How Every Small But Gargantuan Leap of Faith Really Frickin’ Matters
A year ago, toward the end of January, I was asked by my psychiatrist to either go home or be institutionalized.
I was having what I believed were panic attacks—which turned out to be episodes of deep-rooted anger and sadness—which were horribly destructive toward myself as well as people I loved.
To be more specific, these episodes significantly affected my boyfriend, with whom I was living at the time. After three months of almost daily episodes, going back to my hometown (away from the boyfriend) was a welcome respite.
It made no sense to me. Though there had been some indication of a deep-rooted problem in the past—for which I had sought therapy at one time—there really had never been any kind of conscious awareness of such deep hatred for myself, such anguish, such fear of abandonment and such terrible anger. It seemed as though my body preserved these experiences and feelings for this time; when they were triggered, it was sort of safer for them to emerge.
I was breaking down, and I see this as an elaborate process—a process still ongoing, and through which I lose parts of myself while recovering others. I become a fragmented, sometimes hollow, sometimes messy, visage of my former self.
I am writing this right now, with the same man lying next to me, snoring gently, because two nights ago I slid back into that dark place. And yet, despite the horror of the days before, today there is a shift—so palpable, even I, instinctively skeptical about my body, believe it—toward something that feels like togetherness and safety.
I am also writing this because I want to acknowledge and celebrate the many hours of practicing Marshall Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication, Eugene Gendlin’s Focusing, just plain old support and acceptance from my friends and family and these fine, sometimes infinitesimal, moments of connection and hope.
I also want to acknowledge and celebrate the joy and tremendous value of being broken because I think most often we measure the “success” of our stories in terms of whether or not we are “better” or “happy” without recognizing happy, better and wellness are not states of being, so much as they are processes.
For some reason, a lot of people I know are going through this kind of shift. Perhaps it is simply because I have finally found some sort of direction I want my life to move toward, and I’m reading a lot of articles and books about just this thing—imperfection, being broken and fragmented, being many weird parts of oneself at once and nothing specific. I also want to write because I have a need for contribution.
I want to be clear, every step, no matter how small, matters.
Last year, on the anniversary of my mother’s death, I drank a reasonably decent single malt and committed to working on myself. At the time, it was a commitment constructed on an amorphous sense I could be happy, better, well, and a palpable realization my relationship was not working not because there were differences between us that could not be resolved, but because of the indefinite, borderless reality of my struggles with myself.
It wasn’t the absence of love or connection, but the presence of such huge loneliness in me, it was difficult to reach beyond it.
In the last couple months I’ve touched on an image within me: the image of me, alone, at a huge beach with the vast emptiness of land and ocean all around. I have realized this image on a more tangible level, in that, every part of my body seems to feel this image.
Focusing teaches us the body preserves our experiences, and in accessing and accepting those parts of yourself that seem stuck, you can heal. As a child, I feared the ocean. I feared it would suck me in and take me far, far away from the known and loved into the unknown and unreachable, and I would be lost and never found again. It was a terrible fear, and it stretched also to my mother, in that, I feared it would take her away as well.
In some sense, the ocean was life itself, and I recognize now that love is, for me, that unknown quantity, the continent from which I fear I cannot return.
The truth is, or so it seems to me, every moment of connection is like this ocean. Every connection invariably and infinitely transforms us. We cannot make an honest connection with someone without being changed in one way or another by them. We are not in control of this, and that can be painfully scary. But at the same time, I think this is the point, pretty much, of living. This is the living energy they speak of in Non-Violent Communication, and the fundamental life-energy one touches on in Focusing.
I’m writing now to say, this ocean (which may be different for everyone—for some it may be a desert, for others it could be a sock—that’s not really the point!) isn’t crossed in a day. It requires a leap of something along the lines of faith, which is difficult to define and different for everyone; and really, sometimes steps toward this seem obviously stinted.
You may not really know what you’re doing or how it helps—whether it is yoga, NVC, meditation or whatever the hell. It’s not important what it is; what is important is the intention. The intention to change, and the willingness to accept your own brokenness and falling-apartness and mess.
Yesterday, a year or more after the beginning of my spiritual awakening (i.e. my huge meltdown), I had a total freak-out and felt pretty much like the world was coming to an end. My lover—the keeper of my things—told me that he wasn’t leaving. I know now that’s not a blanket statement which binds him to me for all eternity. The point is, I could hear him.
I did sit and cry like a mental patient; but, overwhelming though my feelings were, I remembered my Focusing practice and found I could distinguish between my Self and my feelings. And when eventually, I could go to bed, I looked myself in the eye in the mirror, and told myself:
“I love and accept you. and no matter what happens, I will never stop loving and accepting you.”
I think we, those who are in the process of huge changes and also little changes, are never not broken, like the Goddess Akhilandeshwari (who I honestly know very little about, but she is awesome), who is the patron of cataclysm and rebirth, and who is beautiful in her vulnerability.
We are never not broken, and that is glorious and important; because without being broken, we would never see anything beyond the uncracked surface. And within this never-not-brokenness, when we make shifts, they are small, but they are hugely significant.
Everything is not not broken for me, but for the moment I have learned this: every single small thing you do for your well being—whether it’s to read a silly self help book, take a yoga class, draw something, call a friend or simply write out your junk for the internet to read—it matters.
Keep it up. Take small steps. Celebrate little moments of connection. Love and accept yourself. And no matter what happens, or what you do, never stop.
Manasi Saxena is a student of history and of life, who has recently stood at the very edge of a cliff and realized there is nothing more awesome than being vulnerable, nothing more brave than accepting it and nothing more valuable than sharing, growing, receiving and being authentic. She loves puppies, stories about long journeys, people, traveling, art, cooking and warm cuddly hugs.
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Ed: Lynn Hasselberger /Asst. Ed. Jennifer Spesia