“To stay with that shakiness—to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feelings of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path. Getting the knack of catching ourselves, of gently and compassionately catching ourselves is the path of the warrior.”
~ Pema Chodron
I’ve been thinking a lot about broken hearts; the big T and little t traumas we sustained from childhood; the wounds inflicted on our very spirits and souls. Those who know me well, know I’ve had a challenging past. One filled with emotional/psychological abuse and neglect. My biological father was in my life till I was about 5 years old. The few memories I have from this time, I wish I could forget. The best thing he ever did for me was leave.
My step-father was rather young and ill-prepared for an instant family, at 20 years old. When he married my mother, I was someone else’s kid; the step-daughter. I grew up feeling like an unwanted house guest. I was told I was stupid. When I hit adolescence, I was shamed about my body, as well.
By 8, I already developed a low sense of self-worth. I became very quiet. It was mistaken for shyness. It wasn’t. I started to withdrawal, often hiding in my room.
It was at this time, my mother enrolled me into ballet classes. This experience saved me on a subconscious level. Dance gave me a safe emotional outlet. It put me in contact with adults who saw something in me. Something I couldn’t see or even knew existed.
It didn’t repair the damage done. It didn’t stop me from internalizing the shame. Or recover memories that long buried. It didn’t stop me from engaging in failed relationship after failed relationship.
However, dance did give me a place where I felt engaged. Where I learned I had something to offer. It gave me something to strive for. It encouraged me pursuit an education beyond high school. From there I discovered, I loved the process of learning.
While it has kept a spark alive in me, I hit a wall in my late 30s to early 40s. Financial hardship. A string of abusive relationships. Depression. Anxiety. Again, life became incredibly messy and overwhelming. There were days I fantasized about disappearing because non-existence seemed liberating.
Over the past year, I have committed myself to paying attention and trying to unpack all this shit by looking deep into my heart. Its battered from a lifetime of trauma (self-inflicted and imposed by others). Two weeks ago, I think I felt that softening in the heart that Pema Chodron talks about. It was a dull pronounced ache and sadness. It travelled throughout my body for over a week and a half. It has made me feel ancy; anxious. I found it difficult sitting still for any length of time.
As I tried to sit with that feeling, I realized how I have shrunk myself to fit within someone else’s available emotional crevices. I’ve contorted and limited myself, clinging to a hope of acceptance. The act of constricting and reducing myself has led to choices and behaviors I’m not proud of, reaffirming the shame I felt years ago.
While this is sad in one sense, there is a strength and resilience. In those wounds there is space. There is opening. This makes me curious.
Healing and recovery are long and arduous processes. However, there is change occurring. I can’t quite name it or define it. Maybe it feels more like self-acceptance. I feel less inclined to hide it and more inclined to ask for help. I’m less lonely. Less isolated. I know who accepts me with all my flaws and warts.
There is still a mess to clean up. There are still aspects of my life that are in limbo and not completely stable. However, at this moment, I am content/comfortable.
This exercise has compelled me into a deeper exploration through art, story and movement. It’s how I best process issues and it also helps me see the broader context. There are lots of people dealing with these feelings. The working title is something is wrong with me. The project is in its beginning stage and will be presented June 2020. Right now, its research and collecting material. As I gather my thoughts, I will be looking to set up workshop dates. If you are interested in participating, comfortable sharing your journey, watch for more details in the upcoming month or so. And feel free to contact me.