The past week or two I have been a little out of sorts. I could feel something within me that needed to be birthed, but I could not put my finger on it. It has been a busy summer, full of lots of fun activities, and plenty of work, too. I have been feeling tired, not in a physical way, but in an emotional way. Because there has not been a lot of time to think, or write my way out of whatever it was, I felt stuck. Last night, it finally dawned on me. The last few years, or more honestly, the last decade has been a really tough one, and while I have made it through to the other side and into a comfortable way of living, and loving others, and myself, I realized I had done what I have always done. I got through everything the Walt Disney way–“Keep moving forward.” When I stopped to look at everything that I had been holding inside of me it became abundantly clear that I had every right to be fully exhausted.
From childhood, it has been my habit to keep moving forward, making my way from one trauma to the next, with varying degrees of success, without ever really taking the time to stop and acknowledge what I have been through. I can stay it out loud, and know it intellectually, but all of that is done quickly, sweeping the dirt under the rug so that I do not have to see it anymore, or feel it. I clean houses for a living and I never sweep dirt under the rug when I clean a house, but I am the master of sweeping my own feelings under the rug, and moving on as if whatever it was had never happened. It has been a survival mechanism for me, but it has left me weary.
Certainly, there are benefits to going through life this way. I have had to start over many times, and move beyond some pretty huge things that might waylay many people for a very long time. I bounce back up from every knock that life gives me with the resilience of one of those blow up clowns weighted with sand at the base. You can punch them and punch them and punch them and they just spring right back up, seemingly indestructible. So, I bounce back up, I let go, I move forward, and I also pretend like nothing bad ever happened. I never take the time to honor the battle I have fought, feel the pain I carried silently throughout, or acknowledge that I have every right to be tired, or hurt, or angry, or sad.
I know now that I will continue to be tired until I allow each trial to be fully seen, felt, and honored for what it was at the time for me, and what gifts and lessons I gained from each hurt, and difficult experience. To continually deny all of the exceptionally hard experiences of the past decade is to deny a huge part of myself, because it has been those experiences that have brought me to the happiness and joy I have today. Through those pains and knocks, I learned to love myself, and to love and rely on God in a much deeper way.
My little boy is helping me to learn how to do this honoring in order to truly and fully release and heal. The child has a memory that is truly amazing, and so much of what he remembers are thing I would prefer under the rug. He has been speaking frequently of our dog, Tanner, who we left when we left the “blue house,” the house of horrors, and my marriage to the sociopath. Tanner was not a young dog, and I imagine Tanner is no longer alive. I have no idea what my ex-husband did with him, but my son wants to talk about Tanner and about all of the other animals he loved on our farm. It hurts me so much, and far too deeply to think about what may have happened to the animals we left behind, but do it I must now.
After I found half of our herd dead, and piled in heaps in a barn the winter before we got out, I shut down. Twenty-five or more animals starved to death, all the while I was being told they were “fine.” I will never really know what happened to those animals, and I thought I had shielded my son better, but he remembers so much, and now, three years later, he wants to talk about it. He needs to talk about it because he has been carrying the horror of all of that around for three years in his little seven year old body. At first, I was inclined to change the subject when my serious little boy brought awful memories up, but now I let him talk—we talk about it.
He is a much different child now than he was when we left three years ago. He is far more relaxed, and he is extremely resilient. He feels things very deeply, and now he needs to talk about those feelings, and as he finally does, there is less of what little anger he has had left every day. He is letting go the right way, and I will not hinder that process anymore by not being brave enough to feel the hurt myself. I will not teach him to sweep things under the carpet. Together we are learning to bring the dirt out into the light so that we can sweep it away for good. He is a brilliant teacher and a very kind and caring soul, wise way beyond his years.
So now I must stop, and look at it all, and give it all due space and honor and light—the dirt. I have to feel the hot tears rolling down my cheeks as I think of the awfulness of my drinking, and the arrests and jail time and the time away from my older children, now grown. I have to feel the pain of the relapses, and the rehabs, and the halfway house. I have to look at my marriage and the abuse we endure for far too long. I have to honor the time I spent in prison, having to leave my little boy for six months, and the sadness that brought me, which I hid from. I have to feel the weight of rebuilding a life from the ground up in the last year, single parenthood, and surviving the mother of all nasty, long, drawn out divorces and custody battles.
I have to feel that crushing pain and heaviness in my chest…the full weight and size of it–and I have to feel the hurt, and the anger, and the sadness. It has been in there for years now, slowly pushing its way up to the surface. Now that it is bursting out of me like hot lava flowing out of a long dormant volcano I can already feel the release of pressure. I have no plans to wallow, but I have no choice but to let it flow. The flow is all of the pus from wounds suffered but never treated properly. I am finally really healing and so I am going to treat myself like someone who needs quite a lot of tenderness and care for a bit. I want to make sure all of the dirt gets swept out for good this time. If I need someone to talk to so I do not impede my own healing process, I know where to go.
As happy as I have been in recent years, it has not been complete and now I know why. It is impossible to relax fully into joy and contentment and authenticity while you continue to deny a part of yourself. I am on my way now to a higher level of all around health and happiness. No more dirt under the rug for me. Yesterday, I took my serious, yet wacky, son to the playground. He sailed down one slide, landed on his feet at the bottom, threw open is arms and shouted, “I love life!” Do you know how long I have been waiting to hear him say those words–to just feel unbridled joy?
I hugged him hard and kissed him. Then I said, “You know what? I love life, too, and I love you!” It is all true. I do love life and I know for a fact that were it not for all of that dirt that has scared me so, I would not know the happiness that I do now. The dirt has served its purpose now. I stand, with broom in hand, ready to sweep it out as it continues to unearth itself. A clean start, and cleaner, lighter, fuller heart. We are really healing this time and we are doing it together. Yes, I love life!