a wonderful truth

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I woke this morning and felt sad.

It was a glorious feeling, a most welcome emotion. I wasn’t anxious or amped, filled with adrenaline and thoughts of what I had to do or how those things might be difficult. I had slept past 5:30 am for the first time in three weeks.

Healing doesn’t happen in the time frame we might think it will or in the way we hope it will. I wonder if we don’t always even know what we’re healing.

I know two things. Healing can happen, whether it’s over days or years. Healing is greatly nurtured by the love and warmth and prayers and support of friends.

My intention this week was to focus on healing. I continued to use chocolate and ice cream as coping strategies, talked on and on and on and on with family and friends about what was going on in my life, and worked full-time on figuring out my mom’s estate and clearing out her home.

The whole time I thought, well, aren’t these first world problems? I thought also it was a bit embarrassing that I told you all that I was slowing down to heal but then was not caring for myself very well at all.

These posts to you sometimes feel as if they are the Instagram version of my life, neatened and straightened, presented with careful curation. Sometimes, don’t I sound so fucking wise and together? My life is as messy as everyone's, of course. I write these posts because they help me understand myself better. My sense of identity is based in being an educator and motivator, and writing and then publishing is an extension of that. For me it’s: Here’s this super intense thing I’m going through, and let’s make something from it that others may use. The truth is that I’m a bit embarrassed about publishing, maybe because I do not identify as a writer and maybe because I fear no matter how honest I am about my messy life, in the end it’s always something that looks good on paper.

Today’s post I guess is no different. After failing miserably at taking time to heal, in fact, I had set the intention, did the work, and, lo, the healing happened. It turned out that staying super busy, and talking a lot, and eating massive amounts of quick carbs were all strategies that pushed me through.

Those things happened while I was reading my father’s love letters to my mother, reading my sister’s very not so loving letters to my mother, and with blessed relief, reading note after note that I had written her in which I told her I loved her, she was a great mom, she nurtured me so well, thank you. My mom –it wasn’t always easy being with her. You’ve got a mom, right? I sometimes avoiding being with my mom or saw it as a duty and all I can say is, I’m glad I fulfilled that duty. Yes, I loved her very much, and, no, I didn’t always want to spend time with her, not nearly as much as she wanted. I often felt as if I were failing her. She wanted that easy, warm, cuddly relationship some mothers and daughters have – hey, wanna go have lunch? Let’s hit the antique shops together and just look around. Can we talk? – because I need you more than any other person right now. That wasn’t what we had. It wasn’t what I could give her. I know that made her sad and sometimes angry. 

At the same time, I was frustrated with her because she rarely called me. She didn’t come over and just hang out. She didn’t spend nearly the amount of time with her grandkids that I thought she would. She helped a lot when they were young – you know, the driving around – and she took them out to eat. Siobhan’s favorite times were going to the theater with her grandmother. I just thought it would happen more, at the same time my mother was wishing that would happen more with me. My mom waited for people to come to her, and that drove me a bit crazy.

That’s the easy stuff to forgive. That’s the stuff of a life, how we are, and I understand it. It’s not as easy sometimes to forgive myself, but, you know, it’s done. That’s it.

As much as I didn’t always want to spend time with her, it is still sad there’s no more time to spend with her. Every day I see a video or comic, or I read an article and think, oh, I would like to share that with mom. The phone rang and there was that split second of wondering if that was mom on the line.

Some of the emotional and psychic work of this week has been unexpected, triggered by reading a letter my mother had kept and that I’d sent thirty years ago. I thought that might crush me, might spin me out and away. Instead, it feels as if the work I’ve done the past thirty years has healed me in a fundamental way, by which I mean my foundation is strong. There may still be a big reaction coming, which would be disruptive and painful. I’m not afraid. That might be Instagram Me talking, with bravado, and it could be Intentional Me declaring a truth I will make come to being.

Because, in the end, I am incredibly privileged with every possible resource. I’ve got three sessions of acupuncture planned, and I didn’t have to stop for a second to wonder if that fit in my pandemic budget. I could call counselors. These things matter.

Here’s what matters most to me.  Before I had my ovaries removed in 2014, I was terrified of the surgery. At the end of a Nia class the day before the surgery, we sat in a circle, and I said I was afraid and wanted to cancel. You had just paid me for a class, and I’m using the end to say, help me! Put your attention not on your body and life but on mine! and you did. You told me I would be okay and I was making the right decision. I’m crying in gratitude and awe right now as I write this: that group of dancers gave me exactly what I needed. I calmed down. I stayed calm that night, and the next morning, even as the nurses put in the IV. I never lost my shit because you guys were sending prayers and strength my way. It was all received.

I’ve wondered whether the past three weeks of little sleep and too much adrenaline might have a long-term effect on my health. I’ve decided it won’t. I have received from family and friends and this Nia community an outpouring of loving messages and support. I was draining myself; you were filling me back up. You were nurturing me – a text message, a card, coming to a Zoom class just to be there with me. I was healing furiously and frantically, and the love I received was the fuel. That’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it. It looks good on Instagram, and it’s as good and wonderful a truth as any.