What will it take for you to free yourself?
That’s a question I asked myself as I sipped green tea and tried to kick into gear for the first day back in the real world after the winter holiday vacation.
For a long time, I have focused on what I am really good at and continued to get better at it. These are things like being generous with my time for those who need and appreciate it, giving myself time to relax when my creativity dips too low, feeling compassion for myself and others, for example. I never thought I would have to stop getting stronger in order to actually become stronger.
Empowerment takes many forms. I use the practice of yoga to unite the strong and weak parts of myself by allowing myself to know I am strong enough to tackle anything, but also brave enough to admit and accept the fact that I can’t control everything.
At the end of 2016 I lost my husband (he gave up on us), I lost my job (they couldn’t afford to pay me anymore), and I lost my home (I couldn’t afford to live there anymore). The stories around these losses are huge in their own right, but what really nailed me down was the simultaneous convergence of all this grief. Grief became my friend, I had no choice but to invite it into every corner of my being, there was too much to even pretend to resist. I sank into the river of all souls and felt the deep emptiness inside that comes from letting go.
The real agency of this, was how it set me up for the last year. I was invited to be afraid, and I turned down the invitation. When we grieve deeply, nothing can touch us, we are surrounded by all the souls who have grieved and we know that we are very much not alone. We feel absence, but our body is a comfort to us. We feel empty, but the flowing of emotions keeps us feeling alive.
I spent 2017 unemployed, trying to market myself as an independent consultant in a field that barely exists (geodesign). I was successful, but not enough to live up to the definition of success my parents and society had taught me. Still, I knew I had to learn to rest into the flow of life, I was sick of flailing round in the middle of the river, trying to reach the shore. I used this year of dead ends and blockages to learn to trust that every obstacle in my path, every opportunity that doesn’t manifest, is meant to be there as a part of the journey.
Sometime in that bleak winter of 2016-17, I promised myself I would not be in Philadelphia for the next cold spell. I was too depressed and the aggression of the city was too much for my empathic, highly sensitive nature. Now, as I sit in my apartment in San Jose, Costa Rica reading about the blizzards and bomb cyclones blasting the east cost with record-breaking cold, I can see how my intuition to trust in life was right. At the time, I did not know how I was going to get out, I just knew that I had to.
Because I was set up by grief to prioritize the knowledge of my body and emotions, I survived a year full of uncertainty, betrayal, more loss, hardship, and depression, by ending up in a country I’ve been trying to move to since 2013. Guided by my intuition, I finally learned to trust myself as an extension of the universe around me.
I surrendered to life. I stripped away all of my old coping strategies and gave myself to a new land filled with new challenges. Every day I feel stronger in declining the invitation to pick up old, inherited thought patterns that are paranoid, negative, and limiting, and that is exponentially amazing. For me, the cure to feeling fear has been leaning into it, but still, I am not free. There has only been enough work to get me to the point of knowing that I need to write my own definitions of success and values in order to totally eradicate the implanted fears of parents, teachers, and society.
Now I practice standing still and feeling what it’s like to say, “I don’t know, I’m just a little girl.” I practice giving up on the urge to channel my inner goddess-nature and say, “Of course, I can do anything!” The fear of abandonment, of being seen as not good enough, of intimacy, all of them go away when like a Chinese finger trap, I push inwards in order to escape.
This post was inspired by the article The Fear Cure, which you can read here.