This is a difficult subject to address. I’ve been through a tremendous amount of pain and trauma in my life. My thirties would prove to be the most challenging decade for my family and me. I literally, almost didn’t survive. My only sister was violently murdered when I was 31-years old. Our family was devastated and rightfully, rocked to the core. At 32, my first child, my son, was born 6 weeks early and we didn’t know if he would live or die. He was that sick. He is alive and well, thank God. At the age of 35, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and spent the next few years doing whatever it took to survive – chemo, radiation and many, many surgeries. My body is a constant reminder of that battle and I am grateful that it healed. Toward the end of my thirties, my marriage began to unravel, ending in a heartbreaking, life changing divorce. I’m sharing my story, so you understand, that when I say I’ve been through a hell of a lot of trauma, you understand where I’m coming from. You understand that I’ve faced tremendous pain and I’m writing about it, so I must have figured something out along the way. Yes, I have, and I feel compelled to share it with you.
When these painful and traumatic events were before me, I faced them head-on, scared to death, and with a lot of tears. My way of being has always been to face what’s in front of me. I act in the face of fear and uncertainty. I can’t sit still. I’m like a machine, working to tidy “the mess”. I move forward and take any actions necessary, hoping that I can get this mess behind me because, dammit, life is too short to be stuck in hard times! I don’t want to waste any more time than necessary wallowing in sadness and fear. Maybe if I just push through with all my might, I’ll get through the hard times faster and sail on over to easier days, without a scratch. Yep, that’s me. “Let’s dig in and get this shit over with.” The point I’m making here is that in trying to avoid the challenges I was facing, I failed to process my feelings. I stuffed my feelings deep down and pretended they didn’t exist by keeping myself busy. My friends, that doesn’t work.
I dealt with my sister’s murder by being there for my Mom, after all, she lost a child, and everyone knows that is the most traumatic loss a person can experience. I believe that and therefore did not honor or even consider my feelings of loss because they paled in comparison to my Mother’s. I helped with the funeral arrangements and handled the business of things and stuffed down the pain. Time heals, right? I did nothing to process my feelings.
Next up, my son’s birth. Unbelievable grief was upon me as I faced the death of my child. He was born in the same year my sister was murdered and I couldn’t believe my body failed me and my Mom. I knew she couldn’t take another loss like this. Another lost child. Again, I thank God that the doctors, nurses and care he was given, saved his life. He was helicoptered to a Children’s Hospital where he healed, recovered and grew stronger, and then miraculously, came home after only 10 days. So, what did I do to take care of myself and acknowledge my feelings? NOTHING. I took care of my baby! I moved on. I thought, “I’m fine. He’s alive”. It took years before I realized that I wasn’t fine at all. Yes, he’s alive, thank you God, and yes…the experience of that trauma absolutely lives in my bones.
3 years later and after the birth of my second child, my daughter, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a 3-year old and a 15-month old. Oh. Noooo!!!! What the hell am I going to do?! “God, please don’t take me. No one will take care of my babies like I will. They will miss me so much and they won’t understand. God, if I die, my children will be devastated and what about my mom?” I was so scared that I would leave my children without a mother. It was the worst feeling in the world. The worst! So, I fought like hell. I was poked, prodded, biopsied, had one of my breasts removed, endured 16 cycles of chemotherapy (that damn near killed me), 52 rounds of radiation and 10 years of cancer fighting drugs. This experience is in my bones. There is no way around it.
Next up, que marital discord, which ended in a divorce and the dissolution of a 22-year relationship, that absolutely rocked me to my core and shattered the basic precepts I had built my world upon.
So, there I sat, survivor of a lot of fucking trauma and I kept waiting for the pain to go away. I kept waiting to be able to recall these events without heartbreak and heartache. I read book after book, remember, I’m action-oriented and I face things head-on. I spent several full weeks at a time working on myself and my life in yoga teacher trainings. I DID THE WORK! Lots of work. And, still, I carried the pain. I began to wonder if the pain would ever go away. And then it hit me and I discovered one of the jewels of human existence. Friends, once you discover this truth, there is no going back AND the knowledge demands even more courage and no more hiding. Here it is…It is not the easy moments of life that build character, it’s the tough ones. We gain our wisdom when our feet are to the fire. In every single hardship I’ve faced, I’ve come out on the other side, wiser and with more love for myself and those around me and with a greater appreciation for each moment of each day. I not only appreciate the easy days, I absolutely 100% appreciate the challenging ones because I KNOW that they make me stronger and wiser. Here’s something else, the pain is mine and I don’t need to get rid of it. I need to face it each time it comes up. I don’t need to wallow in it. I simply need to acknowledge my experiences and pain, honor them, sit with them, love them and love all of me and then look around and soak in and acknowledge all the beauty of life too. The life in front of me is amazing and full of love. I’m surrounded by love. I am love. Through my experiences, I connect with others. I have been supported so many times in my darkest moments and now I can support others. I learned how, because of how people treated me when I was in need. I appreciate the easy days, yes, every single moment. And when the challenging days arise, I stand with my feet to the fire. This is life. This is THE SHIFT. Hardships are inevitable. They are a part of us just like our easy days and joyful experiences. So, I choose to walk with my pain and acknowledge who I have become through all my experiences. I admire and honor my patina, the beautiful shine my soul has been given through the experiences of life. I think of myself as a smooth stone whose sharp edges have been worn away because of the “tumbling” process of life. My depth and character are solid because of all my experiences and especially the challenging ones.
Honor all your experiences. Walk in faith and in love, knowing that you are exactly who you are meant to be, right now and you are exactly where you are meant to be, right now.
Peace, love, namaste