What Does Healing Really Look Like?

Image copyright: 123rf/nicku

Coffee with a friend can be filled with unexpected conversations. Over my friend JK’s latte and my mint tea, she shared that she was very disappointed in herself.

JK had divorced many years ago. Her children were grown and lived out of state. She did not move in the same social circles as her ex, had not seen him in ages and was very busy enjoying the new life she created for herself. Her comment surprised me. Then she shared this story.

A few weeks earlier she and another friend were waiting to be seated at a restaurant when JK turned around and suddenly found herself face-to-face with her ex…and she froze.

She didn’t remember what she said or if she even said anything. She simply shut down. Her friend gently took her arm, guiding her as they followed the hostess to their table.

Once they were seated JK started to shake. “What just happened to me?  The divorce was over ten years ago. I’ve worked so hard to heal. I don’t understand. Am I falling back down into that awful dark hole? I’m terrified of going through the pain it will take to climb back out again.”

“No, you haven’t fallen down any dark hole and no, you don’t have to climb back out of anything,” her friend said.  “Your body was simply trying to protect you. It felt danger and went into a flight or freeze reaction. I’m glad it chose to freeze and not run out of the restaurant on this bitter cold afternoon!”

JK told me she laughed, took a few slow, deep breaths and her panic subsided.

Now, as she sipped her latte, JK said that she assumed once she healed, she would simply move on. But our bodies have long memories, and sometimes it takes more time than we realize to reassure ourselves we are safe.

We decided healing isn’t a package with a bow that you receive as a reward for the hard work you have done. We didn’t want to imagine healing as that smelly onion with all the layers that you keep peeling off while they make your eyes water.

We agreed that healing was an adventure, an exploration. Whether the new scenery we encountered was dark and frightening or shimmering with light, it would constantly challenge our perspectives and often take our breath away.

Honor Your Story

Image copyright: 123rf/Alexey Poprotsky

On Sunday I went the book launch of “Watershed Moments,” a compilation of stories from individuals who had overcome dramatic events that changed the course of their lives.

The events the authors described were filled with pain, fear, and anguish. Each shared how these seemingly “end of the world” experiences were simply the end of one world and the birthing of a new one.

If you’ve ever given birth or watched someone give birth, you know there is nothing simple about it. It’s not easy. It’s painful. It takes time to heal and to understand the magnitude of the miracle that has come into your life.

It was true for each of these authors. Their transitions were definitely not easy and often painful. It took time for them heal and to understand that a miracle had occurred and that their future was once more, or for the first time, filled with hope and possibilities.

I’ve heard people say we need to give up the stories of our past so that we can write a new one. After reading this book, I believe we should not give up these stories. They are a part of our history, and we need to honor them, for they have impacted who we have become. We may have found or regained our power, our voice, our courage. We may have deepened our faith. We may have become more authentic. We now stand as the heroine of our own story and in the process inspire others to do the same.

How to Protect Our New Self

I have been watching a wonderful woman struggle with the decision of whether or not to divorce. She’s made it very clear that whatever happens— if her marriage stays together or if it ends— she is determined to change.

I’m humbled and awed as I watch her give birth to her new self.

Giving birth is painful. The pain often feels like it will never end and we will not be able to bear it. It is also messy, an emotional roller coaster.  Once it’s over, a new life is created for which there is no manual.

The most powerful thing we can do to protect this new life of ours is to speak our truth.

I do know amazing women who can’t even imagine not speaking their truth.

For those of us who have learned to be silent at an early age and for those who have been intimidated into silence, speaking our truth can be terrifying. If we say how we feel or what we want, someone will abandon us, humiliate us, rage at us or worse.

We become accomplished actors, smiling, laughing, staying busy with our lives, fooling others and ourselves into believing all is well.

When there is a crisis and we are pushed to go deep inside our hearts, we recognize that by not speaking our truth, our spirit has withered. What a tremendous loss. We understand that being silent is no longer an option. To protect the precious life we have birthed, we need to wrap it, swaddle it, in a blanket of truth, honesty, love, compassion and light.

Home for the Holidays

Going home for the holidays can be quite an adventure.

Some people fly home, while others drive across town. Some people open their home to family and friends, while others drive from one home to another, making sure all relatives are properly visited. Then there are those who choose to stay where they are, cozy and warm, snuggled together, eating popcorn and watching holiday movies.

There is also another home we are always invited to visit. It is the sacred “home” within ourselves. It is our core, the essence of who we are. Traveling to this place takes courage, patience, trust and love. And though there is never much traffic, we can easily get lost.

This trip home may begin by sitting quietly and simply being still, or we may be forced onto this journey when we experience great trauma or pain. We catch a glimpse of light out of the corner of our eye, and we must make a choice. Do we turn away or do we continue this search for ourselves?

If you’re wondering how to know when you’ve found this place, a dear friend sent me a quote that answers this question.

“You have looked at so many doors with longing, wondering if your life lay on the other side. Home is always by another road, and you will know it, not by the light that waits for you, but by the star that blazes inside of you, telling you that where you are is holy and you are welcome here.”

Becoming at Ease in Your Own Life

I recently had my furnace ducts cleaned. For some reason, this motivated me to clean the shelf in my kitchen where I dump everything I don’t know what to do with. Then, I began to clean out a drawer here and closet there.

When I started cleaning my oven, I began to worry. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d done this and wondered what in the world had come over me?

Was there something deeper, more vital, that I was really trying to clean?

Wouldn’t it be nice to just vacuum up self-doubt or scrub away fear? How about cleaning out the drawer where I stash all my anger and frustration to pretend they’re gone?

A perfectly clean home or a perfectly clean attitude need not—and I believe should not—be expected of any of us. Life is messy. Emotions are messy. We are going to spill coffee on the rug. We are going to have those little dribbles of toothpaste in the bathroom sink. Sometimes our fear is going to spill onto our faith, and sometimes our doubt is going to dribble all over our confidence.

Most of us clean our house on a regular basis, or at least once in a while! It’s wise of us to do the same with our emotions. What feelings need to be acknowledged and understood? How can we be kinder, gentler and more compassionate with ourselves?

What emotions can we learn from and recycle into wisdom and growth?

My hope for us all is that this work will deepen our relationship with ourselves and allow us to become more at ease in our own lives.