• Cate

A New Beginning

Today I went to meditation at my zen center. We had a guest speaker from New York. It was a joy to listen to him speak. His main theme was devotion. It was so captivating to watch him speak. When he smiled, the whole room lit up. He spoke with such depth of understanding, his message was transparent.

Gratitude is something that we often overlook in our busy lives. Taking time to be grateful for what we have, the special people in our lives, and all we learn along the way is integral to true happiness.

I have been taking stock of many things these days. So many things have happened in the last few months, it has been an absolute whirlwind. I haven’t had a chance to take a breath and metabolize all that has happened.

My job had become unstable. I lost many things my position had come with because I stood up for myself when I was asked to do things well outside my role at work. I was punished for having boundaries. At every opportunity, my boss did everything she could to make my life a living hell.

Unhappy people do this all the time. They project their unhappiness on others because they cannot find it within themselves to be happy. My boss would burst into my office several times a day to “make sure I was working”. This was meant to be insulting. She couldn’t understand the heavy workload I had or why it was necessary to do the job I did. She assumed I was expendable.

I came to call these intrusions as being “Koolaid Manned”. It was to add a layer of humor to something so invalidating. The job had become nightmarish and I was afraid to take a break. With weeks left until the end of the school year, I was at a loss of how I might manage to find a new job under the constraints I was faced with.

Then one day, I got a message on LinkedIn from someone I’d worked with previously. She had a job she wanted me to consider. She thought I’d be great for the job because I have such a strong work ethic. It felt like a breath of fresh air!

I went through the interview process. I was hired, I gave my notice, and I called in some help to pick up my daughters from school each day. My stepdad, my aunt, my friend, and my ex-mother-in-law all rallied to help transport and/or care for my daughters so that I could work a truly full time schedule.

I did not get a break in between jobs. My last day was a Tuesday and my first day Wednesday. My new job was a bit daunting. I had been given a higher role than I would have applied for based on my boss’s faith in me and my previous experience. I was truly flattered, but still worried that I might not be enough.

My new job turned out to be amazing. The people I work with are supportive and helpful. I receive a lot of compliments. My boss is so supportive and truly believes in my capacity to get the job done. I am trusted to do my work and no one is looking over my shoulder. I am already making new friends.

This new job was the event that turned everything around for me. Now I was making more money. The time to buy a house is fast approaching and I’d been really concerned about affording any sort of home with my previous income. This new job provided the peace of mind to approach this life event with grace.

The flexibility of the schedule and respect for work-life balance allowed me to return to meditation and dance. Adding those things back into my life has been so integral to my ability to maintain composure as I learn this new job and take on a heavy workload. It is not an easy job that I’ve taken, but it is a rewarding one and I work with the best of the best. Self care in the midst of this is non-negotiable.

I’m still working on finding the energy to get through my days and still cook and clean and shop and spend time with my kids. I have been exhausted and drained many of the days. But it is mostly the stress of learning so many new things and meeting so many people.

My son has had some time to heal as well. When the weather got nicer, my littlest one and I started going to the park often. One day, we ran into one of my son’s friends. The friend asked me to call my son to come to the park. It was the turning point. These kids obviously thought my son was one of the cool kids.

Over the next few weeks, he became more confident in these friendships. They came and dragged him out of the house one day. The next day, he called them to come play at the park himself. Little by little, he started to become himself again. He started to talk again. The transformation was beautiful to watch. I am grateful to have my son back!

I have been doing a lot of reflecting this weekend. I finally feel the freedom to relax and recoup my energy. I had to learn to take it easy even when there were chores to be done. Sometimes you have to let some things go in order to keep yourself going. A professor once told me that “the mess will still be there after you rest.”

I have reached a point on this healing journey I’ve been on where I’ve noticed a change. There is a song that I used to really identify with by a band many may be familiar with called Linkin Park. The song was called “Somewhere I Belong”. Chester Bennington, the singer of the band, went through the same sort of trauma that I did as a child. He ultimately took his own life. I had always identified with his music. This particular song spoke about how he felt separate from his world. How he never really felt a part of his surroundings.

This is quite normal for those of us who have gone through severe childhood trauma. We become disconnected from our bodies and this makes it difficult to relate to the world and other humans. I managed to re-establish the connection to my body, to join my soul and my physical form. This has authored a completely new experience with the world.

Before, when I went somewhere, I always assumed that I didn’t belong, that I was some sort of invader. I was self conscious and shy, running away the moment the event ended so as not to be caught out of place or be forced to speak with someone who I would ultimately find “belonged” to this “club” of people. I still tend to slip out at the end of classes and events out of force of habit.

But I do feel a sense of belonging now. I belong in my family, at my job, at the zen center, and at dance class. I am part of those communities and I belong there because I want to be there. It wasn’t a matter of being accepted by others, that seems to come naturally. It was a matter of accepting myself into those communities.

I am grateful that I was strong enough to face and overcome the trauma that kept me separate for so long. I am so grateful it didn’t take my life as it did so many others who have been through what I have. There were so many variables that guided me through the intense healing process I went through. I am grateful for my dear Buddhist teacher’s constant assurance that my practice is my life. Time on the cushion is beneficial, time to step back and be peaceful and just breath is calming and necessary. But it is the events of each day and how I face them, how present I am in those moments, that is the nature of my practice.

I have reached a place where the time of trial is at an end and a life on my terms is now attainable. I have made many new connections in the course of this transformation. I have realized that I don’t owe anyone anything beyond gratitude for wisdom and lessons learned. I must take care of myself and make time to honor my heart. Without this, I cannot be whole.

Things did not go the way I wanted them to go. Things did not manifest the way I thought they would. But that is not a bad thing. Sometimes, we don’t know what is possible without the guidance of an outside force. I have a life and a path that I am confident about. I am headed towards my goals with both feet solidly on the path and eyes wide open.

The next stage of the journey won’t be easy. But it will bring me to the goal that I have been striving towards for the last four years: freedom. I have come so far. I have healed and changed so much, I don’t really recognize the person I once was. I have compassion for her, she is still a part of the me I’ve become. The trauma will always be there and so will the strength and perseverance it took to heal.

I may not quite be at the end of this journey, but I have certainly arrived at the beginning of the next one. It is necessary that endings and beginnings conclude and evolve simultaneously. There is no full stop at the end of one or starting gun at the beginning of the next. They become enmeshed.

One year ago today, I felt scared. I was serving my ex-husband with divorce papers. I had no idea how I’d get to the place I wanted to be. I had no job. I had small hope. I was hurting and broken. I had to go through all of that to get to this place.

Above all, I am grateful. I am so grateful for my counselor, my teacher, my friends, the community, my stepdad, and my aunt. I am grateful for the strength within me. I am grateful for the lessons I have learned. I am grateful to be right here in this moment, celebrating the challenges surmounted and looking with confidence at the challenges ahead, but ultimately appreciating the place where I am right now.

How fortunate I am to have learned so much! How fortunate I am to have found the strength to get through all of that damage! How fortunate I am to be alive! I have a future. I belong to my life. I am right here, right now, and I am BLESSED!!!


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