“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
In the words of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air:
Now this is a story
all about how
my life got flipped
turned upside down
and I’d like to take a minute
Just sit right there…
I’ll tell you how a wounded warrior became a graceful warrior dancing on sunshine. I was disconnected, in pain, healing, rehabbing, trying to make sense of it all. I was sitting in this world but had no connection to it. In fact, I did not feel anything. I was numb. I always had a calling for the ocean and it was speaking to me more loudly that any spiritual text or words of wisdom could. It had a one way ticket and I took flight.
I landed here, by the sea, where Mother Nature took take care of me, nurturing me for the perhaps the first time in my life. I finally felt comforted. A sense of peace. The ocean soon became my audience, the sand my stage, the Sun my spotlight and the Moon my curtain call.
I could feel eyes watching me but I didn’t care because the stars were above me, and I was barefoot in the sand as my hair danced in the breeze. I would get asked almost every day “What are you doing here?” “Are you alone?” “Where is your family?” What do you do?” You would have thought I was just released from a prison sentence or in the witness protection program.
I was indeed just released and I was indeed seeking a quiet place for rest and rejuvenation. As a first generation Italian American I was born into strict rules with little, actually no exposure to adventure or a bigger world beyond the extended family unit. From strict parents to strict Catholic school nuns, my youthful gypsy Spirit was constantly being jarred.
I watched as my mother struggled and suffered from her own internal war with depression, handing over her power to the medical world who tried to numb her to the world with every antidepressant and anxiety pill out there. When your mother is put on the psychiatric ward when you are in second grade how do you tell your friends the reason she is in the hospital? Or when the drugs were so strong she became a vegetable and didn’t even know who I was or why I was there? I was always the one who felt everyone’s emotional pain and it sat heavy like an anchor in my stomach from the time I was four.
Had I only known this word ‘empath’ back then maybe I wouldn’t have felt the weight of the world with such a heavy burden and wouldn’t have compromised my hopes and dreams to try and ease everyone else’s discomfort and pain. As I tried to grow and shed my cocoon I was met with so much resistant I thought there must have been something ‘wrong’ with me for having different dreams. For wanting, no, needing, to expand and grow, spread my wings and fly.
How could I live overseas with the looming thought that my mother is facing this illness and is always depending on me and my father may never ever talk to me again? Who would take care of my ex-boyfriend now that he has been diagnosed with MS at 21? How can I leave all these people with emotional pain and needs to live a vibrant happy life?
So I stayed, instead denying that bubbling burning passion in my chest that led to a dear heart sprain. Then came the numbing of the pain. Because my Spirit never stopped knocking on my door as I continued to play small. The punishing myself and depriving myself the pleasures of life because I watched everyone else in pain and I didn’t feel safe in my body–there was just too too too much responsibility and emotional pain.
I started punishing myself for not being able to fix everyone’s pain and at the same time punish myself for letting them drown out my Spirit’s cry for adventure, travel, culture, expansion, vitality and grace. So I began to run, not the running my father insisted I would be doing by following my dreams of living in Spain, which was a ‘running’ towards myself; instead it became a literal run, running every day to numb the pain.
Then food no longer tasted the same. There was no more pleasure in the tastes, smells and textures. In fact they elicited so much emotional pain from childhood so I began without even realizing it to subtly omit foods that harbored so much emotional pain. It soon became an escape–to finally be able to control something: the emotions related to these foods no longer had to enter my body.
I began to eliminate anything related to my childhood and Italian American culture: the pastas, the heavy cheeses, the cured meats. All those sad holidays forced around the table; the smell of garlic stir frying at my grandparents every Sunday while they yelled that nothing was ever right; my mother having melt downs because making a simple dinner was too overwhelming for her. All this pain mixed into the ingredients where there was no nourishment in the meat. So I ran and I eliminated.
I never binged, I never purged. But I ran and I eliminated. I was too busy being the caretaker, trying to save everyone else from their own demons and pains it never even occurred to me these were their own lessons to be learnt and it was customary in our first generation culture for the women to always be taking care of our elders and everyone else but me. But where was anyone to take care of me? It was already too late when I finally decided to take flight that day because even if you think you only are checking one bag whatever other stuff you think you can leave behind will find its way in those hidden pockets and little compartments for your dirty laundry on the return date.
I will never forget the look on the doctor’s face when she told Veronica at the front door “Vete inmediatamente a la Clínica Mediterránea en Almeria antes de que sea….. o puede ser que ya es demasiado tarde” “Get your friend down to Clínica Mediterránea in America before it is….or it might already be too late.” Twenty-six yrs old and 72 pounds; I laid on that E.R. room in Almeria, Spain and wondered what had brought me to this fate?
If my 32 year old self today could speak to that scared girl just before she had finally left back for Spain that day what would I say? Would I say please do not do this to me? That at 32 years old I would still be healing from those self-destructing days? Or would I say thank you for blessing me with the lessons of compassion, extreme self-care, awareness, trusting your inner wisdom, gratitude, the power to heal and the beauty and grace of the Universe when you are left to your last breathe and you look up and surrender to a power greater than you could have ever imagined was with you all along.
Here I am five yrs later just beginning to feel my way again. Yes, it has been a long gestation period of self-blame, regret, what-ifs, how and whys that have all been transformed to gifts to share with the world. So next time you see me and wonder how, why or say “I wish I could, too” just look within where the answers lie waiting to be heard and know that your graceful warrior is ready to transcend any pain you are willing to let go of.
This is for the one with the fractured bone, in recover or not yet in recovery, for my grandmother and newborn niece, for all the caregivers, for your neighbor, for the one with a broken heart and for every single one of you that says “yes” when you mean “no” and “no” when you mean “yes.”
I will be dancing on sunshine and hope you will join me. It is safe to be you.
~ Stephie M.
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