving her soul and saving her marriage, she needs to save her soul.”