It’s been a rough journey for me lately. It feels like something is in the water that makes me sad. My heart hurts, my soul is empty and my eyes are tired of crying.
What’s goin’ on? Will someone tell me please? What’s goin on ’round here?
Every now and again life is harder. Now is one of those times. I learned recently that I grew up with a devious destructive thinking and behaving pattern leading to making all choices, large or small, from the perspective of helping someone else. To be clear, helping others, is a wonderful thing. It can morph into a harmful thing if you never let the “someone who is helped” be YOURSELF ! I have. All my life. All 58 years worth-and counting. I was in session today trying to make some sense of what the hell is going on inside of me. I have had one of those spiritual awakenings that you pray and pray for, then when it comes to you, you immediately want to scream ” TAKE IT BACK”. It hurts too much. Let me explain a little more about the situation.
I have been struggling with food as a numbing and soothing agent for pain since I was a child. I still do not understand completely how or why food is such a powerful and “temporarily” extremely successful soothing agent-but it sure is! For me it is, anyway. The right combination of fat, salt and sugar sends me into glorious comatose and zoned out places where I really do not feel. Once the food digests and the coma wears off, however, the crash back to reality is awful. And until about 5 months ago, I could not endure reality without numbing it with food. What changed? I am not at all sure about that either. What I do know is this: I reached a “no turning back” soul corner and turned it. I found reality. I found it in an emergency room where I sat with my mom and sister on a cold day in January. Mom was admitted to the hospital to find the source of unexplained bleeding. She is 81. She has had diabetes for years and congestive heart failure. By all statistical evaluation measures, she does fairly well at 81 considering her health history. On that cold day, the last day in the month of January though, everything changed. I saw my mom-REALLY SAW HER for the first time in years! She is slowing down quickly. She struggles to remember facts and absorb information. She looked like a helpless child who just wanted someone to hold her. It was a dose of reality I knew was coming-just not yet. Yet is now here! And it hit me hard. Maybe that event forced me to look at the woman who mothered me, now no longer in the “mother”seat, and decide what to do next. The tables were turned, without my permission or consent, and I had a choice to make it- Live in reality or run from it. Reality hit me hard. I chose to look it square in the eye.
She will die someday. We all will. However, I know now that her day to die is closer than it has ever been in my lifetime. There is something powerful about death that forces you, if you are willing to enter its truths, to take a good, solid look at living. I have been in the process of doing that since that last cold day of January. What I found within myself knocked me to my knees and the fall was hard! I found the “me” that has never taken care of ME! I realize I need to proceed with caution here as it has become both fashionable and fad to talk about ME-me time, what about me, where is the value and care for me? ME. ME. ME. I want to be clear here that this is NOT about that-not in a narcissitic manner anyway. What this IS about is the rising up out of the ashes of death of never taking care of myself because I have first, until recently, always thought about every single decision I make from the perspective of needing permission or getting the “okay” to take care of personal and serious needs of my own ONLY IF it does not inconvenience someone else’s life. After living like that for 58 years, I am totally, utterly, completely drained and exhausted. There is nothing left within me to give to anyone. That, my dear readers, is not living. That, my dear readers, is cohabitation of my mind with everyone else’s thoughts and plans for living EXCEPT my own. A dear friend of mine asked me Sunday, “Jo, do you, have you ever done anything just because YOU wanted to do it?” She continued, “Not because the church needed you or your husband wanted it or it served another, but just doing anything because YOU enjoyed it alone and completely indulged that thing for a few hours of pleasure.” I had nothing to answer. I could not even tell her what I would pick to do if given the time to do “said” thing. I was devastated, empty and lost inside my own body. And for the first time I did not numb the reality of the pain with food. I just sat and cried and let it hurt. That was Sunday and today is Tuesday. It still hurts dear readers. And in my session today I shared how empty and lost and lonely I really feel. I FELT REALITY-perhaps for the first time in my life.
Here is what my mentor had to say about that: “Reality can be extremely painful. When you finally decide to live emotionally and totally present to every experience “as it is” you feel everything. Sad things become intense. Happy things too.” When you stop numbing emotions and feel them as they are, raw and open and exposed, they have strong energy.” That made sense to me and described with precision what I believe is happening to me.
I understand now why people use drugs and drink alcohol and eat a whole carton of ice cream and drive insanely and shop compulsively and run away from reality. Reality is painful. The choice to numb it has challenges of its own, however. Numbing emotional pain instead of facing reality does not take it away-it merely delays it. A past employer of mine, when I was young and in college lost his father to suicide. My employer was 30 at the time. He said to me, “That is one hell of a way to force you to grow up.” I understand that from the inside out now and with the collected wisdom of a 58-year-old. Reality can be a “beast” of a teacher! So what now?
Well, I will talk about it-thus this sharing with all of you. Write about it. A suggestion that came from session today is to read a book titled, “The Comfort Queens Guide to Life” by Jennifer Louden (available at http://www.amazon.com). Breathe. Breathe. And breathe some more. Mediate. Pray. Read Scripture. Ask for hugs and support from those I trust. I also took a baby step to find a “something” to try that I can do alone, for no other reason at all but to enjoy it, alone. I signed up for a creative writing class hosted at the local community college and taught by the adult education Learning for Life program. I also have a fantastic friend I have known for 40 plus years who has clung to the food crutch the same way I have and avoided reality. My friend and I have vowed to let go of our food crutch together and reclaim life as a team.
I don’t know where I am going, but I sure know where I have been! And I cannot go back there. I want to move forward. I want to live in reality and when I say YES I want it to mean YES and when I say NO I want it to mean NO. I want to be honest with myself and with others. I am saying “enter reality into me” whatever the cost. I am coming out of the dark into the light. I shall be free. I believe there will be a light and a reward coming. I believe this will be a better road, eventually. And I will share it with you dear readers.
Do not be afraid I am with you. I have called you each by name. Come and follow me, I will bring you home. I love you. You are mine. You are my friends. You are my cheerleaders. You are my sojourners on this same path. I have a proposal. I would like to invite each of you to join me in spirit and joy and story and become real. The Velveteen Rabbit did it. It was not easy but worth it. I believe it will be worth it for us too.
Come and follow me, I will bring you home. I love you. You are mine! And I am humbly and tremendously grateful!
I am sincerely yours,