As of today, it has been thirty-nine (39) days since my family started to voluntarily stay-at-home/quarantine. Over a month of social distancing, over a month that some have been unemployed, over two months of pretty serious messages about handwashing. Over a month of no contact delivery, masks, gloves, toilet paper, panic, calm, boredom and more.
And while there are some out there protesting that this social distancing isn’t necessary, there are others who view this as an opportunity to change something about the beliefs and systems that brought us here. At the heart of the conflict lies the fantastical hope that “after all of this is over things will return to normal” vying for media space with the growing number of economic, psychological and health care experts who believe that we need to start getting ourselves ready for a new normal.
In crisis we reach for the familiar to regain a sense of control
It isn’t that I don’t understand the deep, psychological needs for us to have a sense of normalcy in our lives. So many of us have worked hard to develop daily or weekly routines that maximize our efforts toward our most precious or mundane goals. Likewise, those in mental health or substance abuse recovery often rely on routines to aid in managing their symptoms, if even just for the built-in reminders for self-care such as eating and hygiene.
Especially difficult is the timing of this pandemic for those who were preparing for or undergoing major life changes – starting a new job, welcoming a new child, recovering from substance abuse, spiritual awakenings, graduations, taking that vacation you actually deserve, starting a new health regimen, moving on from toxic relationships, etc. Even positive events in our life can be stressful and the support of our various social networks (family, friends, even strangers) can get us through these transitions, reinforcing our confidence and self-esteem.
In particular, for me, I was just emerging from the self-imposed emotional isolation I’ve been battling as a result of vicarious trauma. I was coming back into who I am without all the stress and heartache. I have worked so hard toward a revival of my most authentic self, that the disappointment of continuing to miss in that more public celebration was making question whether or not this was really meant to be. The week we were to start self-isolating, I was supposed to meet three different friends for lunch, drinks or coffee. I was finally starting to show back up in the world and then the quarantine hit. I hid back in my old patterns, shutting down and burrowing into my isolation again.
But as much as I would love to declare, “yes, things will go back to the way they were before”, I join many other observers and experts who believe we will not be going back to normal anytime soon. Many pointing out that we are in the situation we are in because we refused to see that what qualified as “normal” wasn’t actually working for us. Specifically, that the inequality persistent within our systems of health care, labor, and coordinated crisis response were not just insufficient, but unsustainable.
It’s hard not to feel like everything is coming apart, because it is. Not just with our governments, but with ourselves. And even with the best social distancing, handwashing and cheerful masks, many of us feel powerless to do anything to control our own destinies. It’s natural to respond to a crisis by reaching for what’s familiar, what’s comforting and “normal”. We want safety, security and we need to know we will be okay. So it’s natural to want to hold onto the idea that we need to “get back to normal”.
Yet was normal really serving us in our personal lives? How many people suffering from toxic relationship patterns, overwork, under appreciation, oppressive internal beliefs? This crisis has exposed not just our official vulnerabilities but our personal ones as well. A lot of us are facing a dark night of the soul whether we ready or not. The universe is reminding us that while we can love and respect others, we cannot hide from the call to love and respect ourselves.
Even in the midst of uncertainty, there is always room for opportunity
We sit at a critical crossroads, faced with a powerful opportunity to decide how we want to rebuild. If we choose to rebuild exactly as it was before, we risk exposing ourselves to the same wounds we’re suffering now. But we could take this opportunity to let go of those traditions, those beliefs, those systems that no longer serve us.
OR….We could take this opportunity to let go of the traditions, beliefs, and systems that perhaps have worn out their usefulness. Designed for a society without nearly the kind of global reach and interconnectedness we have now, it is up to us to re-imagine the world we actually want instead of the world we are stuck with
Can we dare to dream of a world with more inclusive systems, more equitable values, more empathetic societies, more balanced goals, more healing connections? Is it too much to form the strategies around how we emerge with universal health care or basic income guarantees? Is it too bold to decide to let go of what no longer serves us?
And while many of us are rightfully directing our energy toward ensuring our leaders don’t leave anyone behind with our next steps, we also need to see this opportunity for ourselves. What are we holding onto that is no longer serving us? What toxic patterns have been interrupted because of this pandemic? What baggage are you holding onto that you don’t want to be part of your post-pandemic life?
This is a beautiful and powerful moment for us to take leadership over our own lives so we emerge from this crisis the strong, resilient and radiant people we not only want to be but deserve to be.
I’m always flirting with the danger of being a little too stuck in the past. I revisit old lovers, I regularly journey wistfully in nostalgic reverie, I seek out connections to the past at any opportunity. I want to live in present and often do, but I like to revisit where I’ve been. It’s useful to gain some perspective, to reframe the thoughts I have about who I was. Ultimately, it gives me some insight and inspiration into where I want to go.
A few days ago I turned 40 years old. (Yay!) I was lucky enough to spend a full 48 hours on things that nourished my soul. A chakra massage, tarot readings from two different people, joyful celebration, quiet contemplation, a party, a blessing, a clearing, a purging of my darkness. See, the overwhelming message that came through to me (even with The Last Jedi) was how I needed to let go of the remnants of the past so that I can finally move forward to a place of deservingness and peace. I need to stop examining the past to piece together my shattered worthiness and instead needed to accept my own light, accept my new role and create a future of bright, shining energy.
This is my own personal Tower. This is the structure that has been holding up my life, created from memory, from experience, from learning, and above all from distortions about these. This structure of service without reward, of absorbing the darkness in others so that they might find their light has been such a primary source of identity for me. I’ve been resisting tearing that down, but it’s become so apparent to me that this is the last piece of “suffering” I must do in order to fully feel like I can move forward into the structure I’m building for myself.
The time has come for me to step into Who I Really Am.
The Origins of the Tower
Growth is accepting that not every structure in our life is meant to remain. We must either tear down the old, worn down Tower of self or a wrecking ball will come through and force us to rebuild.
Some of you have seen me talk about “tearing down my tower”. The Tower, a reference to tarot, is what I use to refer to those sacred institutions, behaviors, beliefs, reactions, etc that we use to process the outside world. Whether it be religion, sexuality, expectations in friendships, family values, politics, we each construct a Tower for ourselves, the structure for our home, our life, our relationships, our spirituality, our outlook on life.
The walls of our Towers are adorned with paintings of our grand achievements, statues of the important people in our lives, wall-to-wall libraries containing the knowledge we’ve accumulated along the way. Each is unique to our own self.
Our first Tower was built by our parents, caregivers, and others in authority when we were children. They were shaped for us so that we should be taught how to treat others, what to believe spiritually, what we find beautiful or loving, what priority learning should have in our lives. It provides us with shelter and protection.
The past week has been a challenge for me. Triggering events from start to finish. The last time I felt like this I was on the verge of a breakdown. That breakdown was avoided by paying attention to the signs and finally heeding the advice given to me for years and years: meditate.
When I did just a 5 minute meditation everything changed. You can read all about it here (and then stay for the guided meditations). I was able to transform a breakdown into a breakthrough.
Gawd, that sounds cheesy.
The truth is I was able to exert some amount of control over my life. I allowed my heart let go of some of its fears. I felt some of the natural insecurity subside. And everything started to become so…open.
I’ve done a lot of thinking recently about the walls I’ve built up around myself. The lack of dating. The refusal to engage flirtatiously with someone. The counter-intuitive pulling away if someone accidentally gets too close. But that refusal to dream big is far beyond just relationships and potentials. It’s how I’ve chosen to see my calling. How I’ve perceived my own personal power. How I’ve advanced my own dreams. I temper everything so either I don’t disappoint anyone or so I don’t have to experience disappointment either.
In this journey over the past 6 months, I feel like that openness has expanded beyond what I’ve ever achieved before. I can see and feel so much. And in so doing I’m starting to draw people toward me again. By reclaiming my passion, I’m able to give voice to a power within that has been cocooned away healing its wounds over the past few years.
I’m not a stranger to trauma. I’ve had more than my fair share over the past few years. It’s not fair and it’s not right. But the worst of it was in 2012. While there were a few noteably amazing things that happened that year, it overall was a devastating year. It was the last time I was able
to trust anyone or anything. Because even though I passed the bar that year, I was being torn apart by grief. Grief for an abusive brother (yes, you can grieve abusive people too).
Retraumatization showed up in so many forms compounded with heavier forms of secondary trauma thrown in. It had an impact of everything–from insomnia to flashbacks, to uncontrollable crying, to an inability to have sex at all. I really couldn’t function at all after the bar exam. To the point that i even injured my knees and ankles and have trouble walking for months. My body was reflecting my inner world.
This journey to where I am right now started when I was at my lowest then. When I thought I would never feel again, a few days before my birthday I had a dream that allowed me to believe that I would recover. That my soul would come back to life. It was so visceral and so real that 4 years later I can still feel the presence and subject of that dream in my everyday life.
So, let’s call that presence “The Druid”. Let’s say this presence has been growing in my awareness since that dream. Wild and controlled. He is an image from another dream years ago. He a priest of nature and me a priestess of love. Committed partners but both with the freedom to honor the organic connection that is created between people.
So since that day 6 months ago, it’s like this Druid spirit has been growing in influence in my life. I’ve been growing more weary of making my life conform to anyone else’s standards. I’m willing to honor consciously discussed agreements for my partners, but no longer willing to hide behind the walls. The Druid spirit calls me from behind my walls. He calls me to build myself back up again.
Every event that has happened to me has been for this: to find a path to rebuild and renew myself. Every obstacle in my path has been to get me closer to my true self, to find control over my surroundings, over my destiny. Everything as been to gain insight into who I really am–without the chamelon skin and delayed wishes.
It’s felt…big…all this time. But I have been impatient for results. And after having one of the hardest weeks on the job I’ve ever had, I took some clear time for myself. And honestly it has been about savoring the sweet joy of being present in the moment. To sit on the back porch at night feeling the breeze around me. To allow the sensations of life to permeate my life on a deeper level. To be completely emotionally open and honest with Warrior. All of these have been acts of radical self-love. A level I never thought I would achieve.
The lesson here is: Fear not for your path, my friends. Listen to the whispers in your heart, follow the light offered to you. Those whisper, that light and your trust– They will lead you home.
It’s been almost 10 years since I last blogged and journaled on a near daily basis. 2006 was the year I was outed, which brought an unbelievable year to a grinding halt. Correction: It brought an unbelievable woman to a grinding halt.
The past 10 years have been nothing but work, heavy personal work. The internal “heavy lifting” has spanned territory from family to career, from my sexuality to my identity, from big picture living to small, detailed changes. There is no aspect of self that has been safe in this process. Relationships have been critically examined. The sources of shame and guilt have been triggered. Motherhood, career path, sexual identity, coping skills, and dreams have all been examined until they have lost their meaning.
This has been a tower of self that first had a wrecking ball go through it and then continued to fall around me as I dug through the rubble to save pieces of myself again. Those collapses of my internal structure threatened my sanity and my safety on more than one occasion. Being outed had triggered a cascade of 10 years of crippling anxiety and depression, suicide attempts and hiding.
I can’t say I’m done with it now, but I’ve identified how I want to rebuild my life, what I want it to look like. I’ve identified the structure I want to inhabit and how I want to move forward.
And so coming back to this blog, coming back to journaling and professing my journey is an important step for me. It’s finding my ground again, thinking out loud and renewing my sense of confidence. By adding my voice, by telling my story–maybe with fewer identifying details than before–I can regain my strength and start the next 10 years with fresh energy and drive.
Welcome to 2016.