I've been through the process before, so it's not unfamiliar to me. Losing my mom to cancer was one of the most profoundly scary experiences of my life. When she first became sick, all I could taste was fear. Looking back, I'm not at all sure that I understood that I could exist without her here. It took every once of courage I had to propel myself forward into the hospital room in which she struggled for life; to squeeze her hand and smile and reassure her that we would go on without her here when we all knew that life wouldn't go on, not the way it would have been; to crawl into her bed, place my hand on her face, and cry as she lay dying. And yet when she died? All I could feel was love. Profound, earth-shattering, life-sustaining love. Her death transformed the way I lived.
My second trip with transformation soon followed, when my husband and I made the decision to adopt. Again, the fear. Again, the grief. Again, the unexpected, life shaping love that emerged from loss. I had been so attached to the idea that I had to conceive a child that my view of life had narrowed only to that. In surrendering this dream, I found myself face to face with the beautiful baby boy who transformed my life in ways that are too many to enumerate, too deep to capture with mere words.
So I'm not inexperienced with this idea of metamorphosis, not by a long shot. That doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt, though. This time, the third time it's happened, it has hurt just as much as the first two. The pain of loss was sharp, the process of change was confusing and complex, and once again, in the moments of chaos that existed before the change began to occur, I truly doubted whether or not I was going to make it through.
The story is long, so I won't go into detail. What I will say is this: This past year, I found myself in a situation that made me doubt all that I knew to be true. It is a story that involves someone I trusted deeply. Someone who held a lot of power in my life. Someone who, intentionally or not, set out to take away a piece of who I was. And almost succeeded.
In the midst of all of this, I found myself full of doubt. Rather than listening to the voice inside of me who knew who I was, I listened to the voice of another person who thought she knew better. I listened to the things that were said about me, about who I was and what I was trying to do, and I let myself believe them. Even though I knew deep down that something was wrong, something was off, something was not what it seemed. I still let the words in. I let them start to define me.
Looking back now, I still can't explain how it happened. It seems so absurd. How could a grown 35-year-old woman let someone else decide for her who she was supposed to be? But the words, they slid into the tiny, shaking six-year-old who resides inside of me, the one who still doubts herself and her ability to shine in this world. The one who looks to others to tell her if she is a good girl and quivers at the thought of disapproval from someone that she loves and admires. The words, they found their way into the cracks of my self-confidence and, in those dark spots, they grew. As they grew, they pushed those cracks wide open until the darkness started to pervade the all of me.
The solution to darkness is always to find the light. Focus on the light, not the darkness. And that is what I did. I learned to meditate. I learned yoga. I learned to share the darkness with others who loved me, so that it didn't consume me from the inside. I watched for the light of close friends, I borrowed it for a while, I let myself bathe in the light of the love that was shone on me. I stepped back, way back, and invested in myself. I re-examined what I knew: about myself, about the world, and about the people in it. I started to run again. I got strong. I stood up for myself. I learned the difference between being defensive and defending my own worth. I learned that sometimes the best way to truly love someone is to let them go. I found my way back to myself, only to find myself forever changed.
Be assured: it wasn't without consequences and it wasn't without loss. My life path has changed. For a while, that shook me again, to my core. And yet...and yet. I now know that I can never go back. I am too strong to allow another person to define my worth in this world, despite what consequences flow from the changes that I've made to assert who I am. I can't say what the future holds for sure, but I know that the world is waiting, and I know there is goodness there.
And that, my friends, is how I am learning to fly.
Perhaps strength doesn't reside in never having been broken,
but in the courage required to grow strong in the broken places.