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I was feeling horrible for most of the summer. Lots of pity partying, anxiety, and endless negative thoughts--if you are human you have probably been there. If you have lived with depression and fought overwhelming, crippling periods of darkness, then you can definitely relate. In life, I kept thinking that eventually I would arrive, that at some point through hard work and perserverence I would get to this place where success would happen because I was hard-working and because I deserved it for all my hard work and struggle and suffering and because I was a survivor, dammit. (Such a good little martyr I played).
Because I was a good person, and I loved a lot and I gave a lot and I cared a lot. Maybe those things I knew to be true about myself seemed like the ticket to success would come to me, organically, fall in my lap.
So this summer for whatever reasons, be they situational or delusional or chemical, after many months of treading, my head went under for a while. What seemed like a very long while, actually. I thought I might fall apart completely, maybe lose my home, maybe end up in the hospital, maybe fail my children.
I hung out under water for a minute there--and this was dark, murky, Ohio lake water--not some perfect, clear, 20-foot visibility, white sand Hawaii water.
A year ago I had some big huge revelations, and as exciting as they were and still are--and the revelations keep coming--it seemed that because I had these seemingly monumental realizations about my life, I would soon be arriving somewhere.
To my destination.
To my purpose.
I was supposed to be getting there soon!
Instead I felt like I was sinking, drowning, failing at life.
So I gave up for a minute. Took a look under water and got some silt in my eyes.
I said Fuck it.
It felt like forever, living in the “fuck it” moments.
Then I panicked.
Then survival instincts kicked in and I started flailing and I sent out an S.O.S. to my family and asked for help. Which I rarely do, if ever. Because I am like a one woman island who seems to think she has to stay an island. Alone. Stranded. Forever.
Every good lifeguard knows that when a person who thinks they are drowning is flailing, they can be dangerous to try to save. You gotta go in with a clear head and not get taken down with them.
It’s the silent ones who are actually drowning, and it happens oh, so quickly and oh, so quietly..
Like Robin Williams. Like so many countless others who never showed a sign of any kind that they couldn’t swim and slipped away unnoticed into the abyss.
Even though I thought I might drown, my family didn’t think so. They gave me a hand, pulled me to the surface and said--keep treading. Maybe they remembered I had been through worse, or maybe they simply knew the strength in me that I couldn’t.
So I don’t get to stop? I don’t get a free pass, or at least a rotting log to lean on?
And my friends and family said “I love you”, and some made me dinner, and many sent me gifts, or sat next to me brainstorming, to get me through to regain my own sense of strength.
Because what I most needed was to remember my own strength.
So I begrudgingly kept going, until I wasn’t panicking anymore, and I accidentally swallowed a big, leggy, water spider.
And then my awesome friend said that transformation is a journey, not a destination.
And my head exploded.
There is no arriving.
I get to let myself off the hook?!
So, there is only this huge body of water, and there are mucky parts and clear parts and parts where you swim with dolphins and parts where you swim with sharks and parts where you get stuck in the swamp tangled in long weeds?
There is no destination?
This one revelation was just the lifejacket I needed.
To give me enough buoyancy that treading water didn’t seem so hard anymore.
To give me enough hope that, maybe soon, I will start to swim again.
Have you ever thought to yourself I'll never be happy again?
Did you accept your situation and regardless continue to work at the job you hated, stay in the marriage that became a prison, do nothing to change the body you couldn't bear to look at? Maybe you lost a loved one and felt that a piece of yourself died with them and didn't come back.
After months and years and more years of living in this way,we forget what happiness is altogether, and then we can no longer imagine it. And if we can't imagine a thing, we can't attain it.
I remember a time when I had given up on happiness so completely that I was convinced happy people were faking it! I used to think they are full of shit, why are they over there laughing, wtf? Nobody is THAT happy!
After my son was born I was miserable. Not for lack of loving him or gratitude for my beautiful child, but because I felt so horrible in my body and mind. I had no idea how I was going to get through most days. I would literally ask myself how am I going to get through this day? I don't know how I did it, but I know I was very unhappy.
It's not the kind of unhappiness most people can notice in you, where you are happy today and then suddenly tomorrow you don't get out of bed. It's a gradual overcast, a cumulative effect of dragging days, subtle losses, and little disappearing joys. You don't even notice you are there, losing bits of yourself, until it is almost all the way gone. And many of the people this happens to never really notice. We have all met someone like this.
I spent the first two years of my my son's life just surviving, barely keeping my nose above the water line. I knew it was postpartum depression deep down but I was scared out of my mind to take medicine or seek help from a doctor, (Iatrophobia, the fear of doctors, a not-so-pleasant after-effect of my Christian Science upbringing) so I tried yoga, meditation, acupuncture, cranio-sacral, St. John's Wort, talk therapy, walking, jazzercise, skin brushing...you name it, I tried it. I would feel a tad better for a little while and hope that I had found the answer but then the crushing defeat always returned.
Years passed while I tried to claw my way out of that hole. Knowing as I did that my children deserved to see their mother happy, to feel the warmth of my true joy, I fought for it even though I truly doubted I would ever win. I fought hardest to maintain my faith that happiness and joy were my birthright, and that I would one day own them again.
It has been almost six years since I was officially diagnosed with PPD.
I can honestly say today that I have never been happier.
So how did I get from misery to happiness? Was it an epiphany? A revelation? Did I find Jesus or develop a drug habit?
Daily vigilance. Leaping into the unknown of divorce. Following bliss and remembering how to have fun. Doing it anyway, even if I was too tired or too down or too broke.
Some battles don't have a clear beginning or end. My battle with depression and unhappiness felt like a lifetime in the trenches of some far off field. The most important thing is, never ever give up. Never stop fighting for happiness and health.
I promise, you will be happy again.
Stop already. Stop thinking you are less than,
stop saying your dreams don't matter, your desire
will wait. Stop burying your muse under the mattress.
Stop believing that you are damaged, you can carry
the weight and therefore you should though you long
to be light, to be en-lightened, to walk in sunlight.
Stop making yourself small so others feel okay
in their smallness. Climb the sycamore tree
in the ravine, take the kids to India, allow yourself
to make love to whomever, whenever, wherever. Stop listening
to the fears that disquise themselves as wisdom.
Stop keeping your silence when you know what you want
from the world. If this person won't listen
stop giving away your time and speak up
until you find the ones who hear you, who
want you to say more. Stop thinking
that being a mother means you can't.
Stop limiting, stop regretting, stop wishing.
Stop thinking you are not enough. Stop already.
You are everything you've ever dreamed of.
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/18446531 w=400&h=225]
Have you ever lived a period of your life in which you remained trapped in a certain mindframe or paradigm that didn't serve you? You were doing everything you were supposed to do yet still you were unhappy? Do you know how long it took you to break free?
We can become prisoners of our own reality, prisoners of our own misconceptions about what life is and should be. We make assumptions and take conventions as truth rather than following our heart's call to what we truly want. The heart sings a song and we don't listen because our mind will not budge from its rulebook. Our mind says things like I have to work full time, I have to make x amount of $, I have to give my children these things, I have to have this large house, I have to have a car, I have to relinquish my joyous hobby for the day to day grind that sucks my soul...I have to stay here because of family, I have to stay in this marriage for the kids, I don't have time to eat healthy, workout, declutter, play music, write poetry, laugh, cry, write letters to my best friend...
I remember my mother taking a long time to recover from leaving my father. She knew it was the best thing to do and it had been a long time coming, but she struggled for years to come to a new place of peace about her decisions. Then years later, in my own marriage, she told me I didn't have to be in a situation where I struggled and fought and felt unhappy. I remember being angry with her because I felt that stepping away from something I should stick with was a ridiculous notion. Even though it was eating me up. She could clearly see my unhappiness, which I was unaware of because I had forgotten what my happiness looked like. Now I see that she was right. When the pain became too great, I finally made the change I needed to make. And it was as simple as making a decision. Unbelievably simple.
When you forget how it feels to be happy or free, you also are unable to envision such a life for yourself. Without vision, we cannot alter our reality to become what we wish for.
I know many people who are trapped in this kind of mindset. Again, it is the shoulds which enslave us, or as they say in "The Neverending Story", it is The Nothing. It is the numb and stark position of forgetting who we truly are and what our heart truly yearns for.
I suggest we take it by the hand, that Nothing, and let it be our most beloved teacher. I suggest we stare our unhappiness in the face and smile. Find your bliss and the Nothing will disappear. We have forgotten how to feel joy. When we find it, a revolution ensues.
The longer we stay in our self-made prisons, the harder it is to get free. But the freedom is all the sweeter, and it can happen whenever you decide to step outside the unlocked gate.
When he calls, her heart flutters. And it also sinks. He swept her away. Away from many things she dares not think of. And into a whirlpool of other things she dares not mention.
Life has been easier since she stopped talking to him, since it ended. Her walk is lighter, the days are clearer, and happiness erupts lightly from simple moments.
And yet the urge to hear his voice is overbearing, like the need to smoke a cigarette--nagging, nagging, nagging until you finally relent and take a drag. When you are jonesing, virtually nothing can stop you from finding your fix.
It's the heart sinking part she doesn't pay attention to, though she should. She pushes it aside and answers anyway, just to feel that feeling one more time. One more hit. Maybe this time it will be different.
I miss you baby. Come back to me, he says. I've changed.
You know she's heard this before. Too many times to count. He says he loves her so much it makes him crazy, makes him do stupid things. Hurtful things. But only because he loves her that much. Only because he can't live without her.
It's so foggy here. Let me make it up to you. Give me ONE MORE CHANCE.
The chances could go on forever. She feels herself slipping. Her head gets heavy with her heart, she listens to him talk and feels the arm of their fucked up past pulling her down. He is a sweet talker, her favorite kind. Funny and smoothe and sexy. She is sliding in the gravel of his empty promises.
Her best friend says he doesn't get to treat you that way. Her sister says he is such a loser, I thought you already moved on, stop talking to him. Her girlfriend says I'm sick of hearing about it.
Why does the heart sometimes gravitate towards this foggy road? Why not take the high road, above the mist?
Have you ever experienced this or watched someone go through it? Let me know in the comments and feel free to share on facebook or twitter.
It's hard to imagine that a year ago I was living in northern Wisconsin in a spacious 5-bedroom farmhouse on 20 acres of pristine land. We were visited by coyotes and black bears and foxes and too many deer to count. The kids spent hours on the trampoline outside the patio door, chasing the new puppy up and down the long gravel driveway, wading through the creek that ran just feet from the back of the house. That farmhouse seems like a distant dream now, though I haven't thought much of it nor looked back to reflect on the decisions that led up to leaving it. Life sped up, our little world shifted, and we rode like hell to try and keep up with the turn of events that I myself had set in motion. I had a dream one night that I was singing into a microphone that was strung to the top of a giant tree. Three of my students were singing with me and when it came to my solo I was surprised to find that I didn't hold back at all, I belted with everything I had as if it were my show, not theirs. When I woke I struggled to find the song in the foggy waters of my waking mind, but later in the day the song came to me, and once I found it I couldn't stop singing it:
When I leapt into the unknown, finally honoring the empty ache in my heart where something had been lost for a long, long time, it didn't matter anymore what surrounded me or how many bedrooms I had.
What mattered was coming alive.
There are conventional and condemning views of what I did, leaving my marriage in the time and the ways that I did, and those are exactly the same views which had kept me confined for so long in a place that shut down my heart. I imagine that when you wake from a big sleep, there is a lot that needs to be sorted. You've aged. Your muscles may have atrophied, and in my case I lost a sense of strength that had previously defined and informed me.
When you are sleeping, your loved ones hurt. They miss you, they wait for you to wake up. When my father was in a coma for 3 months, every day was a cloud of emotions and prayer.
One afternoon a year ago I spoke candidly with my best friend about my choices. After all, we have led virtually parallel lives at times, sometimes running ahead or behind but always finishing together. His words couldn't have hit home more when he said "You're back. I feel like I got my friend back." He was right.
When you wake up, your loved ones hurt.
There is no way that I could deny then or now that my awakening caused pain in my loved ones. My little family was taken apart, though without too much screaming or slamming of doors or fighting over custody. It was relatively calm, mature, and business-like. Nonetheless, when I took my son to counseling and she asked him what he wished his life could look like if he could have it any way he wanted, he said "Mom and Dad, me and my sister, back at the farmhouse." And that is the heartbreaking reality a parent faces when divorcing.
My children have gone through more than just the divorce and moving over the past year. Their dad has been seriously ill on top of everything else. But even through all of that, I know that what I did in following my heart's desire was the only thing that would wake me up.
When Dad woke up he had to relearn everything. How to speak, how to write, how to eat. It has been a mix of grief for me and my siblings since, having our once dynamic and charismatic father become an almost entirely new person, living with traumatic brain injuries.
I've been relearning too. Even before the upheaval, I knew that forgiveness would be required. I knew I would most of all need to forgive myself for the pain it would cause my little family, and that was the scariest part.
Now my kids and I reside in 2 bedrooms in my sister's house and I can count the number of possessions we own fairly quickly. We live in a metropolitan area where instead of a creek running by, it's a freight train every 20 minutes. Even as I write this I have a huge grin on my face. Because I am so happy that sometimes I burst out in song. Because I can laugh with my kids and give them so much of this happiness I have found. Because I love what life is becoming.
From the outside it may seem to others that so much has been lost. Yet if you peered into my chest, opened it up and looked into its crystal clear well, you would see that it is deep and full.
Finding our bliss sometimes means making very difficult choices and jumping the canyon we've been skirting once and for all.
Even if we hurt the ones we love. Even if they never forgive us.
Even if it takes a lifetime to forgive ourselves.
Are you in need of support around your divorce?
What if divorce were an opportunity to discover and claim the truest parts of yourself?
What if you had a friend who wrote you every day reminding you that you are not alone?
What if your children needed to see you this way to know what courage looks like?
What if you had a place to tell your stories with other divorced and divorcing mothers?
What if divorce were actually a bridge to your hopeful future?
What if there were an affordable way to care for yourself for the next year?
You are not alone.
Join me in having a Hopeful Divorce--click below for more info:
I tried so hard to be happy, I read books about how happiness is an illusion and life is suffering.
I tried so hard to be happy, I decided lovemaking was overrated and quit it altogether.
I tried so hard to be happy, I decided happy people were faking it.
I tried so hard to be happy, I thought I could eat my way into it.
I tried so hard to be happy, I told myself that someday it would all make sense.
8 years later it still did not make sense.
So I started running. And running. Not running away. No, running to shake out the stuck.
I ran a marathon.
I stopped doing the things I had told myself I should. I stopped trying to keep other people happy at the expense of my own.
Ever so slowly, I started to remember what happiness was. I had been searching for it high and low with nary a sign of it. Then it would sneak up and surprise me out of nowhere, welling from within, starting at my belly button and oozing like warm syrup to my heart. Spontaneous happiness!? What?
Seemingly impossible decisions were made. A marriage died and was buried.
Children were sat down and informed in the gentlest way possible.
Hearts broke forever.
There is no easy way to realize you have been lying to yourself for many years. But if you are "trying hard" to be happy, it may be a clue that you have forgotten what really makes you happy and gotten stuck thinking this thing SHOULD make you happy.
Have you fallen into this same trap before? How did you find your way out?
Please leave a comment and let me know!