Two years ago I woke up this morning, ALONE. Literally. My girls were with their dad, (read no husband) my son, whereabouts unknown, my mother deceased three months prior, my father deceased just hours prior.
I woke up ALONE. Motherless, fatherless, childless (temporarily), partnerless.
I did not want to be alone.
On my way home, I’d reached out for the kind of comfort I felt I needed to feel held, loved and supported immediately following my father’s soul slipping off to join my mother and been denied. Ignored. By someone who’d professed their love for me, professed their deep desire for my love. By someone I’d trusted my heart with.
Losing my mother to cancer and the effects of addiction I could understand, accept, even make peace with. Painful, sad, yes. Losing my father 13 days after a motorcycle accident three months later felt shocking, wrong, a like a rip off. Peace around that would be a long time coming. These things plus being denied the kind of comfort my soul needed in this moment of great loss felt like a spiritual betrayal.
I am a pray-er. I’ve been called an “extraordinary believer.” A woman of extreme faith. I feel profoundly connected. Deeply Blessed. I count on God/The Universe/Source/Spirit/Love whatever you choose to call the force, to care for me, guide me, ALWAYS have my back and give me what my heart needs. Spirit is my BFF. It’s a relationship I cultivate, work on, value deeply. I do not expect such hurt. It is shocking to me. I do not feel like I deserve it.
But today, two years ago, waking up, alone I felt abandoned by God. It wasn’t the first time.
“You promised to never leave me comfortless,” I whisper to God. “I feel comfortless right now.”
“You promised I wouldn’t feel alone.” I say out loud.
I am alone. Right now. I feel excruciatingly ALONE.
I hate this feeling. It’s like an empty screaming hole. Exacerbated by the very emptiness all around me, my room, my house, my everything.
I don’t have PARENTS!
I thought I had love and I apparently don’t have that. My family is broken by divorce and addiction.
What did I do to deserve this?
This betrayal of spirit?
This dirty trick on my heart.
Can it feel any worse, because this feels like more alone than I can bear, should have to bear as a woman of faith. If there’s more than I can bear, I don’t want to feel it.
My mom and my dad? Enough. please. No more.
I’d said that sentence before.
Four years before in 2011, when my son’s best friend, his “brother” since he was 2, a child that felt like one of my own, died in a car accident at the age of 19. That felt like more than any of us could bear. When his closest high school friend died in another car accident, less than two years later, it was truly more than he could bear. It rocked our faith to the core.
Also in 2013, driving away from an addiction treatment center, the same one I’d taken my mother too, this time leaving my child there. “This feels like more than I can bear, if there is a “more” than this, I don’t want to feel it.” I’d said to his dad on the way home, our separation just about a year old and the finality of our divorce just days away.
I’d said it to my friend in 2014, as I came undone in her passenger seat after leaving a restaurant where the dark, oblivious heart of active addiction revealed itself to me once again in someone I felt very strongly for and left me writhing. “Not that! Not again!” I’d cried as we drove away. “This feels like more than I can bear.”
And again, in 2015, almost to the day, when I thought I’d lose my child to addiction before I could get him where he needed to be to save his life. “This feels like more than I can bear, if there is more than this, please God, don’t make me feel it.” This time, Just me, out loud to God, on my knees.
Ask anyone who is a relative of someone in active addiction and they will tell you, “it is the loneliest place in the world.” The alone that you feel when your parents are gone is indescribable. I haven’t found words that anyone who hasn’t felt it could understand. The alone that you feel is overwhelming. The need for comfort, physical, emotional, spiritual is overwhelming.
All of it together. Waves of “more than I can possibly bear” felt like Spiritual Betrayal.
Spiritual betrayal=more than I could bear.
From that place a different relationship with God was born. A new relationship with my own Spirit. Where betrayal could not exist.
My deepest trust had been damaged by addiction, by loss, by lack of love, by “more than I could bear.” Instead of looking outside of myself, I began to look in and peel back the layers of my heart and of my soul, with guidance from and serious reliance on God, spiritual people, and retreats. I stepped away from expectations, judgment, battles, and drama to go deeper into my mind, my body and my spirit until all three connections were restored.
Today, I woke up alone. All of my children with their dad on vacation, my mother deceased two years, my father deceased two years. Addiction, a battle we are on the winning side of now, a cycle we are breaking with intention a year in recovery. Our broken family in a state of restoration.
On my own.
The difference is I do not FEEL alone. I do not feel lonely. I feel whole. My relationship with God/Spirit/The Universe/Love, whatever you choose to call the force, strong and deep. My faith renewed, refreshed, reset.
I have created a true relationship with ME. My own spirit has filled that empty space with love, grace, understanding, comfort, acceptance, authenticity, and strength.
Losing all the definitions created a great open space to play around with the rising of ME. No longer feeling obligated to be pleasing to parents, a husband, a partner, anyone really, except my role as mother and even that version of me has evolved. No longer in a fierce battle against a demon.
There is no one to be the boss of me.
“Only love is the boss of me.” said Glennon Doyle Melton. I am adopting that into my rep of mantras.
Love for myself and loads of love to share with others.
You don’t have to wait to get to “more than I can bear” to take the space to play around with “who am I, without any outside definitions, without expectations, free to explore and experiment, to be non traditional, to break family patterns and the chains that bind you to a certain path. Rely on what rises up from your spirit in conversation with God/The Universe/Spirit/Love, get on your knees and ask God the big questions and the little ones, ask God to send you the people meant for your highest good, to guide you and love you, support you and encourage you. Go outside and talk to the trees, the ocean, the animals. Be still and listen for YOUR answers. Then walk the path that calls to you. No matter what it looks like. Unapologetic. Authentic. On your own.
I do not feel alone, even when I am, even when its hard.
I feel like Spirit is always with me. Flowing through me.
I feel you are always with me. My parents, people I love and love me. Flowing all around me.
I feel like LOVE.
We are Together, You are not alone, I am with you too, in spirit.
All The Way,
Post #7 Recovering Truth
We sit down at the little table in her front room. We’re taking a break from deep soul healing and revealing to eat and girl gab.
“Tell me the guy story,” she says as she hands me a plate with the decadent little desserts we picked up at Whole Foods on our walk the day before.
I tell her. All of it. The passion and the pain. The high and low. The truth and confusion. The connection and the abandonment. My rendition of it. I may never know his rendition of it. It doesn’t even matter now what his rendition of it is really except that it’s a wicked sore spot and a place of deep gratitude and juicy details at the same time. I’ve learned much about myself, what I am attracting and how I relate to men by examining the time he and I spent together. I used to call him the “phenomenal learning tool.” A phrase taken from A Course in Miracles, a year long self study of spirituality, God and the Divine, I’d finished six months prior. “But Sometimes I call that guy, the tool,” I say and she laughs hard. I laugh hard too. Laughter feels good after so much heavy.
She says he sounds like “the shaman lover,” a phrase she’s taken from Broken Open, a book by Elizabeth Lesser. “You should definitely read that.” she says and because I am a book junkie, I order it when I get home and skip to the part about “the shaman lover” first before reading the whole book. I reject “shaman lover” because I hate that as the explanation. My heart is still dangling by a thread, I can’t accept “explaining” him away right now. My soul just isn’t having it.
Our story, as dysfunctional and sweet, as connected and disconnected, as enchanting and disenchanting as it is, has bearing on the overall picture of who I am in that moment, its also a steamy story that bears repeating like silly girls, just for the fun of it but acknowledging the hurt and poking the wound stirs up something that I’ve been trying to “let go” of and “move on” from even though the imprint lingers on my heart and on my body.
As we clean up the remains of dinner together she asks, “What rituals are you feeling?”
“The cleansing ritual for my teen girl,” I say “and the fire ritual to send my hearts desires up in prayer smoke.” I am crystal clear on this.
She hands me strips of parchment paper to write my hearts desires on and instructs me to create bundles with bits of nature to burn in the fire. On the long table next to us are piles of things she’s gathered in Nature.While I begin that task, she goes upstairs to prepare for a cleansing ritual.
I hear her moving around as the floor creaks, water running, back and forth she goes. “How are you doing down there.” she calls out every now and then.
I am serious about this task as if I have one chance to ask the universe for help. I realize that this is an opening, portal for my soul dreams. “you can ask for whatever you want.” She calls down again. “as much as you want.”
I am thinking in spiritual terms at this point, but I realize that this has to be about me. Deeply about me. Something that as a mother, caregiver, lover, wife, friend, sister, family member is not easily done. Choosing for me. I also understand that because I am connected to people, because we are all linked, what I ask for will ultimately benefit all of us.
“There’s no right or wrong” she calls out. I swear she is reading my mind.
She makes it seem easy, I am struggling. She’s experienced at making bundles of nature and asking for her heart’s desire in a fire ritual. She is a mentor, a guide, a mystic, a pro for crying out loud. She’s something like I’ve never met before.
I’m just a Me.
I have this opening though, this opportunity to reverse the curse of me. To be rid of blocks, walls and barriers. I have the chance right now to make the bundles of Shelly love and hearts desire so I do it. She’s a Divine channel, I am just following directions.
Then I sit down to write the words that she will paint on my body in silver paint. Words that I have carried, definitions that have held me back, have burdened my soul for decades. Words that have lessened my ability to relate with the purest heart, pure intention, pure love.
It is a brutal task to write this list, unkind, ugly words about someone I love.
“Are you ready?” She’s call gently.
“I am,” I say and I ascend the old wooden stairs and find at the top a beautiful bath, with hundreds of candles surrounding it.
I sit down in the tiny bathroom. Sitting there with my heart exposed, she begins to paint the words that I have been said to me, that have been imprinted not just on my mind and my heart but on my soul. The tiny brush strokes bring my deepest scars to the surface. I do not cry. I do not shiver. I say just each word and wait as she paints them delicately on my skin.
When I have no words left to speak and she has painted “piece of shit” across my back and “ugly” on my face, “stupid,” “worthless,” “unwanted” on my arms and words I don’t even want to repeat over my heart and the container of silver paint is empty she sits back.
“Tell me how it feels to see me like this?” I ask.
“It’s hard. It’s sad,” she says, her eyes sparkling as tears gloss them over. “but it’s beautiful too”
“Do you want to take a picture.” I ask. “You can. I don’t mind.”
And then for every foul word painted in silver on my skin she blesses me with a word to replace it. Her words are prayer.
“The truth.” she whispers.
I ask if she wants to photograph me. She says, ok, but softly, not quite sure she should. It’s very intimate, this moment. In the end there were no pictures made. She’d covered the mirror with a beautiful stained glass. The only mirror I had was the tenderness in her eyes and the truth in her voice. I never saw myself with those words and haven’t heard them since.
She hands me a soft wash cloth and leaves me alone so that I can climb into the beautiful, aromatic bath surrounded by candles so that I can wash away all the dirty, ugly, angry words I’ve worn all of my life.“Take as long as you like”, she says. She turns on music to keep me company, Tina Turner’s Peace Mantra, then closes the door.
I undress and sink into the warm bath. I think of my daughters, my friends, women who have worn words that were not the truth but define them, burden them, pain them their whole lives. Whoever said “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” was not telling the truth. Men and boys too. Walking around with words of shame emblazoned on their souls. Hindering.
“Tell me what I am, not what I am not.” I think.
It’s a simple switch.
I wash the silver paint away. I watch it float in the water around me, the words less powerful, no longer a part of me. I lean back and close my eyes and let the grief rinse over me. The grief of a girl who just wanted to be liked, to be loved, to be wanted, to be told she was pretty and smart and worth it. The grief of a woman who was still living in those words and would do anything including signing up for a weekend alone with a complete stranger to erase the scars and to unburden herself from the chains that keep her from who she really was and what her soul truly desired.
As the music begins to fade, I settled into the silence and watched the candles flicker the room warm with candle flames. I think of all the women in my life that love and support me. As I blow out each candle one by one, I say a name out loud to honor their strength, beauty, sacrifice, friendship, sisterhood and the gifts they bring to my life and the lives of others. I say a silent blessing then let the water drain out of the bath, watching the bits of silver swirl away down the drain.
I dress and descend the stairs, gather up the bundles I’d made as offerings and go outside where Jen has built a magnificent fire for me. Next to the fire are two large round stumps for us to sit on.
How did that feel, she smiles and asks as she pokes a bonfire she has built in my honor. It crackles and snaps and feels hot on my skin. There air is cold but I am not.
“It felt magical.” I say. I feel lighter, more beautiful. Clear. I feel a bit giddy now but nervous, like I won’t say the right thing. Or do it right. But I try.
“Go ahead, say what you want to say and lay it on the fire,” she instructs.
I bring old pictures, memories, the drawing of the crush, old loves, wishes, boys. I lay them on the fire and thank them for the love and the lessons and let them burn away.
“God, radically change her into someone wholly devoted.” she says.
I speak each request out loud as I set them aflame asking that my own fire be fueled.
“Open my heart and make it pure. “
“Illuminate my gifts and my place of service”
“Bring forward my femininity, the goddess in me.“
“Lift my voice. Use my expression for the greatest good.”
“I raise my hand. I say Yes.”
I am deeply moved by the feeling of letting go of so much past, so much weight and so much offering but also exhausted. It is all I can do to brush my teeth, change into my favorite pajamas, crawl under the covers.
“Tomorrow you will have a sentence. One sentence to devote to. Write it as it comes to you.” she said before I left the fire.
I am so sleepy I don’t believe I have an ounce of creativity, of offering, of anything left in me. I close my eyes and fall instantly asleep.
At some point, I wake in the night, grab the little journal I’ve kept next to me on the bed and scribble something like a sentence. I turn and burrow back down into the pillow and the covers and sleep like I’ve gone to heaven.
With all the love, kind words and compassion I can hold,
I wake up EAGER.
Eager to make my coffee and get the fire started, eager to say my prayers and get to my journal. I have a huge bruise on my arm. I name it the F**K YOU Bruise. I like it. I admire it. I keep touching it. I’m wearing it like a badge of honor.
I am eager to wrap up this weekend, to talk with Jen this morning, to process these experiences. I am eager to go home. I am meeting my son on the other side. He’s been on his own four day adventure away from home and immersed in people and connection. I am eager to see the effect on him.
I am eager to know what’s next? What’s next for me? What do I do now?
I light the fire and the candles, kneel at the desk and say my prayers. I write my daily gratitudes:
I am grateful for:
My morning rituals to center me. My growth path.
The people God has sent, the best of the best.
Listening for my soul call. Getting to know myself intimately.
Finding my voice. Accessing my body’s wisdom, intuition, feeling.
Getting into my body to settle my mind. Feeling my choices with my being.
Connection and our spiritual connection. That Great Big Giant Sweet Lover of a horse.
Undoing Conditioning. Deeply held patterns.
Somatic Work. Body Work. Really getting in touch with what makes us feel.
My F**k you bruise. (i love it)
The softening of my belly.
John and Virginia and Frog Ranch.
Jen’s care and feeding. The prompts that give rise to my truth.
The Wren House
Finding who I am. The real me. The soul of me. And what I really want and how I want to BE in this world.
More than just different. Deeper. The details of different.
I feel enchanted. Alive. Charmed.
I ask these questions of myself, of the Divine.
What am I taking with me from this trip, this experience in the woods?
I am taking with me EXPANSION, the expansion of my heart.
What do I leave behind? CONSTRAINT
I open to a passage in A Course In Miracles.
“Your body is an ark of safety. By healing is your brother healed.”
I think of my son and his struggle with addiction and all the people in my realm who are struggling with a substance abuse disorder, a disease, a chronic illness. Suffering. I hear, by healing myself, they too will be healed. That the work is mine to do. That the focus is to be on my own healing and to trust that by doing that work, the effect will ripple out.
I pull an animal wisdom card. Coyote. The Trickster.
I hear very clearly…. Leave the joker behind.
I pull another. Antelope. Action.
Armed with the Bow of Authority act on behalf of Self. Family. Clan. Nation. Mother Earth.
“Surround yourself with illumination and secret knowledge. Do it now. Don’t wait any longer. Take courage and leap, your sense of timing is perfect. The time is now, the power is in you.”
He is my joker. My wild card. I know deep down, I have to leave him behind. I don’t want to, he felt so good in the moment. I have no choice but to honor his choice. I have to believe that if we were meant to be together, we would be and we are not. I know I’ve fallen in love with his potential. I do that. I see everyone’s goodness first and hold tight to it until proven otherwise. Even then I stay loyal to goodness and light for a long time. His reality is something that I was choosing not to see, to overlook in the name of connection, passion, love, allowing myself to be cracked open all the way, living a moment at a time in a state of perpetual hope.
I have to trust that God/The Universe/Spirit has my back on this thing and what has happened is right and its my work to feel my way through these lessons and release what does not serve the greater good, for me, my children, my family, the world.
I am being called to action. I can feel it.
What do you want me to embody, how do I use my voice, my gift for good?
I pull a Goddess card. Eireen. Peace.
“There is no need to worry. Everything is working out perfectly. Relax into the arms of Divine Love. Breathe away all cares and concerns and worries. Put your focus into enjoying and appreciating each blessing.”
I hear, Embody PEACE. CONNECTION. EXPRESSION.
Your body is a vessel for LOVE.
Your heart space is as large and expansive as a horse.
I think about the forest surrounding me,
The trees speak to me.
The forest is already here. It didn’t have to do hard work to make itself known, felt, seen. Be like the moss. A soft foundation, expansive, green (the color of the heart chakra) substantial, growing free, rich, alive, abundant.
Jen arrives with another warm and nourishing breakfast and equally warm and nourishing presence. We talk about what’s transpired, what I am feeling this morning. My revelations, my questions, how to close this threshold and what happens next.
“You know Shell, you have nothing defining YOU but YOU right now. Your parents aren’t here to define you, you don’t have to answer to a marriage or relationship. You get to choose who and want you want to be. No labels, expectations, no shoulds.”
This is abundantly clear and slightly scary.
She asks what I am taking with me from this weekend, what I am leaving behind. I tell her about “the joker” card and she asks if I can leave some of my grief around him behind. It’s tricky with him because of where he landed in the story and how my heart bonded with him. His presence during the death of my parents makes my attachment to him confusing, my grief compounded because he is a living being that is not with me. He gave me a deep sense of comfort when we were together. I can’t force my heart or my body let him go. They remember what it felt like in the moment. I am feeling my way. I hope I get to the other side. The grief is deep. The attachment is real. I can’t make sense of it. I want to leave it behind. I try but the thoughts still creep in, the feelings, the longing. Time will tell. I’ve set that thing aside as best as I can. I can’t cliche my way out of it. I can continue to use him as a learning tool about myself and keep focusing on what I desire in relationship and partnership. Keep pulling the threads that help me learn about myself, help me grow.
We talk about the giant land art alter she has created during our time here. While holding space for me to unfold, unlock, unfurl she’s been collecting bits of nature and building this huge altar to our hearts. Layers and layers to the center, where truth and beauty lie. Where we hold our deepest love, desire, longings. She suggests a closing ritual for the weekend to honor my feelings around the man, my grief, and my main intention for the weekend which was RELEASE.
I take three candles to the altar and light each one.
Honoring the love and appreciation I hold for the presence of the joker for cracking me open and mirroring the light in me, speaking out loud to my beauty, my love. I needed that.
Acknowledging the NO to how he treated “US” The obliviousness. The disconnection. The indifference. and also showing me very clearly where I had no lines, no boundaries, where I closed my eyes in denial, for showing me very clearly what I did NOT want. I needed that too.
Acknowledging and Honoring the F**K YOU for the recklessness with my heart. His recklessness. My own recklessness. I needed to express that. It’s not ok to be reckless with someone’s heart. It’s not ok to be reckless with your own heart.
I pick all the tiny hard pinecones in the center of the heart space. I realize that my heart has blossomed while I’ve been here on at Frog Ranch with John and Virginia, with Jen and her exquisite care of me, with Connection mirroring my soul, with the unlocking of emotion, with the softening of my belly, with the release of hard held grief and pain.
The secret garden of my heart is a soft and gentle place. I have found the hard, prickly pinecones that were embedded in it and have chosen to pluck them out, to discard them, to replace them with something soft, rich, lovely.
I run back to the Wren house to retrieve that perfect red rose that has fallen of its stem and onto the desk I’ve been exploring my heart and soul at for the past few days. Where I’ve asked deep questions and bled the answers from my own soul, my own guidance out on to paper, in tears, with my voice, with my body, with purpose, intention and an unfailing willingness to release what ever holds me back from being whole.
I run back and place the rose it in the center of the altar.
The truth is
My Heart is Beautiful.
I FEEL IT.
What prickly pinecones are you harboring in your heart? What are you feeling when you touch the deepest parts of you. What wants to bleed out on paper, in tears, your voice, your song, your dance? Who is defining you? What labels shall you shed to be whole?
Build an altar to your beautiful heart won’t you?
Family Recovery Advocate
I serve women seeking healing and transformation.
I serve people who have been impacted by addiction recover their lives.