Talking with my friend Bill one afternoon about how similar our early experiences had been, he sighed, “My childhood was such a nightmare. I was just trying to survive.”
Instantly, a tiny light went on in my mind, a pinprick of illumination where none had shone before. Revealed to me at that moment was the understanding that a part of me, in fact, did not survive.
Somewhere along the line, as I picked up the pieces after this or that calamity, something had shattered beyond repair. “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put [me] together again,” and ever since, like Humpty Dumpty, I have been less than whole.
I am not sure what to call it, this part of me that broke. A Course in Miracles teaches that regardless of what we may think and feel about ourselves, the unwavering, underlying truth about every single one of us is that we are perfect, eternal, changeless children of God. So what could possibly break? But I was light years away from any such understanding back then, any such acceptance of myself.
What it feels like deep down inside is that my very ability to function in this world with any degree of confidence, success, optimism and hope was flattened in the hurricane that was my childhood home.
It feels, as well, as if my legitimacy as a person—my right to take up space—was irrevocably violated. I became an extension of my mother and so grew up with no conviction that I belonged anywhere, that there was a place for me, that I was safe, loved, and protected. Instead, it was as if each of us—my parents, my sister and I—donned our invisible boxing gloves every morning and came out fighting.
Some kids are so resilient as to rise above such circumstances and make the kind of adversity I suffered work for them instead of against them. Simply crumpling at the first sign of difficulty is not in their repertoire. Yet when I think about it now, crying and crumpling into a ball comprised my entire skill set. With no one to trust, no one to turn to, I never thought that I might actually rely on myself. What a concept!
“You can continue to live in your mother’s world,” counsels Thomas, my head doctor, “or you can live in your own world.” The transition is not easy. I have perpetually lived in someone else’s world, feeling as if I lacked the right to have my own. Always the bit player, never the star, even in my own life.
Even today, I live in a world I would not have chosen had I understood that I was yet again going along with someone else’s vision of life because I could not conjure up one of my own.
“Bloom where you are planted,” friends advise. And to some degree, I have, creating professional opportunities for myself that I could not make happen in Manhattan.
Yet almost seven years after moving from New York City to rural, southern Virginia, I still feel unmoored here, marooned several miles from the nearest town, itself barely a blip on the map and from which we must travel at least an hour and a half for the most basic of services.
Yes, it is serenely beautiful, but not mine, lacking, as I do, the connection to the land that my partner has. Moreover, the pace, the energy and the isolation are enervating and depressing. My life feels small in a way it never did, and I pine for New York as if it were a long-lost lover.
Perhaps my new scheme of more frequent visits will provide the balm I am looking for. In the interim, as Bill and I did in childhood, I survive, and I work with Thomas to uncover my world, almost as if he were an archeologist instead of a psychologist.
Somewhere under the rubble, he and I will find me—the perfect, eternal, changeless child of God that A Course in Miracles assures me is my reality—and I will be healed.
Tags: boomers life changes self love rev. christopher ross healing
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