We have two choices in life: to rise above or to stay below.
As I write these words, they are more of reminders to myself than anything else. I needed to write this today so that I can remember my own wisdom. Everything else – what you gain from this as a reader, what I gain from this as a writer from my audience – those are just the extra things (that I love, by the way…)
I believed that lessons lived at the bottom – in pain, in suffering, in loss, in depression, in confusion. I thought that when you hit the proverbial bottom, that’s where your lesson waited for you, like a somber gift, like a “hey, this is what you need to learn from this shittiness that you’ve lived.” And you take that lesson and you soak it in and there’s a breaking of sorts, where you can finally rise above and proceed with the goodness of life. Right? All green lights go. No more heaviness, because you’ve understood its message.
I have been at this bus stop, if you will, for a very long time. I’ve waited for my message, and it never came. And the waiting has been so detrimentally hard, that I’ve lost sight of any kind of rising. When you lose sight of that light, it gets dark really fast. So fast, that you think that you’ll never clear the dark again, that this is where you now stand (or sit). I think this is what depression feels like to many people who face it and can’t verbally explain it to folks who live in the light. It’s the only way I can put it into words, because this is how it feels to me, so I can only deduce that if we can’t wordsmith a feeling, it’s not meant to be put into words. It’s meant to be felt and then described with feeling. This is why it has taken me so long to start writing again, because how the hell do I write about my struggles when I can’t tag them to tangible words? How do I make sense of what I feel long enough to write about it, so that I can save myself and throw a line to others at the same time? And then I thought – “how do I write this with love and purpose and a message to the world so that, when it’s published, it will make sense and will be accepted? But, fuck that. This isn’t about publishing. This is me, chopping through my dark so that I can remember that I am still the goddamn light. And reminding you of yours…
At a very young age, I was rejected, emotionally, by my parents because they didn’t understand emotions – mine or their own – and because my needs for sensitivity and openness triggered fears in them they weren’t ready to face. In their own fears, they pulled away when I needed to be shown the way, and since then, I’ve lived with this trauma. Because I wasn’t seen or acknowledged or openly given affection by them, I became afraid to be seen for all of the things that I now cherish – honesty, open-mindedness, authentic love, and most importantly, the right and freedom to be emotionally alive. As I grew older, my fear of being seen kept me from being real. I hid behind what Glennon Doyle Melton called the representative. I put on a face in school and with my friends and later on in life, at work and within my passion and hobbies. I became someone who was fun-loving and carefree and willing to do everything for the greater good (but that really meant others), but inside and alone, I was still the little girl who wasn’t seen. And because of my lack of family affection, I created my own definitions of what love was: if it wasn’t returned, it was a rejection. And rejection meant that something was wrong with me, that I wasn’t enough. And no matter how much I justified rejection as a teenager and later as an adult, that childhood trauma grew. It grows every time I give it power to. In relationships, I became the version of my Mom, in the way I had wished she would have been to me. I gave and provided and supported, and I threw affection around like it was confetti. But I was damned if anyone would see me. That part of me – the part that cried and was emotional and shy and vulnerable to bare bone – that part was locked tight. And so, relationship after relationship fizzed out, because I went into it with my representative at the forefront, ready to speak out only on behalf of the pieces I was willing to show. I was attracted to men who were emotionally unavailable, like my parents were, and I became the woman in those men’s lives who was there to fix them, to show them the way to love, like I had wanted to be shown. And I became the martyr, over and over again, sacrificing my own self love for the greater good (but that really meant others, again…). And because I so badly ran from rejection, I surrounded myself with friends who were strong and resilient – friends who reminded me subconsciously of my Mom, who was like a rock in the face of anything that may crumple the heart. And because I wanted to also so badly belong and fit in, I became the friend who drove and paid and went along with every drink and drug and choice that was made on behalf of her, because what do you do when you oppose something but have no courage to speak out? You follow. You follow trends and nights blacking out and using guys for things, and being things to guys. You lose that feeling that you’re worth something, and one day, you wake up at 29 and you realize that something’s gotta give.
My life story could go on. I could share my traumas for an eternity, but this is where I can circle back to why I wrote this. We have two choices in life: we can rise above or we can stay below.
I’ve sat at the bottom of my depression with my traumas at my feet for a very long time, waiting for a moment where I can learn something from the choices I’ve made. The only real choice I’ve made, though, has been to keep sitting with what’s hurt me. When I started yoga and my training to become a teacher, I saw my traumas for the first time, and I so badly wanted to end them, to erase them right then and there. I believed that if I could push them away, my real life would begin, you know? I would be happier and more joyful and more eager to put myself out there, and really live! But I kept cycling back to rejection and lack of love and that crippling fear of being seen for who I really am. That fear has kept me from so much in my life. It has broken me in ways that have fueled my anger tenfold, only because I knew I was the one giving that fear more power than it needed. I was the one who was standing in my own way, who chose to sit down instead of rise above.
This is where I’m gonna get a little preachy. If you’re out there somewhere like me, waiting to heal your traumas before your life can start, please cut that shit out. You’re going to wake up one day at whatever age you are, and you’re going to wish you had more time to do the things you love and to love the people that you have. Please use that time.
Our traumas are never going to leave. We can’t wipe them out, because the lesson from them lies not at the bottom of the pain that they’ve caused. The lessons are in the moments that make us smile. I’m sure of it! They’re in the moments where we lock eyes with our forever after as we say our “I Do’s;” they’re in the divine seconds of seeing our child come into this world; they’re in simple moments where life just seems so fucking perfect; and they’re in absolutely terrifying moments like writing this post and showing it to the whole wide world. Because our traumas force us to get up and chose to rise above, even when we’re scared, even when we’re not seen, even when our legs shake. They remind us that every day and choice that is bestowed upon us is another chance to do it over again, to be better, and to tell our story.
I’ve known pain, but God knows, I’ve known love. I’ve sewn it myself. Each day that I can wake up and chose to write a line in my story is a day that I am glad to be alive, fully. To my friends, thank you for being mirrors to my story. Thank you for showing me that I do have a voice and a choice in how I live my life. To my parents, I am thankful in ways words cannot capture. You have put one foot in front of the other for miles of road that no humans should traverse, for the good of your children. You have given and you have taught, and most importantly, you did the best you fucking could with what you had. My pain is my own, but today, I gave it a voice. Today, I saw and I became seen. I can’t tell you how much love there is in that, but it’s infinite. It’s Godly in ways I can only hope everyone experiences. Even when you couldn’t show it, our paths led to love, and from a place of darkness, I finally found it. And now it’s time to share it with the world.
I know we all want to be seen. I know in my heart of hearts, we all want to be accepted and acknowledged and loved. My advice is that you be honest with what you want, but most importantly, with who you are. It’s a waste of time to wish people were different, and it’s not your job to change them or fix them or even hate them. Your purpose here is to never once hide behind the traumas that have crushed you, but use your pain to cut through the darkness until you find your love. My intention with this post is not to bring shame on my past or on my family life. The love that I have for my parents is insurmountable. Just yesterday, at the pool to which we belong for the summer, my Mom and I thought it would be fun to share an inner tube that looked like a pink-sprinkled doughnut. Naturally, we got stuck and laughed so hard, I thought she was surely going to pee herself and we would awkwardly need to immediately leave. That simple moment alone was a perfect moment, something that I hold in my heart like the greatest gift.
It’s memories like that, smiles and laughs we can share that define love for us. It’s not in what has hurt us; it’s how we use that pain for something better. But before we can make it better, we first have to give it a voice, and that means being seen — and with enough courage and knowing that this, too, is your divine gift.
Thank you for seeing me
and allowing me to be seen,