We moved into a gigantic wooden tree house built in the 70s, the walls freshly painted white. I really enjoyed the packing and repairing and discarding in preparation for this expansion. What I wasn’t prepared for was the intense sea of emotion I would feel when I realized I had swiftly manifested so many dreams and the weight of the resulting emptiness. Fullness and emptiness. Two sides of the same coin. Now I must turn within and look at the vicious inner critic I have been running from since I was 12. I have perfected and dreamed into being all kinds of things for my external reality. All that is left to unpack, is me.
While the night wind blows I sit here and reflect on my human journey as I used to do in New York, humming itself alive as I was. I sometimes wish I could return to that time, but I know I am looking back with rose-colored glasses. The old blinds clatter in the breeze, washing the rooms clean of my sadness. I wondered whether I was suffering from depression today. Thoughts of leaving this place crossed my mind briefly, and then shame, and then more sadness. The tears could have filled the sink. What am I doing with my one precious life? What next? Always it seems as if there is something missing. Perhaps this will make it all feel better. I have everything anyone could ever want, a doting, devotional husband who works long days and cooks dinner, runs baths and does the shopping. I have a sweet son who loves me, whose beauty inside and out knocks me out. We live in paradise. But when the last plate is washed and the last dream manifested, I do not think very highly of myself. The critic. The vicious, vicious, critic with the heart of a mosquito and the bite of a giant. A self-conscious young girl, who stood up in front of her class and gave a speech, and didn’t win the vote for class president. A teenager who didn’t win the heart of the hottest guy in school. Who didn’t get the call from the most prestigious modeling agency and end up on the cover of Vanity Fair with George Clooney. In my mind, it was obvious. I’m definitely not good enough. The blonde girl who wore the sports bra got that vote. The edgy girl with the father who bought the booze got the hot guy. My sister got that call.
About ten years ago I plummeted to the depths of self-loathing, and then climbed my way out and rebirthed myself as a writer in New York. I suppose in the years of tending to my sweet angel son, the critic crept back in to my bedroom when I wasn’t looking. Today, I realized how tightly it has me in it’s grip. How tormented I have become. How deeply entrenched the pathways in my brain that whisper almost every minute, ‘it’s not enough.’ I hit rock bottom this week and could hardly stand myself. The shame in the sadness in the grief in the hopelessness in the unworthiness. The weight, unbearable. The light, a brief solace. Reaching, reaching, reaching for the flow.
My dad calls me and his words are a balm to my soul. As sensitive and as boldly a dreamer as me, he has suffered from depression, and as a doctor, self-medicates himself. We spoke of the dissolution after actualizing ones dreams. The emptiness after the fruition of a possibility. It seems so self-indulgent to think this way – shouldn’t I be so grateful, and eternally happy, now that I ‘have’ everything!? But something is missing, and it is most certainly me. I have been so busy inventing and dreaming and building the castle, that I have forgotten to tend to my self, my soul, nor to follow my intuition. That old wound I thought I had bandaged pretty well? Yeah, it’s unraveling.
Thankfully, the reaching out is healing. The conversation with another human feeling, is healing. I rise up from my chair and feel lighter. I walk out onto the sun soaked deck flanked by four Italian cypress trees – ‘wizard trees’ as my friend likes to refer to them. I take the plate of food Isaac has made me and some sunglasses and I wander bare foot to the oak tree with the giant rock beneath it. I climb up on the rock and then up into the tree. Grandmother oak holds me without judgment, without condition. She is simply there for me. I breathe, and she breathes. We are ancient dance partners. I spot my beloved family in the distant flowers and herbs, their bodies hidden by the lush spring foliage of this medicinal explosion. When I am ready to leave the tree, I return to the deck and like Juliet I tell them I must go to the creek to be reborn.
It has been months since I was there. The succession of storms and the deluge of rain has significantly altered this body of water. Suddenly, I am facing myself. I am again reflected without judgement in this wild. Great boulders have gathered in areas, jagged and new. The water rages across the old stones and on dry banks I can see how the roots have been severed and torn. The stronger limbs remain, they have held fast in the flow. Seeing these trees I am reminded of something my sister once told me – that we are never stripped of what is essential. Even when we are ripped at the roots and flooded with rain.
At the waters edge I take my blue jeans and blouse off and strip naked. I wrap a towel around myself and walk in the shallows downstream. I close my eyes and feel the smooth rocks and the water rushing past my ankles. Wash me anew, take what I no longer need. Our puppy calls to me out in the water, and I savor the loving care in her eyes. We explore further. The roman bath is still there. Last summer my dear friend Kristin and I would immerse ourselves slowly into its peaceful depths carved in white stone, a bubbling waterfall lacing moss at the edge. Now, it is overflowing and that waterfall is a thick body of water pushing its way on. Change. I look to the other side of the river, and centuries of geology greet me. Their resilience is soothing. No matter how many boulders have fallen from the steep cliff above, no matter how many storms these strata have seen, they are still excruciatingly beautiful. Layer upon layer of depth, and time, and memory. The stories trapped within these layers we will never know. Their resilience captivates. Their uneven beauty. The harmony in this wild.
As the sun sets I find a deep pool within a new arm of the creek. A thin branch with small sprouting leaves serves as a kind of trellis above me as I unwrap my naked body from the towel. The icy water receives my limbs and my face mashed red raw from tears. The cold invigorates and renews. I gasp in quick succession. I awaken. I laugh. I look my husband in the eye. I wrap a towel around my shoulders and he tells me I have never been more beautiful than in this moment. That I have never been more myself, more authentically me. I smile awkwardly. I put my clothes back on. I drive us all home. I write late into the night. I sleep. I begin again.
Perhaps this is all life is about. Showing up in the face of the challenges we experience and writing the story of our life, not as the hero, not as the victim, but as the author. Brene Brown reminds me of this tonight as I let go of perfectionism and tip the contents of my overflowing saucer into this journal. A new journal. A new me. Letting go. And starting again.