Sinking into the oversized sofa, I sit one leg bent beneath me, wiping an endless stream of tears from my cheeks and neck. I blow my nose into a pitiful crumbling wad of tissue and reach for another. While I sniffle and snort my therapist stops speaking for a moment, patiently waiting for me to regain my composure so that I may answer another of her painful thought provoking questions, the kind that when answered honestly reveal insecurities, fears, and deep wounds. I ask myself if I am prepared to hear the truth of my decisions, and for the work that lies ahead. For a moment I weigh my options, quit therapy today and take a break from personal growth or face my demons, head on, once and for all. I stay and tell my secrets and do the work . . . for a while.
In the weeks and months of therapy that follow, I identify ingrained habits and behaviors that have me repeating history and revisiting the same mistakes. None of this is news to me, but somehow I believed that time alone would change me, my life would simply fall into place, a gift from the universe for all I had endured. I felt sorry for myself. And while I hated that my family and friends witnessed my suffering, watching helplessly as I sank farther and farther into despair, I was comfortable in that space. I knew how to be sad and they knew how to comfort me in my sadness. I’m sure they imagined my heart could never be mended. I assured them it would not. Heartache was my identity and I would not let it go.
My resistance to embracing the joys of life was fueled by fear. I dug in my heels and hung on to pain. I believed every bad decision I had ever made brought me to this personal hell. I deserved it. My progress in therapy came to a screeching halt when I resisted letting go and denied forgiveness to myself and others. The roadblock was simply too big to overcome in the isolation of the therapist’s quiet space. I needed to move outside my comfort zone and explore new ways of living and thinking, to spend time with people, women in particular who didn’t know me, my habits or my history. My stories needed fresh ears and I needed to break free of the mold I had created of myself, a sad and lonely woman, undeserving of love and joy, seeking pity from those I love as I accepted my lot in life.
My journey began with a small group of women with whom I meditated every Saturday. Beyond the meditation there were Chakra classes and casual, yet intentional meetings that supported spiritual growth. Very slowly an evolution occurred. Over time I found that new friends saw me differently. I hadn’t worn them out with my stories of woe. I didn’t even tell them my old stories. Instead, I started fresh. I worked hard to be an intentional listener. And while I still loved to chatter on, I resisted the temptation, reminding myself that I didn’t need to respond to someone’s story with a story of my own. I could just listen and offer silent support, a gentle touch, smile or warm embrace. I stopped thinking about myself and in doing so I was stronger for others.
It was among these women of all ages, and from all walks of life, that I could practice the lessons of my therapy, speak out loud my intentions and fears without judgement, and finally forgive myself. Today I can hardly imagine the hopelessness and the loneliness I felt, or the woman I was crying on that sofa; I have shed a skin that no longer suits me.
Growth can be painful too. Sometimes I find it difficult to be my new and more true self with the people I have loved the most and the longest, those who have been frustrated by my choices, who have witnessed my pain, and loved me anyway. I sometimes fall into old habits in their presence, explaining my decisions as if I need or want their approval or opinion, when all I want is a listening ear and sometimes knowing recognition of how far I’ve come.
I share bits and pieces, little glimpses, of the work I’ve done with those I love. The journey has been extensive, impacting my work, play, relationships and belief system as I do my damnedest to live an authentic life, to love unconditionally and to forgive. It’s hard, really hard. To give all the details of this journey would be impossible. The journey of my soul is no short story and as far as I can tell has no end. I can only hope my friends and family recognize the small and significant changes in me and they give me a chance to be the person they knew I could be, even before I knew it myself. I’m sure it was hard to not lose hope.
I am happy knowing that every day is an opportunity to be a better sister, a better mother, a better Nonna, and a better friend.
Let me show you . . .
PS . . . I love you