There’s a saying I’ve heard from people in recovery about consciously becoming an active presence in one’s own life. This is where I am today. In my last post I wrote about the first memory I have of wanting to die. This post is about my earliest memories of wanting to live.
Of course scattered throughout my childhood were moments of knowing I wanted to live – to grow up and become a lawyer, a therapist, or President. I don’t really consider these active and conscious moments so much as times when I wasn’t so beaten down by the hopelessness in those around me that I wanted to escape it all. Or maybe I did want to escape and this was simply a different route.
When I first recall really wanting to live I was 22 years old and pregnant. The pregnancy was unplanned and I had been suffering from a terrible depression for the last year. I had been laid off from work and spent most of my days sleeping or drinking. When I discovered I was pregnant I was motivated to have the baby mostly because I had wanted one so badly a few years earlier when I was a newly wed. Laying in bed that night and making the decision with my partner to have this child, something clicked. I couldn’t be a mom that spends her days in bed. I couldn’t be a mom that lives in a state of hopelessness. I had to live my life. So I got out of bed. Now I am not suggesting that everyone with depression can simply get out of bed one day. I am also not suggesting that this was the last time I felt depressed or hopeless or wanted to die. This is my earliest memory of consciously wanting to live.
It would be a few years before I realized that simply living and wanting to grow old wasn’t enough. I wanted to live with purpose and joy. I wanted my life to be exciting. I wanted to show my daughter that life wasn’t just something you had to get through, but instead a great adventure.
I started paying more attention to my spiritual practice again. I excelled at my job and decided despite the stress and working for a large conservative company to make the best of it. I lost nearly a hundred pounds in 10 months. By 2005 life looked really good. Somehow along the way I forgot to redefine my goals. I had success at work and with my weight and decided I was done. I became complacent and slowly put the weight back on, drank too much, and started to feel the stress from work. In fact the stress became so bad that in early 2008 I quit my job. By 2008 I had gained back all my weight. I was still engaged in my spiritual work, but it was becoming increasingly difficult.
When I think back to that time I think of myself as a piece of plastic that’s trying to support more than it’s capable of, you can see the stress and how the plastic has weakened. It’s not broken yet, but it’s close. I think it came from living without presence in my own life. Despite presence practice being a cornerstone of my spiritual tradition, I had been checking out for some time especially by using food and alcohol to stuff feelings and not look too closely at my life.
In late 2010 when my partner and I began our divorce process, I decided to get present again. I wanted to live differently.
I hadn’t been depressed or wishing for death to find me in my sleep. I had been asleep though, walking around in my life not awake, not actually being active in my life. I was going through the motions and taking whatever was handed to me. In some ways, I was living that early message I received that life is just something you have to get through. Now with the divorce looming, my new identity as a lesbian, the daunting task of being a single mom, and not knowing how I was going to support us… I decided to craft a new life. The purpose of living joyfully and present in my life has taken priority. “Life is short” has become a guiding principle for me to seek out adventures, to write more, to get right with God (in this case my own inner GodSoul as well as the energies of all living beings around me and with God Herself), and love fiercely.
For adventure, I’ve been traveling. In June I saw the ocean for the first time and visited Savannah, GA by myself. This month I’m in the North Shore of Massachusetts, will be heading to a retreat in Georgetown, Delaware, and then going to Atlanta. I plan to continue my travels with a trip to New Mexico this winter and San Francisco in the spring.
For writing, I am keeping blogs and writing daily. I’m attending a lot of poetry events and cultivating new writing styles with my own poetry.
For getting right with God, I am paying more attention to my body, mind, and soul. I’m meditating and focused on my UU community and serving to work toward congregational health.
For loving more fiercely, I am risking. I am willing to lean into love even when I’m afraid the one I love might run away and I’ll fall on my face. I am putting myself out there. I am being open and trusting love even when I can’t muster the trust for myself. I’m also trying to live love in my life and use it as my guiding principle for how I treat others as well as myself.
I’m still crafting my life. I’m still working on finding the best ways to be healthy, whole, and happy. I’m still defining my goals, knowing this time it’s going to be a life-long process. In many ways I feel like I was “born again,” the savior being myself.