Feeling my darkness – longing for light

Vulnerability is the birth place of all we hunger for

joy creativity faith and love

and there is none of this without risking failure

Be open enough to take the risk to fail.

Brene Brown

Ever since beginning this breast cancer journey I have been more and more aware of the degree of pain and suffering of my life, I notice also that a lot of my focus at times is on the pain and suffering.  It seemed from adolescence onward so many difficult experiences transpired, things that isolated me and took me away from others that it was almost as if I was captured by the darkness.  I now see however I wish to reach for light, for joy, for happiness but could it be that not being too familiar with these things at times I get stuck in a darkness rut?

Lately I am also realising that because my own relationship with my mother was not easy (there were already many hurts in place by adolescence) my ability to connect deeply with girlfriends was damaged to a degree.  I found it difficult to reach out and trust.  To open my heart to connection again.  I can see all of this now in hindsight and because of the amount of work I have done in therapy.  There were always reasons for what happened and life was really a healing journey in which pain would be a very powerful teacher.

In early recovery from addiction I was already very interested in astrology and archetypes, those eternal patterns of human psychological process, understanding and symbology, myths and stories which give meaning to the profound passages we humans go through on the soul’s journey.

When I came across Roger Woodger’s book on the Goddess archetypes and read about Persephone who in astrology and mythology is the feminine aspect of the archetype and planet Pluto I became aware of the underworld themes of my own life reflected in her story.  I became aware that I was a Persephone woman myself.

Persephone is a goddess who lived in the underworld, she has a strong connection to the underground psyche, the great unconscious both personal and collective.  She underwent painful profound passages of loss and stripping away which marked her for this kind of knowing of cycles of birth, loss, death and transformation.  Persephone women are no strangers to suffering, the may have gone through abuse which leads them to become addicts.  They may have had to relegate huge parts of themselves to the Underground.  They may not have been fully accepted by family or culture and this may have sent them out on a journey where they had to be alone and in knowing aloneness they came to know their own soul well and through this understanding of human pain and vulnerability they end up developing insight into others too.

As I am writing this it has occurred to me that understanding and acceptance of this life journey, painful as it can be at times enriches us.  I also means we can be more accepting of our need for alone time to reconnect with the self and don’t have to struggle as hard to be liked or be one of the crowd.

As a young person feeling different this was not how I felt.  I longed to belong to the crowd, to be attractive, easy to get along with and popular but now I see that if I had been these things I would not have been totally me.  Also due to my own negative self concept I may have also judged myself to be less liked or loved than circumstances are now revealing to me that I am.  I also misunderstood that standing on the sidelines and observing did not necessarily mean I was disconnected,  in a way I was more connected to insights and impressions.

My recent hospital stay has brought up for me so many aspects of my damaged past.  The scary near death motor crash of 1979, the three months of hospitalisation pinned to a bed where I could not leave and my range of motion was restricted.  The months of isolation from friends and school, my tentative return and then very close to the coming out of hospital my sister’s cerebral bleed which over the next two years fractured our family relationships and in four years led to my father’s death.  My trip over to the other side of the world where more difficult relationships ensued as I struggled to live and connect.  The four painful abandonments by partners who in leaving blamed me, after treating me cruelly.  My loss of belief in myself and descent into addiction and then my painful realisation that I needed to enter recovery.  The attempt to turn my life around over the next 10 years, the ending of my marriage, entry into a narcissistic relationship and two other accidents.  My entry into therapy and struggle to find the right help.  My sister’s suicide attempt, mother’s illness following major surgery, my older sister’s death and my recent diagnosis with breast cancer.  Phew, that is an enormous amount of suffering and difficulty.

As I write all of this down today I am filled with awe in a way that something in me that is strong has survived and lived through all of this and today I am reminded too that in time all of these conditions passed.  I do believe that despite the dark I have known I can still find the light on many  days.  Indeed it seems the reward for being in the dark and passing through painful feelings or allowing them to pass through and transform me I find the light.  And this is one of the functions of Persephone/Pluto.  We are transformed by opening up to vulnerability and pain and allowing ourselves to be transformed by the darkness which can scare others.

Deep in my soul I know that due to my own Pluto Moon in true mythological Plutonian fashion I am the one whose path has led into the burning flames many times and that after time I do come out transformed, even if black at times and covered in soot and dismissed, disregarded and rejected by those who never knew the full extent of my journey.   And in this I am most certainly not alone as there are so many of you out there enduring your own dark passages and living to tell the tale, with learnings to speak of and share.  I read about all of your journeys here.  It truly is a long and winding road.

Many times over the past few days in hospital the words of that Beatles song have come to me:

Many times I’ve been alone

And many times I’ve cried

Anyway you’ll never know

The many ways I’ve tried

But still they lead me back

To the long winding road

I am still walking the road, even if at the moment following my time in hospital I am resting more.  In some miraculous way in my hour of greatest need people I have felt abandoned by or who did not understand have showed up to support me.  I don’t know if even a year ago I could have opened my heart to allow in this support and love of me in.  I don’t know if I would have felt worthy enough or had healed enough of my own co-dependence.

A few years ago I could not have reached out and expressed my sadness and need at not receiving help, nor given people a chance to know how I was truly feeling.  Its been scary at times to unmask this vulnerability and need and to tell the truth of my story.

I lately often get told by one family member that I am lucky but the truth is I think I have expressed myself more than this person and asked for help.  I have shown that I am vulnerable in a way they have not and it feels a bit invalidating to be told I am lucky when in fact I have taken steps even on the darkest days to reach in some way for the light.

Through blogging, through trips to the park with my dog, through making phone calls to connect with others by life has expanded a little more towards happiness and joy.   By leaving my prison of isolation and pain which at times seemed too large and by taking risks to be truthful and express the dark even though my fear was I would be judged and rejected I have found support and love.

My Leo North Node lesson in any case is all about this.  Its about developing a voice and a will and a power of self expression that is assertive rather than aggressive.  When I started my recent chiropractic treatment which involves breathing and connecting into the navel, heart and throat centres it was my throat centre that was still more blocked than the other two.  I was taught to connect to my gut and tapping it a few times to “speak up”.  My mother’s generation’s pain (1920-1930) was silenced. They could not speak up. They had to endure.  Later generations are turning this around.  Deep inside me there was so much pain it was hard to vocalise or ‘cough up’.

The reward over the last few weeks for opening up my throat and asking and expressing has been love.  I have never felt more surrounded with love and for this I feel so grateful.

At times when I blog I still criticise and judge my own darkness.  When I publish some raw pieces and I don’t get many likes part of me feels I should change my expression, not be so raw.  But I know that this would not be right because I need to be authentic and my value does not rest on anyone else’s opinion.  Learning and living that truth is part of co-dependence recovery.

I feel the journey that we take into the dark is the journey to rescue ourselves.  In the end no one else can do it.  We have to face the fear of the dark and embrace it anyway and we have to be honest, even if our vision is dark and challenges other people. They have a right to their vision, we have a right to ours.  Once we take self responsibility others seem to be more willing to show up.  At least that is my experience.

Opening up and asking has meant having to feel a lot of fear.  One of my deepest fears has been that if I asked for help I would be overpowered.  I now know that was an old fear.  I have the boundaries to say something now if my boundaries are transgressed.

In a moment of synchronicity while writing this I checked my Reader in WordPress and following a shame link came across the Soul Sunday video interviews between Oprah Winfrey and shame researcher Brene Brown.  In one video Brene spoke about our cultures fear of vulnerability and the dark she also spoke about how it is the birthplace of all that we hunger for.  Some of her words headlined this piece I was writing this afternoon.

Today after four or so dark days the light is returning for me.  It feels as though Persephone is coming up for air on one of her upper world visits just in time for the Pisces New Moon tomorrow that falls not very far away from opposition with my natal Pluto in the first house.  So I guess this blog is right on time.  And the day ends with me feeling so much stronger  and lighter than I was this time yesterday, aware of so much more, grateful too for so much.

To truely respond

I came home yesterday after four days spent in hospital following my breast cancer surgery.  Due to my deeply entrenched Post Traumatic Stress condition it was a huge feat of courage to undergo this procedure.  I knew the suffering I was up for and the retriggering of the old pain of other hospitalisations and emergencies both personal and familial.  And I put myself in the centre of the flames and was burned in order to have the cancer removed from my left breast.  Sadly I lost two of my sentinel nodes.  The sentinels are the guardians of the lymphatic system helping to drain toxins through the lymph and now I have lost a few of those, just for purposes of pathology.  My body had gone through a loss.

The second day following the operation was the darkest day which is often the case, the general anaesthetic has separated us for a time from the trauma and shock of surgery which then begins to reverberate.  I had had a very fitful night’s sleep, lots of traumatic memory, disappointment that family did not come to support me, and so much sadness.  On Friday evening and Saturday morning it rose up like an avalanche and I was blessed that two angels were sent to my side.  One was an attending nurse, the other a Pastoral Carer who was able to touch me in the place of great grief with presence and love.

She spoke to me of her own hospital trauma.  Of how disconnected from her own gut she had become to the extent that she had developed a intestinal blockage and in a deeply distressed and depressed state was attended to by another angel in human skin.  This set her upon the Pastoral Care path and an even deeper path of personal exploration.  We had much to speak of and connected as two soul’s who had known both suffering and the sweetness of being responded to with empathy and love.

The second response I experienced while in pain (which was not just physical but emotional too) was just being offered drugs.  Of course some pain medication was necessary at times but my deep experience was that really the pain was actually worse when I was not being attended to in a loving way by myself or others.

It was interesting to me that during these few days I was listening to random songs on my phone and came across The Verve’s song The Drugs Don’t WorkIt is about what happens when someone who is self medicating does not turn inward to really address the emotional pain they and in time the drugs not only stop working for them but make the pain worse.

I was reminded of the many times I used to visit my now dead older sister in the care home, she would be crying out in emotional pain and they would rush to her side with meds.  The way I used to deal with my sister’s emotional distress was to sit by her side and just be present, hold her hand.

There are wounded places inside of us and of others longing for our love and attention.    These places do not need to be silenced but need to be heard.  They need to be responded to with love, empathy, compassion and care.  Their twisted up tightness needs to be unravelled.  My feeling is that when we just seek to take the pain away we actually end up driving it deeper inside.  I watch lately how my body responds to those who approach me with the intention of “fixing”.  Lacking the ability to be present with their own pain they quickly leap onto mine with all kinds of advice or solutions.

This happened with a old school friend I hadn’t seen in years ten days before my surgery.  She contacted me telling me the angels had sent her to my side, she wanted to have a cup of coffee with me and pull me up the mountain.  I went along to the meeting keeping an open heart but with some alarm bells ringing inwardly.   What poured out was the very difficult journey of her own life, of hurts he had undergone, of the ways she wanted to get back at her ex partner.  I just listened quietly for a while before saying “how sad”,  after a little while she was in tears.  Her grandiose ‘front’ had fallen down.

She looked down at her hands and said to me “I don’t know why I am crying.”

“I think you have held these tears inside for years”  I said.  “I think you responded to my pain because you know what it’s like to be alone and struggling and that is why you came here today.”  She cried for a while longer .

She then told me “I’ve learned a big lesson today”.

“What is that?” I asked.

“Humility”,  she replied.

Humility isn’t about disgrace or lowliness.  It comes from the word “humus” which means earth.  It’s about being close to the earth or ground of our being,  of other’s being.

It is the place and base from which we touch the immediacy of our experience and suffering and relate to it on a level playing field.

It is the place from which we connect and respond from gut and heart.

It is the place where we reach out and connect to ourselves and others.  A place of reality.

It is a place we must not forsake, seeking to fly away for when we really touch the ground we have the ability to transform what hurts us and extract its healing balm, transforming the pain and suffering through a tender heartfelt presence.  Through this approach we develop the ability to respond, rather than react and through this response bring peace to a place where there is turmoil.


To be the adult or to be the child

I awoke feeling very vulnerable today.  The harsh extremely hot days had surrendered their hold on us later yesterday.  The mercury dropped about 10 degrees by early evening and rain fell.  Today I awoke to a very cool, fresh sparkling sunny day, but sitting outside on the deck in the sun with little Jasper hip to hip by my side I began to feel so many things, sadness, vulnerability, as sense of how it is the most natural thing in the world to want to be close to others and how impossible that was for me growing up in my family which was busy, busy, busy and much, much older.

There is a lovely reading in one of my Al Anon books, I cant find yet, but it speaks of how in recovery the person realised she had lost a long time ago the connection to the little child within her, who looked upon rainbows with joy and awe and cried her eyes out when the dog died.

This week in a body work session which starts with a time of talking it was like I was almost looked down on for this part of myself. I was expressing the longing I had had to be close to a sister.  “Did you notice how when you said that your voice became high and you sounded like a child?”….???  Yes and isn’t that a good thing.  I know why it might not be, if we still have the broken hearted childlike longing and direct it towards the wrong relationships it can be damaged.   When I told my other therapist about this interaction yesterday she only said “Ouch!!!”

What happens to us when we have to grow up too fast?  When we cant depend on anyone?  We turn within and we also become strong which I am sure is a good thing on some level, but if the un-nurtured child within us is still powering on and not realising how sad we are how can that be good?  To me it seems the genesis of co-dependence.

I have known for some time that there was never a soft place for me to fall when I really, really needed it.  This week as usual my Mum tried to deny this again.   I know it comes out of her own programming. As a little child she was so lonely without siblings and a mother who was gone at 6am and again at 5 pm, leaving her alone (while Nana worked).  At the age of 13 when her mother wanted to send he into live in domestic service my Mum got out and got herself an apprenticeship.  She worked and worked and worked.

Last year I found some letters Mum wrote when my older sister married and moved overseas to live when I was 3.  The letters were all about how tired Mum was, how hard they were working and how I was really a bit of a bother and a nuisance as I needed attention.  How surprised she was that when I went on a lovely holiday where I could be with others and do fun things I was really happy and not a bother at all???  Feeling quiet angry as I am writing this.  She just didn’t “get it”.

It may not be her fault, but I needed more.  Inside me there is still that lonely girl who is a lot like my Mum in many ways.  I learned to go off alone and try to cope alone.  I did not learn how to ask, how to be vulnerable.  I worked hard and was an excellent employee until addiction took me down and I stopped working so hard to begin to recover.  Didn’t go down well with my husband.  I was trying to heal a very old pattern.

When I was sitting outside in the sun just a moment ago I was thinking about how the child we were and who still lives inside of us may be the most authentic part of us that gets covered over by an adult with all these responsibilities.  The implication in our society if you don’t grow up and be super responsible you are a bit of loser, but is that really the truth?

Carl Jung believed in the archetype of the divine child.  At one point in a breakdown he was having he spent a lot of time playing and building things from stone.  He formed the idea that the divine child within is the one that is connected to wholeness, to the present moment, to feelings, sadness, joy, play and so many other things. John Bradshaw has picked up on this idea with his concept of the Soul Child, which he believes to be the most soulful part of ourselves.

It seems to me that while this part of us is an essence many aspects of it live in the lower more primal brain structures which hold our earliest sensations and experiences, not always easily translated into words.  As we heal and learn to connect with this part of us we try to access this part of the brain through meditation and non dominant hand writing.  It seems to me that this part of ourselves is the sensation feeling, deeply attuned creative part of us, not the hyper rational adult.

We most certainly need a functioning adult to take care of us from within ourselves.  It seems to me we need both a good mother and a good father in side to nurture us, however I feel that all that is most lovely in us at times comes from the inner child.

Some people speak a lot about the wounded child.  Most certainly that part of us is a very strong aspect when we have gone through wounding experiences growing up. If it runs our life we can be full of pain, and yet that part of us, too, needs love and understanding.  It needs good boundaries.  It needs to be held and comforted when we are hurting, as I have been today.  It needs to hear that not everyone will hurt him or her as he or she was in the past.

The strong Leo energy in my own chart (ascendant, North Node and Uranus there)most certainly means I have work to do with connecting to the child within.  Its part of why I love to write about it in my blogs.  This strong energy opposes every personal planet I have in Aquarius over in the sphere of body (6th house) and others (7th house).  I can spend a lot of time living in my head and trying to make sense of life and relationships and this isn’t a bad thing, but I need to remember that at times I just need to use my senses and touch base with those tender childlike feelings and needs that I had to bury so long ago.  I have a deep fear around reaching out due to my Saturn Moon, but it seems my work is in reaching out to those true people with whom I can most deeply connect.

It takes time to develop the emotional intelligence to know who these people are.  As was mentioned in part of a quote I posted in my last post, when we first start to feel our true feelings they are very tender and raw.  Due to the law of the repetition compulsion we will reach out to the wrong people and we will get hurt again.  But that hurt will teach us something, our vulnerability will tell us what is healthy and good for us, as opposed to that which hurts, then our adult will be able to put up healthy boundaries.

If the wounded child is hurt or hurting we can talk to her or him and see what his being triggered for us.  Recovery gives us this capacity to be present and to bear with things.  We can sit with the child and ourselves, hold her hand and not be as reactive and lash out in pain which is the first impulse of the wounded child.  We can explore one feeling to see if it hides deeper layers of other feelings.

And my hope is that as this work progresses we all re-connect with the child if we lost touch with him or her long ago.  That child does not need to be shamed or admonished only to be loved and understood and helped to grow.  It can inform us with the help of our adult, what is best for us.

Don’t run from your weakness

Don’t run from your weakness, you will only give it strength.

This quote touched my heart deeply when I read it in my daily meditation book on the subject Patience With Myself, this morning. It seems that like many people I can be loving and kind to others, but not always as loving and kind with myself, and at the moment, heading towards what I experience as a difficult time of year it is so important that I go gently with myself.

I’ve noticed that I’ve been feeling particularly sensitive and raw over the past few weeks. It has been a painful few years, I lost my sister around Easter, it was not only a sad loss but a blessed liberation for her soul, on one level. Her life was very challenging and difficult, confined as she was by the repercussions of a painful family history and a major trauma of her early thirties that lead through stroke, coma, partial paralysis, psychosis, separation and numerous challenges.

The aftermath of my sister’s breakdown in the early 1980’s as Pluto was passing through Scorpio, splintered and fragmented my extended family and in the aftermath of four painful years of tragic events, I lost my father over the Christmas period in 1984. He was diagnosed with cancer in November and dead by January 8.

It was in the early hours of Christmas morning that he was taken back to hospital following surgery to remove his stomach that went wrong, within just over two weeks he was gone, taken suddenly from us, no time to say a proper goodbye. His heart gave way during a procedure to perform a tracheoctomy, the process of inserting a tube in his throat to enable him to breathe following even further complications.

These painful events are now, of course, well in the past, but there are echoes over Christmas which often highlights the different aspects of our interconnections with those we have loved and lost.

It was four years ago that my last relationship broke up, following a separation over Christmas that evoked too much pain for my partner and brought to light old ghosts of Christmas past. Imprints of old leavings and experiences which replayed and over which we were both powerless due to the full weight of the historic past, were influencing our actions and reactions in ways, which were not obvious then, only became obvious in the light of hindsight and through the pain of processing the aftermath.

I am conscious, over this last week that there is a heavy weight of sadness around, a deep underground spring of watery feeling which threatens to rise up and flood the banks. Last night I received a call from my mother : she wanted me to go to a dinner with her and my brother and sister. It will be the only opportunity we have to gather together before Christmas. I didn’t want to go, I think that is the truth. I had to admit this truth to my mother who was, understandably disappointed. The sadness in her voice made me feel so sad. I told her how sorry I was for disappointing her.

Maybe it’s a sign of growth that I can allow her to have this disappointment and act anyway to take care of myself and do what I feel I need to do for myself. As I reflect on it, others have disappointed me this year too, I had to bear the pain of it and acknowledge it as a necessary part of my healing.

The flood of feeling I feel at Christmas and at most other times, does not meet with recognition in my family. So many times I have acted against my deepest instincts and been driven by the longing to have it affirmed launching myself into yet another painful encounter that leaves me crying in the bathroom alone.   It may not even be that way, but I know there is this pattern, when we get together, I will be the one carrying and expressing all of the feeling, it is just what happens. It’s a dynamic I am powerless over.

I feel deeply connected to my mother’s sadness and longing for us all to be together at a time of year that is so deeply painful for her, associated as it is with the loss of my father. I broke down in tears myself, as our conversation was ending.

To be honest I really struggled when I got off the phone.  I could then get very hard on myself and tell myself what I should be doing. But the truth is, that part of me wants the comfort of space and distance from the pain of it, so that I can be with the pain of it in a way that is ultimately more healing for me, this will bring me happiness, rather than more pain.

Maybe I am putting up defences. Maybe this time, with the changes we have all gone through during the year there will be a softening and a sharing of feeling. Maybe by saying “No” and not going, not participating I am putting a block on something. These are the kind of revolving thoughts I endure as I wrestle with the issue.

My inner voice today bid me reach out to someone to share the feelings, someone safe who would just listen and with whom I was free to express myself fully. I then opened my daily reader and read the reading that I opened with at the outset of this blog.

Today I am conscious that I need to be with the inner child in me who at times gets overwhelmed. I need to take her by the hand and give her support and let her know it is okay to feel sad, to have lots of unfulfilled longings, to center within and listen deeply to those, showing her the way to go. I need her to know that whatever happens I will not abandon her.

Tian Dayton’s reading helped me, today to understand this. She wrote

Today I will give myself the same kind of comfort I would extend to a hurt child, knowing the comfort will help me have the strength to forgive and move on. I will hold the child within me and give her love and encouragement. The simple act of holding, of letting the child within me lean into me, sob, hurts, adore and need without shutting it down will be enough.

It is not even that I feel the need to indulge deep feelings of pain but moreso that I need to acknowledge they exist. At the moment I feel fragile and tender. There is a sense of something new, vulnerable and small that is trying to emerge and birth its power.

I was conscious this morning as thundery showers encircled my home that Uranus is stationing to move forward soon. At 12 degrees of Aries in my eight house there is banking up of energy for forward movement and growth that is rumbling around. I feel it echoing deep within my body, along the energetic channels hitting my natal Neptune at 13 Scorpio in the third, sextiling all my Aquarian planets in the seventh house and trining my North Node and Leo ascendant upon which Jupiter is stationing too.

It is an energy that is calling me towards authenticity. It is an energy that is not easy to express in words, but at its heart I feel it whispering to me of the longing I have to be conscious, honest and free. To live as I am, as the child within me intended me to be.

Christ once said, it is through the child that we find our way to the kingdom of heaven. To me that kingdom represents authentic honest self hood that recognises its interconnection at a very deep level with every living thing. This morning I felt that interconnection as the thunder around me echoed deeply the thundering rumble of energy moving within me.

To live in this moment for me I guess means acknowledging what it is, even with all of its pain and difficulty, finding deep within that the answers for that moment which show me in the next instant the way to move forward.  There is no formula just the unfolding of consciousness and expression in this moment that contains within it all that is necessary and essential to our growth.  In feeling and being with my pain and weakness I find the way to move forward with the strength and courage I earned through being vulnerable.

Vulnerability, once accepted gives me permission to be human, to struggle, to be weak and scared at times.  It gives me the ability to acknowledge what is rather than deny it or remain locked in a painful struggle.  Acceptance then allows a release of energy that was previously buried and trapped.

As it struggles to emerge into the light, the new shoot is tender and weak.  It will take time to strengthen and it is okay just for this time to surround it with protection and care from the wild winds that blow.  Like that tender shoot I am a soul in process, struggling to emerge, to be free, of that weight of the past, of pain that traps me when it remains unexpressed, unacknowledged, unreleased.  Healing asks of me this liberation, this release.