Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Coming Home: Part 3

Nearly five years later, here I am.  Sitting at my mother's kitchen table.  Thinking of the old kitchen table that, with my five year old fists full of such anger and rage, that I literally broke by pounding so hard.  I've been here nearly four weeks.  Since leaving for Dartmouth five years ago, I haven't been back very long at all.  Certainly not four weeks.  And, in those instances, I left feeling like I was fleeing that skin of stuck-ness; of anxiety, fear and anger that I so easily slipped into during my sojourns home.  When I left, I felt like I was escaping.  

The first few weeks here, of June 2014, were rough.  I felt that old familiar skin try to settle itself on my shoulders and root itself through my bones.  Attach itself, like it held a place of honor and belonged there.  I had resisted, with respect, as that part of me saved me at one time.  It was not a part to be reputed as bad, evil.  It was me.

I struggled. With acceptance and change. 

But a few weeks ago, I faced it.  And put it to rest.

I had been fighting, myself.  And I meditated. I spoke to myself.  I
 opened myself up, welcoming the fear, anxiety and anger.  Did not villanize it anymore. 

Through acceptance, I came to a place of expansion.  Of such great openness that I could not see or think anymore and just felt.  I felt my body expand outward and just create more space to feel.  It was glorious and open. 

No one was there but me and space.

I enjoyed that for a while.  But everything changes and that openness created space for other things to surface. 

Violence presented itself.  In images.  To the stomach.  Birth and a knife.  Plunged deep into what was beginning.  I felt the pain but stayed with it.  Breathed into it.  It was startling but embraced; not welcomed but understood.  Soothed.  I was facing the root of the trauma.  And not looking away. 

I saw myself sitting at a window, old and smiling.  Watching life pass by, about to die.  Creases decorated my weathered face and my hands were soft to look at and resting calmly on my lap.  The wind, not unlike the wind that flushed through the tundra for miles on end, blew by through the ground before me.  And then I did die.  Flying away tailing the wind, I left with reverence.  I left with respect.  With honor and love. 

Now, I sit.  Peaceful and full.  I am still.  Not scared.  I have come full circle, sitting here.  I am nearly 28 years old and I am not scared anymore.  The part of me that was so deeply scared so many years ago understands, not through words, but through the grounding of my hands on this table and finding stillness in each passing cloud above, that I am safe. 

I realized that I had died, by the window.   I had let a part of me go.  The part of me that had suffered and held on to fear, anxiety and fear thinking those things could protect me forever, had died. 

I felt free. Moving from one moment, to the next.  The stuck-ness, the skin, was gone.  I could feel rooted in this moment while not fearing what had become or what was coming after. 

Drops of consciousness connected to create a stream.  Flowing the past into the present, pushing this moment into the next.  And that, freed me.  Following the rush of time, suspended but moving, opened me up to possibility and surprise.  Quicksand far below me, I was dancing with the wind, over the tundra and through the clouds, embracing each new tantalizing experience of the ever-changing reality of now.  I was racing toward the edge of the forward spin of the universe, flying with the wind as my vehicle, into the future. 

Sitting at this table, I am still in body, looking up.  In spirit, I am reaching.  In this moment I am.  Connected to this moment’s passing, witnessing and experiencing the birth of its offspring, I am new.  In that moment I was.  I am reborn in each new moment and I am connected.  Knowing, in the next moment to come, I will be. 

Coming Home: Part 2

After my first hospitalization at 13 for "suicidal ideation" as it was called - a term I became well acquainted with over the next decade - I began to feel my desire to disappear into the ether spiral out of control.  I became "unsafe" and "dangerous to myself" once or twice a year and found myself in the hospital, away from what my life had become, for long enough for me to grasp on to some slippery sense of hope and light long enough to recommit to life.  But it only lasted so long.  

Through my zealous academic pursuits, I graduated a year early from high school.  But this was also, largely, due to the pain and social anxiety I felt through high school.  I was worn out by hiding my pain from everyone else and I wanted to rest.  I left in a hurry trying to run from anyone who might be able to identify my fear, my anger or my pain. 

I tried school away, in Colorado for a few months after high school.  But I wasn’t stable.  Hadn’t learned to deal with my issues, my emotions and was soon hospitalized after leaving.  I came back, feeling defeated and hopeless. 

I became pregnant within six months of coming back.  Which was a blessing.  I had been dating Kyle before I went o Colorado and upon coming back in December, we moved in together. 

After the birth of my son, I started to look at my life, my value, differently.  I had found some stability through being a mother to my son and grabbed onto the beginnings of a sense of grounding in that identity as a mother.  

I used to see death as an opportunity.  A way to get way.  After my son, death started to mean instead that I was leaving someone behind, someone who needed me.  

And as much as I struggled with that at times, as I did feel suicidal quite intensely through my marriage and through the divorce and custody battle that ensued, I couldn't ignore the truth that leaving him like that would damage him.  As much as I hurt, I knew I couldn't hurt him like that.  I tried a few times to convince myself he was better off, but that was all smoke and mirrors and as I grew in stability and strength, the more those thoughts faded in their own strength and stability.  

By my son's third birthday I had been accepted into Dartmouth and felt propelled to finish my undergraduate career, for myself and my son.  That gnawing desire for fulfillment through education hadn't faded away, something I am thankful for to this day.  While at Dartmouth, I found the space, away from this place, home, that had held me tight in anxiety, anger and fear.  I was thousands of miles away from my home, the trauma. 

I began to allow the part of me that felt the compelling desire to protect, to rest.  It was little at first.  I seemed to be on guard, still, most of the time, at first.  Which was similar to at home: I was feeling pain but no one except those closest to me knew.  But unlike before, I started, in this new and distant place so far from what I had known, face those rooted emotions of fear, anger and anxiety.  I stopped running from them.  Because I was so far way.  I began to uncover the wounded little girl that I had been protecting for so long.  I didn’t even know she was there, she was so well hidden.

I was still in the middle of a long, drawn out custody battle for the first few years I was away.  But through that, I found strength and wisdom through people who I'd known all my life and from new friends who helped me to see things in me I hadn't yet recognized in myself.  

I would come home, but not longer than a week or two. That was a long as I could stand before the panic or anxiety attacks took hold and I couldn’t stay at home and be safe.  I fled my homecomings, year after year, terrified of who I would become. 

I worked.  With many people on many things and little by little, I began to accept the trauma. 

Little by little, through learning to trust and love myself, I began to feel less heavy all the time, and at times, even kind of light.  

Coming Home: Part 1

Time, all the way up here, stretches.  Moments reaching forward and moments reaching back, connect.  Suspended in the present.  Moving forward.  Webbed and so enmeshed that you cannot see where one begins and another ends. But moving.  

And you can feel it.  The passing of time is constant, as it is everywhere.  But here, it stretches like it doesn't anywhere else, I know.  Following its rhythm, it hums.  It arcs in elated moments of sensation and lulls in quiet moments of contemplation.  It stalls and empties, swells and fills.  

Before, I felt time like was like a sucking, a stuck-ness that swallowed me.   A moment suspended, quicksand that moved but kept me entrapped and sinking.   

But, this time, I anticipated coming home with a lightness.  For the first time, in, ever.  Not because I hate where I come from.  No, I love my home.   But, because home was a dichotomy for me.  A place of pride, and a place of pain.  

The tundra or the snow.
The water or the ice.
The houses on stilts.
The dirt roads that were in perpetual loops in and around town, forever leading into another.  
But never away.  
The sun intensely present and within a few shifts of the season, entirely absent.  

But beyond all of that, I knew and felt that home was a connection to my heritage. It grew and sustained me while persisting as a place that cut me, wounded and deep, at the core of my spirit.  

It dizzied me, trying to make sense of the two.  Faint moments of confusion, exhaustion and loss characterized my life from age three until I was able to focus into a kind of remembered consciousness.  

But, there was a time, in my very early life, remembered in a very few softly-light moments, where I felt joy.  I was very young and very new to the world.  My mother played with me and I was happy.

By five, I felt like there was an extra layer of skin stuck to me.  It was tight and anxious.  It knee-jerked in reaction to the slightest hint of danger and constantly percolated boiling emotions of fear that could easily erupt into protective displays of anger. Displays of anger that would rattle most adults.  

I felt like I could be attacked at any moment.  Always ready to protect.  I learned early on that this part of me was not acceptable to most people.  Most people were frightened.  The part of me that protected me, frightened others.  I was powerful in those moments.  And I learned to hide it.  

From most.  Everyone but those closest to me.  

I channeled that energy into school. But at home, I let go of the emotions that I worked so hard to keep hidden in public.  I let all the fear I was feeling, out. And it wasn't peaceful.  It was painful and what my family saw and felt was anger.  I pushed them away, afraid even of showing them my pain, my wounds.  I didn't trust anyone.  And the best way to hide fear or pain is to be angry. 

Through out middle school and high school I dreamed of death. Day-dreamed and thought constantly about dying.  I couldn’t control my emotions and I wanted out.  I didn’t understand why I was stuck in this quicksand of hellish pain as I saw my emotions erupt and affect those closest to me while not feeling like I could control the eruption.  I hated hurting other people and thought, if I could just go and stop all this pain, it would be better for everyone.

I cried constantly.  But no one knew.  By that time, I was a star pupil and one of the highest achievers of my age in town.  I was on the swim team for years.  Took first in regional spelling bees year after year and by 7th grade had won state science fair for creating my own fuel cell.  The more I succeeded outside, the more I felt I was losing my grip on my life inside.