Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Self-Love September: A Shamanic Rebirth on a Dark Street

For me, it all started when I realised that I had a straight forward choice to make. It was a choice with simple terms but far-reaching consequences. Keep loathing myself and being my own enemy or start loving myself and being my friend. I looked back over the last decade of my life - the eating disorder, the self-harm, the angry rages, the creative stagnation and the dysfunctional relationships.. I had to be honest, it was one big mess. I had drifted so far from the understanding that I was holy and wondrous and worthy of life. I figured I must have known it once, as a small child perhaps. But I was so eaten up with disappointment, pressure and ego spaghetti that it seemed like ancient history. I was drowning. And I didn't want to live like that anymore.

I figured that since I obviously didn't want to die, it was time to take advantage of what so many others had been denied - the opportunity to really live. That was a big moment for me - the moment when I realised that the oxygen passing through my lungs was a fucking privilege. Straight up, no bullshit.

People die every single day.

They are ripped from the lives they were living and torn from the arms of their loved ones in all manner of violent, shocking and unexpected ways. No matter what your perspective is on death, no matter how stoic or matter-of-fact you are about it, you can still acknowledge that being alive for this little piece of time on this swirling piece of rock is a pretty trippy gift. You owe it to yourself to take it with both hands.

Gratitude is the most amazing thing once you realise that nothing actually needs to change for you to really feel it. You can feel it right now, in this moment. You can feel it any time you like and no one and nothing can take it away from you.

I started doing little things and big things to make life better. I started talking to myself, asking myself questions about my anger, my insecurity, my inability to open up to people properly. I asked myself why I felt the way I did, why I was scared of being the best version of myself. I asked myself if, in five years time, I would feel good about my life if I didn't change anything. I asked myself if my relationship with the razor blade was really the best I could do. I stopped comparing myself to other people and started comparing myself to the person I was the day before. I stopped trying to live up to ridiculous expectations. I started giving names to my complexes. Instead of seeing them as shitty little parts of myself which provided evidence of my worthlessness, I chose to see them as fragmented parts of me which needed my acknowledgement, love, healing and acceptance. I chose the path of understanding them rather than attacking and rejecting them. I read Jung. I walked more and watched the changing leaves. I experimented with the energies of resistance and allowance, watching what happened when I pushed for results and ignored problems versus what happened when I surrendered, accepted and flowed with the moment.. I stopped cutting myself. I stopped starving myself. I let myself speak more about what was wrong. I made collage and did paintings and wrote poems without dismissing them as gibberish. I invited my inner child to tea and I let her dance in coloured skirts and laugh until her ribs ached. I didn't even have a language for any of this stuff at the time. 'Inner child', 'complexes' 'resistance and allowance' - these things weren't a part of my lexicon. I filled those gaps in later on. All I knew was that I was trying.

I had to admit that life got better.

And why not? What's the point in being pissed off and twisted out of shape all the time? Who wins? Who benefits? The universe is expanding, and so are we, but only if we will it. We can stay small if we want to, but we are fighting against the natural order of things. And it takes a lot of energy, time and focus to do that. Staying small takes everything you've got. Might as well redirect that energy towards a better cause. Even if that cause is just staying alive and smiling about it at least once a day.

But then something genuinely wonderful and utterly devastating happened to me.

The man who had supported me through all of this and celebrated my progress for four years suddenly walked out of my life and fell in love with someone else.

I was absolutely broken. I felt like I had to start all over again. I felt like someone had just taken the leaning post away from me and I had fallen back down into the cold mud of misery.

Thank the goddess for heartbreak.

It wiped the floor with me. It almost killed me. Before that time in my life, I had no idea what it was to cry. Every tear I cried before he left me was a poor imitation of the real thing. When he left, I cried until I could hear the blood racing in my ears. I cried until I was numb. I cried until my future felt like a black hole.

To put it bluntly, it hurt so badly that I thought it would never end.

My friends started pulling away too. They didn't know how to help me. They couldn't bear to absorb my pitch black energies for too long. I used to sit up all night in front of the heater in the cold living room where he and I had made our lovely life together. I knew that the heater was burning up money and that I would receive bills that I had no way of paying on just one wage. But still I kept it on. I think it kept me from going back to the razor blades I had left behind so long ago.

This experience is how I came to believe in post-traumatic growth 100%. Some things happen precisely because we need them to even if we protest against them with every single bone in our bodies. Self-love is much easier to cultivate when other parts of your life are sailing smoothly. When you have someone to nod and smile as they see you grow. When you have someone to tell you that you mean everything to them. You can foster self-love in those circumstances, but you can only know the true value of it when you are in hell. Only then can it become the most sacred keystone of your life - the ground from which you rebuild everything that was destroyed. Only then do you get to witness its majesty in action.

Can you still be grateful for the oxygen in your lungs then? Can you still give yourself words of love as you huddle up alone in the foetal position and cry? Can you hold yourself in those moments and see yourself through? Can you see the divinity and the worthiness in yourself, even when the one who used to see it doesn't want to look at it anymore?

Those were the questions I asked myself.

I remember the first time I felt self-love at the deepest core of myself after that. I had to give up the house I was living in with my departed love because I couldn't afford to keep it on my own and it was too full of memories in any case. I had moved into a small room in a shared house with my belongings. I was broke because I had lost my job, finding myself unable to cope with work and struggling with depression. I was walking through the snow in the darkness of the city, feeling lost and despondent. Suddenly, I started talking to myself and being with myself in that sad little slice of time. I realised that I didn't have to abandon myself. I could be the centre of my own universe. I realised that I never needed anyone to look at me with love in their eyes - I needed to do that for myself. That's where it is. It's in recognising that you are always with yourself. You are never divorced from yourself. You can be in your own presence and you can give to yourself what others have taken from you.

A shamanic rebirth on a dark street with snow slush seeping through the hole in my shoe.