Five years ago, I finally seemed to have the life that I'd wanted, the life that had been so elusive for such a long time. No longer carrying around the familiar feeling that I'd not quite made it, not quite lived up to my early promise, I had become the person I wanted to be. I'd created a wonderful job for myself as co-director of an award-winning holistic health project. I'd done up my terraced house. My son was thriving. I'd even met a professional man with a serious and important job title; a radical change from my previous boyfriends, mostly creative Bohemian types with intermittent incomes and dubious habits.
I felt sorted on other levels, too. All those years of self-development - therapy, homeopathy, healing, transpersonal psychology and the like - seemed to have paid off. My childhood pain far behind me, I was no longer the one that didn't fit in, the ugly duckling, the waif. I was looking good, into the bargain - fit and slim. Perhaps a little too slim.
And yet, in quiet moments, I had a palpable feeling that none of this was really The Point. An indefinable something seemed to be pulling me down and back. Despite its insistence, I ignored it. Now was not the time. I had too much to do - a new lover to keep up with, a project to manage, funding bids to write, a fitness schedule to maintain. A brittleness crept into me; I became controlling, harsher, more convinced of my rightness. It'd taken so many years and so much effort to reach this destination, I wasn't about to let it all go now.
Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, I crashed. I hit the wall at a hundred miles an hour, and it all began to fall apart. The structure that I'd tried so hard to hold together began to crumble. I'd known it was coming; despite my protestations, I'd danced with it, courted it. My house had been built on sand, and was no match for the storm.
The first few months passed in a blur of tears, sleepless nights, anxiety, dreams, terror. I veered from desperately trying to find some relief (from doctors, therapists, healers and friends) to trusting deeply and surrendering willingly. All that I'd ever evaded, avoided, or distracted myself from came visiting. Nearly every day, a fragment of the past, both deeply familiar and shockingly raw, came into consciousness, unbidden. Shame, anger, fear, sadness, anguish, grief, humiliation, hatred, love, yearning...the pain of a lifetime was laid bare, and me along with it. Much as I tried, there was no longer anything to hold onto, and I was adrift.
Agonising though it was, I was always clear on two counts. One, that I was hugely fortunate to understand - albeit dimly - that this was the bonfire of my vanities, the dissolving or burning up of all that was untrue. Two, that the only way out was through, and that I had to face it all head on, even if I did feel like I'd die in the process.
Every once in a while, when I'd descended more deeply than ever, I'd meet the divine in some guise or another. One afternoon, it became clear that around the age of six, I'd begun to believe that I was not beautiful. I felt the searing pain of that little girl, convinced of her ugliness. As I sobbed, the truth of my absolute beauty was revealed to me. Suddenly, I looked up through my tears and beauty was all I could see. Beauty was everything and everywhere, from the cigarette ends on the pavement and the neighbour's broken fence to the trees on the Forest and the clouds scudding by.
When a trusted and wise friend told me to read the books of A. H. Almaas, I did so right away. Slowly, my experience started to make some sense. This was about the falling apart of the false persona, the 'me' that I'd become in order to survive as a child. This was about the end of struggling, the end of effort, the end of becoming. Finally, I could begin to let go...
The way to the light is through the dark
Remember what has been scattered, scorned or neglected
Grieve for what has been lost, hurt or stolen
Atone for the times when you've been less than yourself.
In the meantime:
Drum, dance, write, play music, make art
And tell it like it is.