Climbing Out of the Past

Photo by Paul Downey

Photo by Paul Downey

We were talking about fathers, and their legacies. I told her that I have recently discovered my purpose in life: to end the abuse of my past with me, to let none of it creep forward into the generations of my children and their children. Abuse has that way of climbing out of the past. Its shadows creep over every relationship, tainting them with roles and expectations never chosen. My friend worried aloud about a young woman she knew, bullied by her husband. She wondered what she could tell this young woman, how to change the course of her marriage, how to change her life. I began thinking about my younger self, and what I would have told her if I could reach back across time. Continue reading

Unraveled

Photo by Orin Zebest

Photo by Orin Zebest

What does it feel like to hit bottom?

Sometimes, after many years and many failed landings, it can be like simply coming to rest, two feet connecting irrevocably to earth with a muffled thump and a tiny puff of dust. Sometimes there’s no crash, no thud, no debris, no collateral. Just the magnetic snick of your feet sliding home, where they’re meant to be. The bond moves upward from the heels, as all the poles of your body realign themselves to the lodestone. Grounded. Once joined, the slow seeping warmth of the earth travels from toes to fingertips, stirring your blood and the tiny hairs on your skin to a pattern you can feel and hear and smell. You know with certainty that this is the bottom of the mess, nothing is obscured, nothing lurks: it doesn’t get any more complicated than this. All your confusions and questions shake themselves out like a dog emerging from the lake. It is all suddenly very simple.

What does it feel like to hit bottom? For me, it was learning that all the unhappiness in my life, and especially in my marriage, grew from just two sources: feeling unsafe, and feeling powerless. Unsafe and powerless: legacy of childhood, a lesson those charged with my nurture collaborated all unknowing to inculcate. They did not mean to do this. With words telling me: You can do anything, be anything. With actions attacking the integrity of my spirit relentlessly in ways I hardly knew to recognize from those I loved. I did not know that I needed to defend myself. I did not see that I was laying aside my own power to keep myself safe. Continue reading