Until my 60th decade, I defined my life story by a handful of experiences, mostly sexual: the grooming of a childhood pedophile, a disappointing and embarrassing loss of virginity, a violent rape and other sexual encounters of my 20s, having two sons, coming out of the sexual identity closet. Additionally, there were three long-term relationships (all similar to one another) and leaving a well-paying job to attend graduate school (seen by me as a major high point).
There were other accomplishments in addition to graduate school: as a teenager, a first in a state speech contest for humorous interpretation; as an undergraduate, a well-received lead role in a college play (Blanche DuBois); a bunch of state and national writing awards from a professional organization; and the theatrical staging of some of my work. I’ve had solid performance and notable accomplishments in several jobs, and of course, raising three sons, now three grown men, all accomplished in their own ways. These stories rarely (but occasionally) make it into the stories I tell.
Woven through my life has been an on-going search for peace, contentment, self-acceptance, love and enlightenment. The experiences of this human life are, of course, the fodder and catalyst for the search for truth and meaning. Loads of psychotherapy, somatic therapies, classes, courses, reading and prayer filled the years and did have positive effects. I have grown — have learned that I am worthy, good enough, am welcome on the planet, was and am loved by my family, no matter how odd they find me. Very much good enough as mother, wife, sister, daughter, worker, and friend. Still I question: Is good enough good enough?
It appears that I’ve always wanted and believed myself to be exceptional. And I am, as are You. As are we all in some fashion: unique and exceptional. However, that is not my point in this moment.
This is the point: I want to tell a different story of this life. I think 70 years of observation is long enough to create some alternate perspectives. Each track, home, work, friends, traumas, is its own story. Each trauma is a vibration that continues to resonate by being continually re-struck. Or triggered, as current jargon proclaims. I have banged those drums to death. They are worn out and outworn. “I’ve been hurt.” “I’m so wounded.” “I’m such a mess.” Criminy, who isn’t! There is a real cry of pain, but repeat it often enough and soon its just whining. Plus, all that clinging has real consequences for physical and mental health—surgeries, depressions, endless pills with unwelcome side effects.
And the bigger picture is this: I am/you are a spiritual being having a human experience (okay, cliched by now, but still true-ish). In that context, there is no duality. Every experience is nuanced and interesting. Happy become sad, hope becomes despair, fear becomes love, and the harshest experiences in the world of form become the very ones which teach, elevate, and make us wise and strong. Which doesn’t prevent or stop the suffering they…bring, invite, create, deliver, predict, enable (please, choose your own word, I couldn’t decide).
Gaining some awareness, how do we choose? At what point do we recognize our responsibility and complicity in our own suffering? And when do we have compassion for the past present or future self as she struggles along the path. Whew, these are some high-flown thoughts and reflections. Honestly, I still hold fear of the path ahead — the physical and mental failure likely to accompany my aging and departure from this plain of existence. The challenges and choices of aging seem to me to be mostly about faith, hope and love. Also, the stories we tell and leave behind.
For fifty years, I told the same stories over and over, not realizing that by repeating them I was adding energy to the tales—internally and externally. Because, we are the stories that we tell of ourselves and those stories are far more about interpretation and emotion, than about fact. But humans, like water, can change their structure, can transform memories for healing purposes, can alleviate their own suffering. A tragic life can be transmuted and become gold. A victim story can become one of thriving and We are both crucible and alchemist. Developing self-compassion and intention are two of the keys to creating new stories. I am working on this. How about you?