Prelude to Eruption

Everywhere you go, there you are.
Jon Kabat-Zinn

You can’t start a new chapter
if you’re stuck at the table of contents.
~ Fortune Cookie Journal

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Eight words.  Four steps.   This is the basic formula.  The formula to change you, to change your life;  to heal and repair from whatever happened in your life that got you here and has you stuck, lost, confused, joyless, empty, miserable, or living in perpetual state of overall bitchiness.   Eight words.  Four steps.  At the risk of sounding like a sideshow huckster, allow me to demonstrate…

Restless.  Irritable.  Discontent.   Inside I was smoldering with dis-ease over everything and everyone, everywhere.  Everywhere I went, there I was…smoldering.   Something was wrong – with me – yet I couldn’t put my finger on it.   The fire burning inside me was getting stoked, an upwelling was gaining;  the pressure was rising, momentum building.  I suffered silently, tried to at least, as the smoke around me grew thicker and darker in my mental agitation and physical discomfort.  I was righteously critical of others.  I had no patience and certainly no tolerance, and it kept growing.  I couldn’t concentrate; I couldn’t get anything done.  An eruption was inevitable if I didn’t triage myself.

If I don’t know what’s wrong, what do I do?  I’m having these familiar symptoms, but I don’t know why.  I want to know why, then I’ll know what to do.  Do I go back to my grief counselor?  I have, after all, had some weird stuff happen lately (read: Ghostly).  Maybe a different recovery group?  I am a studious proponent of 12-step recovery, I make no secret about it.  I am not anonymous when it comes to the value I place on 12-step recovery and the direct contribution its principles have provided in my own healing and awakening through grief, loss and living amid the diseases of addiction, alcoholism, and mental illness.  I’ve recently been studying the work of Melody Beattie, maybe I need to find a local Co-Dependant Anonymous meeting (aka, CoDA)?   The frantic questions kept coming while I attempted to dowse myself in literature – books I’ve read before, books I had to yet to read – faster, faster, it was gaining on me. I was praying and meditating with urgent desperation; fervently begging, pleading, sweating for direction and answers to put out the fire.  I’m watching TedTalks and YouTube videos of some of my all-time favorite, aspirational teachers.  What the hell is wrong with me?  Tell me.  Tell me now!  I need know!  My anxiousness was being fueled by the very restless, irritable and discontented feelings inside because I wanted those answers and I needed them – STAT –  like a junkie who needs a fix, or the spiraling alcoholic on a bender needing the booze.    I’m being inexplicably haunted by old SMO, who has been dormant for a quite some time and all internal signs were pointing to an eruption, with no answer why, and it was scaring me.  I don’t want to go back, back to being be that SMO, with that life.  Help me, please help me.  Two words:  inexplicably haunted.

An unfolding, delayering – call it peeling the onion – recurs during an active recovery, transforming, growing, evolving, healing process which 100% requires dormant fires of your life to be wrestled up in order to be released and extinguished.  Little did I realize there was a dormant fire that needed to be extinguished.  While reading Melody Beattie’s breakthrough book, Codependent No More, my dormant volcano was defined in six words:  unfinished business; deal with the feelings.  One thing that bites me in the ass, every now and again, is the arrival of this proverbial next layer.  Do you ever bottom out from all this discovery recovery?  Are you ever really done?  Does the volcano ever actually die?  My friend, Lisa, humorously likes to remind me “Yes, when you stop breathing.”  Oye, that’s never the reply I want hear, yet it is always the answer I need to hear.

It was this same friend, Lisa, who I turned to when my unfinished business was revealed to me, shortly after I finished the ‘Camp Shame‘ essay.  That’s when the internal bubbling progressed into a boil, its lava oozing out into my life.  I had unfinished business with that relative I wrote about.  There were repressed and suppressed feelings and emotions I never got to directly say eye-to-eye, heart-to-heart, daughter to mother:  pain, heartache, heartbreak, anger, disappointment.  Decades of pain – my pain –  had gone unexpressed by me.   I kept shoving it back down whenever it surfaced, she can’t hear it, isn’t able or willing to receive it. “Why bother?” I consistently asked myself.  I am a smart, intellectual, soulful, loving woman, this is not who was revealed to me in this disturbed state I found myself in.   Who was revealed was the hurting little girl, the still hurting adolescent, the continuing pain-filled teenager, the emotionally bankrupt young adult, now a mother herself.  I never confronted the pain I carried.  I never dealt with it head-on, direct with her.  I never seized an in-your-face blow up to vent how much she hurt me.  I don’t give a damn that she her self had been hurt or was hurting.  Intellectually, sure, I completely understand.  I had made intellectual peace with her story as I knew it (read:  One Thing), but emotionally there’s no excuse and I feel gypped every time I am reminded that I don’t have the privilege to spew at her.   My wounded spirit needs nurturing, needs love and needs to be heard.   When it’s your parent who’s incapable of providing that, well, it’ll fuck you up.   And it will fuck with your life until you deal with it.  Sit in the mess of your feelings and emotions and deal with them.  You cannot dodge it, you cannot avoid it.  It’s gonna show up….eventually.   Often it’s this very experience that can trigger relapses for addicts.  I never seized that in-your-face blow up venting opportunity, I never really got one.  So, I just chalked it up – time after time – to a lost hope, lost cause and shoved every emotion and feeling back down inside.   Suppressing and repressing our feelings is hazardous to our health — emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually.  Mine had been stoked – revealed – and it was time to feel, deal, and heal them once and for all.   Four steps:  reveal, feel, deal, heal.

**Halftime Pause**  If you’re paying attention, maybe even taking notes, this is halftime in my demonstration.  The formulaic eight words and the four steps have been presented.  Got ’em?   Now on to the second half:  applying the formula.

The work within the formula – eight words, four steps –  is about bridging the gap of intellectual understanding with actually healing the emotional wounds in the heart.  This fusing process, as I like to call it, marries intellect with spirit thus lasting healing is achieved.  Simple, right?  Sure, but it’s not necessarily easy.  This work is done at the fibrous and cellular level of who we are and our histories.  Deep down.  Deep shit.  The only way there is layer by layer.  It is only revealed to you at a time when you are willing, able, and ready to do deal with it – spiritually.  Simple, yes.  Easy?  Sort of, but not for everyone.

If you’re stuck in your life, secretly hate yourself or hate how life is going for you, and are mentally and emotionally attached to some part of your past, there’s a hole in your soul that is aching to be healthy.  You’ve heard the psychological term, ‘inner-child’.  Essentially that’s it, though I’m not a fan of the term, it is what it is.  My inner-child’s pain in her various life stages was screaming to be tended to.  She was having a melt-down tantrum in the form of this dormant internal fire inside me; the longer it was being left unattended it continued to smolder, awaiting for just the right climate condition, or tipping point that stoked it to full eruption.  To end the cycle, extinguish your volcano, you need to implement the formula:  eight words, four steps.  Think of it as a spiritual healing-form of heart surgery.

My implementing application process went like this…

Unfinished Business:  Acknowledge and recognize I got stoked – by a relative –  and the stoking source,  my own mother,  and I have unfinished business.

Reveal:  Unfinished business for me is verbally expressing in entirety the pain in my heart which affected my life, caused by her.  I want to verbally explode on her, direct to her but I can’t – never could – because of her.

Deal with the feelings:   When the reveal was made clear to me, I had a melt down.  The eruption started as I sat in my study, tucked in a chair, books, and journal in my lap. My study is a sanctuary space where many healing ah-ha’s have been revealed.

Feel:  Alone the in the study, (be in a safe, comforting place) I talked out loud as stuff was coming to the surface.  I listened to my own words, the language I used, the tone of voice, the energy within the voice.  Anger and sorrow mixed together.    I want to yell.  I want tell her off.  I want to pick up the phone and explode right now directly to her.  I’ve never done that.  I can’t do that, she’s not well.  I’m mildly hyperventilating, and I ache inside from head to toe, I’m home alone and talking out loud:   I want to request, no, strike that, I want to demand you go away and stay away.  You did damage, plenty of it, and your consistent defiance of any accountability or responsibility is baffling, appalling, offensive, hurtful and is not permitted in my life.  Period.  You never own your part, you don’t want to.   You refuse to admit you yourself are responsible for the non-existent relationship you have with your children and only grandchild.  You’re blind to the reality you have exactly the same non-existent, toxic, dysfunctional relationship with me you had with your own mother, yet you don’t seem to care for it to be any different.  You carried all that dysfunction forward and created the same mess with your own children.   You keep making it worse.  Ok, fine, that’s you’re choice, I accept that.  That does not mean you get to psychologically belittle or diminish me anymore because of it.  Go away now, stay away.

Deal:  Step five in the 12 steps says, ‘admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.’  For me this exercise is admitting my wrong of suppressing and repressing my feelings and my emotions, all my life as it specifically relates to this relative with whom I have this piece of unfinished business.   The unfinished business of growing as a whole-hearted, fully expressed human being.   I call Lisa, tell her what’s happening with me while asking a favor of her.   I’m borrowing a grief recovery technique I learned while working with Amber on how to mend relationships after someone dies.  It’s also the very same technique used in Step 9 of the 12 steps – ‘made direct amends whenever possible, except when to do so, would injure them or others.’ – this technique is used when someone we want to amend with has passed or there are other special mitigating circumstances where personal safety may be a concern – theirs or ours – physical or emotional.  I’m writing a letter.  If you had an opportunity to uninhibitedly say what is on your mind and heart, without fear or worry of retribution or retailiation, what would you say?  Write it down and let it rip.  Don’t hold back.  “Lisa, I need your help,” I said.  I explained I was going to write a letter and wanted Lisa to act as my surrogate, someone I can read it out loud to in-person, face-to-face, eye-to-eye.  I need someone I trust who will listen without judgement, criticism, condemnation or prejudice.   Allow me the healing space to say it all, out loud and release the pain with it once and for all.  Plus, by the time I’m done, I know I’ll need I hug.  “Lisa, will you help me?”  “Yes, absolutely.”  “I’ll call you when I’m ready.”

Heal:  Two days later I texted Lisa, “I’m ready.”  Life is short, as Ferris Beuller taught me, I don’t have time to messing with this ancient old nonsense anymore, nor do I want to (that is a key factor:  desire and willingness)   The next day Lisa and I met at her home, just the two of us, a quiet safe sanctuary space.  I read her my 8-page hand-written letter on notebook paper as if I was giving a oral report.  Appropriate since I was dealing with issues as far back as my last oral report in school, and beyond.   There were tears, there was kleenex, there were questions, there were a few f-bombs and there was healing.  I was feeling better.  I was lighter inside myself;  a burden had lifted, an old injury was healed.   Three weeks later the test came when I discovered a second shaming swipe had been attempted on a video on my YouTube channel.  The timelimes of the cruel comments were the same, what was different this time was me.   No smolder.  I extinguished the old wound. Healing had occurred.

In summary, it boils down to eight words:  inextricably haunted, unfinished business, deal with the feelings that will change your world, your life and how your are in it.   Four steps will get you through it:  reveal, feel, deal, heal.    Otherwise an eruption, your eruption – new or continuing – eruption is inevitable.  It won’t go away on its own.  You are worthy of love, peace, harmony and happiness in your life – right now, today and going forward – no matter what happened in the past.

Dig in, excavate your dormant volcano:

  1. Who or what inextricably haunts you?  Is it a specific event or episode in your life?  Is it a person?  Who?  What are the emotions and feelings that come up?  I correlate emotion as the deep sensation inside my body, my heart.  I define feelings (or mood) as the external description of the emotion inside.  For example:  Pain is an emotion (inside the body, the spirit, the head) the feelings are anger, joy, sadness, loneliness, pride, etc.
  2. What is the unfinished business with your who or what that is inextricably haunting you?    Be as specific as possible.   Trust me, it’s causing a block in your life in one way or another.

Four steps:  Reveal. Feel. Deal. Heal.

  1. Revealing is automatically happening as you sort through the unfinished business.  Capture it.  Write down.  Say it out loud to yourself.   Allow it to surface.
  2. Feel the emotions.  Most of whatever it is is pain, unresolved, unacknowledged, unexpressed pain.  Be gentle and kind with yourself in the process.  Allow it to rise up, be released, purge it out.   Work with someone if necessary:  a therapist, a recovery sponsor, a counselor, a trusted friend.  You may be able to go it on your own if you’d done the process before.
  3. Deal with it.  Action.   Identify what you need to do, want to do to finish the unfinished business.  Reach out for support, surrogates, resources as necessary.
  4. Heal.  The prize of healing is freedom, spirit freedom, renewed confidence, increased self-esteem, self-worth, self-love.  If sounds selfish, it is.  Because this your life you’re dealing with, no one else can do it for you.    You will be better on the other side.

May my story help you heal.  Peace.

 I was never insane,
except upon occasions when my heart was touched.
~ Edgar Allen Poe

Live your life from your heart.
Share from your heart.
And your story will touch and heal people’s souls.
Melody Beattie

Healing Paradigms Through Politics

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.
~ Pascal

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.

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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