Waking up this morning, I found myself once again pulling my neck out of my shoulders where it has been hiding with varying degrees for months. What began as a Thanksgiving weekend dramafest with my former-hero at church has unfolded into a year of unrelenting drama. Every time I think we are finally through it, there is another round. And then another.
“How have you managed?” asked my therapist and the answer is that I don’t really know. I have had incredibly support from my beloved and from a couple of good friends. I have tried to practice the 12 steps and been faithful in meeting attendance. I have cried and I have made mistakes. But it would appear that I have weathered the storm. Unfortunately the storm is not quite over and my ability to bend with the wind is gone. Ergo the realization of a need for a career change, the buttressing of supports, and the beginning of this blog.
Years ago when my children were small we were on a canoe trip with the church community and a sudden storm pushed us to the banks, huddled in the rain as we waited it out. I was grounded, holding a soggy four year old on my lap with one hand and a tarp above us with the other, and I could see my six year old just out of reach, standing alone and looking terrified. I called to her and though her lip quivered, she would not budge. I tried to motion to adults near her and finally one moved to huddle beside her. Later she explained that standing apart, she believed, was important to keep from being hit by lightening. Even now as I remember her fear, tears fill my eyes. What I can also see is a stolid resolve in her posture, and this combination of terror and resolve is what I experience.
Remembering STEW’s invitation (noting not only thoughts and wishes, but also emotions and sensations), I took time in my waking this morning to move past the familiar thoughts and pay attention to the sensation of a body frozen. Even as I type, I am tempted to add clarifying adjectives but the most help comes from the simplest of naming: frozen. When have I felt that feeling before? The trip down memory lane pauses for the day at the river but then quickly reels back in time. I am a child and looking at fearful events.
As I allow myself, encourage myself, to return to the familiar places of childhood fear, I find shards that are new to me. I see the origin of my fear of rough housing and too of a child expressing anger, seemingly innocent expressions that unwittingly set off explosions. In each of these memories I am a bystander, watching in horror, shellshocked.
In recent years as I have named my truth, come out, moved out, fallen in love, spoken honestly about religion, and dared to practice leadership in a new way, I have not been a bystander. And from the storm the grew in response, there has been little or no shelter. I am no longer a bystander in my life, I am at the center and experiencing for perhaps the first time the full weight not only of the joy but also the sorrow.
And it hurts.
Still I realize an incredible bit of hope in my therapist’s question. The fact is that I have been in the middle of and actually navigating in the storm itself. I am wounded and shell shocked and needing a break, but I also have the incredible satisfaction of know that I showed up in my life. And the payoff for showing up? A life worth living.
Although I wouldn’t wish the church drama of this past year on even my former-hero, I wouldn’t trade the gift of life itself which is, I realize, what is at stake. The me that is fully engaged and alive is still timid, more familiar with trying to keep calm from the sidelines. But now is the moment, this is the dance. I have just this one life to live, and I even if I must pause occasionally to catch my breath, I intend to inhale deeply.