Growing up · healing · healing · Mental Health

No Man is an Island – with thanks to John Donne

_DSC4065I recently had a significant emotional upheaval in my personal life and the most interesting thing about this difficult event is the light it shed on my own emotional growth.

Some years ago my husband and I read the book Wired for Love. In the doing, we recognized habitual patterns in each other/ourselves that helped explain a fair bit about our relationship. My knee-jerk reaction to most stressors (especially any that seem to threaten my own stability) is to distance myself as best I can. Yup. I’m an “island.” Whatever is unsafe or threatening is pushed away because I am safer on my own. Like so many other coping techniques that served to keep me safe in an unsafe and undependable environment growing up, this one had turned into a dysfunctional coping skill as an adult.

Back to what happened last week and my reaction – which was to stay the course. Hang in with the person, walk the walk with them and continue to be a part of their life. I rejected my island-like nature and embraced that person, warts and all because I recognize that they are fundamentally good for me and me for them.

As Donne said “… I am involved in mankind. … never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” I am a part of the world around me – I cannot divorce myself from it without diminishing my own emotional reality.

Growing up · healing · Mental Health · Travel

Outward Bound Women of Courage week September 2004. My testimonial

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Outward Bound Women of Courage September 2004

I swore, I struggled, I cried but my fellow trippers refused to let me give up or to give up on me. I was going to get that canoe from one end of the portage to the other on my own. And I did. Staggering onto the beach at the end, my face a mess of tears and my shoulders aching, I was overwhelmed. Not just by what I had done but how it echoed what I had done on that very day six years earlier. One of our leaders – Phyllis – came up to me as I sat by the water, hugged me and said “Happy Birthday mama.” Indeed. My boy’s birthday and that epic portage were on the same day.

What had brought me to that moment in my life was because Outward Bound had gifted me with the opportunity to join in a one-week long Women of Courage course. With me would be 8 other women all of whom were in various stages of recovery and 3 wonderful, giving leaders.

I made it through the week and it became a touchstone for my personal growth. I am in a loving and equal relationship now and have two awesome teen boys. I am thrilled to be in a position to give back to OB as a monthly donor. I love that the money I give will enable some other person to embark on their own healing journey, a journey that is guaranteed to move and touch them – and others in their lives – for the better.

healing · Mental Health · Parenting

My baby, my son, my young man

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Alex was an infant when he was born. A tautology? Yes. But what many didn’t see is that I (his mother) was also an infant at his birth … no more ready to be a mother than he was to be a baby. So, together, we grew. Most of the time he grew faster. He showed me his internal self,  in music first, then with ASL, and finally in words. Once the words started it seemed they would never stop. They poured out of his person, bubbled along his perambulations and lit up the crannies and corners of his emotional world.

I stumbled along behind. Falling, often, catching him almost never yet somehow always persevering. I had lots and lots of help. A therapist, many and various mental health professionals, an (invaluable) parenting support worker, and (gradually) the discipline and friendship I found in my martial arts. Throughout I was (almost) always following Alex’s forays, struggling to catch up.

And now I find myself looking up at him. He towers over me, stomping around in his size 11 shoes. He is just as verbose as he always was, and his intelligence is used mostly to figure out how to muddle through a school system that neither inspires nor engages him. Other people see more of him than I, his world is larger than our shared reality. As it should be.

I, too, have changed. I am more whole than I was, more present, more conscious. As I begin to explore the other side of 50 I find myself saying hullo to my own emotional landscape. I am happy, sometimes, sad, sometimes, and all that falls in-between. I am a mother, a step-mother, and a wife. But enough of me. The world waits for Alex, he is champing to get out there and be himself. Meanwhile, my role has changed. I stand back further, ready to catch him if he stumbles, and I watch him unfold, physically, mentally, emotionally. He is and always will be, irrepressible, verbal, gentle. My baby boy, my son, my young man, of whom I am very proud.

 

healing · healing · Mental Health

Words to live by

There is a brokenness out of which comes the unbroken,

The shattered out of which blooms the unshatterable.

There is a sorrow beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility out of whose depths emerges strength.

There is a hollow space too vast for words through which
we pass with each loss, out of whose darkness we are
sanctioned into being.

There is a cry deeper than all sound whose serrated edges
cut the heart as we break open to the place inside
which is unbreakable and whole, while learning to sing.

(Author unknown.)

I love this poem. My heart-mother shared it with me recently. She, upon whose compassion I shattered my old self, agonizingly, and then slowly rebuilt my soul, my life, my me.

She saved me, I grew her in her gift, together we are larger than we were before we met.