Teaching My Soul to Sing

Last August, in Georgia, I sat under the bright full moon and surrendered my heart to never lightknowing the answers to questions I never asked.  Under the watch of towering pines, I gazed through a fire into the eyes of the person I loved beyond all reason and let go.  I wrote a little about that experience here.  What I remember from it now, this full moon, is how much ease I felt when forgiveness finally rooted in my heart, for myself and everyone else involved in the breaking that led to my becoming.

Occasionally I get caught up in wondering about the becoming of my Self.  What started it?  Was it the breaking of my heart?  I feel, at times, it was most certainly that moment when my becoming started.  But no, by then I had already become a person who could lean in, love beyond reason, forgive, and let my heart break open again and again while love transformed me.  Maybe the unfolding started when I felt loved for the first time, really feeling it root in my bones and become something I was sure of the way I am sure my lungs are working – I don’t have to worry about them, or force them, I just relax and breathe and they work.  I could keep going back in time trying to find the moment of my becoming but the truth is there are a thousand moments that shape who we are, who we will be.

What I do know is somewhere along the way I became someone who loved fiercely and fully.  I became the sappy romantic I used to secretly roll my eyes at.  I realized love is a synonym for God.

I never thought I would become someone who held love as their highest priority.  Much of my life, love was just a word. I had made it to my Saturn return without a lot of fanfare for it.  Then I unraveled and in doing so took down the walls around my heart, destroyed the stories about how love was for suckers, and just let myself be crazy in love.  When it all fell apart, I just kept unraveling.  I found love was something deeper than a relationship.  Love was bigger than a particular set of expressions.  Love could take something away from you and break your heart while, at the same time, giving you something precious and break you open.  I wrote about this for just over a year so I will save you from rehashing the details.

Then I fell in love again – with someone who wasn’t in love with me.  More heartbreak.  This time the unraveling really did feel like I was being undone.  I’ve spent the last few months questioning everything I had come to know about love, myself, my worth, and the goodness of life.

A boy undid me?  Pathetic.  This was ringing in my head for months.  How could a whirlwind romance with a man who was upfront about his lack of emotional availability or interest be strong enough to undo all those powerful lessons from before?  I will tell you how, childhood trauma.  All the old stories of not being good enough, not being worthy, not being lovable came back full force. So I came apart for the past few months.

Sifting through the pieces of this most recent heart break and the spiritual crisis that seemed to accompany it, I saw all the shinning edges again.  I saw another sign post on the journey of becoming.  This beautiful man made my soul sing.  There is no other way to put it.  His voice, his words, his writing, his music, the thought of him, his lips, everything… my soul would just sing.  It was like the song of the Universe lighting me up inside.  A musician, a poet, a preacher, a friend, a lover, a spiritual being – yes, my soul was SINGING.  Sometimes when I think of him, it still does.

Being undone completely, feeling 8 years of personal work slipping away, watching my spiritual practice just stop, watching my depression take over, realizing old patterns of escape were whispering to me all the time was all very terrifying.  All I could see was how far away I am from realizing some other important goals.

Then there was Nahko & Medicine for the People and the medicine of this song.

Suddenly I remembered the power I felt in leaving Arkansas last year, in visualizing a new life for myself by loading everything up and just going.  If I can change huge parts of my life by visualizing, and manifesting, leaving… surely I can visualize and manifest healing.

It’s beginning now… the healing.  I listen to Medicine for the People and sing and dance in my car. I’m finding new ways to set my soul to singing.  I’m still struggling with some darkness but mostly the light is breaking through those jagged edges again.

Breaking Me

brokenI started leaning into breaking in 2010. Leaning into love, into leaving, into heart ache, into letting my heart-break open from poetry, sermons, meditations, walks in the woods.  I was broken wide open.  The light flooded in and I started changing.  It took a lot of breaking to get light into those places in my heart that had been held back in the shadows for so long.

As spring 2013 approaches, my work is shifting away from the work of leaning in to the breaking and more into leaning into the vision. My vision is grace and hope. In 2010 this “Breaking Me” blog started a journey to explore what love was, what it meant to be heartbroken, what it meant to be okay with breaking and leaning in deeper.  That work continues and from time to time will surface here in my writing. The work I wish to bring more fully to this space is the work of exploring grace, cultivating the beloved within, hope, and manifesting the vision I hold for my life.

It was nearly a year ago when the shift in my work really began. Last May I dug deep into Earth work, started a new career, and moved 1000 miles from my home.  The work continues as I learn to reshape and rebuild a new life. I have felt pregnant with a newness for my life, troubled with a complicated and stressful labor of liberating myself from invisible shackles, and finally I feel I have arrived.

With intention, I’ve changed the look of this blog.  The photograph at the top was taken by me in downtown Baltimore – a place I feel is one of many homes to my heart.    I’ve been photographing signs mentioning grace for over a year.  This sign, a church sign, reads “The Grace & Hope Mission.”  Yes! I feel like this is my personal mission right now.

I am cultivating the Beloved within.  I am revitalizing my life with hope.  I am manifesting a vision for my life. I am letting love be the boundary and grace be the gift.

“I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”  – Anne Lamott

Sobering Moments

Aside

It can be challenging in sobriety to experience rituals you used to drink around.  These can be office parties, weddings, 5 o’clock, or the super bowl.  Luckily it wasn’t difficult for me not to drink on Sunday.  It did provide some insight to explore memories of the past few super bowls and my behavior around drinking in general.

The last few years the Super Bowl has been my big drunk of the year.  I would start drinking an hour before the game started and do so nonstop.  I realized that every football game could be like this and started wanting to watch more games with people to have more excuses to drink until I couldn’t feel anything – not in my heart, not in my mind, and not in my body.  I would just get numb.  Somehow I thought this was great.

This year I spent the Super Bowl at an AA meeting.  I got there early and stayed there late.  I couldn’t help but think throughout the meeting that here I was circling up with people around a shared experience much like I would gather around a television somewhere with pitchers of beer covering the table.  This was better.  When I drove home I wasn’t at risk to kill someone.

addictionThe last year of my drinking I had learned to lie to people, even to myself, about drinking and driving.  I was convinced if I had coffee the last 10-20 minutes of the night that I was sober and I could drive.  I would start pulling it together just enough to convince people that I wasn’t completely out of it.  Then I’d get in the car and head home.  Somehow in my mind I really thought drinking for 3+ hours was all wiped out by a couple of cups of coffee.  I’m lucky.  I never killed anyone, crashed my car, or even got a DUI. I also think my ability to avoid these consequences made it difficult for me to own my alcoholism.

I was not a daily drinker.  I could go out and have just a beer or a margarita over dinner.  I often met people for drinks and had iced tea.  I didn’t seem like an alcoholic.  It was just that occasionally I would drink and be UNABLE to stop.  I would rationalize that I so rarely drank it didn’t matter and hey, everyone deserves to cut loose right?  So my one drink would turn into 10, sometimes more.  In the end, my final drunk, I had 16 vodka Collins in less than two hours.  It’s a wonder I didn’t get alcohol poisoning.

My sponsor has cautioned me that never really hitting a bottom could put me at risk for relapse.  At the same time he acknowledges that my firm grasp on spiritual development helped me come to the program earlier than some and gives me some advantage in being able to work the program.  I don’t dismiss his caution.  There are still times I tell myself I am not alcoholic.  Then I realize people who aren’t addicts do not have to argue with themselves about whether they are.

I never had a big bottom, but I never really built a life worth losing either.  I skated by.  I stayed in a miserable marriage, I never finished a degree or started a career, and I never managed any kind of financial stability or real independence. The only thing I had to lose was my daughter and while I didn’t lose her, I also didn’t have the kind of relationship with her that I do now.  I never started a life.

I’ve had friends ask if I really won’t drink again.  I don’t know, but I sure hope not.  I’m an addict.  I spent years trading one addiction for another.  I wasted my twenties just skating by rather than pursuing my dreams.  I don’t ever want to go back to that.  So today, I choose not to drink.  Sunday I chose to go to a meeting rather than a sports bar.  For me, it was a lifesaving choice.  It was only a matter of time before one of those binge drinking nights led me to kill myself or someone else.  I am so grateful I was able to wake up and get help before something like that happened.  I thank God every day that I’m sober.  To paraphrase Anne Lamott, I believe everything I have to offer anyone depends on my sobriety.  For those who do not know, Anne Lamott’s book Traveling Mercies directly led to my decision to get help and get sober.  Thanks Anne.