Young Evelyne dashes through the sanitarium her grandfather founded, the one where her entire family works and gathers, and where she is used to seeing the faces of the handicapped, the infirm, as they strive to heal. As she carefreely explores this curious playground, pondering if perhaps she’s invisible, she has no idea that she will one day carry a handicap of her own—one perpetrated on her as a child that, though buried deep within, will cripple her emotionally, physically, and spiritually for decades, affecting each of her relationships.
When we think we've GOT it, finally! Moments in our journey when we feel we have landed, arrived, graduated. We rejoice by assigning new meanings to things, people, words... Only to discover that it was all a temporary joke. A illusory break before the real lessons are delivered. But for a little while, it's fun, and worth taking to the heart bank.
I'm so happy to hear again and again one good thing about our COVID times: people are reading. Who's ever heard of a 777% increase in book purchases (according to a CNBC report). That's astounding! Unfortunately, that hasn't happened to me. I used to be an AVID reader - as evidenced in my memoir. Books were my family, my teachers, my guides, my friends. Then I had babies. Then they went to school and reading re-emerged. Then COVID...and no more school. I am exhausted by the end of the day. Eyes blurry, brain unable to imprint words. One thing I can do though: read a few lines of poetry, to uplift the heart. And connect with love, through the body. Anchor here daily, in the body, in love. This excerpt is the last chapter of my book - an opening into the possibilities I am now living. Healing, hope...reading helped me along the way. I cannot read, but YOU CAN!
The process of healing demands from us the capacity to hold the incongruence of our experiences. And the doorway is: quiet. Only in stillness can we practice the safe experiencing of a memory of wonder tipping into a shadowy one. Quiet, sitting still, accepting the moment as it is, feeling how the breath anchors us into the present... Eventually we develop this capacity to hold the dissonance. We can stitch into a coherent narrative the experiences of the past, and allow them to coexist in our hearts...until they dissolve into the compost that nourishes our present being.
"It's Never the Circumstances" my Network Care practitioner used to tell me. Of course she is right. It doesn't really matter what happens. What matters is how I choose to see it. That changes with time, experience, perspective. But the fact is: life is Oh So Much Sweeter when we choose to see the Gift in any situation--even trauma, even when it takes years (decades) to fully unveil itself.
There is something vaguely familiar to me in this current COVID life. I am reminded of the times when everything was upended, and I floated uncomfortably between two worlds, expelled from one but not knowing how and where to land in the new one. And the only real friend in that awkward space was: time. I feel at a slight advantage right now: Europeans seem to still have a more amiable relationship with slow time than Americans. We've had more practice at taking proper breaks, at vacating the hamster wheel. And also: experience has showed me that, in time, we do land, we do find the new rhythms, and that change, though hard, leads to growth. Which is life.
This is what I learned, riding the semi-wild pony Boogie-Woogie: it doesn't matter how terrified you are, you've got to hang on. Later in life, I developed the motto: "where there is fear, there I must go..." Terror can simply not rule your life. It's there, yes, and for good reason at times (there's an uncontrollable galloping horse underneath you!). But if you can just hang on--and maybe even, a little bit, enjoy the ride? You will get to the other side, exhilarated, proud, more alive than before. Thank you, Terror. What fears did you face this year? #Halloween #Halloween2019 #TrickOrTreat #CreepingItReal #HappyHalloween2019 #BooToYou #Fear
I am obsessed about healing...only because it is the first step to wholeness and living a true, full life. What I really want to talk about now that I have cleaned up the dark corners is: what's next? What wonders will come our way when we are healed, and whole? These days, my theme of obsession is PARTNERSHIP. I've done the divorce thing, the healing thing, the finding myself-thing...all of it because I was on a quest to heal the rift between our sexes, and to live in true partnership. But in order to do that, I had to go down a pretty ugly road. "Facing the Crud," as I call it, is the first step on the journey to healing. We must do it as individuals, and we must do it as a society. No more averting eyes in disgust (and shame.) Look, really look at it. Then forgive, let go the stories, and LIVE.
I could have stopped at the realization. I could have just gone to my therapist, and gone on with my steady life. But no, I could not. The story was shaking me daily, demanding to be written. It would not let me rest. Because of this story, I dismantled the then most important relationship of my life (with the father of my children!) I spent every cent I earned from the flash sale of our family home. I dedicated myself to writing, then to slogging through editing, every day for months. I even did MDMA! Complete square me! in order to access and release memories for this book. I did *not* look for a regular job. I did *not* pursue agents and publishers - the story was kicking me in the guts, demanding to be birthed into the world, today, not tomorrow, not on someone else's timeline. I did the best I could, amidst financial worries and housing crises, to love this story. To honor it. To publish it. This book is a true labor of love.
It is one of those truths that sounds trite because so overheard and so little experienced: peace - it begins with me. My story is one of battling within every one of my intimate relationship. That battle only ended when...I stopped battling with myself. It took decades of relentless self-inquiry, and faith. And lots and lots of generous people along the way, dedicating themselves to helping others heal in one way or another. Peace outside (in our relationships; in the world) will manifest when we find the one inside. The inner work comes first. I pray every day that this Truth be revealed...Thy kindgdom come...
I took a lot of deep dives in my life. The romantic in me paints them as courageous. The cynic snickers that they were boneheaded and selfish. My inner psychoanalyst has a lot, lot more to say about the recurring exploding of the status quo and the running away... But all that is for 20/20 multi-faceted hindsight. When I was going through the 'decision-making' process of wrecking my second marriage, everything seemed to make sense. The truth appeared absolute. The emotions, so strong, absolutely real. And well-founded! The grown-up I am now is ashamed that my younger self couldn't find a better, more dignified way to begin unraveling a bad relationship. But I am also able to have much compassion for this younger woman with limited tools and baggage as yet unacknowledged. Who is to say that a move was 'wrong' in the grand scheme of one's life? Yes, out of integrity. But what a lesson. It's the accumulation of these moves and lessons that got me where I am today...and for which I am so grateful.
I always admired people dedicated to their careers. And envied their grit, competence, and success. Me? I was going through life so befuddled by everything, my troubled self so much in my own way that I couldn't seem to accomplish anything of any worth. Yet, with the perspective of time, I now see that I DID devote myself to something worthwhile: my own discovery, and healing. I dedicated myself with passion to the inner journey. Invisible to others, unrewarded financially, with no external accolades but...I felt such a sense of responsibility NOT to burden the world with my dysfunction. I treated it like any discipline one wants to get good at, hiring coaches, reading books, training in the most ridiculous exercises, embarrassed very often, but determined nonetheless. The answer to the burning question: was it worth it? A resounding Yes! The result of this inner journey is a richness unequaled by anything the outer world could provide. As for the reward? Not a medal, not money...but the greatest thing we humans came here for: the deep experience of Love.
You could say I'm a word nerd. I do love language(s). I get off on etymology, orthography, slang. But over the years I learned to go beyond the superficial attraction of the word itself, and feel into its depths. There is energy behind words. And depending on how you wield them--the energy you tap into to express them, how and who you offer them to--they have tremendous power. In this excerpt, I discover that, although I had used words for decades to self-soothe and introspect, their power was multiplied when they were actually received by other human beings. Sharing a deep experience, in words, with many people, effected a profound and almost instantaneous healing--akin to things I'd read in alternative medicine writings about prayer. Could it be that words, truly, have magical powers?
Memoirs--and their publication--are such a practice in vulnerability. Sure, revisiting my past, through writing, was cathartic. A form of cleanse. Better put on paper these words and stories and emotions that are energetically backing me up. But that's only the beginning. Because then other people will read them! Process them in their own ways. Help digest them, to a point... In order for that to happen though, the Gates of Publishing must be crossed. And again. And again. And how to answer the riddles presented at each of them? What should I reveal about my memoir in order to be let through? That it is not, really, about divorce, but about the trauma that led to repeated failures in relationships? Would the topic of trauma attract, or push readers away?
Mood is a tricky thing. At least it has always been for me. And one of the big lessons of my life has been to learn that my mood is not at the mercy of external circumstances. It took some work though...I used to think of myself as a baby mussel, tossed about by the ocean waves because I do not have a strong foot anchoring me to the rock. It all started with this magical moment in Los Angeles. I'd never thought of myself as spiritual or 'guided.' But that day something compelled me to listen to 'deep inside' rather than to the chatter of the mind that used to rehearse on a loop the 'problems' of my (past) circumstances. I willingly took part...and yet I am aware of the energetic dance with our outer world because, I am convinced of it, it is the year of nourishing California sun that helped my brain tune out, and tune in.
Most of us, I'm sure, were defined and molded by the landscapes and places of our childhood. But I only realized recently how odd the dominant stage of this little girl's daily life was. In fact, this is how cathartic writing, and especially memoir writing, can be: I had never thought much of growing up near the prosthetic clinic that my grandfather founded in the late 60's. Most members of my family worked there. I could leave my house, run around the corner, cross the street, and strut like I owned the place. But it was also very strange - a 19th Century chateau whose charm had been stolen by a modern (then) medical conversion, dynamics of a workplace out of something like Mad Men, and amputees roaming with wheelchairs or crutches, the scars on their cut-off limbs exposed. It was my normal - and it wasn't until I paused my life to write about it that I was struck by how out-of-the-ordinary my childhood was. Could that be what makes me hungry for an out-of-the-ordinary life?
It seems so simple when you re-read about an experience you've had. It's all packaged, smoothed out. But when I was going through this decision-making process, I could barely eat, sleep, think even. My body was braced for impact, I was terrified about the consequences of what I could no longer avoid. Is it decision then, at this point? Or has the decision already been made and you move into action? Some people stay in limbo for a long time, or even forever. Knowing what needs to be done, but incapable of taking the logical next step. As terrifying as this forthcoming divorce was for me, it was still better than staying, and not living. As always, I chose My Life.
I did a lot of personal work in order to heal from trauma. And in spite of the compassionate help I received from therapists and various practitioners, I often felt very alone. Then I started working with a coach. She was like (and now is!) a dear friend. Sitting on the couch with me, involved in my life, her '6x project' approach very action-oriented, she guided me to go deep within myself, but also step out into the world. At this point in the book, I am really trying to move beyond limitations. She has me work on a letter...then she asks me to make it public! That was terrifying...but the energetic power of community (thank you Facebook!) was absolutely transformative. And paradigm-shifting. We are not alone - we cannot truly heal alone.
As long as I could remember, I'd wanted to travel. I had no idea where that desire came from, and it also terrified me! Years later, I read about intelligent young women who planned interesting trips with social or environmental or creative goals, way ahead of time. Me? I worked one summer, and bought a ticket to New York. And then - story of my early life - I met a man. And I followed that man. When I tell people about traveling in my early twenties, they often react with admiration. But in writing this book I wanted to be brutally honest. Yes there were great things about leaving my home country of France. It opened my narrow mind in countless ways. But it wasn't all that fulfilling. And wherever I went in the world, there I was, face to face with...me.
Some things are just so obviously wrong in our lives, and yet we try and try to make them work. We grew up being taught that if something isn't hard work, it's not worth it. What that led me to, unfortunately, is putting much effort into many things--especially relationships--while ignoring the massive red flags. How do you know when you should let go of something? Do you wait until it is *really* horrible? Do you quit when *it's not working for you*? Where is the line between being boneheaded and a quitter? I learned through my failed relationship that when I do not listen to my intuition (emotions/body) and forge ahead against current...things eventually fall apart.
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