The last few days have been filled with tears, meditation, looking inward at the past, and realizing where I am in the present. Growth can hurt deep down. Growth is progress that we achieve because of the price we’re willing to pay for it.
I’ve spent fifty years pointing out how those of us in the disabled community need to raise our voices more and speak loudly—and boldly. Last week I authored a post about my experience in a crowded room. My friend Karen read it and told me that she felt as if I were plagiarizing her. How often has this happened to each of us? We come together and discover that our life experiences aren’t so different. The commonality of what we experience as persons with disability can be powerful. It creates bonding in ways nothing else does. It is a gift that I share with Karen, and with others.
“You too!!!?” While this happens all the time, the feeling that “I’m unique” is dispelled by finding out that no, once again, I’m not alone in the world. This realization is juxtaposed with the example of a child who thinks everyone sees as they do, but who knows deep down that they are “not like the other kids,” whether it be due to disability, being LGBTQ2S, or being a victim of abuse: the secret is out of the bag. Adulthood requires that we grapple with these issues.
There are times when our inner selves push each of us to stand up and fight for justice for ourselves or others. We fight to be heard, and to have our realities accepted. If we can’t fight, we’ll likely be trampled because we’re not always seen or heard. Sometimes in that fight we forget who we are; we fade to our unique gifts, talents, and insights. We become swept up in the fight for recognition. I’ve been in this place for forty of the fifty years that I’ve been advocating for justice and change and for listening to the marginalized voices.
This week it all came to a head when I was forced to look inward at where my journey had taken me. The work I desire to do now is more spiritual in nature. It is the work that honors where each of us are. Each of us are equal within this realm. It is not a place of the marginalized: it is a place of learning to love ourselves, and to accept our own authenticity.
This place is one that offers sanctuary to each of us. Here we stand on equal footing because it is our hearts and souls that are heard. In the realm of the soul and the heart, all are welcome, and all are equal at this table.
I spent two years becoming certified as a spiritual director. I spent time discovering the power of meditation. I’ve uncovered places in my heart and soul that have moved me in directions I would have not considered five years ago.
Some of this uncovering is due to my husband’s suicide. Suicide changes survivors. One of the changes is the questioning we must do around making assumptions of others and ourselves. Another change is that we come to understand that people can remove themselves from humanity in a matter of seconds. Some feel strongly that if we all feel a sense of belonging, we’ll choose to live. All of this becomes evident to us as survivors. It causes us to question old things in new ways. We see an old rainbow in a new way. It causes us to do a grand reframe of it all.
The paths we have walked no longer suit our needs. There is a restless feeling when we remain on that path. It is as if we’re binge-watching our life because we’re at a loss about where to go next. We want the old to work, but we know it won’t, and we must come to terms with the fact that we’ve outgrown the friendship, the relationship, the career, or our lives as we understand them. It is why some people shock family, friends, partners, and church members when they announce that they’re packing up and moving to that new place. “Where did that come from?” or “Wow, her death really did a number on him.” The reality is that for whatever reason, that life change was brewing beneath the surface, and the life-changing event was only the catalyst to promote action.
I’ve heard the “if you hadn’t gone to a therapist…” If I had not seen my first therapist, I would have never begun the self-exploration that I needed to do in my early twenties; it was the beginning of my soul work. I would have continued to believe that everything would be alright and settled for coasting through life.
Life isn’t a straight path. Life is bumpy, strewn with twists, bends, and curve balls. We’re challenged to sit with the unknown, and to ask new and unthinkable questions that we would not have dreamt of asking even the week before. Life is messy.
It was in this state that I engaged in a conversation with a friend yesterday. She listened, didn’t need to fix anything, and I know she’ll support me in my new direction. She can sit in the messy, the unknown. To her and to others I say thank you.
While it is the mystical that draws me into soul exploration, it is the practical that grounds me in the here and now. It is a desire to always improve who I am, and to not settle for less than who I can be in my fulness. It is my understanding and my life experience that keep me grounded in the fact that there are people on the margins of life, and that they struggle to have their voices heard, accepted, and acknowledged. I will not forget you. I cannot forget you because my waking reality—struggling to see, to hear, and to negotiate a crowded room—calls me to that remembrance. It is the struggle that I will always share with those who are disabled.
I’ll admit that walking a new life path is daunting. Can I do it? Will I fall and mess up? Will I be able to learn to discover new ways of being along this new path? In a way, I’m putting away the sledgehammer that I’ve used to break down walls that have limited me, and others. It is time to put the sledgehammer to rest. This path calls for a peaceful tool.
I know there will be restful places to sit and reflect because I’ve always found them. What I don’t know is where all of this is going, and that is perfectly OK. I’m able to smell the new air, take it in, explore its excitement. And so, I turn my back on the old, and face something new. I wonder where this will take me? Where do you need to go?