When we deny our stories, they define us. When we run from struggle, we are never free. So, we turn toward the truth and look it in the eye. We will not be characters in our stories. Not villains, not victims, not even heroes. We are the authors of our lives. We write our own daring endings.
Do you wake up in the morning in love with your life? Do you experience quiet in your mind with an unshakeable sense of purpose in your feet? Do you feel deep peace inside of your body as you move through the experiences of your day? Do you even know that this is possible? What if your experience of being alive could be like this? Would that be an unrecognizable shift in your reality? Nothing may change in your outside world. There will be bills to pay, toilets to clean, food to purchase, dishes to wash, work to do, but your experience of flowing through these tasks could alter to one of appreciation and love. This experience is possible.
I learned about Landmark Education from my former brother-in-law. He handed me a brochure as my then-husband and I drove away to celebrate our honeymoon in Bar Harbor, Maine and Acadia National Park. I thanked him then shoved the red and white pamphlet into the glove compartment. Out of sight. Out of mind. A year later I pulled it out while waiting for some friends. I read the entire pamphlet knowing I wanted to participate. That’s the first time I heard about transformation. I registered, walked into the room, and began to engage with all the ways I pretend in life. I began to discover what I didn’t know that I didn’t know about myself, being human, and possibilities. I completed the curriculum for living, many seminars, the Communications Course, the Wisdom Course, and Power and Contribution.
After a decade of intellectual distinguishing, declaring possible ways of being, doing lots of homework which included looking straight into the eyes of my past experiences through the power of language reframes, I still noticed that terror and rage lived in my body.
I could eloquently describe the ways in which I showed up as a “psycho bitch from hell” with my then-husband and two young children. Words and inquiries could not purge this “character” from my life. I’m grateful to have identified “Lois” as me/not me. I really needed her to leave or at least be in a separate room ripping up recyclables, smashing coconuts, or drawing pictures of her feelings with crayons rather than frightening my children.
I began engaging somatic work including craniosacral therapy (CST) and somatic trauma resolution (STR) with two gifted practitioners. I read the books: I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me by Jerold Jay Kreisman, Understanding the Borderline Mother by Christine Lawson and Surviving the Borderline Parent by Roth and Friedman. These books, especially the latter two, affirmed many of my experiences as a child, the heinous dynamics of my childhood environment, and validated the painful chaos that had created the terror inside of me that I lived with every single night and day for as long as I can remember.
During this time period, I accessed internal tracking tools and practices to clip the lines to the explosive bombs of the “fight” reaction. I thawed the numb of dissociation of the “freeze” reaction. I began the courageous, rigorous work of healing the persistent traumatic stress. Within a couple of years, I ended contact with all members of my family of origin knowing I had to break the cycle and create healthy, vibrant relationships with my two growing children as best as I could. I had hoped to do the same with their dad, but this did not transpire.
In the therapists’ offices, I cussed, shook, and sometimes puked. I wept and sometimes screamed. At home, I put myself in “time out” when I felt the triggers fire in my body. I sobbed and screamed into pillows. I did everything I could to keep my son and daughter safe. I took full responsibility for my past words and deeds. I took detox baths while weeping into the hot, steamy water. I began to forgive myself, to love myself, to see that I mattered. Deep inner work of this magnitude is not for cowards. And going through is the only way.
Identifying all traumatic events of my past, which included many that happened outside my childhood household, allowed me to see them fully, to no longer deny that they had happened, and to finally flow through the grief that accompanied all those shocks to the nervous system.
The involved process of triage for that amygdala and rewiring my nervous system began to free me. Pathways opened to the pre-frontal cortex as my life shifted into sustained periods of calm. Meditating, being grateful, dancing, doing yoga, exercising, living with embodied awareness became daily or weekly experiences which deepened my healing. Multiple pathways created this inner transformation of living more moments of most days with profound and enduring equanimity.
What I know for certain is my life is a testament to transformation. I have broken through the experience of living as a traumatized, terrorized, people-pleasing victim pretending to be someone who had it all together. I no longer live in constant fear. I sleep free of night terrors. I am unrecognizable to my former selves.
You may or may not have endured traumas, but you may live with much anxiety. Thriving from the inside out is possible. You don’t have to die to rest in peace. You’ll likely have to process through bottled up emotional content. Burning through this pain in your heart can liberate you. The willingness and passion to transform resides in every one of us.
For those of you who have endured traumas, know that you do not have to live one more day with rage, numbness, or terror. There exist many modalities for healing, for transforming. Seek professional support. You are worth it. The quality of your life matters. Know that living free and at peace is possible. You do not have to endure one more moment as a hungry, scared caterpillar because you know that life has come to an end. The cocoon of goo awaits. From that dark, quiet place you can emerge. You can then flutter free as a butterfly savoring the nectar of the beautiful flowers blooming in your very own bonus round of being alive. Or maybe you can soar like an eagle or a great blue heron as you find flight on the currents of conscious awakening.