The Journey

journey

“You are ok,” was what my therapist told me during my next breakdown at the second emergency appointment, a year or so after sweet Leif left my womb. I looked at her unblinking stare through the thick dead-fish glaze that was hovering over my eyes, and then around her office for something to throw at her face. One of her many psychoanalytical books she quoted way too often. That’s how ok I was. Clenched jaw and fists, violent thoughts, and unpredictable outbursts of anger were becoming my norm. But maybe it was ok to want to hurt others and to cry, on and off all day, everyday. I was the definition of bi-polar, oscillating between my maniacal love for existence, and my “I-want-to-die-what-is-the-point-of-this-fucking-life” states. She had the tendency to say things that really pissed me off, trying to shine light in a room closed off, dark, far away from any chance of luminosity. She told me I was strong when I felt so fragile, I thought I could shatter to pieces if someone breathed too hard. She pointed out that I was still alive – young, bright, with a promising life ahead of me. What she didn’t know was that I actually played dead because I was terrified of life. When I would cry some more because I wanted to claw at her uterus, and didn’t know why I came to see her in the first place, she would hold immense space for me. She didn’t judge me or tell me that I was supposed to be something other than what I was. She allowed the storm to rage and pass. The space was often terrifying; too big, and too small, all at once. The world outside would explode, while my internal universe imploded, and always, at the end of each session, like all the others, I felt a bit better – all cried out and empty. Calm. The emptiness was somehow fullness. I was all Zen-ed out.   And then she would say that it was only going to get easier, that these storms would start losing their intensity, that I would be and feel right again. That’s how I would survive yet another day, another week, until my next breakdown.

I drank a lot because somehow my conscious mind was convinced that wine could drown out the pain. Little did I know then, but I missed my blind spot entirely. I drank and raged like a wild animal disillusioned by the deceitful thoughts that urged me to simply disappear. Nothing was ever drowned except for my liver. Alcohol brought up the 500-year floods of tears, the shame that I was burrowing in my intestines, and the thunderous anger I felt for life. It eventually, slowly, became clear, that I was actually trying to flee from the dullness. Some very twisted part of me wanted to drink up the pain.  Boozing brought back the visceral experience of emptiness. How can we comprehend this loud, echoing call of emptiness? Why in the world would I want to hurt? Part of myself was asking for one thing, but really wanting, and needing the opposite. Feeling was much better than not feeling at all. But my mind didn’t think so. I was torn between my own life and death.

Pain turned to fear. What could I lose next? How much would I have to swallow to never again spit back up? I grasped to those close to me so tight that I suffocated them. I imagined my loves ones dying at every moment they were not in my presence. I played the game of push and pull to see just how far I could get them away from my frantic, dangerous mind, only to desperately pull them back in. I hungered for love and security, fully knowing that both were illusory. But still, I hung on to deception.

I realized how things have changed when others asked me how I was doing. I would really feel into my answer, saying, “I’m alright…” I used to be “great,” and sparkly eyed and then the dead fish glaze set in. I rarely went into dissecting my “ok,” because I knew I would fall apart. I was ok with being ok, but really missed being alive.

Light shines in dark places to create life. Life finds itself, no matter how small, or lost. The Universe wants to evolve, move on, create, and become. It took many, many months of therapy, pain, and isolation to witness the path of unfolding. To feel the point between dying and rebirthing, the small space separating one from the other. Vast.

There is no exact time that these shifts began to take form. There was no intimate play with the witness. It was too gradual. You don’t just wake up one day and feel blissed out, like nothing ever happened. I mean, you could, but you would be hiding. Grief is its own entity; timeless. The beautiful crone.

Every experience of my life makes up who I am today. Sure, I would take some of those back, especially from the years where I was tiny and not able to remove myself from disserving circumstances. But this…I don’t know. A big part of me would not change a thing. It’s all part of the divine plan and I trust that. It altered my path and opened doors that would otherwise remain close. But the Mother in me is mourning. Always. She would take it all back.

It’s strange to write about this other Ania who I know still resides deep within, but is not present in this moment. At least not in this dimension, as I know it. I hold her in my heart so tenderly because I know all that she has gone through. And when I have a flashback, a relapse, or identify with the sadness of her soul, I hold so much compassion for her pain, because I know it far too well. But who am I now in relation to who I was back then, and what separates the two? Am I the progression? What is this unfolding?

I believe I am stronger in some ways, wearing my battle wounds with a mix of pain and pride. I am fascinated with death and birth, like never before. I see it happening all the time, in me, in those around me, in Nature. One experience swallows me up, only to spit me back to what was never before imagined. Energy moves, onward, only to be reborn again. I witness that in my garden when I rip out the roots of precious “weeds” to make space for the seedlings I planted. How is that any different from extracting a baby to create room for something greater and more inclined to flourish? I feel that I have been initiated into something deeper, darker, more transparent. I am learning how to surrender to powers greater than what my limited mind can comprehend. I am learning to give my heart away, trusting in its loyalty to never really abandon me. I trust in Life.

And I trust in Death.

This has been the greatest and most intense journey of my life. Putting it into words seems like it’s cheating the experience. But I try anyway, because somehow that is a gift I have been given, even in its limited form.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over two years since those therapy appointments, and I can look back and not only feel right again, but also see that I was OK even then. Because the truth is that we’re always ok, even when it seems like the world is crumbling down. Even in the darkest corners, light penetrates, eventually. Creation wants to shapeshift, to keep on creating. How else could we experience the essence of light if we don’t experience the darkness, in whatever form it manifests?

In the end, my wise therapist was right. I was dunked under and came to resurface to witness Life anew. To find a purpose that’s awaited me. To let go of a vision not yet ready to be manifested. To miss and love the child I never got to hold in my arms alive. To dive deeper into the mystery. To be in awe of existence and trust in its coordinates. To open, and close, only to open again. To laugh and cry, seeing one as the necessary step to the other. To breathe in life. To breathe out. To die. To tell the story.

Gratitude

grate

I am grateful.

For all the people in my life who so tenderly supported me through this difficult journey.

For the anger I did not know existed that transmuted into explosive creativity.

For my partner who never gave up on love, and stuck by me throughout my madness.

For the mysteries I unveiled within the contours of my grief.

For my sister who flew out to hold me while I birthed a breathless being into the world, then cleaned, cooked, and held the most sacred space.

For my inner strength that kept me driven to come out on the other side.

For my best friend who was next to me when I found out the worst news of my life, and for driving my car back from California to be with me.

For the messages I received from friends and strangers, encouraging me to keep going.

For my therapist who kept insisting that the storms would eventually pass.

For  my heart that broke a hundred times over to let me know that I was alive.

For loving a being I grew and never really met in person.

For realizing that I am not in control, and learning how  to surrender.

For the darkness that could only show me the light.

For the questions I would not think to ask.

For the hope that rose out of the ashes of despair.

For being able to share my process and lift the spirits of others.

For vulnerability that otherwise would remain hardened.

For being thrown into the underworld where so much wisdom resides.

For the beautiful stories of others that somehow made it all ok.

For witnessing the societal fear in the transparency of death.

For surviving the unimaginable.

For just being with it.

As I sat at the Thanksgiving table with my lover’s family, I came to really ponder what it is that I am appreciative of.  I felt the throb of that deep scar in my heart as I watched the kids run around, wanting so much for Leif to be there, playing with his cousins.  It’s a sharp ache that returns in those moments, one that brings forth tender emotion and lucid remembrance.  I welcome it, for it speaks of love.  And for that, too,

I am grateful.

Heartbreak

I used to believe that if you truly love someone, you should set them free, and if they come back, then it was meant to be.  These days, I fight for love, believing that letting it go is giving up, and in that, a weakness.  Today, I had been set free, and maybe in the future, I will taste that freedom, but what I feel right now is nothing resembling a bird out of the cage.  On the contrary, I feel as if his love was never real.  I feel heartbroken and betrayed.

They say that over 90% of couples who lose a baby simply don’t make it.  The grief and the stress is too much.  I thought we beat the odds.  I truly believed that we were indestructible, because our love was just that strong.  I stripped down to the very core, stood there completely naked, lowered all guards, and exposed my vulnerability.  He then turned his head because what he saw was weakness, and I was meant to be his strong queen.  He missed to notice just how much strength resides in vulnerability.   He refused to witness the work.

How many times can one hit the same wall and not think to walk around it, instead of finally deciding to walk away?  How can one love and not want to do the work to make it real and lasting?  Relationship is work.  It is a beautiful opportunity for our demons to surface, and with the gentleness of our lovers’ touch, we can slay them together.  But work takes time, patience, and discipline.  Relationship takes commitment to get through it all, even the shit that’s not pleasant.  Isn’t that a big part of life?  To find that perfect union that fulfills us and challenges us at the same time?  But one needs to want to make it happen, to shift, and jump hurtles.

I have been labeled many things – a lover, a hypocrite, a child, an asshole, weak, kind, strong, sensitive, a yogi, an alcoholic, etc.  The point is that I am IT ALL.  I become one and then transcend to another.  I screw up and I do things right.  I am a deep, multi-dimensional being.  And each one of these dimensions only desires to love and be loved.  Why could he not love me in my most tender states, the ones that needed his love and support the most?

I am reliving deep pain from my parents.  My childhood is swallowing me up and I feel helpless, floating in this space with no ground.  Have I invested just way too much?  Where have I lost all my power?

I don’t want to become jaded.  I don’t want to stop believing in love.  I don’t want to lose trust.  I want to find freedom within love, not outside of it.  But we all love so differently, speaking foreign languages, so where can we find that common ground?  How can we really see one another for what is truly there?

And so the deep grief begins…anew.

Make or Break

Break it or make it.  Break it.  Make it.  Break us.  Break me.  Break you.  Break the spell.  Take a break.  A clean break.  Break to pieces.  Make a choice.  Make sure.  Make up.  Make do.  Make ends meet.  Make love to salvage whatever remains, to bring back what made that which broke.  Make believe.  Break new ground.  Make up minds.  Make a family.  Make it possible.  Make babies.  Break babies.  Break the news.  Break hearts.  Break plans.  Break.  Let all hell break loose.  Break glass, break promises, break trust.  Make it harder.  Break in.  Break open.  Make amends.  Break bread.  Make effort.  Make a difference.  Make it better.  Break the ice.  Make out.  Make it real.  Make it last.  Break habits.  Make sense.  Make room.  Make mistakes.  Break up.  Break free.  Make it all disappear.  Break away.  Break out.  Make-up.  Break down.  Break through.

***

I have been told.  Warned.  How much pain can one withstand?  How much hurt can love endure?  I see the threads of this web spread out, thin, across invisible planes of existence.  It is a threshold of sorts; an initiation.  I’m swimming from depths of the oceanic floors, to raise above the skies, the clouds, concealing the radiant glow beyond.  A journey into the ether.  I thought we made it through the worst.  I thought the waters were receding.  I thought if I only held my breath long enough… but now, I’m growing gills.  Evolving.  To wings.  Fly with me, in search of what’s been lost.  Hold my hand as I stumble through the darkness, of mind, of spirit.  Break through the surface, spiraling upwards.   Make it last forever.

Healing

A slippery, synthetic duvet is slowly suffocating me, pressing me into the pillows that feel like they’re filled with rocks.  I’m tossing and turning to the sounds of the Beagle snoring at my feet, on top of my feet.  More heaviness.  I can’t breathe.  My throat feels like it’s clogged and someone is stomping on my chest.  It’s emotion.  Feeling displaced.  Both, it, and I…

Where am I?  This was a place I called home at some point, for some time.  The room has been transformed from a colorful teenage chaos filled with posters of Weimaraners dressed up as people and the beautiful face of Jim Morrison, to now, an office with two computer monitors and a couch that pulls out for my arrival.  My mother is sleeping in the room next door, ecstatic to have her little girl home, to tuck her in to a bed that was made with love for a sleepless night.  I drift in and out of consciousness, looking for home on this couch-bed, but home was left behind in Boulder, Colorado, and home is out, dancing and being free for a night away from me.

I try to push the Beagle over, to make some room for breath, for blood to reach my tingling feet, and in the innocence of her sleep, she growls.  Why am I here?  I gaze over and next to me, buried under a ton of heavy air sits “The Tibetan Book of The Dead,” and I remember that I am here to heal.   Here to process the anger that has been erupting like a volcano, being projected at home, on home; the anger that they say is the final stage in the grieving process.  But if grieving is cyclical and if grieving is a process, then how can there be a final step?  Perhaps, a spiral into the ether?

The healing has been slow.  Is slow.  I’ve allowed the past to partially scab over, but picking my scabs has become a bad habit.  Sometimes, I just don’t want to forget.  I scratch to remember what I have lost, longing to hold it close to my heart.  Other times, I wish is to forget, but I bump into things that remind me, and the wounds re-open, get dirty, infected.  I bump into babies on the street, or people who don’t know.  I run into people who know but are too uncomfortable to face me.  I bump into smells, sounds, tastes.  I run myself crazy with memories.

I don’t know what I bumped into tonight, in the room from my past or the room of my dreams, but I am startled awake, remembering and feeling; the density of life.  I miss my home.  I miss Leif.  I miss all that never was.  I’m learning how to live so that I know how to die.  I’m trying.

There will be scars, no doubt.  Wounds like these don’t go unnoticed.  Anger alone leaves streaks behind, welts the size of small mountains.  But I will take scars any day over fresh wounds.  The scars show that I’m a survivor.  My heart beats stronger, and day by day, I’m healing just a little bit more.

Writing through the Taboo


Why are we, as a society, so afraid of death?  Why is even the word itself so hard to say out loud?  Death is just as much a part of life as birth, and yet we celebrate one and shun the other.  Shouldn’t death be just as openly received as its counterpart?  And isn’t death just another birth?

I have stumbled upon these questions all my life, but their significance has never become as clear and apparent as it has in the past month.  I gave birth to death exactly 31 days ago.  But in the time since, I have come to notice just how much more was born out of this experience than just a still body.  I gave birth to love, pain, wonder, depth, friendships, compassion, faith, hope, questions, and so much more.  I, myself, have been reborn.  I touched upon places within myself that I didn’t even know existed.

We held a “Wiping of the Tears” ceremony for Leif on Sunday, which was led by a local Lakota Indian community leader.  The ceremony was beautiful and deeply moving, intended to cut emotional ties, and allow for the spirit to move on to “the better world.”  Since the Natives believe in the connectivity of all beings, seeing everything in nature as a relation, this kind of ceremony serves as a soothing balm for the pain of the survivors.  However, it is not about saying goodbye, but simply acknowledging the passing and understanding that souls always meet again in another time.  The ceremony was followed by a purification sweat, in which we All prayed, regardless of race, sex, religion, or age, as a family and a community.  The prayers extended from the micro world of myself, Nathan, and Leif, to the macro world of relatives, friends, strangers, animals, spirits, plants, and elements.  We prayed for peace, health, and harmony throughout.  As we cleansed our minds and bodies and purified our souls and intentions, I came to a still place of acceptance.

I am so blown away by the how the Lakota people regard death, and the way they honor the passage.  There is a deep understanding and open reception of the internal pain that resides in our souls following a loss.  There is also a strong sense of encouragement to move forward and feel gratitude for the lessons offered by the Creator, as well as everything that still remains in our lives.  With death, comes the appreciation for life.

I was raised in a culture much different from that of the Natives.  I’ve dreaded funerals in my life, finding them dark and depressing.  I never understood why I had to wear black, even to funerals of those who led extraordinary and joyful lives.  There have been times when I wanted to celebrate the life and not mourn the death, but my desire was not supported by the culture.  Whenever I mentioned death around anyone sick, I would stun the room into silence.  Even these days, certain people who know me try to look the other way when they see me approaching, avoiding the life-death connection at all cost, and escaping the discomfort that this taboo presents.

The only guarantee in life is death.  We can plan on experiencing many things, but nothing is ever certain or secure, except for the reality that every living thing will eventually leave this plane and move on to another.  And yet, I feel that we avoid talking about it, looking it in the face, in hopes of never experiencing it.  What is it that scares us the most?  Is it the pain?  The separation?  Or is it the journey into the unknown?  Perhaps breaking through the taboo, and letting go of the fear and discomfort associated with death, can create room for more appreciation and freedom in life.  Maybe with shedding the fear of loss, we can stop grasping and start loving.  How can our society open to the reality of the only inevitable?  How do we break through this taboo?

The Language of Suffering

It’s been almost four weeks since I delivered Leif.  I remember being at the hospital and wishing that I was not a part of the present.  I wanted to teleport into the future, to at least a month from where I was.  And here I am now, almost a month away from then, and a part of me is still longing to be in the future, the time when the pain will be gone.  But will the pain ever really be gone?  And is the pain ever really that bad?  I truly believe that the Universe never gives us more  than we can handle.  The grieving process is beautiful in its own way.  It has gotten me in touch with reality more than any other experience in the past.  It has put me in the present moment, even when at times, I wish so much that I could escape it.  It is in the present moment that I can really feel myself being alive.

There is suffering everywhere in the world.  It is part of life.  However, it is the perspective and the attitude that we take on the suffering that manages its intensity and duration.  I believe the worst kind of suffering is the mental kind.  I cannot say that a person starving or being subjected to atrocious genocide is suffering more than the CEO of some corporation, always on the go, always craving power and money, always dissatisfied.  I am in no way a judge in whose misery is easier or worse.  The starving person can have an understanding, the in-depth wisdom that recognizes the lessons and the blessings in every moment and situation.  Meanwhile, someone who we perceive as successful and happy could be tortured by his/her mind, by lack of love.  We just never know and yet assumptions, judgments, and projections come to us so easily, muddling authentic reality.

Suffering is suffering, no matter what form it shows up in.  Pain and suffering are Universal languages.  I am learning this innate language.  I feel connected to those who are experiencing pain, for we share this collective theme.  I listened to Democracy Now the other day and heard a 10-year-old Afghan girl testify against American soldiers for coming into her house in the middle of the night and murdering her family.  I cried in that moment for her loss.  Losing an entire family can be seen as much worse than losing a fetus, but pain is pain, regardless of its circumstance.  And in that pain, I can feel the pain of the world.  My grief is teaching me about compassion.  It has taken me out of my little Universe and opened me up to the world outside.  I am being shown the way to Love all beings, realizing that anyone might be suffering.  With small steps at a time, I am changing perspective on my own suffering.   I’m acquiring a new found sense of gratitude, inspired to be a more compassionate and loving human.

Fears

Nathan half awoke in the middle of the night, asking me what was on my mind.  I responded, “everything.”  That’s all he inquired in between dreams and snores, sensing my restlessness, before he rolled back over and resumed his nightly excursions.  I envied his childlike sleep in that moment, frustrated with my over-active mind.   I had already laid there for hours, watching him breathe as my thoughts raced from one thing to the next, not following any particular pattern.  I was grateful for him then, as I am now – he, the father of my son, and the love in my life.  But as I watched him breathe, I also imagined him not breathing, and the grip around my heart grew tighter, throwing my body into shivers and plunging my mind into darkness.  Fear took over my being as it has many times in the past two weeks, poking my neurosis with the question, “what if something would happen to him?”  He gets irritated when my brain gets consumed with such paranoia, but the fear seems solid and ever-present and I struggle with both, facing it and making it go away.  I’ve become scared of losing the ones who I care about.  I’m afraid that losing everything of value is somehow a lesson in this lifetime that I need to learn.  I’m petrified of being alone.  In the frequent times that these fears arise, I strive to reach deep into the vast knowledge I’ve picked up over the years, perhaps over lifetimes, towards the source that tells me to trust.  I recall the Buddhist and yogic teachings of non-attachment and the impermanence of life.  It makes sense and settles my mind for some time until the part of me that’s human, the part that is so attached to this life and the people in it, the part that’s so deeply emotional, rebels against these concepts.  After all, that’s all that they are – just concepts.  I don’t know how to align my experience with these beautiful philosophies.  I get them, grasp them fully with my intellect, but my experience just doesn’t comprehend.  My heart loves, so deeply, and with that love comes attachment.  Is this the game of ignorance?  Am I completely blinded by this illusion of life?  How do I embody the wisdom that resides deep down, the insights that come from beyond just this life?  How can I learn to live out these concepts that make sense on one level and don’t on another?  The idea of an equanimous mind is lovely, but how can I not  be reactive to something as tragic as death touching a life that keeps going?  Where does the grey between experience and theory become distinguishable?

Pain

There is no hiding from the pain.  Sometimes, it’s the perfect attacker, hiding behind closed doors and sharp corners, pouncing on its prey at random intervals.  There is no telling when the attack will come; there is no time to prepare.  The pain follows wherever I go.  It comes into the shower, guards the back door, rides the waves in music, even penetrates my dreams.  Other times, it creeps up slowly, taking over the whole place, the whole body, the whole mind.  It cuts right through the core like a razor, or a knife,  or a fucking machete.  It brings back the past that I long to leave behind.  There is nowhere to go where it can’t enter.  It can’t be escaped  because it lives buried inside, with the world around only reflecting its existence.  I have come to know the many faces of pain, the unbearable footprint of emptiness it often leaves behind.  But I have also learned to welcome the pain as it makes me feel in times when the everything around seems dull.  The pain makes sense of love.  The pain shows that I am human.  While my heart weeps, I get stronger.  The pain has shown me what it’s like to be a warrior.

Following the Body

It’s getting harder and harder to think in a linear way, to think logically, to think beyond this experience.  I’ve been advised to write, but how can I write when I can’t think?  How can I try to make sense of thoughts that are following the body?  Not just the body that has passed through and on, but the body that is still here, recovering slowly, dripping at the edges with wasted nutrition, now only absorbed by starry hemp pads.  How can I allow words to be written down and follow the body down the rabbit hole, where sadness and grief reside?  The body doesn’t know it.  The body is oblivious.  The body believes it has just given birth, whole and breathing, and now expects closeness of both bodies, closure of something that has been opened.  The mind follows this body, my body, that follows the scent of his body, still residing on my body.  The seams are popping at the edges, craving touch, wanting to hold what is no longer here, he with bright red lips and feet too big for his body.  The thoughts are confused, riding the roller coaster of emotions that come and go, and come again unexpected, like waves, like tsunamis, of tears, of sweat, of breast milk.  They don’t understand; reason cannot back them up.  There is nothing.  There is only a void that gets filled with visions no more exciting, not sufficient to keep the mind alert and active.  The drive for life has died along with him – my little hummingbird.

The uterus is closing, the pores are drying up, the body is slowly healing and shrinking to fulfill the space once occupied, to bring the space back to its original state, before the seed was planted.  The only miracle remaining open is the heart where emotions go and dwell.  This space of love painfully expands, stretches to dimensions not yet comprehended.  It beats, steadily, and in that beat, echoes and sounds reverberate that used to represent Life itself, growing and becoming.  Now that Life has passed on to a place that the mind with its thoughts cannot perceive as real, cannot digest as food, cannot rationalize within this body.  The body is human, it knows only of what it’s been programmed to understand.  There is a glitch in the system that seemed so perfect, that has kept me in awe over the past seven months.  It is a virus, contaminating thoughts which have no mind of their own, which follow the naivety of the body.  How can I think when all appears irrational?  How can I free my thoughts from the grips of error, in life, in the system, in the body?  How can I write?