Friday, October 19, 2012

The Healing Journey: Identity Creation and Extreme Self-Care

I had my surgery on Tuesday - lumpectomy and a sentinel node biopsy. I’ve spent the last few days sitting on the couch recovering, watching movies and receiving flowers and gifts from colleagues and friends, recovering and doing some deep, dark soul-searching. Here’s one of the admittedly somewhat somber and bittersweet fruits of that labor (see, I warned you, I'm super upbeat, but there's no such thing as a Polyanna around here):

The road back from can’t-sir, or through can’t-sir is perhaps a better way of saying it, is a road of both re-learning to love yourself, and of realizing you are not alone after all. All these years, these have been two big parts of how I felt without really realizing it: just totally alone and lonely, and not really loving on myself as much as I did on others.

A little party music...
The pity party began like this: I suddenly realized during this recovery period that pretty much all my life, I felt like no one really understood me or cared about me -- and I mean, really deeply cared -- except maybe a handful of people who also, I suspect often felt their own loneliness like a shoehorn stuck in their boot and didn’t know how exactly to articulate it. The hard part of this pity party was  realizing and admitting: it had nothing to do with anyone else. Despite all the self-help, self-work, therapy, and self-exploration, after all these years, it was still just me who wasn't loving on myself enough. I was too busy loving on everyone else and criticizing me. Really, when did I ever make time for me? The time was there, but I didn't always grasp it. I just dove in to everything else, non-stop, full-steam ahead. And in the midst of what looks on the outside like a pretty brilliant, successful, fun, healthy life, who would ever stop to complain or even think about this deep, dark secret she’s maybe been holding onto -- for like basically forever -- in the dark part of her soul? Check please!

One morning you wake up and it's the strangest feeling. Everything is different, yet everything is the same, and you don’t know who you are exactly anymore because your center is suddenly on vibrate. I think that’s the tickler of self-love, the little butterfly of hope, and the awareness of the imperative of what Cheryl Richardson calls “Extreme Self-Care” winging its way back to life in the soul.

Sad fact: You don’t become a saint because you get can’t-sir. I'm telling you, I want that Disney E-Ticket, and they are fewer and fewer to come by! But it's true. You don’t necessarily instantly begin to love yourself, forgive other people, or manifest doves out of your sleeves or walk on water just because you get a life-threatening illness. I still feel super jealous and angry and bitter on many, many days. I still use the word "fight" and I still feel like a warrior -- all be it a love-warrior -- in the battle for my life.  I'm not willing to let that go just yet. (Maybe it's something to do with my names, my past lives, who knows, but I'm pretty sure I've always been a warrior, so I'm going with it.)

In those moments of dark emotional dwelling, I just do my best to be gentle on myself, to observe what's up for me, and shift. To focus on the moment that’s right in front of me and think about how I can make it amazing. I'm still growing into this idea that that jealousy, anger and bitterness is really all about me being terrified, about me healing old wounds, and leaning into the idea that there's a way easier direction to head in. I confess, I don’t always feel it, and it isn't always without effort. My external guru in this space is the brilliant Anita Moorjani. I saw her at Hay House's "You Can Do It" conference a couple years ago. Wayne Dyer, announced his new way of looking at his own can't-sir, and then introduced this amazing woman to tell her own life after death story for the first time. The entire audience was in tears. Wayne's perspective was already a huge shift for most of us. Anita was the capper. Check her out. You'll see why.

Sometimes, especially at tough medical appointments, I still feel like shouting at the receptionist, “Hey, what lady, why do you hate me so much anyways? More forms to fill out? Didn’t I just do these exact same ones yesterday?”

Sometimes I just feel like shouting at myself, “Hey, you! Now you've got this little detour going, I wonder if you’ll ever get to do those things with your life that you claim to be doing? Does this mean sky-diving is out for good?”

But day by day, I am learning. I just try to go with it. I embrace it. I yell and scream if need be and apologize when it’s warranted. But mostly, I just breathe, because breathing is like my leap of faith. I know that if I just breathe, eventually, I can regain my lovely, loving, calm heart-centered wholeness. And when I slide into home, I repeat quietly the words of the ho'o-pono-pono practice, directing them at every version of myself I can locate inside me, “All is well. All is truly well. Thank you. I love you. I am sorry. Please forgive me. I love you.”

One tip I have learned and want to share is that social media can be both a boon and a bane to the soul in a healing crisis. If you are feeling a little lonely or dissatisfied with your life, if you’re in the midst of a MOMENT, give yourself permission to exit the Facebook, stage left. It doesn’t have to be forever. Just for a little while. It may help you to read the goings on of your peeps, but it may also just serve to make you feel worse.

A useful thing to remember is that Facebook and other online social media is often a place where people congregate to create an alternate identity. An altered reality that has little to do with actual reality and a lot to do with their ideal reality -- who they aspire to be, what they wish they were doing all day long, how they wish they talked or sounded to others, what they wished they thought about, with very little of the real crap kept in. (While there are many out there, I especially love this thesis on social media and identity construction. Food for thought.) The point is, give yourself permission to take a break from that un-reality for awhile during this time. It will serve to create some space for you to create your own new reality. And dang, it’s way easier to create a real version that’s pretty amazing, once you get your head back on straight!

I want to emphasize: I truly believe in community, and I know that through my community, both physical and virtual, I am learning a lot already from this can’t-sir journey. It’s just useful to practice some discernment, and to be really honest with yourself about where you’re at in your journey. Check out when you need to. Check in when it’s right. Be truthful with yourself. Be compassionate on yourself.

For me, I’ve certainly learned some amazing lessons already. I’ve learned that I’m not so damn alone. I’ve learned I mean something to many people I didn’t really know cared. I’ve learned I don’t mean so much to other people, and that’s actually really okay too. I’ve learned I’m going to be okay no matter what, and that I really can take a moment to reshape my life and my worldview. I can honestly be grateful for all that I’m going through and stay authentic to who I am and wish to be. That it really all is a gift, and that I have the tools to cope with whatever comes my way. It’s reminded me that we all have our moments, dark, light, surreal, unreal, real... and that all that is okay too.

What do you observe about your own emotional journey through healing?

What role does real or virtual community play in your healing today? What role might you aspire to have it play?

What old patterns, thoughts, or feelings might you choose to shed or incorporate innew ways as part of your healing journey?

No comments:

Post a Comment