Amidst hysterical sobs the only words that came out were, “I want to go home.” I was in a hotel room celebrating my eleventh year of marriage. My husband thought we would be reveling in our love, our accomplishments, our journey as parents with our three beautiful children. But that’s not what happened.
All at once I was physically and emotionally overcome by feelings of isolation and pain. All I could repeat was that I wanted to go home, but where? In that moment, it wasn’t a yearning to return to the physical home we had recently built and moved into just months before. No, it was somewhere else. I wanted to be somewhere safe, somewhere warm. A space of refuge to contain the overwhelming emotions spewing from my insides.
The moment was at once terrifying and euphoric. I was finally embodying the pain that had been sitting right below the surface for so long. My face was red, tears poured down my cheeks, and my eyelids puffed up to where my eyes felt like they could barely open. My breath was short and heavy, disrupted by deep inhales as I tried to catch my breath as though I was drowning. It was dysregulating for my entire system, but something about what was happening in my body and heart felt liberating. Like an accomplishment. I had cracked it open, my heart, and now I was feeling it all. Before, it wouldn’t come out: I felt angry, sad, and alone, but I couldn’t express in words or in my body those feelings.
THE MOMENT WAS AT ONCE TERRIFYING AND EUPHORIC. I WAS FINALLY EMBODYING THE PAIN THAT HAD BEEN SITTING RIGHT BELOW THE SURFACE FOR SO LONG.
At least now I had words to attach to my desire: “I want to go home.” I was restlessly twisting and turning all night, feeling the suffocating angst of abandonment, but who abandoned me? My parents didn’t abandon me, they live with me, my husband, and our three kids in a house that we designed and built together. So where was the feeling of abandonment coming from? It didn’t matter. All I could do was find my breath to live through the night.
Night had become paralyzing in recent months. When dusk hit, my heart started to beat a little faster and my mind would start racing, running through possible comforts I could recline into. For most of my life it had been food, sometimes wine. But now I knew not to give into temporary relief, which was often followed by shame. I’d been doing the work of excavation for too long to fall for cheap and fast remedies.
At night all of my fears and insecurities would bubble up, with no sun to shine light on the shadows created by my mind and my memory.
The abandonment I felt was my own doing: I abandoned myself. In my innocence, I slammed the door on myself when I was just a child. Being precocious, perceptive and sensitive, I independently and unilaterally deemed the world unsafe, unkind and unable to value me. A few key memories remain, snapshots of those formative moments that shaped my perception of myself in the world.
THE ABANDONMENT I FELT WAS MY OWN DOING: I ABANDONED MYSELF. IN MY INNOCENCE, I SLAMMED THE DOOR ON MYSELF WHEN I WAS JUST A CHILD.
My dad driving me to a private Christian elementary school in his old Volvo and the muffler falling off every time he pulled over. Kids would laugh and I would feel ashamed, different. But it wasn’t just material status that drove me from trust. It was the feeling of not wanting or caring about the same things as my peers. It was about wanting to leave my town, my school and become something so unusual and important and different from everyone I knew.
I repressed these feelings. I had to survive. I had to live in my reality. I constructed my identity around what I thought would protect and conceal my true self. I was socially aware and moderately successful at coasting under the radar enough not to draw attention, most of the time.
Except on those rare occasions when I became tired and frustrated with waiting for my life to have meaning. Like when I decided to run for high school student body president, one of the most mortifying moments of my adolescence. I entered the stage to John Lennon’s “Power to the People”, and I gave an impassioned speech about taking our rights back as a student body, reclaiming our creativity and instituting more progressive and diverse programming school-wide.
Apparently I was alone in the idea that we needed a revolution at my Catholic college preparatory high school. That experience pushed me into deeper withdrawal. I was buying time until graduation. My confidence and sense of self was diminished and I settled for an easy next step, Loyola Marymount University, a local Jesuit private college. Ultimately, an extension of my high school years.
My time in college felt anticlimactic. My plans to become a lawyer so I could be smart, stable and good felt less and less enchanting. After an internship for a civil litigator, I knew law wasn’t for me.
I WASN’T OPEN TO MYSELF ENOUGH YET TO SEE MY OWN BEAUTY. I WAS STILL HIDING AND RUNNING FROM ME.
Soon after college I met my husband and was married a year later. I adored him for being all of the things I wasn’t. He was sweet and innocent. Good natured and optimistic. A doctor. A member of the civilized citizenry. He fit into social structures with ease. He loved me and I loved him. I felt his more traditional profile a breath of fresh air from the heaviness and loneliness I had felt most of my life. I wasn’t open to myself enough yet to see my own beauty. I was still hiding and running from me.
Fortunately this relationship has sustained and grown, deepening in ways I could never have expected. But no partner, parent or friend can compensate for a lack of self-love. A fractured identity or repressed and unprocessed pain will always surface.
In 2013 I picked up Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. It was an ironic aha moment. Positioned as a business book and commenting on the dominant paradigms of extrovert values in schools and businesses, I questioned whether much of my angst could be attributed to being an unidentified introvert? I couldn’t be sure because I have always been verbose and quite conversant (not that I enjoyed it). This book opened me to feelings of self-compassion. I identified with the idea that I had sacrificed my more natural tendencies for the more socially valued extroverted approaches to life.
From there things snowballed into a deeper understanding of my empathic nature, creativity and deep sensitivity. I have been on a deep healing journey for three years. I have embraced the conscious process of cultivating a rich internal roots system, nourished by the fertile soil of my biodynamic ecosystem. Ready to grow that which organically comes forth from the depths of my soul.
I WANT TO BE KINDER TO ME. I WANT TO NURTURE AND ACCEPT ME. I WANT TO MAKE SPACE IN THE WORLD FOR ME, EXPRESSING THE FULL SPECTRUM OF MY TRUE SELF.
With this month’s theme of intimacy, I resonate most deeply with the desire for an intimate relationship with myself. I want to be kinder to me. I want to nurture and accept me. I want to make space in the world for me, expressing the full spectrum of my true self.
The night of my eleventh anniversary was the moment I experienced intimacy with myself like never before. I felt myself without inhibition and it was painful. My husband bore witness to my experience and in doing so we shared an intimate moment that transcended the endless words and actions we had exchanged in the past twelve years. I allowed myself to be seen and I saw myself in full color.