Updated: Mar 4
Damn it. Here it is again. That feeling. Numbness and disconnection, irritability and withdrawal. After all the personal work I've done, how have I only arrived here ... in this state which feels exactly the same as back then, when I was a teenager, a lonely child?
In the day-to-day world, I live my dream life. I am supposed to be full of joy and energy. The depressed days, the frustrated days, the lonely and empty days - they're all supposed to be behind me. What's wrong with with me? Why can I not enjoy the experiences I've toiled for a lifetime to create?
These thoughts flood my mind and I watch them. Chemicals change in my brain with the sun and the rain, and these thoughts just keep ripping and roaring through my consciousness. Roaring like the wind. Some days are windier than others.
I walk up a steep incline along the narrow cobblestone path leading to the Greek villa we've called home for the past month. Here, in the quaint mountain village of Portaria, Thessaly, my boyfriend and I have decided to catch our breath after breaking ties with our congested lifestyle back in the United States. The day is gray, foggy, cool enough to wear layers, but not frigid enough for a winter coat. The weather seems oppressive, but if I lift my head long enough to take a look around, the oppressive thinking dissipates: gone, with the wind.
On most mornings in Portaria, I swing open the balcony doors and welcome the fresh air into my lungs. I listen to thousands of bees buzzing in the foliage. I bring awareness to the bottoms of my feet. I want to feel myself grounded here, within my body, on the earth: present. On such days, the lights are on within the temple of my soul. I slow down to descry the insects. One day I couldn't quit laughing after a rare sighting: a bee swooped down like a helicopter to scoop a dead fly from the ground, and away they went to conduct some mysterious business. On many days, I can find joy in simplicity. I muse over the bounty of this land: trees offering fresh figs, walnuts, and olives, bushes full of blackberries, and neighbors who can't speak a word of English, who happily ring the doorbell on Saturday morning, bearing armfuls of organic produce from their garden.
To live in a place where hunger is impossible - this is a tremendous blessing. I have worked in communities where people are starving. I was born in a community where kids go hungry. I know hunger pain, and so many other kinds of pain.
My body, mind, and emotions knew trauma early in life. My current life is a stark contrast from the past. I am well, and survival is not a fight. My conscious mind knows that there's so much for which to be grateful, and so little to lament. But this knowing does not change the fact that some days are windy, and when they are, mental and emotional debris cyclone through my inner world. The lights within my temple flicker, and dim, and fade. Sometimes, it seems, there is a total blackout: a power outage of the soul.
Sometimes, it seems, there is a total blackout: a power outage of the soul.
On the really windy days, an invisible wall separates me from the world, and especially from him: the lover and friend who listens more intently and empathizes more expertly than any lover or friend I've ever kept. But when the lights in the temple are out, I cannot see him, nor feel him. He morphs into some intruder from my past, some person who will come only to leave, one who will judge me or violate some trust. No, I cannot let him into this dark temple, and if he tries, I will fight.
It is not him that I fight against, but what he represents. For his presence is a reflection of the spark I carry, the spark which never yields, the spark that could illuminate this entire temple ... if that's what I wanted to choose.
Why wouldn't I choose that? Why would I want to carry on here amid this windstorm - this inner state which shackles me to the perceptions formed during the darkest hours of my life? Why would I choose to relive the feelings of the past within this moment of the present? Who says I really have a choice? How dare they! Do they even know the hell I've endured? The fight I've put up to even make it to now? Don't tell me it's a choice!
These thoughts flood my mind and I watch them. Chemicals arrange in my brain and body to support this impenetrable wall I've built around the temple. I feel anger. So angry I could punch ... this pillow. "Take that! Take that! Take that!"
The wind howls as it rips through my brain and body, tensing the cells of my neck and clenching my jaw. Adrenaline rushes through my system, and a part of me is pleased that I've broken through the numbness to feel something.
As a human post-trauma, I'll welcome anything to save me from the numbness, for numbness is a reminder that something was stolen from me, and in the place of this missing piece remains a dark and lonely hollowness. It's not that I don't want to be "normal," it's that sometimes I feel like an old idea, frozen in space and time. The ice is so thick that to even think of participating in life during these times is a farce. After all, everything that brings joy is also a reminder that the joy may one day become pain. Feeling this immobilized after all the personal empowerment work enrages me more than anything.
As a human post-trauma, I'll welcome anything to save me from the numbness, for numbness is a reminder that something was stolen from me, and in the place of this missing piece remains a dark and lonely hollowness.
"YAH!" I punch the pillow again. The anger makes me feel alive. The thud of the pillow taking the impact brings my awareness back into the room, into the temple of my soul, and something sparks. I can feel and sense my breath. So heavy, so loud, so alive. Here I am again: present.
My heart rate begins to slow and I curl into the fetal position beneath the blankets. Such warmth on such a cool, gray, and windy day, such comfort. I place pillows around my entire body, and lay two over my body. I breathe in, and feel my belly press against the support of one pillow. The debris of the mind slows its rapid spin. I can now feel my back pressing against the other pillows. Just like a hug. I am sheltered, supported. I can feel this. I notice feeling grounded inside of my body, no longer being carried away by the wind.
Some days are like this. Other days are full of silliness, laughter, and contentment. But most days begin with a mixed forecast: Windy, with a chance of freedom.
But within the temple, there remains an undaunted spark, endowed with the power to shift and flip the entire forecast.
All that personal growth work has reaped something. For much of my life, I did not realize that thoughts and emotions are conditions. Hell, I didn't even really understand what "the human condition" was referencing. But then, being in a constant state of denial and self-rejection doesn't leave open the door to awareness. My denial and self-rejection probably resembled the typical hallmarks of modern humanness:
I subscribed to thinking positively to manifest desires. I used social media when I felt lonely and needy for the attention of others. I began most days with the good intentions to love myself, but as the hours flew by and the to-do list never shortened, I rarely checked the boxes of 1) finding some mental peace and quiet and 2) moving my body in a joyful way.
My emotional landscapes were uncharted territory because I opted to read self-help books to fill my mind with ideas and more good intentions, rather than tuning in to feel the emotions and sensations I didn't know I was carrying. The lights seemed to be on, but there was nobody home.
To many in the outside world, however, I appeared to be young, wise, and free. I poured all of my energy into creating and upholding that image. The truth was: I was scared to death of not being loved, yet too aloof to allow authentic intimacy. I lived every day to prove my worth to other people. I measured my success against other people's bullshit images on social media, and I never talked from a vulnerable inner space. I refused to visit that space, and was terrified to admit that such a space existed beneath my own bullshit exterior.
These facades can only go on for so long before we reach a degree of imbalance that demands our attention. In this state, the body may scream at us through pain, or a beloved will walk out, or our lives get flipped upside down, shaking loose all of the distractions which were blinding us to the reflection in the mirror. If we are lucky, at least one of these experiences will show up for us. And if we are wise, we will pay attention when it does.
In this state, the body may scream at us through pain, or a beloved will walk out, or our lives get flipped upside down, shaking loose all of the distractions which were blinding us to the reflection in the mirror.
I paid attention. I'm still paying attention. There was a time in which I refused to experience the wind.
"No! I'm not going to allow myself to feel this way. I will write some positive affirmations, or go have a glass of wine. I have so much to be grateful for, why focus on this? I'll just keep myself busy, so I don't have to feel any of this. If I distract myself, then at least I won't worry about this..."
This is called dissociation. We humans do it all the time. We continue on with our lives, while blinding ourselves to the conditions within and around us.
Self-rejection tends to show up differently. In the deepest cases of self-rejection (or of not knowing the Self), we believe that we are the mental and emotional debris. In my case, I'd become so accustomed to feeling familiar emotions and certain bodily sensations, that I believed that these conditions were synonymous with myself. I believed that I was the past, that I was a mind full of thoughts, that I was a problem begging for a solution which always dangled just out of reach.
Sometimes the thoughts get louder and the emotions seem stronger. During these times, I may experience some gut wrenching sensations, like a stubborn brick intensely cramping within my intestines, refusing to move through my system, while the rest of me is screaming, "Get out of me! Please, leave me!"
Our personal baggage can be very sticky. It's during these times that I must remain vigilant. If I succumb to the old idea that I am my baggage, then my brain will instruct my body to retain the baggage. My nervous system will remain in fight, flight, or freeze. My energy will drain. I will ache, my intestines will cramp, I will be immobilized, and then I'll do it all over again. I did this. For years.
On the other hand, I can reach into the depths of what I'm carrying inside. I can acknowledge what I've been too afraid to face. I can sense how my body, mind, and emotions work together to create my current human condition. I can use this information to make new choices. This aligns me with that undaunted spark, endowed with the power to change the conditions.
I can sense how my body, mind, and emotions work together to create my current human condition. I can use this information to make new choices. This aligns me with that undaunted spark, endowed with the power to change the conditions
To let go of our baggage, we've got to feel, sense, and know when it is rising up within us. No more blinders. We must be able to detect when it is windy, so we may have the chance of freedom.
I AM with you.