I'm broken open now, but it wasn't always this way. Once I was closed off, tucked away, holding anything at arm's length which threatened to unveil me. A terror of letting go, relaxing, surrendering to the unknown, kept me pent up, buttoned up, scarcely breathing.
My perfectionism and need for control showed up in so many ways. First, in my body. Whether it lit up, or shut down, I ignored the daily signals I was receiving from my most precious navigation system. Instead, I catered to the smoldering pit that lived beneath my sternum for years. I thought it was normal to hold the embers of anxiety and rage safely inside, stoking the fires if they dulled. Or, sputtering out grief and ash in equal measure during those bitter times when I couldn't contain either.
Despite years of nurturing my treasured wound, I was so used to the pain, I did not know I was burning. I couldn't hear or understand the deep keening within, there was no way yet to heed it. There were, or course, the temporary reprieves that life can bring with its beauty: a profound conversation with an old friend, a delicately scripted movie encompassing life's fragility, the ending of a novel that wrecked me with its intensity. Those all felt like a calming balm on a heart aflame, but despite a brief soothing, there was never enough to heal the ache.
I worked through life's milestones like a task list. School, travel, a home, then marriage, a baby, a burgeoning shot at writing, and my career all kept me busy, distracted, and safe. My security blankets, perfectionism and control, kept me secure in my relationships too. There was no risk in my friendships, or my love, because I had built these beautiful walls around myself. I traded protection for isolation.
I resisted the flow of life, I resisted being at home with myself. There was so much striving, driving, jealousy and resentment tied up with a clawing ambition, I felt choked. There was so little love to be had, and to give; I rarely had rest from this war.
All the while inside the burning, and the keening. Inside, the hangover of a childhood with too much yelling, criticism and negativity, only relieved by far too much time alone. My grown-up self did what it was taught to do, and filled the quiet with echoes of what it had known. Most of the time, that was more pain. I played toxic patterns and behaviors on repeat, and asked the same of those in my life.
I did not understand the sacred effect of holding time and space, and how it allows our holy intuition to germinate. I thought if I read enough, wrote enough, tried enough, I could people-please my way to the light, finally break through to the surface where success lived, where I thought I'd find air, freedom and joy. I thought with enough pressure, the flowers would bloom.
Then came the stress of a new kind of mothering. Another baby, growing demands, and a postpartum pull down into a depth I had never felt before. After too much unexpected trauma over the course of a few months, I glimpsed a darkness that left me tottering on the edge of a terrifying plunge.
I plummeted downward for some time, vacillating between the mother and wife I didn’t want to be, and the whole and healed person I desperately wanted to become. Anyone who has juggled those precarious first months with two children, knows the pull that they exert, and how they demand incredible feats of your mind, and body as you stretch to accommodate several sets of needs at once.
Something beckoned quietly in the distance, and I was finally ready to see. A chance to understand myself better, and to begin patching up the festering trauma I guarded so fiercely. The release began slowly, through insignificant moments of peace, where there would normally be anger or worry. The distant reconciliation with myself finally came into view, after years on the horizon.
This “something” was new, and it included a far gentler approach to myself, than anything I had experienced before. It involved a new practice, a new way of being, where I came away learning how to sit with myself in meditation, how to lay hands with reiki, and how to fill those empty spaces with the deepest peace I had ever experienced.
This “something” now involves showing up alone to the quiet and just being, with nothing to clutter the space in my head, my heart. It involves a commitment to try for a happier life. It involves a promise to lay these same hands - once ordinary and useful - now a sacred medicine - on myself and others with healing divine energy, to release and heal all that lies within.
Being broken open now feels like a deep and abiding understanding. A nostalgic journey back to a place that exists buried inside of me (that I still sometimes forget to access) but that is more available than ever before. Now, broken open feels like a shedding and a wide-open valley of my heart, with breath, and freedom, and light pouring in like rushing water.
Now it feels like a deep, contented sigh. Now, I'm learning that we remain stuck or closed, until our soul finds the thing that is worth being broken open for. I'm learning what unfurling feels like, and the glory of becoming unglued. The irony is that this inner peace, this quiet and insistent thunder is as sensational as it sounds. It's as though I've finally exhaled.