Rio Pastaza, Puyo, Ecuador
You are my witnesses, watching me as I traverse new trails; an expedition of epic proportions. And as witnesses, you get a front row seat to watching me stumble on unforeseen booby traps, tripping over protruding roots from trees barely underground, seemingly rising just high enough to throw me to the ground.
Vulnerability can be embarrassing at times, I've found. It is in these very moments that I am offered a choice: to keep exploring at the bottom of my black hole, or to take the exit pill of overcompensation & performance; to ignore that the fall ever happened and keep on keeping on until the next collapse. Because one thing is for certain: it will come again and again, increasing in intensity until I decide to face off once and for all.
This year, 2018, was the year I chose to take it on. To sit in the embarrassment. To feel the cold breeze of fear in order to find out why I was ever embarrassed in the first place. To figure out in whom I was giving the power to determine my worth, my value. I'd had enough. I was exhausted with myself. I couldn't keep up.
I wish I could say I've been kicking butt and taking names. But my behind is still on that earthen floor, body covered in dirt and fallen leaves; bloodied, bruised, still embarrassed. I honestly thought I was all cried out but the body being three-fourths water has kept my tear ducts fully stocked. Dehydration has been a constant friend, indeed.
I cried out for help from every direction. I cried in front of the guy I was dating and he let me know in more ways than one that he couldn't offer it to me. I cried on the phone with my doctors, support staff, and family back home. I broke down in front of friends and strangers alike. I have fought hard to keep from running away this time, even in the middle of crying fits that just come out of nowhere and threaten to obliterate me.
Two months I have spent on the perceived island of rock bottom. Sadness still comes over me in powerful waves, stealing my joy with the receding waters. Where I normally found my center, the beach, was just a reminder of all I felt that was sliding through my fingers. I had doubled down on measuring my value out there in the deep, and the hurricane came and took down my house built on sand. I went under. I lost my power.
This is not the first time I've drowned. But this is the first time I decided to grieve.
I grieved my dreams deferred. I grieved my childhood. I grieved my trauma. I grieved the years of bullying and exclusion and emptiness that stole my memories. I grieved lost friends. I grieved my sense of invisibility. I grieved my incessant perfectionism. I grieved my mental health. I grieved 15 years of hiding in plain sight. I held the hands of a licensed therapist, my parents, brothers, mentors and close friends and I lifted my eyes to the hills to my help that comes from my Creator, God Almighty who loved me and gave Himself for me.
I am still having a hard time accepting that I drowned. That I was the lost coin, never gone, just hidden under dust mites, behind the couch, under the stairs. That my arms weren't strong enough to break the current pulling me under this time. That my story isn't that unique.
I'm still grieving, but not as a person without hope. I am walking backwards toward the essential self that I lost so many years ago. She's still there -- I imagine she's knocking at the bottom level of my soul, staring through the double-walled glass portholes of my submarine. If I'm still breathing, she's gotta be there. And I will spend the rest of my life looking for her, honoring her, no matter how long that takes.
Because how else can I be my authentic self if I don't go and get her back? My time will be redeemed.
In the meantime, this is the hope I hold onto with the tightest grip:
Psalm 40 (NLT)
(words in pink are my emphasis)
1 I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. 2 He lifted me out of the pit of despair (rock bottom), out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. 3 He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see (witness!) what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.