I learned long ago that in order to heal my wounds
I must have the courage to face up to them.
~ Paulo Coelho
The heart has its reasons which reason knows not of.
Step back. Step away. Breathe. Reflect. Feel. Release. Rejoice. Let go. Carry on.
I’d never seen the photo before — an image of me, laying in bed on my back with the vintage orange, yellow, and brown chevron stripped afgan covering me from neck to toe like a mummy. My eyes were closed. Boomer had taken the picture in 2012. Whether or not I was actually sleeping is speculative. I stared at the digital image for while then hit the delete key and emptied the recycle bin of the old computer. Gone.
That photo I’d found was taken on Election Day, November 6, 2012 and Boomer died eight days later. Are you f***ing kidding me? A presidential election is another grief trigger? Apparently it is, has been, for me. Naive me. Here I thought I’d long since gone through the heavy lifting of “firsts” in my grief recovery experience only to confront a first presidential election, post Boomer. But wait, there’s more.
You see, I didn’t vote in 2012. Sadly, I remember it vividly, because I’ve felt guilty about it for the last 4 years. I was too sick to get out of bed that day. The crisis and chaos of living with an active alcoholic had taken such an emotional and physical toll on me personally, I literally could not pull myself out of bed. Mostly I was curled up in a ball overwhelmed with despair, struggling with ulcer-level stomach cramps, tendinitis, chronic migraines and lower back problems. Desperate for my life to be different than it was, the man I love so lost himself, and we as a couple were no where near where we were four years earlier, in 2008, when we voted together, watched the returns together and welcomed our first black President in that history-making election. We were now distant, lost, lonesome and sad, and one of us was dying, drinking himself to death.
That isn’t all I’ve had to confront and revisit — thanks in-part to the last few months of this 2016 Presidential Campaign; history-making in its own right. This political cycle of our country’s democracy has surfaced some very specific incidents and episodes in the life of SMO, spanning 4 decades, that required paradigm shifts of healing:
- In my teens, it was the wall-pressed choke-hold I experienced by the hands of a boyfriend at a party who didn’t approve of my behavior. Though he was no longer my boyfriend, having dumped me several weeks earlier after learning I was pregnant and knowing he was the father, he believed he had some influential power over me.
- In my twenties, it was a first-date, only-date, with the guy who attempted to force himself on me in his car at the end of night.
- Then in my thirties, it was the co-worker of a higher corporate authority position who inappropriately grabbed me at a business function.
- In my forties, it was my own husband, who told me about the “code” among “men”; how they talk to each other about their sexual exploits unless she’s a woman of “significance” in their lives. It went as far as even my overhearing parts of those types of conversations when we lived together.
I began having a recurring series of vivid flashbacks, of every single sexual aggression, attempted assault, sexual objectification, and gender nullification I’ve personally and directly encountered, endured and witnessed in my 52 years as a woman. The political cycle was traumatizing me — again — in ways that forced me to honestly confront and heal from what — unbenounced to me at the time — was wrong, inappropriate and violating. Doubled-down by my silent guilt of not having had the strength to vote in 2012 — I hadn’t missed voting since I turned 18.
I discovered during this process that though I had long forgiven those you had forced themselves upon me, I still secretly held myself responsible. That was my pain. Was there something I might have done or could have done differently to prevent what happened? Something, anything that would have deterred such arrogant, abuse-of-power attitudes or behaviors. Questioning myself was at the root of what surfaced for me to work through and the feelings within them. I felt: shame, guilt, embarrassment, belittlement, disgust, disappointment — all with myself.
I am not responsible for the behaviors, attitudes, or actions of someone else. I did not invite, entice, instruct, or condone what was done or said. Yet my feminineness has been conditioned to take on that emotional responsibility. The 2016 Presidential Campaign was my personal healing platform to release and let go of those self-defeating, limiting beliefs — once and for all.
At the same time, I have been emotionally conflicted to openly admit, acknowledge and rejoice, that my life is indeed better than it was four years ago, eight year ago, thus debunking the flood of loud, obnoxious political rhetoric that mercilessly wanted me to believe otherwise. I chose to withdraw from social media activity to get and sustain my bearings as I worked through my healing process. You see, I am not a victim in this life. Yes, stuff has happened, but I can’t afford to relentlessly point blame outward, and forever wear a cloak of fear and martyred victim. I can’t do it. I won’t do it. There’s alot in life I don’t like, but I always do my best, and keep my focus on what’s ahead. Part of that natural process of living is to let go and free myself from the past.
In all this mumbo jumbo, I saw light coming through the tunnel of all I was working through — early voting. This was my gateway, the right of passage to my healing paradigm brought on by politics and my civic duty as a US citizen. October 24th was the start of early voting in Florida. I had it on my calendar, I set my alarm to be sure I was mentally prepared and ready to go. That same day I was also honoring the 1st anniversary of my Grandmother’s passing, so I chose to walk to the election center — just over a mile. Gram never drove, so we would walk, just about everywhere. As I walked I could hear her encouraging me to walk faster like she use to when I was a little girl learning how to keep up. The walk to vote was also an homage to the last election Boomer and I voted in together, we walked to the voting site. The air was brisk, the sun was shining and I could feel the momentum of personal freedom and the lifting of regression paradigms building inside me. On the other side rapture awaited. Spiritual freedom. Emotional healing. History making.
Thank you, candidates. You certainly put me through my spiritual, healing paces. Life is messy, politics is really messy and whatever is going to happen at the end of tonight, one way or another we as a nation will regroup, rebound and continue to progress forward. That’s the only option. That is democracy. What this grief trigger reinforced for me is that I can do nothing about the misgivings of the past, but I can lay the foundation for a better, healthier future. Let it begin with me. That is what I’ve done for myself out of the many wrong doings, traumas, tragedies and crises that have occurred in my life. It is exactly what I will continue to do — carry on. Peace.
Wisdom is a living stream, not an icon preserved in a museum.
Only when we find the spring of wisdom in our own life
can it flow to future generations.
~ Thich Nhat Hanh