In her book, Circle of Stones, Judith Duerk asks,
“How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you? A place for you to go… A place of women, to help you learn the ways of women… a place where you were nurtured from an ancient flow sustaining you and steadying you as you sought to become yourself. A place of women to help you find and trust the ancient flow already there within yourself…waiting to be released.”
Without really knowing before, that is all I have ever quite wanted. To build a place for me. To build a place for you. A place where We Show Up For Each Other And We Love. That’s what women have been doing since forever. That’s what women are the best at doing – Caring For Their Own. So many women, when they become mothers, say they feel as though they are doing what they were born to do, even when they were happy and satisfied with life prior to having children. They say a natural, primal urge was sparked inside them that they never knew they had. The urge to care. The urge to nurture. Even when we don’t have or want children, I believe it’s still in our blood, the capacity to mother. ‘Mother’ is a verb, more than anything, and it has very little to do with children. It is to care. To shield. To love. And there are plenty of people to love and shield whom are not children, because at some point in our lives, the world breaks everyone. It pins us down and it slams us hard, like those hefty WWF wrestlers. Many are made strong in those broken places. Many are not.
What we need, more than anything, is a place to go.
Throughout my relatively short life, I have come to believe that a good life is one lived in daylight. It’s not one in which we have to be successful. It’s not one in which we have to be well-read and smart and pretty and fertile. It’s not one in which we have the perfect marriage, or the perfect family. We just have to be in light. We can be wearing pyjamas, if we so please. We just have to not be hiding. We just have to stop covering ourselves with so much make-up and so many pleasantries in the hope that no one will notice what’s underneath. We make it harder than it has to be – all this pretending that we are composed and intact. That we have neat little lives. That we fit in. We parade around in the hope that others envy our lives, or at the very least, that they don’t notice our struggle to keep up. The boxes are getting ticked. The milestones are being crossed.
What would happen, I wonder, if we took off our make-up and lived life unarmed? What would happen if we removed our designer clothes and made our boutique homes sloppy and spilled ourselves a little bit open, even if it made a mess? What would happen if there was a place where we showed each other all of ourselves – the Shameless Truths – in full sunlight? A place where We Show Up For Each Other And We Love.
Imagine having that as a place to go to.
We have not had a Fire Day for a couple of weeks. This has been partly due to my ‘other’ life taking over, and partly because you have gone quiet. I think we all need to hibernate every so often, or just often. So, today I’m going to take the stage. I hope you don’t mind.
There is a saying in AA: we are only as sick as our secrets. Not that I’ve been to an AA meeting- it’s just what I’ve heard. For so long, I was sick. I was too afraid to tell anyone about the man who began hurting me when I was four. I longed so much to be loved properly that I kept all those bad things inside. I didn’t want anyone to think I was dirty. I wanted people to like me. I wanted to belong somewhere. I held onto my secrets like they were saving me somehow.
The very first time I placed an ecstasy pill in my mouth, I did not stop. The thing about drugs is that when you can stop, you don’t want to, and when you want to stop, you can’t. That’s how it was for me, anyway. When a friend placed a pill in my hand for the first time, a safe and loving world was finally mine to let go in. Each week I would return to it, more and more eagerly. I felt like I’d arrived home. It escalated quickly, and I found myself needing more and more to keep me there. It was never just one pill. Not for me. It was four pills, a few lines of speed, a hit of fantasy, just about anything that was offered, repeated over and over for days and days, with alcohol and pot to fill in the gaps. That’s how things went for me. All or nothing. Sometimes, I wouldn’t sleep for days on end. The bouncers knew us by name. I slowly withdrew from my old friends. I lied and I stole. I barely ate. Over time, nothing else mattered to me. I needed to be high like I needed air. When I was high, I didn’t have to think. I didn’t have to remember. I didn’t have to feel torn inside; loathing myself yet trying desperately to find a way to love myself. After two years, I had visited some awfully dark places. I was deep in mud without an exit plan. My parents cried.
My decision to stop was more of a weary surrender than a bold march into battle. I pushed myself dangerously close to death and the last time I ever took an illegal drug was one of those times. I stopped because I had to. I stopped because there was nothing left to do. I stopped because I was hurting myself more than anything which had hurt me previously. I put my hand up and declared defeat. Whether it was God, or those left who somehow loved me, or my own strength, I decided that it was over. Someone once said that one’s mind is like a bad neighbourhood one should never go into alone. Truer words have never been spoken. It’s far too often 4 am in one’s mind, when junkies are shooting up on dirty street corners, gun shots pierce through thick air, and blacks vans pass you a little too slowly. Sometimes, the neighbourhood is barricaded so tightly by authorities that the only way to get out is to know someone on the Inside. Friends on the Inside give you the only real chance of survival, I have come to learn.
So, I made a new friend and I tried very hard to treat her with care.
It wasn’t good for a very long time. I woke. I ate. I read. I worked. I kept reading. I took notes. I wondered if I’d ever be happy again. I wondered if I’d ever love myself. I had dinner. I went to bed. This went on for so long. I was clean physically – I became a strict vegan, I went on intense detoxes, I started exercising fiercely, I studied natural medicine – but I knew that for anything to really change, I had to get mentally clean. And that, my friends, was much harder.
To love yourself?
To love others?
To forgive others?
To let go?
To be grateful?
To find happiness?
To build purpose?
Those are the things that make one rich. Those are the things that measure a good life. Those are the things that signify recovery, even if one has not had a drink in their whole lives. Designer dresses have nothing on a fulfilled inner life.
So, we place one foot in front of the other, and we believe we can be happy despite all odds. We work our very hardest, despite the enormity of what we might be up against. We hold onto each other until we don’t have to anymore. We carry on, through tears and sweat and cursing. And then, one day, some day, we realize that we can do hard things. We realize that we’ve already gone ahead and done them, just when we thought we never could. Not in a million years. All it takes is simply stepping out into the daylight, and finding a place to go to when it’s time to come back inside.
“There is a great deal of pain in life, and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain.” (R. D. Laing)
Image from here.