November 2004. I am lying on the floor in the middle of a big circle of fellow warriors at my retreat in Kentucky, And I am sobbing. Not one of those cries where a tear gracefully slides down my cheek. No, this is a full on, body heaving unleashing. I can’t catch my breath. I am moaning like a wounded animal, which in that moment I am. Finally. my breath steadies and the tears ebb. I am light headed. But lighter. Freer. I can’t tell you how many times I repeated this process in the 90 days I was there.
I had never cried like that I didn’t know I needed to. Most of us don’t. I was not having a psychotic episode or a break from reality. I was grieving.
Nobody had died a physical death. So what was I mourning? I was mourning the loss of who I thought I was. The loss of who I had to be to survive in my family. The loss of my story about my childhood. The loss of how I related to other people and myself. The loss of anything solid and sturdy. My worldview had been completely flipped on it’s head. I felt like I was standing on quicksand, desperately searching for something to grab on to so that I could pull myself to terra firma.
But there was nothing. I just had to free fall. Down, down, down. Spinning further and further into blackness, into this place that I had been terrified to go for years. A place that was unfamiliar and scary. I could not see two feet in front of me. I had to keep my arms out zombie style to keep from bumping into things. And I still did. I stumbled. I tripped. I fell. I cried out in pain as I kept banging up against things I could not see, did not want to see.
And yet I kept going. Inching forward as best I could. What choice did I have, really? To go back? At this point, the path had gotten too twisty and I had taken too many detours. I could not find my way back to where I had begun even if I had wanted to. And believe me, I wanted to. To make it all stop. To be blissfully ignorant and pretend I did not know what I knew. That the pieces of my life had not been utterly rearranged in unrecognizable ways.
But it was too late for that.
So I forged ahead. Again and again. Over and over. Each wave of loss still took me under, but as I allowed myself to to submerge, I surfaced more quickly, less destroyed each time.
At some point- I could not tell you when or how- I realized that every breath did not feel like I had been stabbed in the chest. There were moments that I actually laughed, and the tears falling down my face were tears of life not soul- shattering death. I walked taller. I breathed deeper. My body relaxed and softened. I felt aliveness coursing through me, gleefully pulsing in my veins.
On my last day there, I remember standing on the deck overlooking the Kentucky mountains and the softly falling rain. There was absolute stillness. Perfect quiet. I reflected on all it had taken me to get here. The sacrifices. The willingness. The extraordinary courage. The crippling pain.
And I became grateful for them all. I could see now in my rearview mirror that it took every bit of suffering before I would surrender. And that it was worth every tear I cried, every uncomfortable moment, every bit of rage I had released, every layer I had shed. It was so worth it.
With my heart full, I realized that THIS was the feeling I had been searching for my whole life. The one I had tried to find with food and men and whatever was handy at the time.
It was the feeling of belonging. Of loving myself. Of finding home.
And all along, that home had been me.
This us why I do the work that I do. This is why I deeply understand how brave my clients are for submitting to the life/death/life cycle of this beautiful, terrifying process.
And this is why I know it’s possible for you to find home in yourself, too.