I recently went through two personal traumas in the span of one week: the end of a long-term relationship, riddled with betrayal, and a spinal surgery that rendered me incapacitated. My able-bodied, stable self collapsed alone in an uncharted and unexpectedly dark winter. What I thought was a partnership, careened down to the damp ground after months of little earthquakes assaulting the roots. I watched my strong body twist in pain until all I saw in the mirror was sickly knotty pine of rigid matter. I watched the color drain from view, powerless to stop this season of life unfolding before me.
Rain has filled these weeks. Life-giving, sustaining rain. Our small little Spring in Denver, Colorado.
My material for writing could extend for days, and yet I haven’t carved out enough time to pluck it down on digital paper. I am delighted to report that I’ve slowly emerged to turn my pale face towards the light long enough to glean a few insights to share. Here goes:
First, Stubbornness is simply an unwillingness to let someone close enough for fear that they will see your flaws, or that you will see theirs.So many times I didn’t let some kind stranger hoist my bag into the overhead bin on an airplane for fear she/he would think I wasn’t a strong, capable feminist. I’m strong, but not a cross-fit champion! At the end of a long day, after running through airports in heels and giving my time to my customers, my lumbar spine could have used a pair of capable helping hands. I’m certain that if I had learned to ask for help from a stranger, the flaws in my relationship would have been exposed sooner. I made it easy for my ex to stay with me, despite her lack of adoration for me, because I demanded (hell, requested!) so little of her. I compensated by hoisting the weight of our shared life on my shoulders, teetering and nearly toppling over, then apologizing for bumping into her during the grueling process. I had an unwillingness to really ask her for help; doing so could have revealed that she had incapable hands, preoccupied with her own selfish pursuits.
Which brings me to my second finding:
Trust your gut… it’s more intelligent than your damaged psychology can ever hope to be. For nearly two years, my incredible yoga instructors told me to knock on doors to see if they’re open before attempting a pose. “Do not kick doors in!” chirped Dawnelle. I’d twist and turn and feel a pinch from my spinal trauma. I’d ignore the pinch, mentally numb it, and press on deeper into a pose. The unhealthy damage I was doing by ignoring the conscious awareness raised by my instructor, and the little rumble in my gut saying, “Something isn’t right…” was epic. I had to have an orthopedic surgeon remove part of my disc and spinal bone at thirty-one!
Similarly, I had close friends and family consciously noting all the ways my romantic relationship was not healthy for me. Each time she let me down, criticized, manipulated, or publicly shunned my touch, my gut rumbled. Almost imperceptibly at first, the force inside me knocked, and then kicked, and then violently pushed at the walls of any organ it could reach. This prickling, uncomfortable, disturbance from within poked my spleen, ached my liver, and sent an unmistakable shutter through my heart. The months of small trauma transformed me into a small matter of sensitive bruises — susceptible to cowering at the slightest touch. I did not recognize myself, and resisted trusting myself, and the well-intentioned nudges from loved ones. I used psychologically damaged reasoning and rationality for bargaining: Be quiet, Gut, She left me “you’re my favorite” on a little note card… surly she must love me. Surely this must be the love you’re worthy of. You’re soooo flawed. Have a glass of wine and chill out. (darkness, darkness, darkness).
Which brings me to my third, and most exciting finding: The gifts of staying incredibly conscious and open, even in the darkest of times, are endlessly abundant.
We all experience life — an abundance of life — simply by breathing air into our cells each moment. The real tragedy is that we build an alter, a shrine, a God in front of the psyche for helping us make sense (judge, compartmentalize, weigh) each and every element of that breath we take. This is helpful, functional at first, but inevitably we lose touch with the feelings, sensations, and emotions that we can’t quantify. We dismiss emotions and the people they channel through. We lose humanity.
Without staying conscious and open, I’d often get lost in the psychologically damaged shit-spin of some toilet bowl argument completely about nothing. A distraction. The more I focused on the argument, the more closed off I became to the world. The more closed off I became to noticing just how horribly I felt. The more closed off I became, the crazier I felt in my own skin.
Once conscious (again), the trauma seems so much smaller and much easier to release. I’ve devoted my healing to feeling every sensation:
*the big juicy taste of a new wine
*ramming my toe into the washing machine
*the musky smell of a new fragrance of candle
*the passionate press of a new lover
I’m literally so exposed, walking down the street is an illuminating experience that leaves me writhing in ecstasy and pain: one and the same. I stretch my healing back tall, feel the ache of my wound, and am open to receiving and giving love. I’m an oak tree soaking up the sun’s love and expelling clear, crisp, life-giving air into the world for everyone to enjoy. The winter has passed, but it will come again, and with a few rediscovered lessons, I look forward to it…
My parting gift from my winter away is this: Say awake on this journey onward and upward. You are worthy of so much more.
*Writers note: Want to learn more about detaching from the psychological damage? Check out The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. It’s been a god send.